My great grandfather Ambrose Shaw helped build the first ditches taken out of the Ogden River in 1848.

This is the story of those ditches

Taken from:

The first ten ditches out of Mill Creek have the oldest water rights on the Ogden River, their priority dates extending from 1848 to 1851. Some founding pioneers of Weber County settled north of the Ogden River as early as 1848 and diverted water from Ogden River into a dry river bed creating the tributary of Mill Creek and ten irrigation ditches, but none of these water claims were filed in court in a timely manner. As years passed on more land was cultivated increasing the need for more and more water. In 1878 there was a water shortage, and arguments over water priority rights began coming to the forefront. Two major lawsuits followed in 1889 and 1897. In 1899 pioneers David Moore and Ambrose Shaw were still alive and each made a statement and affidavit concerning their personal knowledge of the creation of the tributary of Mill Creek and its ditches. In 1921 there was additional litigation in District Court of Weber County to determine the water rights on Ogden River. After years of studying all the documents on Ogden River water rights, the court finally reached a judgment in 1948 defining the rights of water, dates of filing and amount of water and acreage irrigated. These documents also help to clarify who built the first ten ditches.

In an 1899 statement David Moore, age 80, verified: The first ditch for irrigation taken from Ogden River was taken out by Ezra Chase, Ambrose Shaw & Charlis Hubbard 1849.

In the fall of 1948 Ezra Chase, age 52, and Charles Hubbard, age 38, and their families came to Weber County and built cabins north of the Ogden River in the location that later became Farr’s Fort. William Shaw, age 22, married Ezra’s daughter, Diana Chase, on January 1, 1849. Thereafter William and Ambrose Shaw settled with Chase and Hubbard.

In the spring of 1849 these men including Ezra’s sons, Wells and Henry, ages 19 and 17, made the first ditch for irrigation out of the Ogden River. Ambrose Shaw stated in his affidavit in 1899 that they made a dam at the head of a “swale” (or a dry river bed) since known as Mill Creek which flowed in a westerly direction for 2 miles to their farm lands (this would extend almost to Wall Avenue), and that they constructed ditches and laterals tapering and intersecting the “swale”, and that the “swale”, ditches and laterals have been maintained since 1849 to the present (1899).

After sending the water into Mill Creek the Chase - Hubbard - Shaw group diverted three laterals. First they created a short lateral ditch running north of Mill Creek to the present area of Monroe and 12th Street; this was later named the Enoch Farr ditch and was awarded right #1 and priority date of 1848, the year Chase and Hubbard arrived in Weber County. Then the Chase-Hubbard - Shaw group diverted a ditch from Mill Creek to the area of 14th Street west of Washington Blvd; this is today’s Mound Fort Ditch #4; the court awarded this ditch right #2 and a priority date of 1848. The Chase farm was located north and east of today’s Lorin Farr Park; these men dug three short ditches running south from Mill Creek to this area; the court awarded these ditches rights number 3,4 and 5, priority day 1848; these were later named the Asa Farr Ditches. All these ditches created successful farms; it is recorded that Ezra Chase raised 100 bushels of potatoes in 1849 and a generous harvest of wheat and corn also.

David Moore, age 30, and the Barker families (George, Frederick and Simon, ages 54, 49, and 23) arrived on October 24, 1849. Moore recorded that there were only 9 families of white folks in Weber County when they arrived and upon their arrival there were 13. Moore and his friends initially took up empty cabins left by Robert Crow north of the Ogden River near the confluence of the Ogden and Weber Rivers.

In 1899 David Moore, age 80, verified:

Moses Tracy arrived in Weber County in 1850 settling on the south side of west 12th Street in the 700 block. Ambrose Shaw and Moses Tracy dug the Mound fort Ditch #5 which extended from Mill Creek to the Tracy farm. It was given an 1849 priority date, the year that Shaw arrived and right number 9, meaning that it was the ninth ditch constructed out of Mill Creek.

How the Pioneer Ditches Were Numbered and Named in 1924.

The collaborative effort of all these pioneer men resulted in ten ditches out of the new tributary later called Mill Creek. Five of these laterals were organized in 1924 as Mound Fort ditches # 1- 5. These consecutive numbers were given at that time for legal organizational purposes, moving from one diversion point to another from east to west on a map. These organizational numbers can be confusing because they do not correspond with the order of the construction numbers which are the water priority rights.

There is also confusion about the names of the ditches. Pioneer names were given to the ditches in 1924 preliminary decree to honor some of the founding fathers of irrigation in Weber County and to honor the fort they built on 12th Street, but the name of the person who dug the ditch was not always given to the ditch he dug. In the 1924 preliminary decree of water rights on the Ogden River the #1 ditch was called Wilson Ditch or the Mound Fort Ditch (dug by Moore group), #2 ditch was called Stone for Amos P. Stone (dug by Moore group), #3 ditch was called Chase Ditch (dug by Moore group), the #4 ditch was called David Moore Ditch(dug by Chase group), and the #5 ditch was called Tracy and Shaw Ditch dug by Tracy and Shaw.

In the final 1948 court decree the water priority rights on the Ogden River were determined by the order of construction. The results were: Enoch Farr Ditch right No. 1, David Moore Ditch right No. 2, three Asa Farr ditches rights No. 3,4, and 5, Wilson Ditch or First Mound Fort Ditch right No. 6, Stone Ditch right No. 7, Chase Ditch right No. 8, Tracy Shaw Ditch right No. 9, and Lynne Irrigation Co. right no. 10.

The Asa Farr and the Enoch Farr ditches are no longer in use. The Lorin Farr family did not come to Weber County until 1850; Enoch was five years old and Asa was not born until 1866, yet the ditches that bear their names received rights No. 1, 3, 4, and 5. The priority facts show that the Farrs renamed ditches dug by the Chase - Hubbard - Shaw group. The Enoch Farr ditch ran to the 900 and 1000 blocks of12th Street in 1918, and the Asa Farr ditches ran to what is now the Lorin Farr Park; their public and commercial locations explain why they are no longer in use in 2009.

Since the Enoch Farr and Asa Farr ditches are no longer in use, the David Moore Ditch or Mound Fort # 4 ditch has the oldest water right on the Ogden River still in use in 2009; this is water right number 2 with priority date 1848. This ditch was dug by the Chase - Hubbard - Shaw group.

Although the exact timing, the process of the building, and the naming of the Mound Fort ditches # 1, 2, 3 and 4 are difficult to untangle, the records clearly show that the Mound Fort #5 was built by Moses Tracy and Jay I. Hadley's great grapndpa, Ambrose Shaw in 1850.