The Southern Pacific comes to Yuma

Marvelous photos from 1877!

I found the first three photographs (circa 1877) in the Library of Congress collection, published by the Continent Stereoscopic Company in the series “Descriptive views of the American Continent.”

254 — Arrival of the first locomotive in Arizona*

According to LoC: “Written in pen on back of mount: Fort Yuma, Cal. on bluff in background.”

I believe the shot was taken looking north from Yuma, Arizona Territory; Fort Yuma on the California side of the Colorado River can be seen on the bluff, just as the note on back reads. If you look along the tracks, you can see a glimpse of the swing bridge built by the railroad across the river.

237 — “Old 31″ The Pioneer Engine of Arizona*

According to LoC: “Written in pen on back of mount: Yuma, Ariz., Fort Yuma, Cal. on bluff in background.”

Looking carefully, when enlarged, the tender is has the initials “S” and “P.”

The bridge was built to swing a section aside so large boats could ply the River. Starting in 1852, steamboats were used to transport goods and people on the lower Colorado.

The Southern Pacific completed tracks from Los Angeles to Indio, California in 1876, and on to Yuma, Arizona in 1877. That year, photographer Enoch Conklin traveled in Arizona, taking his own pictures as well as acquiring photos from others. “Picturesque Arizona: Being the Result of Travels and Observations in Arizona During the Fall and Winter of 1877” was published by the Mining Record Printing Establishment, in which his pictures were credited to the Continent Stereoscopic Company. An incomplete set of the images were deposited in the LoC by an unknown source in 1907.

Searchlight delivering a barge load of provisions to the work camp for closing the break in the Colorado bank that created the Salton Sea (circa 1905-1907). US Bureau of Reclamation photograph

With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1877, steamboat travel declined. The completion of Laguna Dam in 1909, was the end of viable steamboating on the lower Colorado (see my blog entry on the Swastika Bridge for more on Laguna Dam).

Sold to the US Reclamtion Service, the Seachlight was lost on the River in October 1916; as the last steamboat on the lower Colorado, its loss ended an era.

  • The copies of these two available digitally do not have the title captions, but the numbers and titles are given on the LoC information documents

HI JOLLY’S GRAVE

Quartzsite, Arizona

All of my life, a stop at Quartzsite has included a visit to Hi Jolly’s grave:

Growing up in the southwest I learned about the US Army’s experiment with importing camels before the Civil War, to determine if they would be more suited pack animals for our desert climate. Hadji Ali came as a camel driver in 1856. Records are sketchy, but it seems he was the son of a Greek and a Syrian, born somewhere in Syria (Smyrna?) around 1828. The soldiers called him Hi Jolly, inspiring the folk song of that name.

Eventually the Army abandoned the experiment, sold camels at auction, and released the remaining camels into the desert. Hi Jolly stayed in the Southwest as an army scout/packer, freight hauler and miner; he married, and became a US citizen in 1880 as Philip Tedro. On December 16, 1902, he passed away in Quartzsite, to be buried in a simple grave with a wooden marker.

His story does not end there. On December 15, 1935, the Arizona Republic reported that Jim Edwards (foreman for building that section of US Highway 60) and his crew worked on their own time, Sundays and holidays, building the monument with materials paid for by Mr. Edwards. A copper camel is atop a pyramid built of stones gathered from “Northern Yuma county.”

The Arizona Republic urged the state legislature to create a fund to mark historic sites. Today, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Exit 17 from Interstate 10, north on Business 10, east (right) on Business 10 (Main Street); the entrance to the cemetery will be on your left (about 1800 feet).

NEW LIVERPOOL SALT WORKS

In 1893, George Durbrow and investors incorporated the New Liverpool Salt Company at Salton, on the Southern Pacific main line, south of Mecca, CA.

Salt was deposited on approximately 1000 acres of dry sea bed (ancient Lake Cahuilla) by seepage from salt springs in the foothills. Although called a mine, the salt works actually resembled a harvest operation, needing only to cut salt from the field, crush it, bag it, and send it by narrow gauge rail to the nearby railway station at Salton.
The quality, quantity, and uniqueness of its gathering led to it being featured in an 1899 issue of Strand Magazine and a 1901 issue of the National Geographic Magazine.

salt plow published in “A Common Crystal” by John R. Watkins, Strand Magazine 1899

In “The Saline Deposits of California,” California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin No. 24 (1902), Gilbert E. Bailey, described the operation:
“The sight at the salt works is an interesting one, for thousands of tons are piled up like huge snow drifts,…Indians operate cable plows, harvesting over 700 tons of pure salt per day. A portable railroad conveys the salt to the works.

The [crystal] lake is constantly being supplied by numerous springs in the adjacent foothills, which flow into the basin and quickly evaporate, leaving deposits of very pure salt that vary from 10 to 20 inches in thickness.”

