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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 16, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta THE LCTII3.-.IDGE HERALD Tucsdoy, May 16, 1972 ge n Irrigation started on shoestring and deeply in debt liy .lOr, KALLA Herald Slaff Wriler analy.sirfl tine liistory jiiul values of irrigation in Miulliern Alberta llic question always arises: YVhal aboul Hie LellibridLje Northern Irrigation From conversations with (he old, the young and (he in- biMween. people of various races and occupations, there is inescapable conclusion: U the LNin could be slarl- <-il and done over again, il would surely come about in a different, manner. But, now thai il's here, and the way things are today. Hie irrigation dis- trict is not fur trade or sale. Highly five year old Bill Hughes, now retired in Lelh- UvUlgo. is the last of tho char- ier organisers of the North- ern He lost his KiOacre farm UUTC times. "If anyone had laid mo that snme day 1 nould own my place-. I won'd IH.VO sruid: 'Mis- ICT. you know what you talking We were all as onions when it comes 10 irrigation. There were Limes when I wanlcd to sell out, but 1 couldn't. No one would buy." It was gelling lid of the high iniuresl rate on the bonded lei il of flie project and the mining of sugar beets that re- painted the landscape of grim hardship. The poverty, hardships and losses during the initial stages (if Lelhbridge Northern devel- opment would not have been nearly as great had the fed- eral government decided to bark the project, with more (ban just political verbiage. The understanding was that Die federal government would participate with construction oE Hie capital works of the LNID, but the Burden government in got only as far as some .survey work. The apost le o( 1 ,eihbvulge Northern Irrigation G. W. "Old Man" Pearson was getting im- patient Complete wilh patched suit, soft shirt, slough hat and home-made cane he headed a delegation to Ottawa and ex- pressed his views first hand as to how irrigation could give the a gricultural economy of the LNID a tremendous boost. At the same time, construc- tion would provide much need- ed jobs for many and as n consequence would help relieve the distress situation which prevailed in the region at the time. Mr. Pearson had just gone through two crop failures and he slept in a tourist trailer. However, what he lacked in the appearance of prosperity, he made up in determination of the building of a future for the LNID. Promises failed, to mate- rialize and Mr. Pearson and his supporters became more Impressed than ever with what irrigation was doing for other districts in southern Alberta. More farmers on the LNID became convinced, and they decided to go it alone. The project was financed through the sale of bonds on the New York market at the "killer rate" of per cent Interest. Hill Hughes, at the age of 22, rnme Vo PVtoenis, British Co- lumbia from his native land of Cnrmarvon in the northern part of Wales. Phoenix was a copper min- ing town In the southern inte- rior of B.C. and a group of young Welshmen had arrived there earlier. Bill Hughes came lo join tliem. The following vcar- Fernie coal miners went on strike anJ there were problems keeping the copper smeller going. It was closed down. His next move was to Dia- mond City where he worker! at the old Chinook mine at Com- merce, The Diamond City mine had financial problems and il worked only short inter- vals each year. Bill Hughes was unsettled in his outlook, and for awhile he thought barbering might be his calling. But, il wasn't long be- fore he found liimsell with his young bride Alice from York- shire on (he IGO-ncre old home- stead of Jim Palerson V'z miles easl of Diamond City. because it was some of Iho more level land in the area, Hill and hi.s wife- paid an acre because irrip.'jlion was coming. The price was Ihe talk of the countryside for llie long- est time. Although it was unknown to him, Bill was given two years lo last on the place before ho would have lo give il up. In Bill harvested 45 bushels of wheat per acre on 75 acres, In 1917 the wheat was touched by frost and it was a "touch and go" proposition. It was in 1917 Uiat Bill and his wife hit it lucky for three days. The price of wheat zoom- eel to per bushel. Day and night the couple loaded wheat into a 60 bushel wagon and hauled it to Ihe elevator. "Each Lime T returned from taking in a Bill said, "J bad a cheque for Hill hauled in nine loads be- fore t h e federal government stepped in with price controls. "Thai was something. It sure got us on a better footing." From 1318 on it. was a succes- sive series of crop failures un- til the water finally arrived in 1923. "I was supposed lo get water earlier, but they had some trouble with some con- trols and Hie water died at my laud." "The provincial government had overseeing management in charge ot LNID operations and Irom then on il appeared as 1 hough the old settlers were Ml lo shift for themselves, while the newcomers were given much more of a helping Bill Hughes slated. "It was when we tried lo sell the bonds in New York and there wore- nn buyers, the hridge Norl hern went broke and the extreme hardships fol- lowed. "The newer irrigation farm- ers nowadays have had lo pay S10 per acre lor water rights and many feel it is Loo much. But because o[ the high inlcr- est rates, we had lo pay around per acre water rights and a yearly nperaling wafer rate of about per acre.'1 A member of the second ad- visory council of Ihe original contract holders on Die LNID, Bill Hughes said "everyone felt they couldn't make a go of it at rales. They jusl wanted to become established with ir- rigation and then sell out. But, Iliurc were no buyers. "We marie many representa- tions lo the provincial govern- ment lo give us a hand. For Ihe longest time we got no- where. Then, finally, the gov- ernment offered to lake over half of the inlcrest rates. We wanted it lo take over all Ihe interest. But, a half a loaf was belter than none. "Water rights payments Im- mediately dropped lo an acre and we could see some hope. Sugar beets, the arrival (if (he railway and the gravel- ling of Ihe road lo and we started lo see daylight. Bui I lost my farm three limes in the process. "Perhaps some of us were lucky no one would even take it away for the picking up of Ihe mortgage. The early policy of Iho LNTD was that everyone had to live on the home place and the home place couldn't be larger than 100 acres. For many this was just another hardship." Il's one of the reasons why the old Coalbnrsl mine had to close down. Bill Hughes gives full credit for his hard-earned success to his wife: "I could have never done it wilhoul her." The home place is now op- erated by his son Len, A son Burt is a successful business- man in Calgary. Mrs. Hughes died in gree-n crs onions MAP OP- THE. LETHBRIDGE.NORTHERN IRRIGATION DISTRICT TP. 1 ;