From Idaho State Historical Society
The Sebree Canal commences on the north side of the Boise River at the Caldwell Bridge in Section 15, T4N, R3W. It runs through Sections 6, 8, 9, 15, and 16 of T4N, R3W, thence westerly through T5N, R4W, thence westerly and northerly through T6N, R6W.
In 1874, Peter Johnson aquired the right to divert the appropriate 1,000 inches of water under a four-inch pressure, and built a ditch. On March 20, 1878, Johnson filed notice of intent to divert 10,000 inches of water. With annual enlargements, the ditch by 1881 had the capacity to divert 5,000 inches. On November 20, 1883, he filed another notice of intent, this time on 15,000 inches. He continued to enlarge the ditch until January 1, 1898, when he sold his water rights and ditch to Howard Sebree. At the time of the sale, Johnson’s ditch was five feet wide on the bottom, and three feet deep, and irrigated about 600 acres. This irrigated acreage consisted mainly of pasture land. Before purchasing Johnson’s water rights, Sebree had surveys done which showed the feasibility of recovering over 40,000 acres. With this in mind, he bought the ditch and laid out plans for the construction of a canal twenty-three miles in length. With the exception of a small stretch at the beginning, the canal would basically be new. On January 12, 1887, Sebree filed a notice of intent to divert 20,000 inches of water.
In February of 1887, Sebree let out contracts for the construction of the first four miles. This work was to be finished by April 1, 1887, at a cost of $6,000. By March, forty men and teams were at work. Initially, a wing dam was built to send water into the canal. At the diversion point, a finely-structured headgate was installed. Guarded by immense masses of lava rock to make it flood proof, the headgates measured 22 by 22 feet with four gates. Each gate maintained a 4- by 5-foot opening.
A History of the Farmers’ Co-Operative Ditch Company, by Hubert Iverson
November 14, 2000
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you about the Farmers’ Co-Operative Ditch Company. Back in the mid to late 1800’s people from the east were coming out west, first in wagon trains and then later on the railroads as they were pushing west. There were many reasons people came out West but probably the main reason was the Federal Government was trying to encourage people to settle the new land that had been purchased from France (The Louisiana Purchase) in the late 1700’s, the northwest which had been claimed by the United States through the exploration by Lewis and Clark in the very early 1800’s and the southwest including all of California which had been won in the war with Mexico in the mid 1800’s. They did this when Congress passed the Homestead Act. I’m not sure when this was done but probably shortly after the Louisiana Purchase. Under this act a person could claim 160 acres and prove upon it in 3 years and it was theirs. The early railroads also had land for sale. They were given more land than was necessary for their right of ways by the government to encourage them to put in the rail lines.
The railroad companies needed business so they were encouraging people to come out west, as they needed people and freight to haul. Now most of the west was quite arid but people were led to believe that after an area was settled and the farmers put their crops in it would cause the weather to change and it would rain more in the summer months just like it did back in the east and Midwest. It didn’t take very many summers without rain to convince the farmers they were going to have to water their crops.
Now we get into the starting of the Sebree Canal. The following information is taken from the Abstract of Title for the Sebree Canal.
The first filing for water rights for the start of what is now the Farmers’ Co-Operative Ditch Company was made by Peter Johnson on March 18, 1878. He filed on 10,000 cubic inches of water out of the Boise River. I would like to tell you that all the filings were placed in Ada County as Canyon County was a part of Ada County up until 1892. On July 25, 1882 George Reed filed for 8,000 cubic inches of water and on August 28, 1882 he and Charles Nuzman filed for 15,000 cubic inches of water. They would take his water out of the river in a separate ditch close to where Peter Johnson was getting his water out of the river and then putting this water in Peter Johnson’s ditch and going on down to the Nuzman ranch and then on to George Reed’s ranch.
