For the first pioneers arrived in Utah in 1848 creating a settlement in the Salt Lake Valley was a daunting task. One of the biggest problems they faced was a severe shortage of water sources which greatly limited the agricultural potential of the area. To overcome this limitation, the settlers worked together to dig irrigation ditches and created a system of water rights that was unlike that of anywhere else in the continent.
The Kennedy Ditch was one of these innovative irrigation canals. It was created as a cooperative work project among the settlers and was taken out of a stream in Parley’s Canyon, near the street 17th East. It helped to irrigate and bring under cultivation 864 acres of farmland in the Salt Lake settlement, which extended west from the street 13th East and North from 21st South to 9th South.
The Kennedy Ditch was named after its first watermaster, Charles Kennedy. Kennedy was part of the first wave of pioneers who arrived in the valley in 1848. His life demonstrates many of the peculiarities of the lives of the Latter Day Saints of this time, particularly the unique community organization, and both the successes and failures of living in this way.
The highly structured community organization of the Latter-day Saint pioneers is a large part of what allowed them to flourish in the inhospitable Utah environment. Nowhere is this more clear than in the unique system of water rights and distribution that they established. Charles Kennedy played a role in this early organization, and he and the Kennedy Ditch provide a microcosm of the work, triumphs, and failures that went into the establishment of the Latter Day Saint society in Utah.