Register of the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company Records,

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information

Collection Overview +/-

Title: St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company Records,
Dates: 1864-1927. (inclusive)
Collection Number: Mss B 217
Summary: Irrigation company in Washington County, Utah. Correspondence, 1906-1917; annual reports, 1907-1911; ledgers, 1864-1927; minutes, 1864-1900.
Repository: Utah State Historical Society

Collection Inventory +/-

Box Folder Contents
Box , Folder :
Box 1, Folder 1 : Correspondence, 17 August 1906 - 12 August 1917
Box 1, Folder 2 : Annual reports to board of directors and stockholders, 1907-1912
Box 1, Folder 3 : Ledger and minute book; field accounts, minutes of board, trustee, landowners meetings, inventory and appraisal of estates, expenses, 20 February 1864 - 17 November 1877
Box 1, Folder 4 : Ledger and minute book; list of stockholders, minutes of board, trustee meetings, accounts, 15 January 1872 - 15 December 1878
Box 1, Folder 5 : Ledger; accounts, 15 March 1879 - 14 December 1899
Box 1, Folder 6 : Minutes of board, stockholders meetings, 17 January 1880 - 14 January 1900
Box 1, Folder 7 : Ledger; accounts, 1889-1902
Box 2, Folder 1 : Ledger; list of water claimants, assessments, shares, 1888-1891
Box 2, Folder 2 : Ledger; accounts, 15 August 1901 - 31 December 1907
Box 2, Folder 3 : Minutes of board, stockholders meetings, by-laws, roll of attendance; 25 May 1901 - 28 December 1923
Box 2, Folder 4 : Ledger; index, accounts, 1 January 1908 - 31 December 1916
Box 3, Folder 1 : Ledger; index; canal accounts, 1 January 1917 - 31 December 1927
Box 3, Folder 2 : Miscellaneous minutes of stockholders, water users meetings, 1908-1914
Box 3, Folder 3-4 : Miscellaneous financial materials; agreement, 1878; balance sheet, 1912; accounts, list of stockholders, tax list, receipts, assessments, resolution, agreement, notices of meetings, etc.

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

The St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company has served the needs of St. George, Santa Clara and Pine Valley since 1864. It was incorporated in 1954, but has existed under one name or another since the early period of colonization in Washington County. Many of those who were prominent in the settlement of the St. George area are listed as members or officers of the company. Erastus Snow, Anthony W. Ivins, and William Macfarlane were important members of the Dixie mission and of the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company.

Parley P. Pratt's report to Brigham Young on his return to Salt Lake City in 1849 indicated that the climate and topography of southern Utah would allow the cultivation of crops if sufficient water were available. Young believed that settlements in southern Utah would become exporters of certain crops to the northern colonies and would be a bastion of defense preventing intrusions into the Kingdom. The diversion of the Santa Clara River into a system of canals, however, was the first step and so the early emigrants created the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company.

The community of Santa Clara, established in 1854, was the first of the three communities served by the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company to be settled. A year later it was followed by Pine Valley located at the headwaters of the Santa Clara River and, seven years later, by St. George. The interplay between the residents of St. George, Santa Clara, and Pine Valley is the substance of the records. Each community needed the water of the Santa Clara River if their crops were to survive the heat of summer days when the temperature often was in excess of 100 degrees. Yet, even though their very survival was at stake, they rarely, if ever, forgot that they were Mormon missionaries called to glorify the Kingdom and establish bulwarks of defense on the Mormon borderlands.

The two most striking features of the land around St. George are the paucity of water and the alkalinity of the soil. Scrub oak, a variety of cactus species, and a sparse growth of pigweed and grass are all that grow naturally in the harsh environment. Since the recorded annual precipitation between 1893 and 1901 was only 6.31 inches and the historical average is less than fifteen inches, it is little wonder that none but the hardiest of water-conserving plants can survive.

