History of Palm Springs, California
From: History of Riverside County, California
with Biographical Sketches.
History By: Elmer Wallace Holmes
Historic Record Company.
Los Angeles, Califirnia 1912


The little settlement of Palm Springs is not located in the San Gorgonio Pass, but is nestled close to the San Jacinto mountains, about five miles distant from the Palm Springs railroad station, Isolated as it is from the rest of the world, the town is in the midst of a region rich in historic lore and possessing unique features. The town obviously takes its name from the warm spring which bubbles from the sand in the center of the village, and is surrounded by palm trees.

The old stage road passed through the place, which was then used only by the Indians as a village or camping site, and undoubtedly the earlier emigrants pursued a similar route, to take advantage of the water in the canyons and springs thereabout. The wagon train of the party of topographical engineers who came through the San Gorgonio Pass in 1853 rested over night at the springs, and mention is made in the report of the trip of the fact that the Indians made the place "a favorite camping ground," and also of a young palm tree near the springs, the presence of which in the desert spot amazed the travelers. It is a fact not generally known that giant palms exist at many points on the desert, and nowhere do they grow in more stately or picturesque profusion than in Palm canyon, which lies seven miles from the town of Palm Springs. Although in former days many Indians made the place their home, at present there are about sixty six of the race who live on the reservation which the government maintains for them. The famous springs are on reservation land, and the Indians call the place Agua Caliente.

About the middle of the '80s white people began to take interest in the possibilities of raising early fruits at the oasis, and about 1887 there were two places flourishing as rivals in the vicinity of Palm Springs. The present town was one, and the loser in the race was Palm Dale. This was about three miles east of Palm Springs, a company of Riverside capitalists gaining control of 160 acres and attempting to build there a town. They planted about 100 acres to oranges, obtaining water from the Whitewater river by means of an open stone ditch, but the trees died, and later grapes were planted. The company built a narrow gauge railroad from the line of the Southern Pacific and erected a fine ranch house. The project gradually dwindled in importance, however, and the company eventually lost about $100,000 in the failure of their plans. At present there is very little at the spot to show that the place existed, as the trees and vines are dead, the house is gone, and nothing is left of the railroad but a faint line to mark its former course, a few ties, and two desolate old cars.

B. B. Barney of Riverside started a ranching project near Palm Springs about the same time, naming his place the Garden of Eden. The water for this ranch was from the Andreas canyon, but was finally adjudged as the property of the Indians, and was taken from the ranch, which was unsuccessful, and diverted to the Indian reservation, where it is now used. A few old trees mark the site of this ranch

Palm Springs was for a time a place of some note because of its ability to produce the earliest grapes in the country for the Chicago markets, and other early fruits were also raised there. The water for the irrigation of the lands was brought to the town, until a few years ago, in an open ditch, which carried it fifteen miles from its intake at the Whitewater river, near a spur of the hills called Indian Point to Palm Springs. The cost of maintenance of this ditch proved more and more burdensome to the land owners, as the sand which was washed into it from the river was a constant source of trouble, and this made the fruit raising project unprofitable. It gradually lost its importance, and although in the '90s about 350 acres of grapes, figs, apricots and oranges were in existence, most of the orchards and vineyards are now deserted, although a small quantity of fruit is yet raised. The abandonment of the fruit industry did not mean the entire abandonment of the town, for as the years went by the fame of the springs, and of the Palm Springs climate, for persons suffering from throat or lung diseases became wider, and at present the town is known widely as a health resort.

About 1893 the little oasis had, besides the homes of the ranchers, two stores, a postoffice, and a hotel, the Palm Springs Hotel, which had been owned and managed for several years prior to that date by Dr. Wellwood Murray. A few years later a small church was built in the town, but was never supplied with a pastor regularly. About 1895 a school house was built, and is still maintained. Until the present year the hotel has been in operation, and it still forms one of the most picturesque spots in the town. Dr. Murray is the only one of the early day residents to remain in Palm Springs. The town today has the postoffice, a telephone line to Palm Springs station, one store, two hotels, the Desert Inn and Blanchard's hotel, besides a number of small homes. The water supoly no longer comes from the river, but is furnished the white residents of the town from Chino and Tauquitz canyons. Although the hot springs are on government land, access to them is granted the residents of the town. Many large palms, peppers and cottonwoods, planted years ago, now beautify the place and add to the comfort of the inhabitants.

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