|Scotts Bluff County|
Nebraska's Garden Spot
The Valley of the North Platte
Compiled By Rev. Walter C. Rundin, of Mitchell, Nebraska
President of the Nebraska State Volunteer Firemen's Association
To bring to the reader a concise and complete history of the North Platte Valley in these few pages is an impossible task. It would be a futile attempt upon the writer to even tell one-tenth of the wonderful story of this charming valley in so small a space. All statements made in this article have been prepared with care and are intended to be absolutely correct for the guidance of homeseeker and investor.
The vast country lying in what is known as the North Platte valley is making its own history at a rate unprecedented in any other section of a great industrial empire. It is a story manufactured out of the raw material, at first hands, and is one that was unexpected. Any man of seventy years can remember the time when the connection of this region with the human story would have been absurd. The buffalo, the antelope, the prairie dog and his companions, the rattlesnake and the owl, had it for their inheritance, and apparently forever. It was the profound conviction of that small portion of mankind who crossed the wide expanse, that its only purpose was to weary the traveler; its only possible history to be of the toils and griefs experienced beside the long, lone trails, where twelve thousand Mormons had passed in the most remarkable Hegira since Exodus was written.
No fact in the story of the republic is more surprising than that of this green wilderness, a strange new terra incognita, which in 1833 Irving saw and introduced into American literature, should even less than one hundred years later, be capable of furnishing so much of an item bearing upon the industrial interests of the white man of 1925. The old trails are still evident, unusued save by the cattle, their places having been taken by lines of railroad and miles of splendid higihway over which thousands of automobiles journey every day. Where millions of buffaloes grazed are the spotted cattle of the white man. Where stood the tepee of the wandering Indian are cities. The newcomer is everywhere with his home, his cattle, his church, and his school. These things make modern history.
It is a civilized white man's story and altogether it would fill a book that will never be written. What is set down here is but a mere summary of the alluring history and development of this vast and gigantic empire.
The North Platte valley occupies the west central part of the Great Plains region. in the counties of Platte and Goshen in Wyoming, and Scotts Bluff, Sioux, Banner, Cheyenne, Duel, Morrill and Keith in Nebraska. Beginning at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where the river bursts from a deep gorge, just above the town of Guersey, Wyo., and some sixty miles above the Wyoming-Nebraska state line, it extends along the North Platte river, in varying width from one to ten miLes, for nearly two hundred miles before its distinctive character is lost in the general plain. Including the smaller valleys emptying into it the total width is over thirty miles at some points.
Earliest evidences show this region to have been part of the great inland sea covering much of central North America. Later it was covered by the waters of the ocean. There were undoubtedly many marine submergeces and several periods of emergence in which the surface was sculptured by running waters, especially in the later epochs. Building up and tearing down went on for ages; occasionally the wind took a hand in the work of blowing the looser sandy particles into dunes, or bringing clouds of volcanic ash from the mountains, spreading blankets varying from a few inches to many feet in thickness.
NORTH PLATTE RIVER
North Platte river rises in North Park, Colorado, flows northwest, then northerly, to about the center of Wyoming. With a bold curve to the southeast, bursting through a gap between the Big Horn and Laramie range, skirting the foothills of the latter, it continues well into Nebraska, there, joining the South Platte it becomes the Platte river, the largest stream of Nebraska, and a main western branch of the Missouri. Fed by melting snow of the mountains, with a drainage basin of 24,000 square miles, its great flood time is during the heat of the early summer. During the growing season the river carries enough water to cover six hundred thousand acres to a depth of two feet. Here and there, hundreds of feet above, and miles from the present river can be found traces of the river in its earlier life. Then its bed was of boulders instead of quick sand as now. To have rolled and tumbled the mighty rocks from their original moorings and to have carried them for hundreds of miles, this now broad and shallow river must have swept with incredible velocity. At presenrt, at flood time, 'When it reaches a depth of some seven to nine feet, no man or animal can stand against it. Were you to attempt to stand perfectly still at only thigh deep; you would steadlily be moved down stream for beneath the water is a moving river of sand. There is only one other river in the world having the distinction of carry'ing more solid matter in its water than the North Platte. During low water, late in the fall, the water is very clear and it is possible to walk across the bed at almost any point in Nebraska without wetting the feet.