In February 1891, the Colorado overflowed its banks, into the Mexican delta, leaving water standing in low areas. The following June, it overflowed again, reaching the standing water; the resulting flood from the commingled waters reached the Salton Basin, creating a lake approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, but only 5 feet deep. Being shallow, it evaporated, leaving the Salt Works intact.

However, in 1905-1907, when the Colorado River overwhelmed the California Development Co. intakes for the Imperial Canal, the diverted water flooded the Salton Basin creating the Salton Sea. First the salt field was submerged, then the salt plant, and then the town of Salton and the rail lines.

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Salt Works at Salton, Summer 1905. USGS photo

WHAT WAS THAT? A WASHBOARD FOR A GIANT?

1940.pdf

A COOLING TOWER FOR CONSTRUCTION OF THE COACHELLA CANAL

In 1938-40, World War II was looming on the horizon, and water for domestic sources of food was a high priority. Part of the Boulder Canyon Project, the Coachella Branch of the All American Canal was being built to bring Colorado River water to the Coachella Valley where the water level in wells was dropping drastically. Due to the extreme summer temperatures in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, US Bureau of Reclamation specified the “placing season” for concrete to be October through May, using water no hotter than 90̊ F. However, high temperatures in April, May and October shortened the season.

Since construction took place in unsettled, desert lands, water was first pumped from part of the canal that had been built to storage tanks or reservoirs; then it was pumped via a second 4″pipe line, lying on the surface of the ground up to 11 miles, to the construction sites. In April and May of 1939, placing concrete came to a halt.

The ten foot tall evaporative cooling tower, pictured above, was created to re-circulate the water at least twice, through a 220 gallon holding tank. On May 11 & 13, 1940, water in the pipeline reached 133̊ & 130̊. On the 13th, using the cooling tower, the water was lowered to 84̊ while usage was 540 gallons per hour; use of the tower enabled concrete placement throughout the “season.”

Based on report in Reclamation Era magazine, October 1940.

Laguna Dam & Swastika Bridge

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Sluiceway of Laguna Dam, 2017                                                                                photo by author

Construction of Laguna Dam, the first dam across the Colorado River, began in July 1905; plagued by contractor and supply problems, plus flooding, it was completed in March 1909. During its planning, core samples had shown the dam site was layer upon layer of silt carried down by the river over the ages, so a conventional dam design could not be used. US Reclamation Service engineers ultimately based the design on a weir dam on the Jumna (Yuamna) River in northern India that was successfully built on silt (USBR, 1902-1923, was the predecessor to the US Bureau of Reclamation).

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Laguna Dam from California side, circa 1910                              US Bureau of Reclamation photo,                                                                                                                                     National Archives

Located north of Yuma, its principal gate (bottom width 116′) was built on the western (California) side of the river to divert water into a canal that carried water down the western side of the River until it was opposite the town of Yuma, where it was directed into a twelve foot siphon that went under the River to carry irrigation to the Yuma Valley in Arizona. Water was also diverted to Fort Yuma Resesrvation and the Bard Valley in California.

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“Ground hags” working in the siphon during construction                                                                                          US Bureau of Reclamation photo, National Archives

Connected by a weir dam across the river bed that raised the water level 10–13 feet, on the eastern side was a smaller gate (bottom width 42′) and canal to carry water to agriculture in Arizona along the Gila River. Both sluicegates were based on bedrock & paved with concrete.

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View of the Colorado River at Laguna today; California sluiceway is on the left.  The white stretch of concrete across the river bed is the wier dam; the Arizona gateway is not visible to the left of the photo.  The man-made “river” to the right is the All American Canal.                                                                                                    US Bureau of Reclamation photo, Yuma project.

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Sluiceway on the Arizona side, April 4, 1909.                                     US Bureau of Reclamation photo

 

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Sluiceway on the Arizona side, today.                                                                                photo by the author

According to the Arizona Sun (2/2/2013), while studying Indian dam construction, the US Reclamation Service also learned about an ancient Hindu Goddess, who had the power to control water and was sometimes represented by a four armed swastika, a symbol that had a history of peace in many cultures going back 9,500-10,000 years; it was not until the 1930s when the Nazis adopted the symbol that it came to stand for evil. Near the eastern gate they built a concrete bridge adorned with swastikas (whirling counter-clockwise) and also some were incised on the sluiceway.

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Swastika Bridge on the Arizona side                                                                           photos by the author

 

In 1948, Imperial Dam replaced Laguna as the means to divert water to the Yuma Valley (as well as to the new All American Canal). Since then Laguna has served as a sluice gate and regulator for Imperial Dam releases through the main river channel to Mexico.

Much of the infomration in this segment is based on US Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service sites, and articles in Engineering News, (February 27, 1908 & June 10, 1909) by Edwind D. Vincent, USBR Resident Engineer, Yuma Project.