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