Hurricane, Utah canal history

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I have misplaced my source for this article.  Please contact me if you have the source info.

The farmers in Virgin and the

surrounding towns on the Virgin River relied

on the river for watering their lands.

However, the river couldn't be depended upon

to stay its course. The flash floods would

wipe out crops and dams and fill ditches with

silt. As the population in the area increased,

troubles with the river caused productivity to


The pioneers looked to the Hurricane

Valley for a new start. Bringing water to the

valley would require a canal to be

constructed. The Hurricane Canal company

was formed. Nearly one hundred men

subscribed to stock in the company. Each

share entitled the owner to one acre of land

with water rights on the Hurricane Bench

when the canal was completed.

Work on the canal began in 1893. It

literally took blood, sweat, tears, and lives to

build it. The canal followed a tortuous route

beginning in the Narrows of Zion Canyon. It

was begun at a time when there was no road

into the canyon. Everything needed for the

project had to be carried from the top down

into the canyon. All supplies to work and live

were carried in on the backs of the men who

labored there with picks, shovels, and

wheelbarrows. There were no finances to buy

materials or to hire help.

Most of the work was done during the

winter months when the men from the nearby

towns were not working on their farms. It

was bitterly cold in the shade of the canyon


Great personal sacrifices were made,

and many gave up before the project was

completed. Finally, after nine years of toiling,

with the canal more than three-fifths

completed and their backs to the wall for need

of help, the LDS Church stepped in to

subscribe to $5,000 worth of stock. The work

pushed forward and was completed in 1904.

For 11 years workers had tackled the thing

that couldn't be done. It was a remarkable

undertaking. Their reward was water flowing

onto the land below after eight miles (?) of

hillside ditch.

It wasn't until two years later, in 1906,

that the first families came to Hurricane to

make permanent homes. Even then the ditch

required constant vigilance. Ditch riders were

hired to watch and remove any obstructions

that had to be removed.

The Hurricane Canal served the

community for more than 80 years until in

1985 when a piping system was installed

which bypassed the historic old ditch.

In Karl Larson's book, "1 Was Called

to Dixie," there is a simple explanation of

how such a project as the Hurricane Canal

came to be. " A long time ago the President of

Brigham Young University , George H.

Brimhall, in company of James Jepson,

viewed the canal from its source in the canyon

to the Hurricane fields. He marveled that

such a group of men would tackle a problem

so difficult without capital. Jepson answered

him by asking the question, 'Do you

remember how Brigham Young called a group

of people to Dixie and only about half of them

responded?' 'Yes.' President Brimhall had

heard something like that. ' Do you remember

that of the half who came, only half

remained?' 'Yes.' 'Well,' said James Jepson,

'the men and women who built this canal are

the children of those who stayed."'

Walter Spendlove is one of the

children of "those who stayed." His father,

John Spendlove, Jr., and his grandfather, John

Spendlove, Sr., were among the faithful who

were devoted workers on the canal.

Walter Spendlove was too young to

have worked on the canal when the work first

commenced. Since he had not finished grade

school when he started working on the canal,

it can be assumed he was probably about 13

years of age. That would have been in 1898.

If so, Walter worked on the canal for 6 years-


For a detailed account of the building of the

Hurricane Canal, see index.