R.L. Sanders to Campbell, March 11, 1908

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The High Plains region of Texas stretches across the northern and western side of Texas from the Panhandle to the Pecos River. Sometimes called by the Spanish name Llano Estacado ("staked plains"), the region was a vast grassland before European settlement and was thought for years to be an uninhabitable desert. Less than 20 inches of rain fall annually in the area, and there is no surface water other than the playa lakes that fill during storms.

Cattlemen discovered the area after the Civil War. By the early 20th century the High Plains were already in danger of being overgrazed. Farmers (called "sod busters" by the cattlemen) began to arrive soon after the turn of the century, enticed by unusually wet weather. But their dream of developing the High Plains as a breadbasket for the country depended finding a practical system of pumping water from the vast underground High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer. This letter from a hopeful Wheeler County inventor typifies that elusive dream.

Motorized pumps began to bring the promise of irrigation to the High Plains in 1911. Development was slow until the drought of the 1930s gave a new spur to technology. Finally, after World II irrigation technology finally enabled farmers to realize the potential of their High Plains land.

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R.L Sanders to Campbell, page 1

Mobeetie, Texas, Mar 11 1908

Hon T.M. Campbell

Governor of Texas

We the undersigned as inventor patentee's

and witnesses do hereby call your attention

to the fact that an exceedingly useful

invention has been made in Mobeetie

Wheeler Country Texas by one Richard

L. Sanders. Said invention is based on

natural philosophy combined with mechanized

principals with strict abidance to the law of

Gravitation it is designed for Irrigation

purposes and is called the Desert Irrigator

its purpose is to put water on land in desert

regions where water is in accessible and to fill

canals and reservoirs on high ground can

also be used for various other purposes at the same

time of operation such as crossing a river where

it is in use. Also for sewer systems in citties [sic]

this model will be shipped from Miami Texas

March 15th 1908 to the Patent office at Washington D.C.

in charge of the patent attorneys

Evans & Wilkens & Co. Washington D.C.

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R.L. Sanders to Campbell, March 11, 1908, Records of Thomas Mitchell Campbell, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011