Where the present river has cut its way into the sedimentation beds, are found remains of the three-toed horse, the ancestor of present noble animal, no larger than a fox; and gigantic monsters standing twenty to thirty feet high and upwards of one hundred and twenty feet in length. The petrified remains, of gigantic turtles measuring two and three feet across are also found.
THE OVERLAND TRAILS
General transcontinental travel via the North Platte valley began in 1844. Bryant in his trip west in 1846 reports meeting a party of five between the fords of South Platte, who in coming from Fort Laramie had met 470 west bound emigrant wagons with destinations about equally divided between California and Oregon. The government sent John C. Fremont into this territory first in 1842. Later in establishing a military road from Fort Kearney to Fort Laramie (established as a government fort in 1849, first being a fur trading posit in 1834) Fremont blasted a road; through Miltchell Pass, the opening between Scotts Bluff and the spur of hills of which it is an outllier. Previously the trail had crossed the spur at Roubedeau Gap. Old Fort Mitchell was on the Fremont cutoff on the river bank at the west end of the present Scottsbluff bridge.
The Mormons used the north side trail. Up to the completion of the Union Pacific railroad these old trails teemed with life and business. All that remains are the old wagon ruts seen here and there and occasionally a grave. The heaviest travel was before 1855 but to show the magnitude of the freight traffic in later yeas we have the following figures. "In 1858 five thousand tons of government supplies and stores were conveyed across the country, up the Platte Valley and across the mountains to Utah. It requ1red 2,000 heavy wagons, 2,000 ox-drivers and train-masters and from 18,0OO to 20,000 oxen and in continuous column represented a length of forty miles."
In 1906 Ezra Meeker retraced his course over the Old Trail from Oregon to Indiana over which he went west fifty years before by ox team and wagon when a boy. At principal points along the route he erected stone monuments to mark the course of the old trail. Chimney Rock is across the river from Bayard near the Scotts Bluff county line. According to stories of early travelers the chimney was originally twice as high as the base and straight like a chimney, and tradition says also that a party of soldiers once trained their cannon at the spire and shot off the top for which act of wantonness they were discharged. It now stands about 500 feet above the river.
The Rebecca Winters grave is about two miles east of Scottsbluff. It was marked by a wagon tire which bore the inscription chiseled in its edge "Rebecca Winters aged' 50 years, 1852." It was an early land mark by the old Mormon trail, and was protected by the early cowboys. The railroad missed the grave by about half a dozen feet, after which tthe roadmaster had it enclosed by an iron fence. Later through items in the newspapers the descendants of Rebecca Winters living in Salt Lake City learned of the burial place of their grandmother 50 years before, and they caused the monument of Temple Granite to be erected. But the old, wagon tire was left undisturbed. Another old land mark is Dome Rock. This point of interest is one of the many picturesque features of the North Platte valley. It stands near the Old Trail south of the river and about half a mile from Scotts Bluff of which it may have been originally a part. It rises to a height of about 600 feet above the river and about 400 feet from base to apex. It is about two miles from the city of Gering. For many years there had been a standing offer of a reward of $50.00 for anyone who would plant a flag on the top of this point. Not till the year 1901 was this feat accomplished, when two young men scaled the walls, erected a staff and unfurled an American flag to the breeze. The staff still stands but the flag was long since whipped out by the winds.