On August 19, 1885 George W. Roberts of Colorado and George W. Roberts of Nebraska and George Little of Caldwell purchased from Peter Johnson and George Reed their ditch and water rights. They paid Johnson and Reed $1,000 worth of capital stock of a corporation to be formed for the purpose of conducting a ditch down the Boise Valley and also giving Johnson and Reed first priority to build the first 2 miles of the new ditch. Apparently this deal fell through. A year and a half later on January 11, 1887 Howard Sebree obtained a Quit Claim Deed from Johnson, Reed, Haskell and Smith to this same ditch and water rights. The next day Howard Sebree filed on 20,000 inches of water. It appears to me that Sebree in some way acquired the ditch and water rights from the Robert’s and George Little. There were no filings of an acquisition in our company’s abstracts.
Then 2 years later Howard Sebree gave a Quit Claim Deed to The Idaho Irrigating and Colonization Company, of which he was listed as President, for the ditch and water rights. This was a corporation with its headquarters as listed in Salt Lake City. Something I found quite interesting was that there was a notice filed on November 15, 1890 from The Idaho Irrigating and Colonization Co., Howard Seeker president, to the Idaho Mining and Irrigation Co. This notice said:
Whereas it has come to our knowledge that a certain company, the Idaho Mining and Irrigating Company has projected and intend the construction and enlargement of certain canals and ditches; that is: the so called New York Canal and the Phyllis Canal with the object of taking and diverting waters from the Boise River for irrigating and mining and other purposes, whereas we believe that all the water running in the Boise River has been filed upon and appropriated by individuals whose priority of claims and appropriation must and will be guarded and protected. John C. Rice personally delivered this notice to the manager of the company.
On December 30, 1894 an agreement between 65 land owners and the Idaho Irrigating and Colonization Company to subscribe for and take the number of inches of water from your irrigating canal, set opposite of their names, the price to be $10.00 per inch and to be paid in cash and labor (to be expended in enlarging the canal) as follows, 10% in cash and 90% labor and performed as follows. One half between October 1st, 1895 and May 1st, 1896. The price paid for labor to be $2.00 per day per man and $4.00 per day per man and team and wagon or scraper. Whenever any subscribed makes payments of cash and labor as above set forth, company must issue him a deed for the amount of water set opposite his name, and to be taken out of the canal of the said company at a point to be designated by said company. And the said parties agree at all time to pay and be liable for his proportionate maintenance fee incurred in maintaining the canal. Some of the names of these early subscribers that you might recognize are R.H. Stockton, John H. Stockton, H.S. Stockton, A. Fouch, F.R. Fouch, J.W. Watkins, J.L. Watkins, Nathan A. Hultz, John Lemp, E.A. Talbot, W.J. Hartman, John T. Sebree, Fred J. Kiesel apparently owned quite a bit of ground around the town of Parma at that time at least he was listed as owner in a 1915 Canyon County Atlas that I have. He was also the secretary of The Idaho Irrigating and Colonization Co. He was deeded 320 inches of water for $1,000.00 which was $3.125 per inch. There were a couple of other individuals who were also deeded 320 inches of water for $1,000.00. I don’t know if these other individuals were part of the company but several individuals received preferential prices for their water.
On April 15, 1902 the Farmers’ Co-Operative Ditch Company filed articles of incorporation. This instrument was signed by N.B. Sebree, J.W. Watkins, H.I. McLaughlin, Lee L. Kurts, F.G. Gilbert, G.D. Stafford, F.R. Fouch, J.X. Timmins, S.G. Tucker, M.C. Farley, Russell M. Smith, W.B. Mitchell, William Siebenberg, Howard Sebree. The amount of capital stock was $120,000.00 divided into 12,000 shares of a par value of $10.00 per share. A term of 50 years. There would be 7 directors.
The first 7 directors were W.B. Mitchell, J.W. Watkins, H.I. McLaughlin, George Stafford, S.G. Tucker, N.B. Sebree and Russell Smith.
Some of the original shareholders in the company.
