Skip to main content

Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family

Identifier: WDEC

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family consists of documents dated 1827 to 1992, with the bulk falling from 1870 to 1951. The focus of the collection is Delph Carpenter's work on interstate river compacts (primarily the Colorado River Compact) and legal cases (primarily Wyoming vs. Colorado). However, the documentation goes far beyond these to include other professional activities, personal life, and family members. Carpenter's service as a state senator is documented more minimally than his cattle breeding business. His school years, creative writings, speaking engagements, and home life are represented by various kinds of documents. Notable family members represented in the collection are son Weld County Judge Donald A. Carpenter, pioneer father Leroy S. Carpenter, and father-in-law and Civil War veteran Captain Michael J. Hogarty. Significant documentation related to the Union Colony of Colorado exists as well. Further subjects beyond water rights adjudication and interstate river compacts this collection can inform include Colorado state politics, the role of the federal government, pioneer life, family relations, and women's activities. Predominant material types include correspondence, minutes, legal briefs, financial papers, reports, publications, speeches, diaries, clippings, photographs, maps, certificates, scrapbooks, and artifacts.


  • Creation: 1827-1992
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1870-1951


Restrictions on Access

All "confidential" markings on correspondence or other materials have been determined to be for administrative purposes, not national security information; therefore, these materials are open for access.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


The "Father of Interstate River Compacts," Delph E. Carpenter served the state of Colorado as a lawyer, state senator, and river commissioner. He drew on his family's pioneering, farming, and irrigating experiences to conceive new ways for arid western states to share their rivers. The compacts he wrote, negotiated, and promoted are still in place today--and are still debated.

Delphus Emory Carpenter was born May 13, 1877, the second son of Leroy S. and Martha Bennett Carpenter, who were among the original pioneers of the Union Colony of Colorado. Delph grew up in Greeley working on the family farm and graduated from Greeley High School in 1896. Having an interest in water law, he attended the University of Denver's night law school, graduating in 1899. After being admitted to the bar the same year, he returned to Greeley to practice law, preferring to work on water-related issues, but taking other cases to make ends meet. In 1907, he successfully defended an accused murderer, Charles Simonson, and gained increasing notoriety in the community. He also served as attorney for the towns of Ault, Eaton, and Evans.

Long having an interest in politics, Carpenter ran for state senator in the seventh district in 1908 and won, becoming the first such officeholder to be a Colorado native. He served from 1909 until 1913, losing his 1912 bid for re-election. While in the senate, Carpenter was a member of its committee on agriculture and irrigation and the judiciary committee among others. He had many achievements while in office, perhaps the most significant being the Carpenter Reservoir Bill (1911), which protected senior rights of reservoir owners against ditch companies with junior rights.

Concurrent with his senatorial service, Carpenter served as the attorney for the Greeley-Poudre Irrigation District. The District's construction of a tunnel to divert water from the Laramie River into the Cache la Poudre River prompted Wyoming to file a lawsuit against Colorado, immediately accepted by the United States Supreme Court. Carpenter was appointed lead counsel for Colorado. Preparations began in 1911, and Carpenter argued twice before the Supreme Court (1916 and 1918), but the Wyoming vs. Colorado decision did not come until 1922. This involvement and time span, in addition to a suit brought by Nebraska, led Carpenter to consider ways other than litigation to solve interstate water conflicts.

Following his senatorial service, Carpenter was appointed Colorado's interstate streams commissioner. By 1920, the idea of invoking the U.S. Constitution's compact clause (Article I, section 10) to solve interstate water disputes was forefront in Carpenter's mind. His guiding precept became equitable apportionment of interstate streams through compact agreements. He first publicly proposed this idea in August 1920 at the League of the Southwest conference in relation to the Colorado River. The League approved Carpenter's proposal, and he then began preparing for the negotiations.

The seven Colorado River Basin states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) each named a commissioner, and Colorado River Commission meetings began in January 1922 with Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, as the federal government's representative. The meetings continued throughout the year and concluded November 24th with the signing of a compact adopted by the commissioners. Seven more years passed before six of the states and Congress ratified the Colorado River Compact. (Arizona ratified in 1944.) Carpenter spent these years traveling widely to testify, interpret, and advocate in its favor, as well as writing and negotiating other compacts, including ones on the La Plata, Arkansas, Laramie, North Platte, Rio Grande, Republican, and South Platte rivers--some of which never came to fruition.

Carpenter served as Colorado's compact commissioner until 1933. By that time, his slowly failing health had deteriorated to a severe point. He suffered almost constant pain from 1922 with a neuritis giving symptoms of Parkinson's disease. From 1934 on, he was bedridden at his home in Greeley, cared for mainly by his wife. He died at the Island Grove Park hospital on February 27, 1951.

Delph Carpenter received the University of Colorado Medal of Honor in 1923 for distinguished public service as well as an honorary LL.D. from the same institution in 1927. Carpenter was religiously a Methodist and politically a Republican. He was also a Mason and a member of the Royal Arcanum as well as a breeder of registered shorthorn cattle, on his Crow Creek Ranch, fifteen miles northeast of Greeley. With all his other activities, he found time to serve as the secretary/treasurer for the Union Colony of Colorado for a number of years. Carpenter enjoyed hunting and occasionally wrote short stories, poetry, and other creative pieces.

The woman who stood by Carpenter throughout his life was born Ann Michaela Hogarty in 1878 and went by "Dot" later in life. She was the fifth and youngest child of Union Colony pioneers Michael J. and Sarah Carr Hogarty. She, like Delph, was a member of Greeley High School's Class of 1896, and she earned a degree from the Colorado State Normal School (now the University of Northern Colorado). She married Carpenter in 1901 and they had four children: Michaela Hogarty (1902-1997); Donald Alfred (1907-1993); Sarah Hogarty (1909-1994); and Martha Patricia ("Patsy"; 1914-1990). She was active in church and charity work in between traveling with and caring for her husband. Dot died in Greeley in 1980 at age 101.

Donald followed in his father's footsteps, earning his law degree in 1931 from National University in Washington, D.C., becoming a lawyer and working with his cousin in Texas. He returned to Greeley in 1934 but six years later was appointed secretary to Congressman William Hill, causing another move to Washington. Following army service during World War II in both Europe and Asia, Donald again returned to Greeley. He then served as county judge in Weld County from 1946 to 1952 and was elected district judge in 1952, holding that office as well as water court judge until 1978. He maintained a private law practice after retirement from the court. Donald married Evelyn Ward in 1941, and they had two children: William (1948) and Ward (1952). Following Evelyn's 1963 death, Donald married Doris Piedalue Baney (1924-2014) in 1965. Donald and Doris were honored as grand marshals of the Greeley Independence Stampede Parade in 1979.

The pioneering spirit of both the Carpenter and Hogarty families tells something of the influences on Delph and Dot during their upbringing, and in turn on Donald and his siblings. Leroy Carpenter (1843-1927) and four of his twelve siblings (Peter, Sarah, Silas, and Mattie) moved to the Union Colony from Tipton, Iowa, in 1871 with their father Daniel (1796-1884) and his second wife Nancy Scott Carpenter (Leroy's mother; 1809-1886). Daniel, born in Vermont, had served as a soldier in the War of 1812 and later lived in New York, Ohio, and Iowa. Once in Colorado, the Carpenters established a farm based on irrigated agriculture. In 1872, Leroy returned to Iowa to marry Martha Bennett (1854-1930), a teacher, who then joined him in Colorado. They were actively involved in their burgeoning community and its Methodist Episcopal church, and they raised three children: Alfred Bennett (1873-1953?), Delphus Emory (1877-1951), and Fred George (1881-1963), who in turn collectively raised twelve grandchildren.

The Hogartys exhibited similar westward peripatetic tendencies. Born in Ireland, Michael J. Hogarty (1836-1925) lived in several locations in the eastern United States and in 1863 joined the 141st New York Volunteer Infantry as a private to fight in the Civil War. Wounded in the eye in 1864, he was discharged within a few months and returned to New York to marry Sarah Carr (1844-1918) the same year. Hogarty reenlisted in 1865 and after the war continued to serve in the regular army as a lieutenant in New York and the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) until 1870, when he retired on account of his wound. He was later promoted to the rank of captain. The Hogartys had five children, the youngest three born after their move to the Union Colony in 1871: Harriet Carr ("Hattie"; 1869-1948); Mary Tuttle ("Mame"; 1870-1910); William Patrick (1872-1944); Barry (1876-1961); and Ann Michaela ("Dot"; 1878-1980). Mame married Bruce Eaton, son of Colorado governor Benjamin Eaton, in 1891, and had five children with him. The Hogartys farmed near Greeley until 1904 when M. J. and Sarah moved to National City, California.

Many of the family members are buried in Greeley's Linn Grove Cemetery, including four generations of Carpenters: Daniel and Nancy, Leroy and Martha, Delph and Dot, and Donald, Evelyn, and Doris. For biographical information about various family members, the best sources are found within this collection as well as The History of Colorado, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918-1919, a five volume set. The only book-length biography of Delph Carpenter is Daniel Tyler's Silver Fox of the Rockies: Delphus E. Carpenter and Western Water Compacts, University of Oklahoma Press, 2003, which relied heavily upon this collection.


79.75 linear feet (108 document boxes, 35 flat boxes, 7 record cartons, 3 flat files, 9 tubes)

Language of Materials



The "Father of Interstate River Compacts," Delph E. Carpenter (1877-1951) served the state of Colorado as a lawyer, state senator, and river commissioner. He wrote, negotiated, and promoted the Colorado River Compact, among others, following his service as lead counsel in the Wyoming vs. Colorado suit. The collection documents these and other professional activities (including cattle breeding), as well as Carpenter's personal life and family. Materials from his son Weld County Judge Donald A. Carpenter, pioneer father Leroy S. Carpenter, and father-in-law and Civil War veteran Captain M. J. Hogarty are prominent in the collection, as are documents concerning the Union Colony of Colorado. Predominant material types include correspondence, minutes, legal briefs, financial papers, reports, publications, speeches, diaries, clippings, photographs, maps, certificates, scrapbooks, and artifacts. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


The materials in the collection have been arranged into series primarily by material type, with three series of Delph Carpenter's documents further separated out. Subseries and categories were created as necessary for additional clarity. Extensive attention was given to arrangement of files and even items in some series.

The collection consists of 10 series in 150 boxes, 3 flat files, and 9 tubes:

Series 1: DEC correspondence, 1895-1949 and undated

Subseries 1.1: Filed correspondence, 1905-1939

Subseries 1.2: Loose correspondence, 1895-1949 and undated

Series 2: DEC professional papers, 1880-1950 and undated

Subseries 2.1: Cattle, 1904-1933

Subseries 2.2: Compacts and rivers, 1889-1950 and undated

Subseries 2.3: Legal files, 1895-1938 and undated

Subseries 2.4: Political files, 1910-1912 and undated

Subseries 2.5: Oversize, 1880-1932 and undated

Series 3: DEC personal papers, 1886-1951 and undated

Subseries 3.1: Diaries, 1914-1928

Subseries 3.2: Personal papers, 1886-1951 and undated

Subseries 3.3: Oversize, 1893-1930

Series 4: Family correspondence, 1850-1992 and undated

Series 5: Family papers, 1827-1991 and undated

Subseries 5.1: Diaries, 1862-1930

Subseries 5.2: Papers, 1827-1991 and undated

Subseries 5.3: Oversize, 1828-1962 and undated

Series 6: Union Colony, 1870-1983 and undated

Subseries 6.1: Union Colony of Colorado, 1870-1970 and undated

Subseries 6.2: Society of the Pioneers of Union Colony of Colorado, 1895-1983 and undated

Subseries 6.3: Oversize, 1870-1886

Series 7: Publications and reports, 1856-1992 and undated

Subseries 7.1: Compacts and rivers, 1893-1986 and undated

Subseries 7.2: Legal, 1866-1982 and undated

Subseries 7.3: Other, 1856-1992 and undated

Subseries 7.4: Oversize, 1890-1980 and undated

Series 8: Clippings, newspapers, and scrapbooks, 1862-1991 and undated

Subseries 8.1: Clippings, 1862-1991 and undated

Subseries 8.2: Newspapers, 1862-1920

Subseries 8.3: Scrapbooks, 1881-1946

Series 9: Photographs, 1850-1979 and undated

Subseries 9.1: DEC portraits and professional activities, 1878-1926

Subseries 9.2: Carpenter family, 1850-1979

Subseries 9.3: Hogarty family, 1863-1930 and undated

Subseries 9.4: Eaton family, 1882-1937

Subseries 9.5: Other families and individuals, 1854-1962 and undated

Subseries 9.6: Subject-based photographs, 1870-1976 and undated

Subseries 9.7: Albums, 1860-1952

Subseries 9.8: Glass plate negatives, 1895, 1901 and undated

Series 10: Artifacts, 1847-1945 and undated


The Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family was donated to the Water Resources Archive by brothers William and Ward Carpenter in May 2004. An addition of photographs, a map, and a program was donated on behalf of William and Ward Carpenter by Doris Carpenter in October 2010. A further addition from Mrs. Carpenter came in February 2013 and consisted of a set of hydrographs (Box 129) and some rare books. The latter, along with further similar gifts, were added to Special Collections, except for duplicates which were returned. Three further additions were donated by the Carpenter brothers in 2015 following Mrs. Carpenter's death. These materials can be found in boxes 130-149 as well as five oversize folders.


The only materials appraised for retention decisions were publications, including books, reports, government documents, newspapers, and clippings, as well as a few oversized items. Any of these materials having no clear evidence of use or relation to the family or their usual subjects of interest were not retained. Some novels and other light reading also were not kept, as was the case for some moldy items beyond salvage. Many federal government documents on compact-related subjects were not retained as they are easily accessible elsewhere. A partial list of books not kept is available. These materials went through the normal library selection process to be added to the main stacks or Special Collections as appropriate.

Online Materials

Some materials have been scanned or digitally photographed and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context for some materials.

Related Collections

The Carpenter family donated a portion of Delph E. Carpenter's papers (3 linear feet; 1922-1945) to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa, in 1975. Those materials largely relate to the Colorado River Compact and the North Platte River Compact. The family also donated some of M. J. Hogarty's military papers having to do with Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York, to that organization in 1992. The Carpenter family house and some of their possessions were donated in 1976 to Centennial Village in Greeley, Colorado. In 2015, the family donated one box of materials related to the Union Colony to the Greeley Museum. In the Water Resources Archive, the Papers of Daniel Tyler contains the biographer's files of his work on Carpenter family members in Series 3 and 4.


Work on this collection began in May 2004 with a condition inspection, primarily to identify the presence of mold. Some materials had gotten wet during a flood in the Carpenter family basement in 1992, causing mold growth sometime following that and/or during storage at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Loveland (1993-2003). Evidence of mold was found to a greater or lesser extent in nearly two-thirds of the original boxes, and though the mold was dormant, any materials not weeded in those boxes went through a complete cleaning process performed by the Libraries' Preservation Services Department. A contracted conservator cleaned and flattened a portion of the oversized materials.

Processing involved removing metal fasteners, rubber bands and binders; plastic clips were used where needed. Also completed: unfolding folded documents, sleeving or encapsulating fragile items, photocopying newspaper clippings, inserting acid-free paper on either side of acidic documents, and segregating photographs. Exact duplicates beyond two copies (occasionally three) were removed. Mailing envelopes were discarded unless needed for context. All materials were rehoused in acid-free containers. Rolled and some folded oversized items were prepared for storage in flat files or in tubes if extra-large. Photographs were sleeved when possible, otherwise were protected with polyester sheets. Nitrate negatives were scanned and discarded. Glass plate negatives were placed in paper envelopes in padded boxes. Framed items were removed from their frames whenever possible. One deteriorating photo album was disassembled. Wrappers were created for fragile bound volumes. Artifacts were given special storage. The audio reel was digitized by a vendor. Processing was completed in September 2005 with the assistance of students.

Materials donated in 2010 were incorporated in October 2011. One framed photograph was removed from its frame and the map was flattened. At the same time, photocopies created from collection items, mostly Leroy Carpenter diaries, were added to the collection in one box at the end. The hydrographs donated in 2013 were incorporated in July 2014.

Processing of the materials donated in 2015 was completed in January 2016. Generally, all previous processing actions were applied, with the exception of photocopying newspaper clippings. Several published maps and one newspaper issue were removed to be added to Special Collections. Any duplicates or unnecessary items removed from the collection were returned to the donor. Materials originally part of this collection but used by biographer Daniel Tyler and retained in his own files were extracted from his collection (WDTP) and added in July 2017 in Box 150.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information copied from files is given in quotation marks. Estimated pagination is preceded by an "e." Two identical copies of the same item are indicated by the phrase "2 copies" at the end of the entry, following the number of pages of each copy. Authored articles, books and studies are listed in bibliographic form. Abbreviations used are: DAC for Donald A. Carpenter, DEC for Delph E.Carpenter, LSC for Leroy S. Carpenter, MBC for Martha Bennett Carpenter, MHC for Michaela Hogarty Carpenter, MJH for M. J. Hogarty, and SCH for Sarah Carr Hogarty.

Guide to the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family
Edited Full Draft
Prepared and revised by Patricia J. Rettig
Copyright 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA