• Fort Walla Walla Museum (map)
  • 755 Myra Road
  • Walla Walla, WA, 99362
  • United States

Ed Burlingame, ditch digger and developer will be portrayed by Tom Williams.

Building an irrigation system that lasts more than a century is quite a feat. The Burlingame Ditch was completed in 1905 to carry water for irrigation and it still is in operation today. The man who designed and built that ditch, Ed Burlingame and his wife Elizabeth, will be at Fort Walla Walla Museum to tell their story.

 In 1893, Burlingame, a veteran of irrigation efforts in Yakima and Benton Counties, arrived in Walla Walla to inspect the plans for an ambitious irrigation project and stayed to dig the ditch that bears his name today. The Burlingame Ditch, as it was called, turned more than 5,000 acres of sagebrush into productive farmland. More than one hundred years after its completion, the Burlingame Ditch still conveys water by gravity within its earthen banks 14½ miles from the Walla Walla River to the arid lands of the Gardena bench.

 Eventually a centenarian, Burlingame lived to see the 1½ mile wooden-stave siphon he built across the Pine Creek valley replaced with steel pipe. During the half-century Burlingame farmed his irrigated lands near Gardena, he lost money growing fruit before turning to more dependable alfalfa to support livestock operations. Through financial successes and reverses, “Lizzie” Burlingame tended the family home in Walla Walla, single-handedly raising the children during her husband’s frequent and prolonged absences in the field.

 Tom Williams portrays irrigation pioneer Edward Copeland Burlingame and Jill Zagelow plays Elizabeth “Lizzie” Robson, Burlingame’s second wife. Chloe Koehler appears as the Burlingame's daughter, Maybelle.

 Performances begin at 2:00 p.m. in the pioneer settlement at Fort Walla Walla Museum. Visitors are encouraged to question the Living History re-enactors about their lives and times. The Museum is open daily, 10 am - 5 pm.

 Admission is free to Fort Walla Walla Museum members, eligible service personnel & their families through the Blue Star Museums program, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute's Inwai Circle cardholders, enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and all children under 6; $3/children 6-12; $7/seniors (62+) and students; $8/adults."