The stateliest and grandest land mark is Scotts Bluff. This historic land mark stands in the center of Scotts Bluff county on the south bank of the river, rising with perpendicular walls to the height of nearly a thousand feet above the level of the surrounding valley, and from the top of which the spectator has a view of the river for a distance of more than a hundred miles. According to the story written by Washington Irving this bluff standing near the line of travel on the old Trans Continental Trail got its name in the '30's from the death of a man named Scott who died sick and alone near its base and was probably buried there. Nearly every writer of the old and new world crossed the continent in the early days before the building of the rail ways, wrote about this bluff, for it is extremely picturesque and was one of the most striking scenic features on the Overland Trail. The weary traveler could see this landmark for two days before coming to its base, and for two more days they traveled before getting where it was no longer lost to their sight and yet after a day's travel to or from it, it would look little if any nearer or farther away than when the day's journey was begun. And so it is today, a monument which can not be hid, and whether in one end of the valley or at the other, the familiar face of old Scotts Bluff confronts the beholder. In recent years the government took possession of this wonderful attraction and now it is known as Scotts Bluff National Monument. It is hoped that ere many years a splendid highway will be constructed up the side of this famous landmark to its top. It is estimated that the top of the bluff is large enough to permit over one thousand cars to be parked without inconvenience.
Old Fort Laramie is another historic landmark. This Fort was garrisoned by U. S. soldiers for many years and the history concerning this landmark is intensely interesting but lack of space forbids us to cite even a few of the many narratives concerning this famous outpost of early frontier days.
The earliest known white people to visit this section of the country are the trappers and the adventurous gold seeker. Following them came the familiar cowboy pushing northward from the crowded plains of Mexico. The cowboy of then and the cow man of today are two entirely different classes of people. The old time cowboys were quiet, daring men, of nerve, who said little and did much. True they were rough and wild but in harmony with their surroundings. Would you expect a man,who lived as the wolves of the desert, living night and day in the saddle or pillowing his head on cactus, drenched with the rains or burned with the sun, to have the appearance of the same refined, polished dignity as those who are surrounded with the influences of home?
It is easy to get the history, but when it comes to getting the authentic facts and dates, concerning the early cattle days it is a hard proposition. Living a somewhat nomadic life and isolated from other classes of pioneers they left but very little written history. Large cattle outfits invaded the country and took possession. Many famous ranches were located in this wonderful valley. Dennis Sheedy was the largest individual cattle man in the west. At one time his herd numbered 32,000 head, mostly beef stock, and 400 horses with which to mount his men. When the first white settlers came, four big cattle outfits had complete control of this vast area, the headquarters of these outfits, being in Omaha, Chicago, Boston, and in Europe. In those days of free range, with stock only to be gathered up once a year and the young cattle branded, cattle raising was easy money. It was estimated to cost not to exceed $3.00 to grow and market a three year old steer, the principal item of expense bang salt.
At the time of the earliest authentic history, 1719, North Platte river was called Padoucas branch of Nebraska, the territory at that time being inhabited by the Padoucas, a branch of the Camanche Indians. In 1804 Lewis and Clark mention the Kiowan, numbering seventy tepees, as on the North Platte river. In 1912 Robert Stuart, a partner of John Jacob Astor, while enroute from the Columbia to St. Louis, with a party of ten, made winter camps on North Platte river not far from where it issues from the mountains. After six weeks they were driven out by the Indians and continued on down the Platte river. These were undoubtedly the first white men in this valley.
In 1820 the expedition that discovered Long's Peak crossed the North Platte above the junction. In May, 1832, Capt. Nathaniel J. Wyeth, with a party of eighteen, intent on Astor's original plan of establishing trade on the Columbia river, passed up on the south side. Capt. Bonneville, with a wagon train and about 100 men, crossed to the north side of Ash Hollow and followed a line on which the Burlington and Union Pacific railroads have since built, and along which stand the towns of Lewellen, Oshkosh, Bayard, Minatare, Scottsbluff, Mitchell and Morrill, in Nebraska, and Torrington, Wycote and Fort Laramie in Wyoming. This was the first wagon train ever in the valley. Washington Irving was Bonneville's historian, and from his works many of their camps are easily located.
The Sidney Black Hills Trail crossed the river at Camp Clark about six miles west of the present city of Bridgeport. Clark built a toll bridge here in 1877 and it is said that the travel was sufficient to pay for the bridge the first day.
