The Bessemer Ditch
CC&I 10,000 shares, Robert Grant 1600, J.N. Carlile 1500, Orman & Crook 1440, J.A. Writer 189, W.L. Graham 600, M.N. Mergue 160, A.S. Dodge 80, John Dougherty 490, H.J. Fitch 10, and there were 3931 un-issued shares.
Construction began in June of 1889 under the supervision of an engineer from New York by the name of Joesph Simons. After about a month the president of the corporation inspected the work in progress and was infuriated at the low quality of the workmanship and materials used. A special board meeting was called and Simons was fired. What happened after this is mostly speculation from piecemeal evidence as most of the corporation’s records were lost in the 1926 flood.
|Original head-gate of Bessemer Ditch|
Not quite all the records were destroyed, and from the smeared remains of the minutes of a 1920 meeting it is clear that 400 shares were sold at $125.00 per share to finance repair to the siphon at the St. Charles River Crossing.
|New Siphon, twin 66" concrete conduits completed in 1976|
The Ditch operated smoothly after its reconstruction until the completion of the Pueblo dam in the late 1960s. In addition to shortening the length of the ditch by 13 miles the Head Gate was now located 50 feet or more up the face of the dam; consequently the water entering the ditch was now quite clear of any silt. The result was disastrous for the irrigation company. In the past silt from the spring runoff acted as a self-sealing agent for the ditch. The relatively clean lake water began to inundate the foundations and basements of homes near the ditch on its five-mile course through the city of Pueblo. It was estimated that seepage from the ditch had risen by 18% to a total of 30% of the water passing through the ditch.
|Bessemer Ditch (bottom) at Lake Pueblo Dam. Curtesy www.geospectra.net|
After the irrigation company lost a court battle with the Bureau of Reclamation (the US government agency ultimately responsible for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Water Diversion Project, including the Pueblo reservoir and dam) Colorado’s US Senator Gary Hart secured an “earmark” to provide funding to line the canal. The repairs were completed in 1982
Today the Bessemer ditch serves 20,000 acres of farmland from the St. Charles Mesa to Avondale, south and east of Pueblo. The Bessemer Irrigation Company has call rights to approximately 24,000 acre-feet at 392 cubic feet per second, the first 322 of which are among the oldest on the Arkansas River. In 2009 the City of Pueblo began the purchase of 6000 acre feet, or roughly ¼ of the Bessemer ditch water right. This will augment the city’s water supply by approximately 20%. All water is stored in the Pueblo Reservoir (Lake Pueblo), and the company no longer has separate storage capacity.
Photos courtesy of the Pueblo County Library
 M.F. Hockemeyer, “History of the Bessemer Ditch,” Pueblo Lore Vol. 10 No. 6, 1984