Our Story -
Eagle Point Irrigation District began it's journey on August 21st, 1915, when the State of Oregon granted the water rights from Big Butte Creek. As the story goes, the District wasn't officially established until April 15th, 1919 by Waldemar Hammel, James Spencer, William Perry & Wilbur Jacks. These gentleman went on to form a committee among the local land owners and created the district boundaries we have today.
The Board proceeded to hire engineer Ralph P. Cowgill, graduate of Washington State & Frank Dillard a recent graduate of University of Oregon. These two men mapped out, staked, & soil tested the whole district, making sure the canal & laterals from Butte Falls to Eagle Point were adequate enough to carry 100 CFS of water.
Fun Fact: We still have the hand written journals with the calculations and drawings of the district being mapped out.
To put the plans into action , William Vonderhellen & Ed Dahack were awarded the contract to construct the main canal, laterals , flumes & bridges. To get these projects completed in a timely manner, the district hired 3 crews of laborers. Each crew consisting of around 20 local men, with a strict deadline to have the canal and laterals completed by August of 1924.
On April 29th 1924 water was diverted for the first time from Big Butte Creek . The following month, the district sent the first flow of water through the Nichols Gap on May 17th at 9:05 P.M. The men were definitely testing the waters, because just 5 days later a land slide occurred , wiping out a large portion of the canal. Water was then shut off for the next two weeks repairing major damages. (see images for below)
As years passed the large working crews diminished, but the demand of water grew. By 1936 the district was running low on water. The ground was dry and crops were diminishing. When water stops flowing, so does the cash flow of the farmers. So the District decided to barter with many of the farmers who couldn’t pay for irrigation. Which in return , helped the district feed the horses the ditch riders rode.
By the 1950’s the district was pretty established. Much of the wooden flumes had been replaced with steel. Ditch riders no longer rode horses. The district had equipment to clean ditches. That doesn't mean problems didn't occur. Canal breaks still existed, but each time a break happened , that section was either piped or gunited. The summer months also included some mischievous fishermen, they found a way to plug up the fish wheel, stealing fish and occasionally pulling spill boards too. This issue caused water to be down a good 24 hours each time. Through out the years the fish wheel improved and the mischievous fisherman stop coming , security barriers have been put in place keeping intruders out .
The 60’s & 70's came with many changes in staff. The district went through a few bookkeepers, but in 1973 they hired a lifelong bookkeeper that would stick around for many more years to come and eventually become the manager of the district (the only woman to manage a district, this side of the Mississippi). Hazel Brown was hired on October 31st & was the district bookkeeper from 1973 to 1981. She moved up to district manager in 1982 and retired as the manager in 2010.
History to be continued ...........
The district is in the process of documenting it's history back to 1919, obtaining cultural and historic documentation and surveys, and will post additional items as the work progresses.