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Records of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company

Identifier: WAVX

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company consists of documents dated 1883 to 1979, with the bulk falling from 1901 to 1950. Most of the records document the company and its predecessors, with a small set documenting other companies in which the Equitable Life Assurance Society had invested. While less true for the predecessor or other companies, for the AVSBILC the recordkeeping appears quite thorough, especially in terms of meeting minutes and reports. Voluminous financial records, legal files, and correspondence also indicate the completeness of the information. Bylaws, certificates of incorporation, and stock certificates help document company origins. A small set of pamphlets and photographs adds a visual component to the textual documentation, with maps of the irrigation system or other locations mixed in. Main subjects, beyond operation of the companies themselves, documented in the collection include the irrigation system, farming, weather (including the 1921 flood), land sales, and water rights. Important subjects that appear less frequently include dairy cattle, oil and gas, Salvation Army land, the Holly Sugar Company, and associated or nearby irrigation systems or facilities, including Buffalo Canal, the Keesee Water and Land Company, the Fort Lyon Canal, and Caddoa (later John Martin) Dam.


  • Creation: 1883-1979
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1901-1950


Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection, including any apparent attorney-client privilege materials. All "confidential" markings on correspondence or other materials have been determined to be for administrative purposes; 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 Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company, funded by eastern U.S. wealth, worked to develop irrigated agriculture on 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 Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company (AVSBILC) was incorporated in New Jersey in 1901 following negotiations conducted in Chicago among several interested parties, including men associated with the American Beet Sugar Company and the Oxnard Construction Company (which had been created to build sugar beet factories). The group created AVSBILC 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) to support sugar beet interests.

Equitable Life Assurance Society founder and president Henry B. Hyde, already an investor in Great Plains, became further involved when in 1895 he and others arranged a loan to an employee of the Mercantile Trust Company, where Hyde was a director, to take over collateral that involved the Amity properties. The Turner loan also involved Kentucky mineral and timber contracts. Following Hyde's 1899 death and subsequent estate settlement that attempted to disentangle personal and business investments, the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company became a subsidiary of Equitable in 1910.

The AVSBILC 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 irrigation system, which Great Plains claimed in 1899 to be the largest of its kind in the world, featured a main canal that 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.

The company's Colorado office was in Holly and the president and board of directors worked out of other locations, including New York City. Among the prominent board members was Joy Morton, brother of Equitable president Paul Morton and founder of the Morton Salt Company.

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).


27 linear feet (18 record cartons, 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



Formed in 1901 to take over several earlier companies, the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company operated the Amity Canal System in southeastern Colorado. The company became a subsidiary of the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1910, went through several lawsuits that mutualized the system, and dissolved in 1966. The collection documents the company through materials accumulated in the New York office, including meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, legal and financial documents, maps, and photographs. Predecessor companies are documented to a limited extent, as are a few associated Equitable subsidiaries which concerned land or resources in Kentucky and Washington. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


Files were retained in the order received. Intellectual organization was created for the series below.

The collection consists of 3 series in 18 boxes and 1 flat file:

Series 1: Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company, 1891-1979 and undated

Subseries 1.1: Administrative documents, 1921-1961 and undated

Subseries 1.2: Numbered files, 1892-1944

Subseries 1.3: Subject files, 1910-1958 and undated

Subseries 1.4: Correspondence, 1905-1963

Subseries 1.5: Legal files, 1902-1960 and undated

Subseries 1.6: Financial documents, 1901-1910, 1923-1955, and undated

Subseries 1.7: Reports, 1910-1955 and 1964

Subseries 1.8: Secretary's Office files, 1891, 1901-1979, and undated

Subseries 1.9: Visual materials, 1906-1912, 1920-1934, and undated

Series 2: Predecessor companies, 1896-1908 and undated

Series 3: Other companies, 1883-1913, 1932-1944, and undated


The Records of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company was received from Jonathan Coss, archivist at AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, in Fall 2018. The collection had been accessioned by the company's archives in 1980 from multiple internal sources. Two maps were added in November 2021.

Online Materials

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 in some places.

Related Collections

The Water Resources Archive also holds the Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company. The Agricultural and Natural Resources Archive holds the Records of the Great Western Sugar Company which documents sugar beet production and irrigation in Colorado. The Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University holds the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States Records, which also contains papers relating to the personal activities of founder, Henry B. Hyde.


Processing was completed in April 2019. Most loose materials were inserted in acid-free folders, and some existing folders were replaced. Some metal fasteners were removed, but most were left in place because of the fragility of the documents. Some duplicates were removed. The photo albums were placed in phase boxes for stabilization. The nitrate negatives were scanned and disposed. The maps that were added in 2021 were flattened and one was encapsulated.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. 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.

Guide to the Records of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Patricia J. Rettig
Copyright 2019
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