Friday, March 18, 2011

Fountain Valley Agriculture: The Land of Enchantment?

The Special Collections of the Pikes Peak Library has a booster pamphlet extolling the virtues of agriculture in the region.  This probably dates to 1908 - 1909 and was likely published by the Colorado Springs Land, Irrigation and Transportation Company.

This photograph shows beets being loaded into railroad cars, the hard way, at the AT&SF depot in Fountain. 

(top) The Sinton Brothers' dairy of Colorado Springs had a skimming station in Fountain which paid farmers for their cream.  Cattle were grazed on the mesas or plains.  The land possessed several feet of chocolate loam underlain by hardpan, that held water and required little irrigation (!).

(bottom) The sugar factory in Swink had recently built a ramp, which made loading easier.  They were paying farmers $5 a ton for their beets, and providing the freight itself.  1800 acres of beets were raised in the neighborhood this year.

This photograph shows the third cutting of alfalfa on the Charter Oak Ranch, which was owned by the booster company.  They note that the land requires no clearing of brush or rocks, just breaking and seed.

A big barn on the Charter Oak ranch, where Blue Stem, Field Pea and Alfalfa are stored.  The ranch is historic and was founded 50 years ago.  It is the First Ranch in the state, and is located on Little Fountain Creek.  Here, Chief Colorow of the Arapahoe fought the Cheyenne, and "Indian trophies abound to this day".  The ranch is included with purchase of 200 acres of irrigated bottom land, at $150 per acre.

Other crops raised in the valley included onions, potatoes and fruit trees.

The company drew its drinking water from Rock Creek, at the base of Cheyenne Mountain.  This was Forest Reserve land and would never be lived upon, so "No Typhoid Here".  They also owned several reservoirs, including the Townsend.  A dam was proposed across Rock Creek canyon to store extra water for irrigation, and was known as the Monster Reservoir site.

This photograph taken from the proposed dam site looks out over the Old Womack Ranch on the Little Fountain Creek, which harvested 2500 bushels of apples last year. 

Looking uphill from the dam site the narrow canyon widens out into a beautiful valley.  The pretty little ranch building and field of alfalfa would all be buried under a lake of water 250 feet deep.  "Isn't it a Shame?  But then, that's what will give life and beauty to the Plains outside."

Lastly included was an article written by Thomas Pyles, editor of the Fountain Herald and one-time Fountain mayor.  He had written "The El Paso County Ditch Book" and was considered the expert on local water rights.

To summarize: Reservoirs are the one crying need of El Paso County, and impounding all the water that falls against the mountain sides is a necessity.  Since the state or local governments has failed to undertake this, a private company cannot find a better investment.  The Colorado Springs Land, Irrigation and Transportation Company seeks to irrigate and develop the land between Fountain Creek and Cheyenne Mountain.  The $500 for a 5 acre tract is guaranteed perpetual free water, with a beet factory, electric lights, and an electric car line into Colorado Springs in the contract. The dam on Rock Creek is planned as the first of many, including more reservoirs on Little Fountain Creek, in Dead Man's Canon and on the mesa.

On Rock Creek there are six decreed water rights: the Gale, Hugle, Merriam, Love, John's and Ames ditches. The Bell or Townsend ditch also receives enough water to raise fair crops and fill the Townsend reservoir once or twice a season.  The company purchased the Charter Oak Ranch and its water rights (Merriam, Love, Spring Run, Townsend), and the old Ames place and the Ames and John's ditches.

[Seems to me that Mr. Pyles had a more realistic view of the water needs.  These creeks would run for several weeks in the spring, depending on snowpack, but otherwise moisture during the growing season came as rain-fall floods.  Reservoirs were needed to contain the water for effective irrigation.]

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