Frannie-Deaver Reclamation Project celebrated Saturday

Members of the Frannie-Deaver community will commemorate 100 years of local agriculture and irrigation this Saturday at the centennial celebration of the Frannie-Deaver Project including historical exhibits, a dinner and a program at the Deaver Town Hall and Community Center.

According to organizer Doug Weaver, the celebration begins with an open house featuring displays, exhibits, a slide show, census data, an aerial map of the current project, family stories and more, including the ability to look up the original farm units on a map.

A social hour from 5 to 6 p.m. will be followed by a barbecue rib dinner at 6 and a program at 7.

“Persistance and Determination – Then and Now” is the theme of the celebration, and the program will include “first generation” remarks by Fred Wambeke and Corine Tilley, music by master fiddler Kelly Wells and glimpses of the past by Weaver, who will also serve as the program master of ceremonies. There will also be a welcome by irrigation district board chairman Russ Boardman and manager Jerry Dart and an open forum for memories from the audience.

Project history

Frannie came into being in the mid-1880s when Jack Morris built his stage stop. When it came time to locate a post office at the site, Morris named it for his daughter, Frannie, in 1894.

This historical photo shows construction of a Frannie Canal siphon in 1920. The history of the Frannie-Deaver Project will be celebrated this Saturday at the Deaver Community Center.
Courtesy Photo

According to Weaver, on Feb. 10, 1904, the Secretary of the Interior set aside $2.25 million for the initial construction of the Shoshone Project, one of the first federal reclamation projects in the nation. The project was settled in four divisions: Garland in 1907, Frannie in 1917, Willwood in 1927 and Heart Mountain in 1946.

The Frannie Division of the project was opened to settlement in September of 1917, and 326 hopeful homesteaders applied for 76 farm units in the first two days applications were available, eventually reaching 184 farm units totaling 13,000 acres in the initial filing.

The construction site was originally named Camp Deaver, and the subsequent community was named Deaver.

Water was delivered to the first units in June 1918, and there were three additional filings between October of 1919 and September of 1921 consisting of 65, 57 and 53 farm units totaling 4,730, 4,725 and 3,379 acres, respectively, for a final total of 359 farm units covering 25,834 acres.

According to a history written by Eric A. Stene of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Shoshone Project including the Buffalo Bill Dam had been constructed between 1904 and 1910, and the Corbett tunnel and diversion dam were also constructed during that period: the tunnel from 1905 to 1907 and the dam from 1906 to 1908.

Grading for the Frannie Canal system started in 1910, and construction work began in 1914. After structure bids were rejected in 1915 the project was re-advertised and more bids were received in May of 1916 and construction continued.

The first water was delivered in June of 1918, and work was completed in 1919. The canal splits at Mantua Flats southwest of Deaver, forming the Frannie Canal and the Deaver Canal.

In 1924, Weaver said, the Dept. of Interior reviewed the project and threatened to shut it down, so Herman Krueger and Charlie Davis traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with senators. The local farmers formed their own district in December of 1926.

Weaver noted that farming in the area was a challenge from the beginning due to some areas of marginal soils and the emergence of alkali, requiring extensive drainage. But farm families overcame the conditions through “perseverance and determination” – the theme of the Saturday program.

The poorer lands were abandoned, drains installed and other lands improved to the point where some 17,000 acres of land is now under cultivation. Major crops are sugar beets, malt barley, alfalfa, beans and corn.

By David Peck