FIRST ACTUAL SETTLERS
The first settlement made in North Platte valley, the intention of the people being to farm, was in the winter of 1884-'5, near the present town of Minatare, the first townsite being called Tabor. Others soon followed. Impelled by what they believed to be the homesteaders last chance these men, with all they had, pushed into the high plains and attempted to wrest these lands from the cattle barons. The cattle wars raged for a time, but never to the point of desperation reached on the Wyoming plains where open pitched battles were fought.
In 1888 big herds were withdrawn, leaving the settlers in undisputed possession of the valley. These people wanted to farm in the old accustomed way to improve the quarter section they had chosen, break the sod, reap the harvest, establish the home and remain in the country as grain farmers exclusively, with no other resource.
These advance agents of civilization were denied the comforts of their former homes. It was a prairie country without means of transportation beyond the slow wagon train whose cost prohibited the importation of all except the gravest necessities. They had bitter trials and terrible disappointments. Disaster followed disaster. Slowly, one by one, these heroic home seekers winded their way back to wife's folks-a discouraged and sorry lot of pilgrims. The western region beyond a certain line had become the land of blasted hopes.
The country was not entirely depopulated, a few remained. Those who remained and braved the ordeal became rich and powerful. A glowing tribute should be paid these early settlers for no one can realize the terrible sufferings and privations they passed through. Caste and clan were entirely forgotten by these early settlers. Here a man was recognized as a man because he was a man, and not on account of the clothes he wore. Here man was taken at the estimate. It was impossible to buy prestige with money. There was a time when this section was the borderland of civilization, and the stamping ground of the brigand, the ruffian and the tin-horn gambler. But the moral class won the victory and captured the land for respectability and honor.
SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY
Scotts Bluff county is one of the extreme western counties of the great state of Nebraska, with Wyoming for its western border. It is traversed from northwest to southeast by the North Platte river and contains the best portion of the great North Platte valley. The county is twenty-one miles in width from north to south, and about thirty-five miles in length from east to west. It was formerly a part of Cheyenne county from which it was separated and a new county organized in 1888, and given the name Scotts Bluff in honor of that well known landmark described in the previous, paragraphs.
The county seat of Scotts Bluff county is Gering, located on the south side of the North Platte river about two and one-half miles east of the base of Scotts Bluff. Gering was the only town of the county up to the year 1900 when the Guernsey branch of the Burlington was built up the North Platte valley on the north side of the river. The towns to spring into existence along the new line of railway were Minatare, Scottsbluff (just across the river from the county seat,) Mitchell, Morrill and Henry.
On the south side of the river the Union Pacific built a line and only a few years ago continued this line into Wyoming, entering the new country opened up for settlement because of the construction of the south ditch. Hundreds of soldier boys filed on homesteads and caused several new towns to come into existence, for instance, Lyman in Scotts Bluff county, and Yoder, Huntley and Veteran in Goshen county, Wyoming.
Scotts Bluff county ranks first in the state in the production of potatoes, and second in the production of alfalfa. The sugar beet industry, made possible by irrigation, stands at the head in cash returns of crops raised in the valley over a period of years.
The Great Western sugar factories pay the farmers for their beets raised each year approximately five million dollars and almost one and one-half million dollars annually for factory labor. The amount paid out for freight by the four sugar factories per year is approximately $750,000.OO. The beet growers pay approximately $1,250,000.00 annually for beet laborers.
The by-products from the sugar factories feed thousands of cattle and sheep. Under good farming methods much larger crops can be produced over a period of years than in the rain-belt farming areas, for the reason that the water can be applied just when the crop needs it, making it possible to grow maximum crops year after year. Beets may be grown on the same ground for many years if manure is applied. Irrigated land does not require as much fertilization as land in the rain belt, for the reason that irrigation water is laden with rich silt, which in itself is a soil builder.
Our irrigation farmers now realize that if they are to have the full measure of success in their future farming operations, they must carry out a careful system of rotation and more of a diversity of crops, combined with a few dairy cows, hogs and poultry. Many more farmers in the valley are milking cows than a few years ago. Dairying will, in a few years, be one of the leading industries in the valley.
