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In the span of recorded history, the story of the San Joaquin
Valley and that portion of it served by the Modesto Irrigation
District is quite brief. The impact of a region upon a nation,
however, cannot be measured by time alone.
Settled by adventurous, innovative, courageous people who
had the vision and determination to change a huge valley which
was desert waste in the summer and whose flood-swollen rivers
ran 10 miles wide in the spring, the San Joaquin Valley today
is the nation’s most productive agricultural region.
This was the home of people such as Irwin S. Wright, who
in 1868 invented jerk-line control of long pulling teams;
of Benjamin Holt, inventor of the Caterpillar tractor who
subsequently made possible the first army tanks; of George
Stockton Berry, who, starting with a discarded portable steam
engine, built the first mechanically-driven combine to harvest,
thresh and sack wheat in a single operation, and of political
and military leaders such as John C. Fremont, the first presidential
nominee of the Republican Party, and famed General William
It was in this region that the farm cooperative received
its greatest stimulus, resulting in the development of the
world’s largest cooperatives such as the Milk Producers
Association of California and Tri/Valley Growers, both of
which were founded in Modesto.
More than a century ago, enterprising leaders of this caliber
envisioned the rich potential of the region’s agriculture;
needed was a practical means of bringing water to the land
throughout the summer months.
To achieve this goal, they created the nation’s first
successful irrigation districts, the Modesto Irrigation District
and the Turlock Irrigation District, which were to set the
pattern for all of California and much of the rest of the
nation and the world.
This is the story of a pacesetter, the Modesto
Irrigation District, and how the dreams of Stanislaus
County’s pioneers were achieved. On this,
the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Modesto
Irrigation District, the directors dedicate this
book to those men who turned a vision into reality
and insured that the land truly owns the water
and the power.