San Antonio de Bexar: A Guide and History Page: 46
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SAN ANTONIO DE BEXAR.
The Upper Labor Ditch.
More particulars concerning the origin of this ditch can be given than of any
of the others that have been described, and they are given in the belief that
these particulars throw an interesting light upon the life and workings of a period
in the history of San Antonio which cannot be regarded but curiously and in-
quiringly. In the County Records may be found many documents and copies of
decrees, ordinances, petitions and letters in the original Spanish relating to this
Acequia, and in the City Engineer's office may be found translations of some of
these and other documents, presumably sent from Coahuila, and from other
sources have been obtained copies of translations of these with additions, notably
a lengthy document, which, it is alleged, was published in the San Antonio
Ledger on April 1st, 1852; all these are more or less tangled in their dates and
abound in other clerical errors.* These dates have been compared and checked
off as far as possible, and from this material has been gleaned most of the follow-
In the first days of the year 1776, it was found to be desirable to irrigate
lands lying between the upper part of the San Antonio River west and the San
Pedro Springs. The matter was agitated among some citizens interested until
* The following is a specimen excerpt of the documentary evidence referred to, the translation does
not seem to be very good, a few of the most conspicuous errors have been corrected.
The first decree of the Governor.
"Don Juan Maria de Ripperda, Baron of Ripperda, Colonel of Cavalry, Governor of this Province of Texas,
its Missions and Conquests and Frontiers, Commander of Arms (or Forces) of the same and of Coahuila and
Nueva Leon, Captain of the Royal Presidio of San Antonio de Bexar, by his Majesty the King.
"Not having been practised up to this, the interesting and important conveyance of water, which operation is
rendered so easy by the proximity of the San Antonio river to the city and garrison, and although in a commu-
nication from the Viceroy, the Marquis Casa Fuerte dated September 20th, 1731, His Excellency ordered that the
water of the two springs should be divided among the four first settlers that should come to this place, and Mis-
sion with their families, allowing to them such hours of the day as might suit their convenience for the irrigation
of their land, letting afterwards the waters to flow freely so as to give the same benefit to the next neighbors
by such means all would be provided with plenty of water for their lands in cultivation without injuring each
"In a second communication from the same Most Excellent Viceroy dated the 12th of May 1733 to the Governor
of this Province, Don Antonio Bustillos y Cevallos, the order was given to distribute the waters of the San An-
tonio river and the San Pedro creek among the Fathers of the Missions, the Garrison and all the settlers of the
town of San Fernando giving to all the necessary supplys (sic) without depriving the Indians in their settle-
ments, but with the condition that should the water at any time be insufficient to give to all continually a sup-
ply, in such a contingency to be served by turns between all the neighbors, according to law 11, title 17, book 4,
of the Recapitulation of the Indies, which states that in case their town should increase in population, it was the
imperious duty of the Governor to have all the inhabitants well supplied with water.
"In compliance with the said law, the actual Governor (being sick at the time,) appointed Don Mateo Perez
Lieutenant of this Company of Bexar with instructions to give possession of the right of water for irrigation to
all the actual settlers, and for any other that might come in future, accordingly the right was given in due form
on the 27th of October 1733, to all the settlers residing above the town ford on the same river, San Antonio, and
with the intention of carrying into effect the taking of the water, several of the neighbors of this city and Pre-
sidio have applied to me wishing to aid in its execution, and as all the families of the Canary Island settlers as
well as all the rest of the inhabitants feel interIest in it, according to former superior decrees, and in order to
avoid in future all motives of discord between settlers, I have ordered that if the said families of the Canary
Island settlers, or their actual descendants should have any other document that may prove in their favor, to pre-
sent it to me within four days with the answer signed by all the persons, heads of said families, so that I may pro-
ceed without delay to the construction of the work, it being of great importance.
"In faith thereof I have signed this my decree on January 10th 1776.
"EL BARON RIPPERDA.
"Acting as Judge Receptor with the witnesses of my assistance in the absence of a Notary Public, there being
none in the Province, and on the present common paper not having any with the Royal Seal or stamp.
EL BARON RIPPERDA.
"WITNESSES:-JOSE YGNACIO ORNELES,
* * * * * And so on, the decrees, correspondence, etc., continue.
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Corner, William. San Antonio de Bexar: A Guide and History, book, 1890; San Antonio, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143549/m1/93/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.