In the past two years two modern up-to-date cheese factories have been built in the county and first class cheese is being made and shipped out by the car load. Ere many years this, too, will be one of the great industries of the valley.
Last year the following number of car loads of products were shipped out of Scotts Bluff and Morrill Counties:-180 cars of grain, 1833 cars of live stock, 2252 cars of sugar, 260 cars of sand and 1312 cars of potatoes.
Another item of great importance is the growth of the live stock feeding business, which because of the by-products from field and factory, where beets are grown, can be ascribed almost entirely to the beet industry in this valley. During the feeding season of 1924-25, 178,296 head of sheep and 21,626 head of cattle were fed and fattened in this valley for market. Before the advent of the sugar industry, livestock feeding was practically unknown.
The assessed valuation of the two counties in 1907, the year preceding the first planting of beets in this district, was ,slightly in excess of four and one-half millions of dollars. The assessed valuation at the present time is approximately thirty-one millions, or more than six times the valuation in 1907, while during the same period of time the assessed valuation of the state only doubled.
In addition to the above, it may interest the reader to know something more of the results which have been brought in the North Platte valley very largely through the development of the sugar industry. The combined population of Scotts Bluff and Morrill counties, which comprise the major portion of the beet growing area in the section of the state, was 12,939 in 1910. Buy 1920, it had increased to 29,861, representing an increase of 230 per cent ,while the population of the state increased during the same period slightly less than 10 percent.
They say comparisons are many times odious but herewith we submit a few figures which we believe tell a story more interesting than words can describe. In 1910 there were 325 growers of beets-in 1924 the number had increased to 1816. In 1910, 6812 acres of beets were harvested; in 1924, 60,283 acres.
Scotts Bluff county has a State Experiment Farm six miles east of Mitchell. This farm has done wonders in the way of showing the farmers of this district how to obtain the best results from working irrigated land.
Scotts Bluff county has three Sugar Factories located in the following cities: Scottsbluff, Gering and Mitchell.
Scotts Bluff county is the leading county in sheep and Cattle feeding and Hog raising in the state of Nebraska.
Scotts Bluff county is the third county in the state in wealth per capita.
Scotts Bluff county is the best county in the state and is centrally located in the governments North Platte Project-the project which has the best water resources, greatest agricultural possibilities, and offers the best opportunities to settlers of any project in the United States.
A County Fair devoted to the advancement of agriculture and live stock industry registers the progress from year to year as developed in the surrounding country. The Scotts Bluff County Fair is held each year at Mitchell. The Fair this year was held second week of September and witnessed by an attendance of people greater than the total population of the County was a forceful demonstration of the remarkable progress of farming and stock raising, portraying the result of a few years of transforming desert prairie through irrigation into the most productive land of the middle west.
The fair grounds cover 40 acres of deeded land which was crowded day and night throughout the fair with people. The grounds have six-teen separate and permanent structures, of an approximate value at $30,000.00 and with tents and temporary frame buildings in addition there were exhibits that overflowed the housing room.
There were 1319 different exhibits in the Agricultural hall alone, without counting the other productions entered in the club work. Such diversity and variety as thus evidenced is proof of the adaptability of the country in an agricultural way exceeded by no other locality in its latitude.
Every classification of pure bred cattle, both beef and dairy, was filled, comprising 190 different entries with a quality excelled by no other county fair in the land. Pedigreed hogs and sheep of every known variety were on exhibit and the growing of the breeding horse produced in the county were the identical animals that won first premium ribbons and prizes at the State Fair.
Every known species of domestic fowl was on exhibit bearing conclusive proof of the adaptability of the North Platte valley to successful production in live stock, poultry and agriculture.
For 35 years Scotts Bluff county has held an annual County Fair' beginning with the meager efforts of the pioneers and growing annually with the progress of the country to an enviable position in County Fairs of the Nation. No better evidence of the superiority of the production of Scotts Bluff county is afforded than by the action of the State Fair Board in barring our exhibits from competition with the balance of the state.
