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Morgan Family Pioneer Heritage
Water Wheel

A home made water powered mechanism for lifting water out of a canal


In the book "Pionerr Irrigation" published by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1955, there is a picture of Thomas Morgan and a short life sketch for Thomas written by Mr. and Mrs. George Radford. Regarding water wheels it says "Mr. Morgan made and put a water wheel in the Anderson Canal just below the present site of the Riley head gate. It was made something like a wagon wheel with large paddles extending out and buckets fastened to them. The pressure of the water from the river turned the wheel and each time the wheel went around each bucket would fill, swing around in position to empty the water into a large trough which then carried the water to a ditch. With his water wheel he secured water for his garden, livestock and culinary use."

The picture above was taken of a water wheel in Southeastern Idaho and, while we don't know that it was the water wheel Thomas Morgan made, it is possibly similar. Note that it is constructed around two wagon wheels (which would have been plentiful in Thomas Morgan's day) turning on a shaft. The home made water buckets to lift the water and trough to carry the water were constructed of lumber. George Radford's description of the water wheel Thomas Morgan made was published 40 years after Thomas died so we don't know if George actually saw the water wheel or just heard about it. In any case, since it was a home made device, we will likely never know exactly what it looked like. The water wheel pictured on this page, while not the one Thomas made, was home made and known to be operated in the same area where Thomas lived.

The more common method of obtaining water from a canal in Southeastern Idaho was to build a headgate and a structure that made it possibe to place planks across the canal to divert water into the headgate. Water wheels were rarely used in Southeastern Idaho. Thomas Morgan's building and operating a water wheel illustrates his inventivness, building skills, and willingness to learn and apply new technologies.