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The Dredge Ditch

A fantastic place for a young man to grow up and experience some real outdoor recreation was in the middle of Sec 27, south of Phil Allen's or just east of Virgil Brooks; for there, beginning about a quarter mile south of the road, was an open dredge ditch. This had been put in place about the time of the First World War or just a bit earlier. There was a cement wall with two or three large tile that flowed year round and some smaller tile that ended at this point. During some very rainy periods the water coming from the northwest had overflowed the concrete wall and scoured out a quite impressive hole just a couple rods past the end of the tile. This made a deep, clear swimming hole about 25- 30 feet across and maybe ten or so foot deep. The water was so clear and inviting on a hot summer's day that it was very difficult to resist the temptation to take a plunge and cool off. One could watch the fish lazily floating and gliding through the crystal clear water. However, that same clear inviting water was not warm or even cool. It was too cold for continued swimming and splashing from its long flow under ground from upstream three or more miles where it drained some very good sized ponds that used to be classified as slews.

Down across Sec 27 the soil from the dredging had been piled along the bank of the ditch and it was along this east side of the ditch that Dave Allen and I would occasionally go snapping turtle hunting. These were good sized turtles, perhaps 10 to 14 inches across the back and with a beak that, if they clamped onto something, could do some real damage. We'd head south and keep an eye out for them and when we spotted one, we'd push a stick at him and when he clamped down, we could pull him up to the top of the bank and there we could turn him over on his back and continue our hunt on to the south. After we'd gone a few hundred yards and turned over maybe three or four, we'd head back to the north to pick up these turtles. Probably half of them would have righted themselves and be gone, but we really didn't care. We would carry them by the tail back up toward the tile outlet, with what purpose, I don't recall because, as I recall we never did anything with them except release them.

The last time we ever did this, we were walking north with a stiff breeze from the east and Dave was carrying a turtle with his right hand. It swung around and clamped down on his trouser leg and how it kept from getting some leg flesh with the wind holding the trouser leg tightly against his leg, we don't know but we knew we'd been lucky. It tore a nice sized hole in his trouser before we could convince it to release its grip. Anyhow, it was a learning experience and made us realize that perhaps our Dads weren't so wrong when they had told us, "Boys, don't play with those things". Dale Hughes `55

A Brief History of Milford's Dredge Ditch

This Ditch had its beginning in the fall of 1909 with the application by Philip Allen, O.T. Molde, and E.F. Vail to the county Board of Supervisors for the creation of a drainage district that would cover a large portion of south central Milford Twp. The Philip Allen in this petition was the owner of the quarter section in the southeast of Sec 22 and is the Great Grand Dad of David Allen `55. This drainage project (one of 119 districts in Story County), Drainage District number 32, was to become the largest., to that date, in Story County and was surveyed in 1911. When originally designed by the Engineer one option would have had 14 miles of open dredge ditch and another literally none. The final plan has about 3.5 miles of open ditch with about a mile and two thirds as a dug ditch. The plan, in order to maintain a 0.09 to 0.13 % grade, developed into reality with a ditch that leaves the natural flowing drainage path across Sec 27 and 26 and across the north half of Sec 35 and diverts the flow southward across Sec 27, the northeast part of Sec 34, and across the middle of Sec 35 and back into the original waterway.

Once the petition for the establishment of this 8594 acre District was begun, it seemed to take on a life of its own. Philip Allen, one of the original petitioners, when he learned of the high cost involved, withdrew his support of the project but to no avail. As with a lot of projects, perhaps the lawyers were the big winners in the short run as many of the statements of support and objection from various people came in over the signature of an attorney. And then there were applications for damages caused by the construction of the open ditch, again, most over the signature of an attorney, then there were the appeals of the cost assessments, again many over the signature of an attorney.

A contract was signed in the Spring of 1912 and the ditch was completed on Oct 10th, 1912. The actual cost of the ditch, with its 100 foot easement, is difficult to compute as there were many `laterals' built in to the cost but an educated guess would be in the vicinity of $7900. The bottom was to be made 4 foot wide with the spoils piled to either side with a 1 1/4 slope horizontal to one vertical on the sides. Surprisingly the tile did not come from the Nevada Brick and Tile but Lehigh Tile was the successful bidder. Also, the contracts required that all laterals in the district were to be in place by the first of April, 1914.

Clayton Clifford, `45, tends to the livestock while his Dad, Hermus, works on the equipment; or is he really adding an editorial comment about repairing farm machinery?

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© 2012 Mark Christian
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