11.10.2010

The Verde River: Bartlett and Horseshoe Dams

I was born in Arizona, as was my father - and unless you live in this beautiful, versatile state, you might not realize that this is now fairly uncommon. Most people who live here, have come from other states, especially in the last two decades.

My grandpa was one of the thousands who had come here for work in the 1930s when they were looking for men to work on the Arizona dams. He came from Luverne, North Dakota in 1935 and was later accompanied by his wife Connie and other family members.

Last year I received an email from Arizona author Gerard Giordano who was writing about the Verde River and Bartlett and Horseshoe dams - and wasn't he surprised to find that my grandmother was still living. Humble as she is, she did not want to personally meet with him, but told him her story through an exchange of correspondence that I passed on to him. She answered questions posed to her quickly and rather thoroughly, recounting their life on the dams, a portion of which is included in the book along with some rare photos of construction at Barlett, taken by my grandparents while they lived and worked there.

At age 97, my grandmother's keen recollection of life at the dams has allowed Giordano to share with us how Phoenix was able to rise up from a sparsely populated desert to become one of the largest cities in the nation.

Please join me in celebrating my grandmother's role in Arizona history now that the book is released. Available at Amazon, my review of the book follows:

REVIEW BY P. DAVIDSON-PETERS - October 23, 2010


"The Verde River: Bartlett and Horseshoe Dams" by Gerard Giordano is not simply a history of the dams' near-miraculous construction engineered into the forgiving mountainsides, but also a glimpse into the area's ancient past whose dwellers foretold of the desert's ability to disperse the river's resources.

Like a time traveler photographing his journey along the way, author Gerard Giordano takes us seamlessly through the river's history, touching on the harsh removal of those who had long inhabited the land and ceased to exist, and those "modern" men who came from the east whose names are now a permanent part of our forts, mountains, lakes, roads, and dams.

Enlightening the reader, he explains how the Colorado Plateau was formed about eight million years ago, but by 1840 hunting and herding had radically transformed the lush marshes and significantly altered the terrain and the flow of the rivers. Visible remnants of what had once been a sophisticated canal system built by the Hohokam (and beavers before them) to irrigate their crops between the 7th and 14th centuries would, however, bring life to the valley once again with the arrival of Jack Swilling and his canal company which laid the foundation of what would become the agricultural city of Phoenix.

As the Verde River has painted a time line of Arizona history, Giordano has intricately threaded the land, inhabitants, and history of the dams into a tightly woven handbook of Arizona's ability to thus far survive and sustain a population of more than four million people.

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