MARY'S GENEALOGY TREASURES
In 1897 the Alberta Railway and irrigation Co,
commonly called the A.R. & I. were given a number
of sections of land in Southern Alberta for building
railways from Coutts to Lethbridge, and from Stirling
to Spring Coulee. Originally these parcels of land
were checkerboarded around Southern Alberta. This
made it hard for the A.R. & I. to do much with their
land so they talked the Government of Canada into
consolidating all the land into one area. A new act
was passed in Ottawa to do this, and all the land
was consolidated in one area including Raymond,
Stirling, Welling, Magrath and Spring Coulee. In
order for the A.R. & I. to encourage farmers to
develop this land they had to provide water for
irrigating it, since the yearly rainfall was not enough
to guarantee good crops every year. It was decided
by the A.R. & I. that they would build a large
irrigation ditch from Kimball on the St. Mary River
to Stirling. They had been guaranteed a flow of 500
cu. ft. per second of water minimum. The ditch
would pass through Spring Coulee and Magrath, on
the way to Stirling and also provide water for
Welling and even as far as Lethbridge which was
all land controlled by the A.R. & I. There was a
natural flow from Kimball to Stirling so pumping
would not be necessary.
In order to get qualified workers for the project
C.A. Magrath, the manager of the A.R. & I., made
an arrangement with the LDS (Mormon) church in
Salt Lake City. Immigrants were advised that they
could go to Canada and work would be provided on
this canal. Half the pay that they would receive would
be in money and the other half in land. Many people
came and brought horses and equipment to do the
work. This was a very satisfactory arrangement for
everyone. The immigrants had the skill and
understanding of irrigation and would be able to
establish personal farms, and the A.R. & I. would be
assured that their land was farmed, thus giving them
the development that they wanted for the benefit
of their railroad.
Work was begun in 1899 on this project. The
headgates were constructed at Kimball and the
first furrough was made by C.O. Card for the ditch
that was to carry the water. The original large
canal was a big cut and required a lot of earth
moving. The water was carried by the Pinepound
Creek until it reached a point a short distance from
Spring Coulee. It was then run in a ditch the rest of
the way to Stirling.
By 1900 the ditch was finished and water was running
to Stirling. In 1902 flood waters washed out a good
portion of the main ditch near Kimball and it had to
be rebuilt. The ditch was washed out again by flood
waters in 1908, and rebuilt again.
Water from this ditch was being used in the towns of
Magrath, Raymond and Stirling as well as on the farms.
Irrigation ditches ran down the sides of the road so the
water could be used in all parts of the towns.
The Kimball ditch was nearly a wasted effort, when the
Americans decided that they would divert the St. Mary
River into the Milk River and deplete the St. Mary River
to a mere trickle in the middle of summer. The A.R. & I.
decided to show the Americans that they would be able
to still get water for their system from the Milk River by
building a ditch just a couple miles west of Milk River
to Raymond to redivert the water that the Americans
were going to divert. This was call the "Spite Ditch".
The Spite Ditch was built, and water ran in it for a
couple of days which discouraged the Americans so
they decided against the diversion.