Benton City Historical Information
Two women in sunbonnets standing on a rocky bank along the Yakima River. A rail fence is behind the women. A pole is resting between both women’s shoulders from which hangs a string of fish. The woman on the left has on a checked blouse and long skirt. The women on the right is wearing a fitted mutton sleeve jacket, long skirt and holding a bamboo pole. This photo was taken somewhere on the West bank of the Yakima after it turns south at Kiona. The end of rattlesnake Ridge can be see in the left distance. Written on envelope: “Fie and Kate fishing near Jarn place 1903 no. 4”.
Two men on rocky shore with eight salmon hanging from a pole suspended between them. The man on the left is presumably Doctor Hedger. He holds a fishing lure in his right hand. The man on the right holds a spinner in his left hand. On close inspection it appears that his left hand has been injured. Both men are wearing waistcoats, ties and hats. Dr. Hedger was an early settler of the area and the first coroner for Benton County. He had two sons, Clifford C. in 1885 and Frank S. in 1887, both born in the state of Montana. Behind them are boats, one named Kiona. Written on the envelope: "Dr. & FM Hedger on Columbia 1903."
Irrigation In Early Kiona-Benton City
(Compiled by Diane L. Leist)
Irrigation was essential to the development of early Kiona and Benton City. In the Kiona-Benton area, there were both private and federal irrigation projects. The private projects were either an individual’s waterwheel to lift water from the Yakima to irrigate the landowner’s small acreage on a farmstead such as John Kennedy’s orchards in the bend of the Yakima. Or these private ventures were backed directly or indirectly by the railroads.
Locally, private projects were organized by an agreement formed between a number of local users to irrigate several farms such as in the case of the Prowell Ditch. The Prowell ditch was on land owned by Courtland Prowell and William Bauer with water rights filed under the Kiona Water Supply company which included David McAlpin as a trustee. Prowell intended to water not just the peninsular piece of land inside the bend of the river, but also pipe it across the Yakima to Prowell’s homestead bordering the east side of the Yakima. After Bauer’s (1894) and Prowell’s (1905) deaths, David McAlpin and sons filed for water rights. The McAlpin families accessed water from the river using the water wheel at the site of the old Prowell Ditch, but used the temporarily dry Kiona Ditch to deliver water to their interests.
Another example of a local private project is the Yakima Irrigating and Improvement Company (Y. I. & I.) The Y.I.& I. was formed in 1891 and began work in January of 1892. The company was headed by a former Northern Pacific (NP) railroad engineer, H.S. Huson. Huson was responsible for surveying the route of the NP railroad and was the principal engineer during the NP construction through the Yakima Valley. The Y. I. & I. bought lands formerly owned by the Northern Pacific Railroad and platted the acreage to small lots along the north side of the river. All of the lots in the Y. I. & I subdivision in North Kiona were sold to former Horse Heaven homesteaders and became the lush irrigated farmsteads the area was known for in the early 1900s.
Between 1892 and 1910, the Y. I. & I. changed ownership and management multiple times. By 1907, the system was often just referred to as the Kiona ditch. In 1917 this system became, as it is known today, the Kiona Irrigation District. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the waterwheels removed. A decade and a half later, the 1996 flood caused extensive damage to the intake, flumes and canal banks. The Kiona irrigation canal underwent a major overhaul bringing the district compliant with environmental standards of water conservation. With the installation of a positive-pressure delivery system with water pumped from a source miles downstream of the original in-take damn water is delivered via pipeline to all users.
The early Benton Irrigation District (BID) was originally a private system that pumped water via a diversion dam from the same location as the Kiona Canal. A pumping station lifted the water to the Highlands area on the table above the Benton townsite. The Benton Irrigation was to water the 2000 acres of Highlands on the bench above the newly-platted Benton City. These table lands lie north of the Yakima River and are were bounded by the southern slope of the Rattlesnake to the north. The promotional company fostered some development of these modest 10-acre tracts by installing laterals and planting small acreages to alfalfa and orchard.
Within the decade, the once private BID became part of a federal reclamation project. Through the efforts of S. J. Harrison, the BID joined the Sunnyside Division of the Yakima Project as one of its districts and improvements occurred between 1910 and 1916. Old time residents referred to this change as the “Sunnyside Extension”. Locally, this brought an additional 2000 acres under irrigation through a dependable federal program. When completed, Harrison organized a large celebration in Benton City with an estimated 2000 guests including reclamation officials and the current governor of Washington. Benton Irrigation saw little change from that time until conversions began in 2009 to a pressurized, underground system compliant with current methods of water use and conservation.
Kiona Irrigation District began as the Yakima Irrigating and Improvement Company (Y. I. & I.). The Y. I. & I. was formed in 1891 headed by a former Northern Pacific railroad construction engineer, soon-to-be Tacoma Mayor, H.S. Huson. Work began in January of 1892. Lots in the subdivision were sold by late 1894 or shortly thereafter to locals, mostly former Horse Heaven Homesteaders who established the lush, irrigated small acreage farms for which the lower Yakima Valley was known.
The map depicts the first purchasers of the lots in the Y. I. & I. Subdivision in Section 13. 1905 is when the map was certified for formal transfer from Yakima County to newly-formed Benton County. You are standing a bit west of center of Lot 1 below the ditch with your back to the NE. Everything below the right of way (a 60-foot swath through this area) is under Kiona Irrigation. Everything north of the KID is part of the Benton Irrigation district which was at inception stage at the time Benton County formed.
Waterwheels were also found on the Kiona Canal as late as the 1970s to help move the flow and to lift water out to head ditches to irrigate adjoining fields.
Right: The water wheel at Rowley’s place. One of the earliest homesteads the property was homesteaded by Annie Prowell, sold to Mr. Prowell’s acquaintance, a Mr. Coatney who sold to Lou Armacast whose stepson and grandson farmed for decades. Only some acres remain intact of this once very productive and award winning agricultural endeavor.
Below: The waterwheel that supplied the Prowell ditch, the first irrigation project at Kiona (now Benton City). Located on the north side of the Yakima in the SW corner of Lot 1, it accessed water to irrigate properties of early homesteaders in Benton City. To ensure water was deep enough to lift, men constructed an angle dam across the river to divert as much flow as possible. Every year, there was a work party to replace boulders which had had been powered out of position during spring floods.
First endeavors in irrigation in the Kiona Benton area were private systems financed and built by the earliest settlers to water individually owned acreages or, as in the case the Kiona Irrigation canal, built by a private company, the Yakima Irrigating and Improvement Company (Y. I. & I.) headed by former Northern Pacific construction engineer, H.S. Huson.
The Water Wheel
It is silent now,
but in that long ago
its dip and ‘plash could be heard
through countless summer nights.
and in that glow
we walked hand in hand
to watch it sturning,
and talk of our hopes and dreams.
It watered the land where
the children played
and we worked with our hands
and laughed and loved.
The old wheel is gone,
a part of the past,
but we remember its song
as we walk In the summer night
and relive our hopes and dreams.
By Oleta Bond Kendall
Farmers built their own fruit-packing sheds where women, children and men sorted and “faced” their fruit in crates ready for shipping. Fruit was hauled to the Northern Pacific depot and shipped west to markets in Tacoma or east to Spokane and further. This shed below was on Lot 1 owned by Buz McAlpin (1866-1945) who purchased from his brother Don (1877-1955). Don inherited Lot 1 from his late wife Lavina Miller Bauer McAlpin (1861-1905). Lavina owned several properties inherited from her husband William, one of Horse Heaven & Kiona’s earliest homesteaders.
Horticultural advice for arid lands was to first plant alfalfa to improve soil. Arid, irrigated lands were promoted as ideal for apples. Farmers were encouraged to underplant an orchard with strawberries because it took nearly five years for apples to produce a profitable yield. The strawberry crop provided early income to pay for seasonal expenses of raising other crops followed by asparagus and peaches. Early farms were sustainable raising dairy and poultry and fertilizing with the byproducts. Other crops grown locally included currents, raspberries, plums and cherries.
Left: Leonard Rolph in his orchard. (Lot 4)
Lower left: A.C. Ketcham house (Lot 3)
Bottom: Kendalls in new apple orchard with strawberries (Lot 2)
Images provided by Mid-Columbia Libraries Benton City & the Kiona Benton City Historial Society. Scan the QR code or click the link below for more History on Benton City.