The County Fair is an institution of the country, an institution "of the people, by the people and for the people." Its success is demonstrative of the quality of the country and the character of its people and forceful because of those fundamental qualities ot proven financial success affording an annual profit that is continuously returned in the form of improvement. The County Fair enlists the enthusiastic support of the Federal and State Experiment Farm, the Extension Department of the State University, the Agricultural Department of the Great Western Sugar Co., the newspapers, the entire school system, the Board of County Commissioners, together with the citizenry with the result hereinbefore manifested in its repeated success.
The city of Mitchell is situated near the north bank of the North Platte river on the Casper-Billings line of the C. B. & Q. Railroad. It is about fifteen miles northwest of Gering, the county seat, four miles south of the Sioux county line and twelve miles east of the Wyoming state line. In point of location in the North Platte valley it is practically in the center of the widest and most fertile part of it. The town of Mitchell had its beginning in the year 1900 when the railroad was being built. In early days across the river on the south side was the far famed Fort Mitchell. It was a stockade probably built by the government for the protection of wagon trains from the forays of the Indians. It was near Mitchell Pass which was said to be a favorite point for Indian attacks. There is nothing left of this historic place today but occasionally curiosity seekers go to the place and pick up relics as evidence of a history of this valley never completely written and by everyone now almost forgotten.
The railroad parallels the old Oregon or Mormon Trail which runs up the north side of the river and the city of Mitchell covers a portion of this trail. It probably seldom occurs to the residents of this enterprising city as they retire at night for peaceful slumber, that beneath the floors of the rooms in which they lie there were half a century or more ago thousands of people passing to and fro, toiling, suffering and dying, on their weary and perilous journeys to and from the settlements in the states of the east and California, Utah or Oregon on the west. Long before there was a white man living where Mitchell now is, the trail had overgrown with sod and only the many lines of parallel furrows where the soil had been worn away by many year of constant travel were here as silent reminders of an era long since past.
Lumber for the first house erected in Mitchell had to be hauled from Alliance, a distance of seventy miles. From the outset the town had a rapid growth, permanent in its character from the very nature of its location and surroundings. This was before any government ditch was thought of, and even before the Reclamation Law was passed, by the operation of which in the building of the Interstate canal large areas of which land were opened up for irrigation making fertile and productive many times the number of acres from which the town had originally expected to grow and on which it had built its prospects.
Mitchell is at the present time a city of approximately 2,000 inhabitants and growing. Mitchell is noted throughout the valley as a city of beautiful homes. Residents of Mitchell take a keen pride in keeping their houses painted and lawns are always in excellent shape. The business streets of Mitchell are graced with splendid business houses. The business men are keen, alert and up-to-date. Mitchell has active lodges, fraternal organizations and churches. One of the first Federated churches in Nebraska was organized in Mitchell ten years ago and is still rendering a splendid community service. Other Federated churches throughout the country have been patterned after the Mitchell church.
The Burlington has just recently completed a most substantial and commodious depot which is a pride to the city. The citizens by bond issue erected the finest City Hall and Community Building in the North Platte valley. There are miles of cement sidewalks. Not a board walk in the city. Water and sewer facilities of the best. Continuous electric light service received from the U. S. government. The Great Western Sugar Company have one of their factories located in Mitchell. This factory gives employment during the beet harvest campaign to large numbers of men. A permanent force is kept the year round.
To the above, we would like to add that Mitchell is also headquarters of the U. S. Reclamation Service for the North Platte valley irrigation project and the government buildings include a large office building, steam heated, a two story commissary building, a large garage, blacksmith shop and automobile repair shop. A large force of men and women find employment in the U. S. Service and all are a credit to the city of Mitchell.
Mitchell schools are excellent and the enrollment this year exceeds 500. The Mitchell Post office is always busy as it receives and distributes large quantities of mail due in a large measure to the fact that the U. S. Reclamation Service offices are located here. As evidence of the prosperity of this section of the valley we simply call the reader's attention to the large bank deposits to be found in the Mitchell bank. Furthermore at no time have the banks of Mitchell hesitated to pay out cash in any amount on checks to depositors. How many cities in U. S. can boast of such a magnificent showing?
The building of new houses goes right on in Mitchell. Never since the city was started has there been buildings enough to accommodate the demand and at no time has the demand for more places in which to live been so great as right now. So many are wanting to rent houses that we believe the population of Mitchell would easily be from 100 to 200 more right at the present time if there were only houses enough to go around.
One of the most unique club organizations in the entire state is the community-commercial organization known as the Mitchell Community Club. This organization has no officers save a permanent secretary. Every Wednesday noon a luncheon is held. The presiding officer is always appointed by a committee. Every resident of the city and adjacent trade territory is a member of the club. There are no dues. A budget is subscribed each year by those who care to have a part of the work. This organization has functioned for ten years and has done a magnificent work. Visitors and strangers are always welcomed to the weekly luncheons.
Mitchell has an excellent weekly newspaper, The Mitchell Index, of which it is justly proud. Practically all of the interesting historical data included in this article has been supplied by this paper. The American Legion is exceedingly grateful to the editor of the paper for this courtesy.
This booklet was made possible by the generous contributions of the business men whose ads appear herein.
Mitchell has a completely motorized fire department consisting of two high grade motor vehicles adequately equipped. Its volunteer fire department is one of the best in the state.
One or the pumping stations of the Sinclair Pipe Line is located in Mitchell.
The sugar factory in Mitchell produced 409,270 bags of sugar and 157,085 bags of dried beet pulp in 1924. The total shipping to and from the factory in 1924 amounted to 4,500 carloads.
Mitchell is a city of clean morals, comfortable surroundings, modern conveniences and up-to-date in every resplest. The business enterprises will increase in number and strengthen as the population increases, all keeping pace with the wonderful natural resources of the valley,which are now only beginning to be developed. Taking all things into consideration is it surprising that the people of the North Platte valley and of the city of Mitchell in particular, are so well pleased with their location? We are all glad to be living here and we are more than pleased to have a home in such an up-to-date live city as Mitchell.
The Michie-McKeown American Legion Post No.124 of Mitchell and Morrill is located in Mitchell. It is one of the strongest posts in the state considering the population of the city and community. The active membership this year is about 100 and in one or two previous years has exceeded this figure. In 1922 it led the State of Nebraska in increase in membership. It is through the efforts of this splendid organization that this booklet has been prepared for distribution at the National American Legion convention in October, 1925.
There is one other city lying seven miles west of Mitchell which we desire to call the reader's attention to. It is the wide-awake and challenging city of Morrill. Morrill is a city of about one thousand people. It has splendid homes and a business section that cities in the east of many times larger population would like to boast of. Morrill business men are fully abreast with the times and ever on the alert to improve their city and adjacent country. They have a strong Commercial Club which meets weekly and does much good in the community. The churches and fraternal orders are awake and render valiant service to the community. The ladies have clubs of every type and thus the social life of Morrill is not lacking.
Morrill has just erected one of the finest high school buildings in the Western portion of the valley, thus indicating the fact that in educational matters they are not behind. The Burlington Railroad has moved and completely remodeled the depot thus giving the citizens a more, commodious and up-to-date building.
Morrill is noted for its splendid mercantile stores, its thriving business houses, its enterprise and its thrift.
Morrill is the largest shipper of perishable freight in the entire state of Nebraska, shipping more potatoes than any other town or city.
On June 17, 1902, the reclamation act was made a law by the signature of President Roosevelt. The North Platte Project contemplates the storage and diversion of the waters of the North Platte river for the irrigation of lands lying in the North Platte valley. According to the last census, within the drainage basin of the Platte river is found the largest area of land irrigatable by one stream in the United States. The average flow of the North Platte river past the Whalen diversion dam from 1917 to 1924 inclusive, was 1,8141000 acre feet. An acre foot of water will cover one acre of ground one foot in depth. The Pathfinder Dam impounds the water. The dam is one of the largest masonry dams in the world, rising 218 feet above the rock foundation. It is 432 feet long and 10 feet wide at the top and is 81 feet long and 90 feet wide at the bottom. The area of the reservoir at the level of the spillway is 22,600 acres and the capacity is 1,070,000 acre-feet.
The average farm unit is 80 acres of irrigatable land. The government is not donating anything to the people in carrying out this work as some have supposed. From the money derived from the sales of public lands the United States is building dams and reservoirs for the storage of water to be used in irrigation. The government is also building ditches and laterals to water the lands and the owners of the lands are to pay back the money, without interest, in annual installments, when it will again be used to build other canals. The government has been very lenient in the matter of water charges and a new plan of payment is now in process of settlement whereby the annual charges for construction and operation will be greatly reduced. The changed repayment law was passed at the last session of Congress and all that remains to be done is to settle the minor details.
It is the intention of the Reclamation Service to turn the management of the irrigation system over to the farmers as fast as it can possiblv be done, and by their banding together in the Water Users' Association is the only way in which he can do it. This Association is made up of owners or homesteaders of lands being watered from the canal. Each stockholder is entitled to hold as many shares of stock as acres of land. This Association has done a notable work and is acquainted with every detail of irrigation working hand in hand with the Reclamation Service.
The story of irrigation is an intensely absorbing one. The first of the Anglo-Saxon race to practice irrigation in America were the Mormons of Utah in 1847. In the early fifties Germans from San Francisco established the colony of Anaheim, building a canal and cutting the farms into 20 acre tracts. The colony was successful. In 1870 the Flurierism colony, promoted by Horace Greeley, began the first irrigation in Colorado. From these efforts has come the mighty system now in vogue throughout the United States.
The noteworthy feature of the North Platte valley project is the ample supply of water. Last year when so many irrigation projects suffered keenly from lack of sufficient water this project had plenty of water. So acute was the shortage in Colorado that nearly all of the bee men shipped and located their vast colonies of bees in the North Platte valley. This industry bids fair to grow as one of the most substantial business enterprises of the valley.
Even though the area being irrigated by the government system is greater by 15,000 acres this year than at any time in the past the service and deliveries of water to the farmers has been better than ever before. With drought everywhere in the country and particularly in the irrigated regions in the west, the past season, our valley has had sufficient water to grow the best crops in its history and there will be about l00,000 acre feet remaining in the Pathfinder Reservoir at the end of the irrigation season. This is due partly to increasing the canal capacity and also to better conservation of water by the farmers.
The Bureau of Reclamation is now operating a Hydro electric power plant at Lingle, Wyo., that furnishes current to the cities of Mitchell, Morrill, Torrington, Guernsey, Wheatland, Lyman, Yoder and Henry. Another extensive power development is being made at Guernsey, Wyo., by the building or a storage dam and hydro electric power plant. The potential development of electric power at this point is large enough to supply this community for years to come.
There are about 350 world war veterans in the valley owning government homesteads. Approximately 100,000 acres of land remain to be distributed to ex-service men. The immigration into the valley has been very rapid. The person who imagines the west to be a collection of an ignorant, illiterate, lawless set of hoodlums and wild men who fear neither God nor man will have to go elsewhere to his ideal realized. Our people are the pick of the older centers of civilization. It was not the ignorant and the weak but the strong and courageous who shook off the bonds of home and friends and struck out for independence.
Conditions in the Platte valley are most excellent. Fortunes can yet be made by honest toilers. If you went to work and save come to the land of opportunity where a royal welcome awaits you. Join the thousands of prosperous men and women who came to this section year ago and who because of their diligence and industry have accumulated land and money. Today they are virtually independent. Why not you? There is still room for those who care to work. We trust these brief paragraphs concerning this mighty valley have not been written in vain but that some reader having digested the items narrated in this story may be filled with zeal and catch the vision of larger and bigger opportunity. Then launch out with a determination to win and win you will.
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