Chapter 7, Water Ditches


A German ditch flume

Water ditches are crucial to the success of ranching and farming in Whitmore.

Sometime between 1880 to 1883, John Schraer purchased land in Whitmore with a good spring on it. He told his relatives and friends in Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois that Whitmore had fine farms for sale. The group of Germans who responded to his message believed that there were established ranches with water and cleared land.

When the Germans arrived, they found that the land Schraer had sold them was virgin forest.

Tobe Hufford, an old-timer, and his son Pete said:
The German families couldn't grow anything in that dry red dirt without irrigation, so they saw they had to put in a ditch. They filed to dig a ditch on South Cow Creek. The downstream users got worried that . . . they'd take the whole flow of the creek. I guess they were going to stop them from doing it, at first, and then they had a meeting. They came down here and met. They [the downstream users] agreed to let them take water out, but they would have to cut back on water if it ever got short. At that time there was plenty of water.

The South Cow Creek Irrigating Ditch Company, also known as the German ditch
Not many old documents and photos of Whitmore exist because many devastating forest fires have swept through Whitmore. The South Cow Creek Irrigating Ditch Company, known as the German Ditch, kept a book of minutes of their meetings, starting the day Henry E. Buszdieker, Owen Daily, Albert Hirsch, Martin Hoff, E. J. Hosto, H. F. Kolkmeyer, [also spelled Kolkmeier], W. H. Mott, J. H. Schraer, Claus Thun, and Gotlieb Witmer formed the Company. The minute book has survived, and William Beaty keeps it in his fireproof safe. He generously lent me the book.

I opened the cover-- laid my hands over the writing, and wished that the person who wrote on those pages in 1885 and 1886 could talk with me. There is no way the well-formed legible letters of this computer can pass on the feeling of touching that which was written more than a hundred years ago. The minute book is rectangular, about thirteen inches high, with bound numbered pages identical to "journals" of today. The first date entered is "Monday, December 22nd 1886." The last date is 1979, but there are no entries from 1924 until 1937. The public notice to form the South Cow Creek Ditch Company was recorded at the Shasta County courthouse September 23, 1887. Part of it read:

Notice is hereby given that the South Cow Creek Irrigating Ditch Company of Millville Township in the County of Shasta State of California Claims the water flowing in South Cow Creek in said County of Shasta to the extent of one thousand inches measured under a four inch pressure.

Return to the home page