Walter Granger organizes the Yakima Land and Canal Company on December 4, 1889.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 3/22/2006
  • Essay 7695
See Additional Media
On December 4, 1889, Walter N. Granger (1855-1930) and a group of St. Paul, Minnesota, investors organize the Yakima Land and Canal Company. Walter Granger is named president. The company uses some of its capital stock of one million dollars divided into 200,000 shares to secure an option on all land in the Yakima Valley owned by the Northern Pacific Railroad. The company, renamed the Northern Pacific, Kittitas, and Yakima Irrigation Project, will create the Sunnyside Project, Yakima Valley's first commercial irrigation project.

The land along the railroad right-of-way had been granted to the Northern Pacific by the federal government in return for the construction of a northern transcontinental railroad. One requirement of the 1864 Northern Pacific Land Grant was that the railroad had to sell the land that had been granted to it within five years of the completion of the line, in order to encourage settlement.

Among the St. Paul investors was Northern Pacific Railroad President Thomas Oakes (1843-1919). Oakes and several other officials of the Northern Pacific began formulating a scheme to buy land in the Yakima Valley for the purpose of building an irrigation system using Yakima River water in early 1889. Irrigating the land greatly increased its value, and the investors in the Yakima Land and Canal Company hoped to resell the irrigated land at a profit. The investors had been impressed with the quantity and quality of crops grown by a small group of settlers near Union Gap who had constructed a small irrigation system called the Konnewock Ditch and were farming 1,500 acres of irrigated land.

Walter N. Granger was a New York native who from 1884 to 1889 resided in Montana where he was responsible for construction of the Gallatin Canal, the Florence Canal and reservoir, and the Chestnut Canal. Oakes, aware of Granger's irrigation expertise, summoned him to the Yakima Valley in the hope that he would concur with the area's potential for irrigation. After touring the area briefly, Granger did so. Granger and the St. Paul investors hired a corps of engineers headed by J. D. McIntyre to survey the land and determine the best layout for an irrigation system. McIntyre completed his survey on November 2, 1889.

When the Yakima Land and Canal Company was formed, Walter Granger was named president and James Millisch and Albert Kleinschmidt of Helena, Montana, were named secretary and treasurer. Three months later the Northern Pacific Railroad Company purchased two-thirds of the Yakima Land and Canal Company's stock, in effect fulfilling its legal requirement to divest itself of its land by purchasing it itself. The company's name was changed to the Northern Pacific, Kittitas, and Yakima Irrigation Company. Northern Pacific employee Paul Schulze, who headed the railroad's land department, was named president and Walter Granger became vice president and general manager. Granger was charged with creating and implementing the irrigation system.

The Northern Pacific, Kittitas, and Yakima Irrigation Company hired William Hamilton Hall, a well-known irrigation engineer from California, to verify J. D. McIntyre's findings. The proposed irrigation canal was to be 42 miles long and irrigate 68,000 acres. It was named the Sunnyside Canal. In the midst of construction Walter Granger still found time for romance, marrying Yakima pioneer Maud Thomas in North Yakima in 1891.

On March 26, 1892, company officials, Tacoma Light and Water Company president Theodore Hosmer, Tacoma Land Company president I. W. Anderson, National Geographic Society founder and Moxee ranch owner Gardner Green Hubbard (1822-1897), and other notables arrived at the construction site from Tacoma on Paul Schulze's private train car and celebrated the completion of the first 25 miles. Doris Allen broke a bottle of champagne over the headgates near Union Gap.

The National Financial Panic of 1893 forced the Northern Pacific to withdraw from the company. Against all odds, Walter Granger managed to continue construction, even when Paul Schulze's financial improprieties and subsequent suicide forced his company into receivership in 1895. In 1900 the Washington Irrigation Company purchased the Sunnyside Canal, and extended the canal from Sunnyside to Prosser. In 1905 the Federal Bureau of Reclamation purchased the Sunnyside Canal and it became part of the Sunnyside Division of the Yakima Project.

Sources: Roscoe Sheller, Courage and Water (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1952); Maurice Helland, They Knew Our Valley (Yakima: Maurice Helland, 1975), 109; "Sunnyside Division Board of Control Water Conservation Program, Yakima Project, Washington, Finding of No Significant Impact and Final Environmental Assessment," United States Bureau of Reclamation website accessed March 20, 2006 (; An Illustrated History of Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties, With An Outline Of The Early History of The State Of Washington (Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, [1904] 1977); W. D. Lyman, History of the Yakima Valley Washington, Vol. 1 (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919); Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, Building Washington (Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1998), 227; Kurt E. Armbruster, Orphan Road: The Railroad Comes to Seattle, 1853-1911 (Pullman: WSU Press, 1999), 17.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You