History of Calexico, California
From: The History of Imperial County, California
Edited by: F. C. Farr
Published by: Elms and Franks
Berkeley, CA 1918


LONG before the present generation was born it was ordained that Calexico should exist, and that Calexico should become the capital of a great inland empire. The plans that fate laid are being fulfilled, and the hopes of those who have watched the city's growth with pride and joy are being fulfilled in a measure beyond their most sanguine expectations.

Climate, soil, abundance of life giving water, sunshine every day in the year, accessibility to markets and geographical location, all combine to encourage and promote the agricultural, horticultural and stock raising industries that are growing steadily year by year, enriching thousands of enterprising men who have been attracted to the section of country immediately surrounding Calexico, drawn by the exceptional opportunities offered as an inducement to greatest effort. Gradually the desert has been reclaimed; year by year canals and laterals have crept across its face, and carried water to the arid acres that ceased to be arid, and began producing crops of cotton, corn, alfalfa, small grains of all kinds, vegetables, melons and fruit, with an abundance of forage crops for the herds and flocks that have become famous for their size and high grade. The great ranches and plantations that came with the first efforts at settling and reclaiming the land have been divided and sub divided, each partition bringing more settlers, more workers and more citizens to a happy and prosperous Valley. Settlements grew to towns, and towns to cities, Calexico, the metropolis by right of birth, grew more rapidly than the rest, and now is entering upon a new and its most remarkable period of development. At the beginning of the year 1918 a carefully prepared census showed the population to be a little in excess of 4000.

Calexico originated in 1901, when the California Development Company established engineering headquarters near the international boundary line between California and the Mexican state of Baja California, or Lower California. This was on the east bank of New River. The offices of the company consolidated with settlers in forming the little settlement just north of the line in California. In 1903 the townsite was plotted and laid out in lots. The rich, productive soil around the town was the first in the Imperial Valley to be irrigated and improved, and the results proved the belief of the pioneers that only the well directed efforts of man were needed to bring wealth and prosperity. The country immediately tributary includes the productive section on the west known as District No. 6, containing many of the largest and most productive ranches in the Valley; District No. 7, adjoining the town on the east, and on the south thousands upon thousands of acres of the richest land in Baja California, which are leased from their Mexican owners and devoted largely to the production of cotton and live stock.

Incorporated as a city of the sixth class in April, 1908, Calexico has advanced steadily towards metropolitanism, and today it presents a pleasing and often surprising appearance to those who visit it for the first time. Money raised by the issuance of bonds, beginning with an issue of $20,000 in 1909, has been wisely expended in paving the streets, building wide, substantial concrete walks, providing a water system that is not excelled in the West, and a sewer system adequate for a city of many times its present size. In the heart of the city a tract of land was reserved for a park and civic center. This is being improved and will in time be one of the most beautiful recreation grounds to be found in the State. The Calexico Union High School, a magnificent building with numerous smaller buildings grouped about it, and the Carnegie Library, are located in this center, and in time it will contain the city hall, fire station and other municipal buildings, and doubtless the federal offices that will be required to take care of the growing business incidental to an important port of entry and border city. For two years the imports through the port of Calexico have exceeded those of Los Angeles, San Diego and Tia Juana combined.

Since it was discovered a few years ago that the Imperial Valley was adapted to the growth of cotton, this crop has been the leading one in both that portion of the Valley lying north of the boundary line, and on the Mexican lands leased and cultivated by Americans. The first crop of the Valley was sold to one big cotton mill for $25.000. That was about seven years ago; conservative estimates place the value of the 1918 crop of cotton in the Imperial Valley at $13,000,000. The production this year will not be far short of 65,000 bales. The quality of the cotton is unsurpassed, and buyers from all over the world are in competition for the Imperial Valley product. The gins of Calexico and her twin city, Mexicali, and the cotton compress located in the former, provide employment for many skilled laborers.

Among some of the other agricultural products are milo maize, broom corn, rye, barley, alfalfa, rice and hemp. Sudan grass is gaining in popularity as a forage crop.

The cantaloupe industry is one of greatest importance to Calexico. For about six weeks in the summer the cantaloupe sheds are the busiest section of the city. Last year more than 4000 cars of the finest melons produced in the United States were forwarded to the Eastern and coast markets, the earliest shipments reaching New York, Boston and Washington nearly two weeks in advance of those of any other section of the country. The lettuce grown on the ranches around Calexico, shipped in iced cars by express, is also the first grown out of doors to reach the tables of the Easterners, and is not surpassed in quality and appearance.

Calexico's claims to being the metropolis of the wonderful new inland empire are based on the fact that the city is located in the heart of a district that is the greatest in America in the following respects: It has the largest cantaloupe acreage, largest honey production, largest ostrich farm, largest alfalfa acreage, largest irrigated cotton acreage, largest unit irrigation project, largest pumice mine, greatest turkey production, largest farm production per acre, and largest average cotton yield.

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