Twenty seven years ago, this day, was first in a formal manner, celebrated in the City of North Platte. It was my honor then to be called upon to read the Declaration of Independence.
Twenty one years ago my first Fourth of July speech was made in this city. Many times since then have I been honored in different places by being called upon to assist in this way in the commemoration of America's greatest day. But that day, twenty one years ago, was without doubt, the greatest of my life. Nothing I have done since and nothing that I shall ever do in the future can possibly impress me as did that, to me, great occasion.
While I was filled to the brim with patriotism I was also filled with the prophetic spirit that we then lived in that portion of the United States fraught with possibilities invisible to the naked eye. I had visions of the future and portrayed the Platte Valley in Lincoln County as containing shady groves and waving fields of golden grain.
As it was then notorious that no sign of shrub or tree had made an appearance; that our good women of that time had so little faith in our soil that they sent abroad for earth with which to nourish house plants, and the entire valley was but one unbroken plain of buffalo grass, my visions of the future were looked upon by my friends quite generally as a 4th of July joke.
But the visions of twenty one years ago were not without foundation. There lived here at that time Col. J. B. Park, the first and original advocate of irrigation of the Platte Valley.
I had heard him talk of the wonderful things that had been done by irrigation and what could be done in this county, and I was certainly safe in basing my predictions then upon the truths then held by the lonesome but persistent friend of irrigation.
Seven years ago it was my supreme pleasure to return to this garden spot of the west after twelve years of wandering, trying to find a better place and I must confess, I was somewhat surprised to find the predictions of my maiden Fourth of July speech being realized.
I found groves and the fields of grain but it had not come about as I had dreamed. Nature, in one of her curious freaks, had changed our climate and the rains had done what I had dreamed would be accomplished by irrigation.
But rains never had and never could accomplish with the soil what could be done with irrigation and to me in this country they seemed to be abnormal. I had dreamed of this section of the Platte Valley as a garden and while nature's good rain had throughout time made bountiful fields of grain, it is only by irrigation that the Lincoln County garden fifty four miles in length will be finally realized.
The seed planted by Col. Park so many years ago in the little ditch running from the South Platte was many years in reaching fruition and it would seem as though several years of disastrous drought were finally necessary to thoroughly awaken our people to the real resources of the country. Now, however, with 150 to 200 miles of main canals and innumerable laterals the sun of our prosperity begins to rise.
The future of the Platte Valley in this county is no longer a speculative vision. We can look forward with certainty measured only by the activity of our people to a prosperity, a population and comforts that can only be produced from the soil by systematic irrigation. Already enough has been accomplished in way of fruit, flower and cereal products to demonstrate that our two hundred miles of irrigation ditches will accomplish more in this valley than was ever dreamed of in this latitude. We are located as the most eastern field of irrigation. We are nearest the great mass of consumers. Markets for our products are waiting for us. Transportation has reached that stage of perfection with its refrigerator cars that we can safely rely upon placing the product of our mammoth gardens and fruit farms without deterioration into the great markets of Chicago and New York.
Our orchards, with the aid of irrigation, excel anything dreamed of in Nebraska
and Nebraska apples have already beaten the world. Irrigation is bringing
about the latest revolution in the conditions of the life of the American
people. Ten, twenty and forty acre farms will make comfortable and even luxurious
homes for our people who will become urban, enjoying all the advantages of
city life while relieved of its discomforts.
Speech © 1998 by Paul Gantt, All Rights Reserved
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