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Irrigation

One of the early difficulties with farming and development in Nebraska was associated with the semiarid climate. The possibilities of irrigation received almost immediate attention. Today, along the Platte River for example, where instream flows are estimated to be from twenty-five percent to as little as ten percent of its historical flows, questions arise as to how much more water can be utilized for development while maintaining viable wildlife habitat. A century ago the issues, though difficult, were much simpler in that the focus was on human need alone. Excerpts from speeches given at the State Irrigation Association meeting in Kearney, in February of 1894, provide insight into both those times, and how much has changed in so short a time:



E. R. Moses hyped the benefits of private investment in irrigation projects. He pointed out that many people see irrigation as a large business investment; too big for most to be able to afford. He contended that the benefits of wholesale adoption of irrigation by people would pay for the costs of such projects. He noted that in Scotts Bluff County, land that was worth only $2 per acre was now valued at from $40 to $50 an acre, primarily because of the widespread utilization of irrigation. He commented that the time had come for the West to end its periodic economic “ups and downs.”



Judge J. E. Emery, of Lawrence, Kansas, said that the question before all of the people of the United States was, “What will we do for homes for our young men? The homesteads are all gone. There is no Kansas or Nebraska to go to. The only salvation is to irrigate and divide our lands into smaller farms.” He drew a word picture of the important influence water could have on civilization by “lighting the world and turning the wheels of commerce, and that the arid lands of the West will have to be irrigated to catch and support the drift of population westward.” The judge felt that experiment stations could do testing to determine what were the best methods of utilizing water and said that definite results could be attained. He cited California as an example: “All they have is sand and water and look at the fruits they raise.” Then he called the Platte Valley an “immense canon filled with sand and water, nobody knows how deep,” and that consequently there was a plentiful supply of water available.


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Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
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