On the sun-parched Yuma Mesa of the Gila project in southwestern Arizona, homesteaders are making irrigation history. Unlike their forefathers who carved homestead from raw land, the Yuma Mesa settlers are moving onto farms already under cultivation and producing crops.
Gila Land Opening Scheduled
Assistant Secretary of the Interior William E. Warne recently announced the opening to homestead entry of 4,940 acres of public land on the Yuma Mesa Division of the Gila project in southwestern arizona. The acreage will provide for settlement opportunities on 54 farm units.
All applications received prior to 2 p.m., March 29, 1948, will be considered as simultaneously filed. Applications should be filed with the Superintendent, Gila project, Bureau of Reclamation, Yuma Ariz., either by mail or in person. All unsuccessful applicants for public land farms on the Yuma project may apply for a farm on the Gila project. Commissioner of Reclamation Straus announced that the general regulations under the Homestead and Reclamation laws which have applied in previous openings would prevail in the Gila opening.
First opportunity for homesteading will be given to veterans of World War II, the War with Germany, the War with Spain, or in the suppression of the insurrection in the Philippines, who make application for land on the Gila project.
A public drawing from the applications of those qualified, which were filed simultaneously, will be held to determine eligibles to enter the farm lands. It is not necessary for an applicant to be present at the drawing in order to obtain a farm. Successful applicants will be notified by the Bureau of the results as soon as possible after the drawing.
Farm units of two types are available on the Gila project. The units of 80 acres or more are suited to general crop production, while those ranging from 40 to 70 acres are considered more suitable for raising specialized crops such as citrus fruits and vegetables. If either type farm is preferred it should be so noted in the proper place on the application blank.
For additional details write to the Superintendent, Gila project, Bureau of Reclamation, Yuma, Ariz.; Regional Director, Bureau of Reclamation, Boulder City, Nev.; or Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
The Reclamation Era, January 1948
During the war, the Bureau of Reclamation was authorized to level the mesa land, construct farm ditches, fertilize and seed the soil to alfalfa for the dual purpose of dust abatement and land preparation for settlement.
The homesteader will be required to repay the predevelopment and construction costs on his land over a period of 70 years. In addition, the settler must pay operation and maintenance charges which will average $4.70 per acre for delivery of 10 acre-feet of water, under the current public notice.
Work with many crops is still in the experimental stage. The Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Plant Industry, and the University of Arizona are engaged in a three-way cooperative project on the mesa to explore new crops, fertilizer treatment, methods of irrigation and other factors. These agencies will continue to work with and advise the mesa settlers.
The Yuma Mesa receives a dependable water supply from the Colorado River for a 12-month growing season. Construction of the Gila Canal head works at Imperial Dam, 18 miles northeast of Yuma, began in December 1935. Three pumps lift the water 52 feet from the main canal onto the mesa where it flows through a distribution system to the fields.
Veterans of World Wars I and II, the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection had preference in filing applications for a drawing to determine who would get one of the 54 farms. Since most of the applicants were out-of-state, few were present for the drawing and only four of these heard their names called.
Francis H. Martin, a salesman with an implement firm in Yuma, came to Yuma 2 years ago from California. During the first World War he served with the Ninth Trench Mortar Battalion. The Yuma Mesa homestead will give him a chance he has always wanted--a chance to be in business for himself. "I'm tired of working for the other fellow," he declared. "I want to built (sic) something for myself."
Yuma Homestead Opening Set
Twenty-eight family-sized farms on the Yuma project in Arizona were opened to homestead entry on September 9. This marks the seventh homestead opening by the Bureau of Reclamation within the past year and is expected to be followed in the near future by an announcement of the eighth—the opening of 4,941 acres of the Gila project, consisting of 54 farm units.
The Yuma area comprises 1,439 acres of land with farm units ranging in size from 28 to 82 acres. Veterans of World War II will have a 90-day preference period in which to file for homesteads (from the opening date, September 9, until December 8, 2 p.m., 1947).
For applications and additional details, interested persons should write to the Gila project office of the Bureau of Reclamation at Yuma, Ariz.; the Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation at Boulder City, Nev.; or the Washington office of the Bureau at Washington, D.C.
A settlement office to advise prospective settlers has been established at the Gila project at Yuma Army Air Base, 7 miles east of Yuma, Ariz.
The Reclamation Era, October 1947
Wining one of the homesteads has helped Baldwin W. Foote of San Diego to realize a life-long ambition to become a farmer. During the first World War he was a captain with the 4th Division, in France and Germany. In the second World War he was stationed in the Hawaiian Islands as a lieutenant colonel. He is married and has a 4-year-old daughter.
Dan E. O'Connell, of Yuma, hails from Nampa, Idaho, and plans to leave his land in alfalfa for a while and go into livestock raising. During the first World War he was with the Three Hundred and Forth-fifth Field Artillery in Germany.
Twenty-six-year-old John R. Scarbrough, Jr., also of Yuma, wears the Purple Heart for his service with the Two Hundred and Ninth Combat Engineers in northern Burma during World War II. The experimental crop of grapes being grown on the mesa especially interests him. He is married and has a 17-month-old daughter.
Martin, Foote, O'Connell, and Scarbrough, are representative of the high caliber of men who are homesteading on the Yuma Mesa--men who are being rewarded with a fraction of the soil they fought to protect.
Source: Gila Homesteaders Take Over, article by Ian A. Briggs, Branch of Operation and Maintenance, Region III, Boulder City Nevada, in the September 1948 issue of "The Reclamation Era".