The Early History of the Tempe Canal Company

Author(s): Christine Lewis

Year: 1965


In 1892 Judge Joseph H. Kibbey, one of Arizona's illustrious pioneers, described the Salt River Valley before the settlers came as a desert, uninhabited except by jack rabbits, coyotes, and rattlesnakes. Its main vegetation was sagebrush and cactus. It was a level, fertile valley about fifteen miles wide, through which the Salt River flowed west for forty miles to its junction with the Gila. The Salt River was a fluctuating stream. Sometimes it was a raging torrent which flooded the level land on either side, and sometimes it dwindled to a mere trickle. To the early settlers, stated Judge Kibbey, the water of this unstable river became an as essential to the maintenance of human life as air itself.

The first homeseekers entering the Salt River Valley following the Civil War were quick to realize that the key to the development of that area was irrigation. Before them lay the remains of ancient waterways that stretched for miles along both banks of the Salt, attesting to the fact that in the dim past other civilizations had flourished there. They noted, too, that the gradual descent of the river through the valley was so gentle that at almost any point a ditch could be made. Encouraged by the prospects, early settlers cut small channels and began raising garden vegetables, as well as hay and grain, finding markets for these products in the reactivated army posts in the territory. In time, however, the agricultural potential of the valley became more apparent, and associations were organized to construct elaborate waterways capable of irrigating thousands of acres. Typical of these large-scale ventures was the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company, which for over fifty years stood as a monument to the efforts and determination of Arizona's desert pioneers to create permanent homes in a semiarid region.

Cite this Record

The Early History of the Tempe Canal Company. Christine Lewis. Arizona and the West: A Quarterly Journal of History. 7 (3): 227-238. 1965 ( tDAR id: 402864) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8402864

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1870 to 1923 (Years of the Tempe Canal Company from founding to absorption into the Salt River Valley Water Users Association.)

Calendar Date: 1825 to 1907 (Years of life of Charles Trumbull Hayden.)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112.301; min lat: 33.312 ; max long: -111.694; max lat: 33.536 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Salt River Project Cultural Resource Manager

File Information

  Name Size Creation Date Date Uploaded Access
1965_Lewis_EarlyHistoryofTempe.pdf 9.71mb Apr 27, 2016 12:38:08 PM Confidential
This file is unredacted. The file contains two copies of page 227, one with accompanying notes and one without.

Accessing Restricted Files

At least one of the files for this resource is restricted from public view. For more information regarding access to these files, please reference the contact information below

Contact(s): Salt River Project Cultural Resource Manager