If that were not enough, the Deseret News reported that in 1858 two-thirds of the crops planted on the St. George and Santa Clara Fields had failed to grow in the alkaline soil. An early emigrant to the area, James McKnight, reported "In some places, upon the application of water, a surface was changed into a cement caused by a super-abundance of lime in the soil." The harsh chemical composition of the soil made it necessary for the farmers to develop new ways of growing crops. They learned that in fields where alkalinity was high, their crops did better when protected from direct contact with water.

A third factor that caused hardship to the pioneers was, ironically, the great floods that came unexpectedly, ravaging the land and destroying the fruits of years of labor. Irrigation canals could be destroyed or severely damaged when the rains, uninhibited by vegetation, coursed over the baked land into gullies of storms past rushing over fields and leaving behind deposits of silt and sand. The Swiss colonists, for example, who arrived in Santa Clara in 1861 had only begun to build their rude shelters when the rains came forcing them to find what comfort they could in hastily constructed adobe houses. Some of them took refuge in the fort at Santa Clara only to be forced to leave when the flood water engulfed the structure, carrying it downstream.

These were the forces that controlled the lives of the men who built the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company. The hardships they faced were more intense than those endured by most colonies in Utah. The combination of aridity, poor soil, near starvation and disease must have taken their toll on the families who had come to glorify Zion. Yet somehow they survived to build and rebuild again dams that would store the spring runoff and irrigation canals that would take it to their fields and into their towns.

Content Description +/-

The records of the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company includes correspondence from 1906 to 1917, annual reports from 1907 to 1911, and financial reports from 1899 and 1923. In addition there are ledgers and minute books from 1864 to 1900. The minute book currently being used by the company contains the records of the company from 1900 to the present.

The records of irrigation companies often reflect the most basic needs and frustrations of the people they serve. Water, or the lack of it, is often the line between survival and starvation and its use has been the subject of bitter controversy and, at times, the cause of open hostility. The minutes of the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company are valuable because they document the process that was used to define water rights, the close link between church and community, and the ability of the water users to work together toward common goals.

Since Santa Clara was the first community to be established on the Santa Clara River, its residents were the first to claim water rights and build canals. Later, after Pine Valley and St. George were settled, the adjudication of water rights became a major issue. Entries in the minute books before 1872 often are discussions of which community has what rights and an attempt to determine how much water each individual can expect to receive. Care man stood in a meeting of his peers and said "We all have rights and should be brethren." and another echoed that sentiment saying "those rights of the people must be tested something must be determined." Yet another entry attests to the desperate need to adjudicate water rights and determine the amount of water a man could expect to irrigate his land. On 12 January 1868 the residents of Santa Clara had voted to share their water with those living downstream in St. George. A period of drought made their decision seem foolhardy and on 26 January it was "Moved, seconded, and carried that the vote of 12th January be recinded (sic) and that they run their own risk but only have water when there is any to share."

No one was more aware of the accuracy of John Wesley Powell's observation that land in the arid regions was near worthless without water than those farming in southern Utah. The Mormons, however, benefitted from the community awareness of the need to cooperate in the development of natural resources. Whereas other states had need of land banks and squabbles over water and grazing land often led to range wars between competing landowners, Utahns had recourse to their church to arbitrate conflicts and serve as a court of final appeal. This close connection between the LDS Church and the irrigation companies is clearly shown in the early minutes of the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company which describe meetings held in the St. George Tabernacle. These meetings were often led by the bishop or same other prominent member of the church.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the records of the St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company is how well they show democratic forces at work in southern Utah. Although the three communities served by the company were governed by their spiritual leaders, the minutes detail the give and take discussion that was part of water adjudication. Although the three communities served by the company were governed by their spirits leaders, the minutes detail the give-and-take discussion that was part of water adjudication. At times, it became necessary to refer a particular matter to the church authorities for settlement, but in most cases the daily affairs of the company were decided after mutual discussion by all members of the company.

Collection Use +/-

Restrictions on Access:

Restrictions on Use

Administrative Information +/-


St. George and Santa Clara Field Irrigation Company.




Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008


3 boxes (1.5 linear ft.) and 3 Reels of Microfilm

Language of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written in Englishin Latin script

EAD Creation Date: