Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company
Scope and Contents
The Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company consists primarily of photographic materials dated 1898 to 1925, with the bulk falling from 1902 to 1920. Photographic subjects are chiefly the company's irrigation facilities and related construction or maintenance activities. Images of floods, Dairy Days Parades, cattle, and sugar factories are also present. While many locations are identified and some years given, few people are named. The only photographers identified are California engineer James Dix Schuyler and Denver lawyer James Roger Grafton. Photographic formats include glass plate negatives, lantern slides, nitrate negatives, and prints, some in photo albums. Among the few textual materials in the collection is a letterpress book containing outgoing letters written by the company's engineer, Thomas Berry, regarding dam and canal construction and maintenance.
- Majority of material found within 1902-1920
- Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company (Organization)
Restrictions on Access
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
Restrictions on Use
Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.
The Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company combined eastern wealth, optimism, and engineering skill to irrigate Colorado's arid southeastern plains. The company operated as a subsidiary of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States from 1910 until 1966.
The nationwide sugar beet boom arrived in Colorado in the late 1890s. By 1901, the Oxnard Construction Company of New York had initiated a plan for development of a sugar beet industry in Colorado's Arkansas Valley. The company, associated with the American Beet Sugar Company (later the American Crystal Sugar Company), had been created to construct sugar beet factories. In cooperation with the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which had purchased collateral from bad loans, the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company was created to take over the water system of the Great Plains Water Company (formerly the Great Plains Water Storage Company) and the lands owned by the Amity Land Company (formerly Amity Canal and Reservoir Company, then Amity Land and Irrigation Company). With vast lands and what Great Plains claimed in 1899 to be the largest irrigation system of its kind in the world, the foundation for sugar manufacturing was well laid, though the sugar beet was the optimistic part of the endeavor. Following the estate settlement of Equitable's founder and president Henry B. Hyde, the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company became a subsidiary of Equitable in 1910.
The Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company owned the Amity Canal and the Buffalo Canal, along with associated laterals and four reservoirs, and the land that could be watered by the system. The main canal stretched over 100 miles, beginning in Bent County and continuing across Prowers County, nearly parallel to the Arkansas River. Other company facilities, mainly located to the north in Kiowa County, included the Great Plains Reservoirs, which had Osage language names: Nee Sopah, Nee Gronda, Nee Noshe, and Nee Skah. A boom in facility construction occurred in 1902, with ongoing maintenance necessary to deal with occasional floods, including the 1921 Arkansas River flood, the largest in Colorado's recorded history at that time. Numerous photographs were taken of construction and facilities, in part to show growth and activities, but also because the company president and board of directors were in other locations, including New York. The company's Colorado office was in Holly.
Beyond initial attempts at growing and processing sugar beets, the company established the Amity Canal Model Dairy Farm about 1914 to bring in livestock to help maintain the land's fertility. The company focused on Holsteins and highlighted their efforts through Dairy Days Parades. Eventually Equitable, after investing millions of dollars, decided to begin liquidating the holdings gradually, aiming for minimal losses. These efforts caused lengthy lawsuits.
In 1936, the Colorado Supreme Court created the Amity Mutual Irrigation Company by converting the Amity Canal system into a cooperative enterprise. The case precipitating this action was Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company vs. L. Wirt Markham, et al. As specified in the Amity Mutual Irrigation Company's articles of incorporation, the holdings consisted of the Amity Canal and Reservoir System, which included the Great Plains Reservoirs along with the Kicking Bird, Satanta, Pawnee, and Comanche canals. Additionally, the company retained rights in the Fort Lyon Canal and its diversion works as connected with the Great Plains Reservoirs. Amity Mutual continues to operate out of Holly, Colorado. Following distribution of its other assets, the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company was dissolved in 1966.
Additional background on AVSBILC can be found in R. Carlyle Buley's two volume history, The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, 1859-1964 (1967).
2 linear feet (1 document box, 1 photo box, 1 negative box)
Language of Materials
The Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company combined eastern wealth, optimism, and engineering skill to irrigate Colorado's arid southeastern plains. Beyond initial attempts at growing and processing sugar beets, the company established the Amity Canal Model Dairy Farm about 1914. The collection consists chiefly of photographic materials along with a set of engineering letters. Photographic subjects are mainly the company's irrigation facilities and related construction or maintenance activities. Also included are images of floods, Dairy Days Parades, cattle, and sugar factories.
The collection arrived with no discernible arrangement. Materials were organized by format.
The collection consists of 2 series in 3 boxes:
Series 1: Photographs, 1902-1925 and undated
Subseries 1.1: Glass formats, 1905-1906 and undated
Subseries 1.2: Photo albums, 1902 and 1917-1921
Subseries 1.3: Prints and negatives, 1902-1925 and undated
Series 2: Papers, 1898-1902 and 1920
The Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company was donated to the Water Resources Archive in May 2017 by James M. Housley who inherited it from his parents, who were teachers in Holly, Colorado.
Some materials in this collection have been digitized and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.
Processing was completed in October 2017. Glass formats were rehoused in paper enclosures and loose photographs were sleeved. Duplicates beyond two copies were discarded, as were images of unidentified cattle. Photographs contained in a large album in poor condition were removed and sleeved separately. Rolled photographs were humidified and flattened. Paper materials were rehoused in acid-free folders and everything was reboxed in archival boxes. Nitrate negatives were scanned and discarded.
- Arkansas River Watershed.
- Arkansas River.
- Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company.
- Bent County (Colo.)
- Dairy cattle.
- Floods -- Colorado.
- Holly (Colo.)
- Irrigation canals and flumes -- Colorado.
- Irrigation engineering.
- Kiowa County (Colo.)
- Lantern slides.
- Parades -- Colorado.
- Prowers County (Colo.)
- Reservoirs -- Colorado.
- Rogers, James Grafton, 1883-1971.
- Schuyler, James D. (James Dix), 1848-1912.
- Sugar beet industry -- Colorado.
- Water resources development.
- Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company (Organization)
- Guide to the Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company
- Edited Full Draft
- Prepared by Patricia J. Rettig and Natalie Pace
- Copyright 2017
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository
Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA