|Billy Evans (L) and Paul Higbee (R) Feb 6, 2018|
Early accounts of Spearfish before any settlers came along describe a barren site with a light amount of trees along Spearfish Creek.
|Robert Evans (from the Evans family collection)|
Many of the Montana group decided to bring up a town in Spearfish valley. Robert was a gentleman with a calm manner and soft-spoken voice who convinced the others to dig an irrigation system from Spearfish Creek water that would network across the Spearfish area to provide water for farming. They had only horses. shovels, fresnos, a water level and a six foot tapered board that was tapered only 1/8" narrower. With those tools, they dug a 2" drop per 100 ft on each of the many irrigation ditches to provide water for everyone with the early homesteads. These same irrigation ditches still exist today with all but one providing non-potable water for many house and farm lots in the area.
The early crops that Robert Evans and the settlers grew were oats, potatos, turnips and apples. Initially they did not have a plow and had to go to Crook City to rent a plow for $30.
|Marvin Evans Feb 6, 2018|
Downstream in the irrigation ditches, the system was recharged by a 25-45" layer underbed of gravel that offered up 2' per minute of irrigation water on its own.
Evans shared stories from the turn of the last century when Homestake Mine purchased land across the area on teh Ramsdale ditch and put in a 28" pipe to Lead and the Homestake Mine. Those were challenging times for the many valley farmers who were struggling to make Spearfish valley an even more productive source of farm products for the region. Lawsuits that went to the SD Supreme Court resulting in a separation of water and land rights.
Another big challenge came in about 1970 when the interstate highway was constructed across the valley. Original plans for the freeway would have routed it right through the heart of town and would have severed many ditches.
“At first, they were going to route it around Lookout Mountain, but then changed their minds and planned it right through town,” said Evans.
Through the efforts of Walter Dickey, Josef Meier, Ray Runnings and others, I-90 finally was routed up along a hillside to the east and ended up crossing only a couple of ditches.