Howard Sebree 960 Shares B.F. White 640 shares
P.H. Lannan 640 shares Fred J. Kiessel 320 shares
P.P. Shelby 320 shares H.I. McLaughlin 100 shares
Z.S. Barnum 100 shares M.J. Devers 160 shares
G.D. Stafford 90 shares J.W. Watkins 50 shares
Asa Andrews 95 shares Stockton brothers 50 shares
E.A. Talbot 80 shares Gahley brothers 100 shares
V.D. Hannah 100 shares W.J. Hartman 50 shares
N.A. Hultz 40 shares S.G. Tucker 50 shares
F.R. Fouch 75 shares
On May 6, 1902 the Farmers’ Co-Operative Ditch Company purchased the Sebree canal from The Idaho Irrigation & Colonization Company for $14,000.00. This included the 25 miles of ditch, rights of way and water rights. There is no recording as to how the $14,000.00 was to be paid off but there was a mortgage filed on May 20, 1902 to Howard Sebree for this amount and on April 20, 1908 Howard Sebree signed a Release of Mortgage to the company so the canal was paid off in 6 years.
Some of the highlights of the company since the company came into existence.
Apparently to settle a disagreement as to who had the first rights to the water in the Boise River a suit was filed the Farmers’ Co-Operative Ditch Company against the Riverside Irrigation District. This was probably filed sometime in 1904. Anyway on January 18, 1906 a decree came down from Judge George H. Stewart in the District Court in Canyon County. In this decree he set the date that the different water rights of the company were effective.
500 inches from June 1, 1875
1,000 inches from June 1, 1883
2,500 inches from July 1, 1888
4,175 inches from July 1, 1896
This is the effective dates of about ½ of our water rights. The dates of the ½ of our water rights were adjudicated in what is known as the Bryan Decree and it came down in about 1925 and I don’t know what they entail. I’m sure that the Boise River Water Master had to bring these water rights into play every year during the summer months. After the 2nd unit of the Black Canyon Irrigation District became operational there has only been a couple of times that these water rights have had to come into play and that is only when we only have a couple of low snow packs in a row. We are in another adjudication right now, the Snake River Basin adjudication. It looks like it could take another 10 years to get it done. I don’t think it will change any of our water rights.
On December 17, 1917 the company bought storage rights in Arrowrock Reservoir. It purchased 1,227 acre feet if storage space. This storage right cost $20,000.00 and to be paid off in 20 annual installments of $1,000.00. This stored water was probably used every summer before the 2nd unit of the Black Canyon Irrigation District became operational.
In 1930 Drainage District #4 was going to put in drainage wells near our canal so our company purchased up to 7,000 acre feet of water for $1.00 per acre foot in most years after that.
In January through March of 1960 the concrete dam and gates were installed in the Boise River just above the old silver bridge. This cost the company about $30,000.00. In the early days in the building of the rock dam, rocks were blasted off the bluff above the river and put across the river to form a pool so the full quantity of our water right could be gotten out of the river. The old timers tell me that every summer sod would have to be laid on the rocks so they could get our fair share of water out of the river.
Some of the directors who served many years on the board were:
W.B. Mitchell 35 years, he was he secretary for all those years,
Ernest Anderson 35 years, he was president for 34 years.
The Johnson family had the most years of any one family to have a member to serve
E.G. Johnson – 30 years
S.E. Johnson – 30 years
Robert Johnson – about 20 years
James Klahr – 28 years
George Walker – about 30 years
There were many other people who served for 10 to 20 years.
We have 2 people on the present board whom have served many years.
Don Johnston – 35 years
Orville Hartman Jr. – 34 years
The company is in the process right now of installing automation equipment at 6 sites. This computer controlled equipment will allow the water master to keep the canal at a certain level automatically. Each site will have a cellular phone number and can be called and it will tell you what the water level is and how much water in cubic feet per second is flowing. The sites can also be accessed with a computer and the settings can be changed. This should allow us to be more efficient in our use of water.