Mills County, Iowa

1881 Mills County History
The Watkins Ditch

Among the other improvements in the county, affecting largely the interests of its citizens, or a portion of them at least, should be mentioned the Watkins ditch, so named for the gentleman mainly instrumental in securing its establishment. The facts in the matter may be best presented in the petition, and the legislation consequent thereon. The object was to recover to farming purposes a large area of land annually flooded by Keg Creek in the Missouri bottom. The petition was as follows, and was filed July 5, 1878.

To the Board of Supervisors of Mills County, Iowa
Gentlemen - We the undersigned, represent that the low lands on the Missouri river bottom and south of Pacific City, are frequently inundated by the freshets of Keg Creek, damaging and destroying stops on cultivated lands, and preventing the tillage of large quantities of uncultivated lands, otherwise good; therefore in order to protect the public health, to preserve our crops and to enable us to improve other lands, we pray your honorable body to cause the waters of Keg Creek to be restrained by ditches and levees, constructed of a proper capacity and in a substantial manner as provided by law; said improvement to be made as near as practicable on the following route, namely: south side levee to commence at a practical point east of the William's mill dam, and run southwest to where the north levee will commence at the creek below the dam, at the southwest corner of section 22, township 72, range 43; thence to run in a course southwest to a point near the southwest corner of section 32 of same township; thence westerly to intersect the present channel of Keg Creek in said section 32, and thence with said channel to the Missouri River.
Signed by H.C. Watkins and fourteen others.

The petition came before the board for a hearing at the August term, 1878, at which time the following proceedings were had:
In the matter of the drainage of the Missouri bottom, now on this 12th day of August 1878, it being the time set for hearing in this matter, it is made to appear by the return of James S. Hendrie, sheriff, that due, legal and truly personal service of the pendency and prayer of this petition was by him made in Mills county, on the following named persons as parties, across or over whose land the ditch is proposed to run, namely: H.W. Brown, J.A. Donelaw, John Johnson, Geo. Gilleard, C.B. & Q. R.R., B & M.R.R., E. Jones, J.W. Summers, W.G. Summers, J.J. Swain, Hannah Swain, Benj. Gunsolly, W.B. Fague, George Morrow, J.D. Wright, David Deffibaugh, Jacob Crawson, C.L. Epperson, Jasper Cook, and the K.C. St. J. & C.B. R.R., and it is further made to appear by proof, that the said notice was published for two consecutive weeks in the Mills County Journal, a weekly paper published at Glenwood, in said county, the last publication being made August 3, 1878, by which it appears that due and legal service has been had on the following named persons who do not reside in Mills county: N. Hill, J.S. Wright, Jacob Dishong, B.C. Birdsall and Giles Dowles; and it further appears that claims for damage on account of the location of the ditch or drain, has been made by the following named persons, and none other, namely: H.W. Brown, E.R. Arrison, C.L. Epperson, Benj. Gunsolly, David Deffibaugh, F.H. Dashner, E. Jones, Geo. Gilleard, D.C., St. J. & C. B. R.R., W.H. Taylor, John Johnson, Nelson Hill, and J.A. Donelaw. Therefore it is ordered that further proceedings in this matter be had at the next regular session of this board, and in the meantime shall take the lawful steps necessary to ascertain the amounts of actual damage to the several claims aforesaid.

The construction of the ditch was not unattended by opposition, though all matters pertaining thereto were adjusted satisfactorily with a single exception. Damages were assessed, and the final proceedings had in the October term, 1878, as follows.

In the matter of the Watkins ditch: Now, on this 15 day of October, 1878, it is made to appear to the board that the damages heretofore assessed have been secured to be paid, and further, that the public health, convenience and welfare will be promoted by carrying forward to completion the improvement prayed for; therefore, it is ordered unanimously by this board that this ditch and drainage improvement is hereby established on the route specified in the return of Seth Dean, county surveyor, filed July 22, 1878 , and the plat and profile accompanying said return, and of the dimensions therein specified; and that the Auditor proceed as provided by law to let the same by contracts and in sections, divided by this board as follows: Section No. 1 being embankment above the Williams mill-dam, 3,000 feet long, and marked on the ground; sections 2 to 14 inclusive, to be each 1,500 feet in length, and as marked on the ground: sections 15 and 16 to be 1,500 feet long each: section 17 and last, to be 4,000 feet in length more or less, the work on each of said sections to be completed on or before December 1, 1879.

The position of this needed improvement may be noted on the map accompanying this volume. It is sufficient to say that it has already demonstrated the wisdom of the measures which inaugurated and carried to the successful issue its construction.

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