Burnt River Ditch

In 1863, some work was done on a ditch which had been surveyed from Clarks Creek mines to Burnt River, and the next year a company was incorporated to prosecute the work, under the name of the Burnt River Ditch company, W. H. Packwood, Jasper Hall, Robert Kitchen and Lamar stockholders. There was not much done towards constructing the ditch, however, until 1867, when the matter came up again on a proposition to build a ditch to convey water to the Shasta district, and the work was begun, eleven miles being dug that season. The next year, 1868, it was extended to Rock Creek and in 1869 to East Camp creek, making 57 miles in all. In the summer of 1870 water was conveyed from East Camp creek to the Shasta mines, and nothing done towards extending the ditch farther that season. The work had cost up to that time $150,000.

Mr. Buford of Rock Island, Illinois, bought the ditch in September 1870, and in ’71 extended it 30 miles farther to the south fork of Burnt River. Packwood & Carter took control again in ’74 and built 13 miles further to the middle fork of Burnt River, making the total length of main ditch over 100 miles.

The size of the main ditch is five feet wide at the bottom and seven at the top; grade, four 80.100 feet to the miles, carrying capacity, 1500 inches, miners measure.
Packwood & Carter constructed about 22 miles of distributing ditches from ’74 to ’78. The entire cost of all the work was about $500.000.

When the time comes that water is no longer wanted for mining purposes in the Shasta district, the ditch may be made of more permanent value to the country by using the water for irrigating the land to which it can easily be conveyed. There is more land of that character at present, which could be made productive by irrigation, than there would be water enough to supply, even if there were reservoirs built above the head of the ditch of sufficient extent to store water enough to supply the ditch to its full capacity during the growing season.

The amount of agricultural land to which water may be conveyed has been estimated at 221,000 acres, and the grazing and timber lands at 353,000 acres.

The discovery of the Boise mines in 1862, led to the rapid development of business all along the route from the Columbia River to the mines. Ferries were established on Snake River at Farewell bend, Central ferry site, Washoe site and at the mouth of the Owyhee River. The country was infested with lawless and desperate characters, the Washoe ferry in particular getting notoriety as a kind of headquarters for thieves and rough characters. There was much bitter feeling between the proprietors of the different ferries and numerous quarrels arose in consequence. In 1864 a man of the name of Boggs Greenwood was going up the Burnt river road with several companions. At the toll gate they encountered a man named Kinear, who had been engaged in some quarrels with Greenwood at one of the ferries. The quarrel was renewed and Greenwood shot Kinear, killing him instantly. The crowd then went on their way up the river, and stopped at Express ranch, still conducting themselves in a rough and boisterous manner. A Mr. Cox was at Express ranch and when he interposed to protect Mrs. Durkee from insult, Boggs Greenwood shot him, inflicting a slight flesh wound. The roughs then went on up the road to Straw ranch, where they scattered out in different directions just before the arrival of a pursuing party. Learning that Boggs Greenwood had gone into a patch of alder bushes a little above the house, the pursuers went up there and captured him, and taking him back down the road below Straw ranch they led him to a juniper tree a short distance above the road, and hung him without further ceremony.

The difficulties at the ferries still continued, and in February 1865, a party of men came to the house on the Oregon side of the river at Washoe ferry and took three men prisoners on a charge of horse stealing. Crossing to the Idaho side, they went up the river about ten miles and put their prisoners in a house and placed a guard over them, it being their avowed intention to hang them the next morning. The prisoners managed to pry the door open and, eluding the guard, returned to Washoe ferry and swam across the river, and arming themselves with repeating rifles set out down the river. Proceeding on their way several miles they heard a pursuing party rapidly approaching, and concealing themselves at a point where the river sweeps the foot of a bluff, they awaited the arrival of their pursuers, whom they hailed when near enough to be heard, and ordered them to halt. The two parties then held a conference and it was finally agreed that the pursuing party should return and not try to capture them on condition that they should leave the country. The men who had been arrested owned an interest in Washoe ferry which they had no opportunity to dispose of. On the Blue Mountains one of them named Stewart met Mr. Packwood who was returning from Portland, to whom he gave an account of the troubles at the ferry, representing that they had been driven out by the owners of the Boise ferry to get rid of opposition in business. Packwood made a proposition to Stewart for the purchase of their interest in the Washoe ferry if all of them would agree to the sale so that he would have controlling interest in it. After conferring with all parties interested, a bargain was made and Packwood became the principal owner in Washoe ferry. Subsequently a company was formed consisting of the owners of the Burnt river toll road and the Olds and Washoe ferries. The company incorporated under the name of the Burnt River Toll Road, Bridge and Ferry Company, and did a great deal of work improving the road along Burnt river as well as the roads on the other side of Burnt river in Idaho.

Before the completion of the U. P. railroad to Salt Lake all the supplies for Southern Idaho were brought from the Columbia River over the roads and ferries of the company. Their receipts for tolls sometimes reached the amount of $1000 for one day.

After the Union Pacific railroad was built to Salt Lake valley the greater part of the Idaho trade and travel was transferred to that route; and the markets being supplied to a greater extent by home productions, the business of the road and ferry company rapidly declined. When the Oregon Short Line railroad was about to be located along Burnt River, and effort was made to hold the right away for the wagon road, and compel the railroad company to buy the wagon road company out, but the railroad secured the right of way without having to purchase it.




MLA Source Citation:

AccessGenealogy.com. Baker County Oregon Genealogy. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 25 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/oregon/burnt-river-ditch.htm - Last updated on Nov 29th, 2012


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