The Hood River News, Hood River, OR., January 22, 1932, page 6

By Mrs. Alma Howe

     That date of the first meeting of the Farmers' Irrigating Company was March 4, 1904. The first board was composed of W.C. Benson, G.D. Woodworth, A.E. Lake, W.H. Peugh, A.C. Staten, N.C. Evans, and H.F. Davidson. Benson was president, Evans secretary and Staten was chairman of the board. The board members were sworn in by John L. Henderson. The meeting was held in the Knights of Pythias hall situated on Fourth and State streets.
     Records show that A.S. Bennett of The Dalles, A.A. Jane and E.H. Hartwig were legal advisers for the Farmers' Irrigating company. A.A. Jane and John L. Henderson were attorneys for the Valley Improvement company. They paid for the irrigation system $46,000. The water was turned in in 1897.
     The spring of 1904 found the ditch in very bad condition, after the heavy snow and frosts of the prior winter, and many repairs had to be made. Mr. Davenport could not meet the demands, so he put the system in the hands of creditors. They sent a man here with a proposition for the farmers to take over the system. But this agent would not let anyone have his copy of the proposed contract to read alone. There apparently was but one copy. The agent would stand by while it was being read.
     Mr. Jane and Mr. Hartwig asked for the document for three hours, but were refused. J.T. Blyhte, who was editor of the Glacier at that time, offered to make a copy of it and mail it to all the farmers without the expense to anyone, on Sunday, so that the farmers could get it on Monday and have time to read it before the Tuesday meeting. This proposal was also refused.
     A meeting had been held a week earlier, when the agent, Chambers, by name, I believe, had explained the situation to the people and also intimated that the water would be cut off until the farmers came to his terms. As the farmers did not know his terms, they naturally rebelled. So they organized and were ready to talk to him by the second meeting. The first meeting was to have been in the school house, now the court house, but before the meeting was called to order they adjourned to the opera house. A.C. Staten was chairman. At the second meeting N.C. Benson had a right to the chair, but he asked A.A. Jane to take it. Jane it was a good talker and he proceeded to tell the said Chambers what he thought of him and his tactics.
     It was then February and the county was flooded. Soon some wag got up and said, "We have plenty of water; what are you while fussing about?" It caused a ripple of laughter but this soon subsided when they thought of the young trees, alfalfa, clover and berries which would not weather through the hot summer. Then they could appreciate Davenport's efforts, and could see what he meant to the valley. It was no trouble to get a quorum in those days. Chambers put in a bill for $500 to the Farmers' Irrigating company for his services, and it was decided by a court in Portland that the creditors should pay it. Jane, Henderson and Benson represented the farmers at the trial.
     The same Knights of Pythias hall held many meetings of note. All the big meetings were held there in the early days. It was also used as an opera house. All traveling troupes used this place as it was the only building that had a stage. Public dances were held there. The apple growers held an exhibit there one year.
     The funeral of C.J. Dallas was held there. No other building was large enough to accommodate the friends of such a good man. Rev. J.L. Hershner conducted the services. Dallas was killed when he fell off the roof of the Methodist parsonage, on which he was tinning the valleys. Dallas was a wonderful friend of children. It was nothing unusual to see him going down the street with a group of children following him, knowing that there would be a treat coming soon.
     The Woman's club gave an Oregon products dinner in the Knights of Pythias hall. This was a large affair. At this meeting the site of the high school was to be chosen. John L. Henderson advised the site on the hill which was finally selected. A.A. Jane championed the plat of ground at about Tenth and Cascade. He said among other things, "If you are planning on making athletes of our young folks instead of scholars, the hill might be the place."
     The opera house was built by the Knights of Pythias lodge and it was its place of meeting. Will Isenberg had the renting of the lower floor. Finally a Mr. Dabney rented it for a furniture store. The Grand Army post and the Woman's Relief corps met upstairs.
     When the building was finally burned down, there was a general thanksgiving. In an emergency if it would have been impossible to get a crowd of elderly people out of the building by means of the narrow stairway. All the lodges lost their paraphernalia and equipment in the fire, but this was replaced. Nearly all of the lodges in the city met in this building.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer