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Twin Falls Irrigation Letter

George B. Fraser letter
George B. Fraser letter

That the roiling waters of the Snake River were “tamed” and transported over the canyon walls to water the sagebrush desert of Southern Idaho owes much to eastern financial resources exemplified by industrialist Frank Henry Buhl. Born in 1848, Buhl made his fortune as a steel mill owner in Pennsylvania, selling out to the expanding U.S. Steel in 1902. Soon after he was approached by banker Stanley B. Milner of Salt Lake City with a western land development proposition. Milner had placer mining claims on the Snake River and was thus receptive to Ira B. Perrine’s idea, based on irrigation engineer A.D. Foote’s studies, to dam the river above the Twin Falls and shunt the water out to irrigate the surrounding lands.

Milner persuaded Buhl and his associate Peter Kimberly to invest in the project, and Buhl became president of the Twin Falls Land and Water Company. Using their contacts to bring in European investors and $3.5 million, the 244,000 acre Twin Falls Project became one of the country’s first large irrigated land reclamation projects, and a Carey Act success story.

George Fraser was a publicist for Boise’s Clinton, Hurtt & Company which managed the real estate sales for the irrigated tract. He was also editor of the Twin Falls News, which magnified his community booster role. In this letter, Fraser refers to the efforts of others to capitalize on the success of the Twin Falls project and seeks Buhl’s help in publicizing his own efforts.

Although Clinton, Hurtt published an illustrated booklet - The Lure of the Land - promoting their operations in late 1909, the only portraits are those of company employees. It does say that George Fraser is “a close student of human nature, an observer with a practical turn of mind” and that he is “thoroughly conversant with conditions and how they were brought about, and is one of the best posted men on irrigation development in the West.”

Fraser’s letter, plus some Boise newspaper clippings, all separated from Buhl’s files (he died in 1918), were donated to the University of Idaho Library in 1953.

Written in 1999 for the UI Library’s Digital Memories website.


MG 5001

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