The Greening of Paradise Valley
The First 100 Years of the Modesto Irrigation District

The Last Word

Compiling a history of the Modesto Irrigation District has been a most enjoyable and fascinating experience.

The MID ?s Board of Directors serving in this centennial year must be commended for undertaking to record the history of the district and for the creation of an outstanding citizens committee headed by Dr. Robert Beck to insure appropriate recognition of the centennial. I am proud of my role in this celebration.

It has been with great pleasure that I have renewed old friendships with people such as Bob Beck, Charlie Crawford, Les Brooks, Joan Wishon, Matt Fiscalini and others I knew three decades ago when I covered the MID for The Modesto Bee. I am sure it was going along on inspection trips with Charlie and the late Cliff Plummer to monitor the progress of Cherry Valley Dam and the early exploratory work on New Don Pedro Dam that first sparked my older son?s interest in engineering. He now has followed in their footsteps as a civil engineer. And, it was surprising to me that Dr. Beck was able to recall, after 30 years, my cats and dogs which he treated so well.

Going back over the mid-century years brought back warm memories of fine people such as Cliff Plummer, Jim Carr, Larry Bither, Milt Kidd and others who contributed so much to the successful growth of the district but did not live to see it achieve its centennial. Furthermore, it has been fascinating to learn of the relationship to the area of people such as Grizzly Adams, Joaquin Murietta, John C. Fremont and General Vallejo and to be reintroduced to the contributions of the McHenrys, the Beards, the Carvers, the Broughtons and all the others who worked so hard to make the MID a success.

All in all, it has been a most satisfying experience.

Like the Modesto Irrigation District itself, however, this history is not the work of just one person. It resulted from the efforts of many. It would take another book to mention all who helped, however, and I hope they recognize the value of their contributions and approve of the results of our mutual efforts. There are some whose help in digging out the facts I do wish to acknowledge personally: MID Secretary Joan Wishon, MID Information Officer Maree Hawkins, McHenry Museum Curator Heidi Warner, Congressman Tony Coelho and his staff, Senator Ken Maddy and especially Heidi Arno on his staff and former Waterford Irrigation District Manager Cecil Hensley.

Of special importance were the interviews with those people who shared their personal knowledge of the region and the MID . My deepest appreciation go to those people ? John Kidd, Matt Fiscalini, Kennan Beard, Tom Beard, Les Brooks, Charlie Crawford, Charles Viss, Merv Bennett, Heidi Warner, Franklin Beard, Russell Briggs, Donald Jaynes, Jeannette Maino, Bob Beck and Herb Florcken. I should add that Crawford?s memory for details backed up by a wonderful collection of data and photographs was especially valuable.

In tracing the history of the MID and Stanislaus County, I found many valuable sources. Sol Elias? Stories of Stanislaus, George Tinkham?s History of Stanislaus County, Helen Hohenthal?s Streams in a Thirsty Land, C. H. Huffman?s biographical history of the area, Frank C. Latta?s Handbook of the Yokuts Indians, and Jack Brotherton?s Annals of Stanislaus County all may be obtained at the McHenry Museum and are interesting and entertaining reading. Other lively books on the San Joaquin Valley include Wallace Smith?s Garden of the Sun, Holway Jones? John Muir and the Sierra Club, published by the Sierra Club, and Roy W. Taylor?s Hetch Hetchy. Jones and Taylor present excellent accounts of the Hetch Hetchy battle from opposite views.

Specially important reference sources available in the community include the newspaper files of the McHenry Museum, which also has a fine collection of old court documents and historic photographs, many of which were donated by historian Herb Florcken; The Modesto Bee which recently observed the 100 years of daily newspapers in Modesto; the Stanislaus County Library, and the archives of the Modesto Irrigation District, which include the work of the late Paul Christian and his interview. Heartfelt appreciation should be given to The Modesto Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle who were most cooperative.

The fine art work of Kathleen Jenner gracing the title page and the bottom of this final page are worthy of special recognition.

Special thanks go to my good friend Jim Snyder of Yosemite whose knowledge of Hetch Hetchy and the Yosemite back country is equaled by none. In the early days of this venture, Jim and my long-time friend and former colleague on The Bee Ray Nish fired me up when it was needed most.

Most of all, I would like to acknowledge the untiring efforts and encouragement of Lois and Ray Nish, without whose research, interviews, editing and counseling this book would never have been completed.

As the last word, I hope that those who have helped so much in this venture and those who during the past 100 years converted the land of the Modesto Irrigation District from a dry, dusty cattle country into one of the richest agricultural areas in the nation, approve of the results. It has been an honor to have the opportunity to recount the efforts of those far-sighted, determined, and courageous people who truly greened Paradise Valley.

Dwight H. Barnes, March 7, 1987

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