Story Of Deepwell

Chapter Three

The water supply was abundant. Water was brought across the desert from Whitewater River through what was named Whitewater Ditch, a stone-walled canal, fourteen miles long. Having achieved this, the Judge realized that the next important step was to have a place for prospective land purchasers to stay, and he persuaded an eccentric Scotsman, Welwood Murray, who was then living in Banning, to move down to the desert. The Judge leased him a piece of property opposite the Indian hot springs, and by 1886 with the help of Indian labor, Mr. Murray had ready for occupancy a small wood and adobe hotel, the first “Palm Springs Hotel.” Murray then bought a camel, hired one of the young Indian boys, Willie Marcus, dressed him in an Arab costume, and stationed boy and camel at the Seven Palms station to meet all trains, and to hand out pamphlets. Murray even planted palm trees to give Willie and the camel the proper background.
The promoters were riddled with not only a feverish imagination, but with high optimism. For there are records of two syndicates being formed, one by Judge McCallum and the three other men, which was known as Palm Valley Land and Water Company, and another, with a capital of $100,000, known as the Southern California Land and Immigration Company. Also “Palmdale,” (now Smoke Tree Ranch) was developed by three men from Boston, who had been talked into the scheme by Professor Wheaton of Riverside. Not to be outdone by Willie and the camel, they built a narrow gauge railroad connecting Palmdale with the Seven Palms station, twelve miles away. They imported two streetcars from San Francisco, the “Market Street,” and the “Sutter Street,” to carry the passengers, and a wood-burning locomotive to provide the power. And over this railroad arose the first Palm Springs feud: The Palmdale contingent refused the Judge’s offer

of $1500 to continue the line into Palm Springs. Some say that the little train made only one run, but even if it made a few runs, there is no doubt that its journeys were to come to an end shortly.
There were torrential rains all over Southern California in 1893 and even that jokester, the Los Angeles River, overflowed its banks. Three weeks of rains continued, pouring down on the desert, and even distinct waterfalls on the mountains back of Palm Springs were reported. The desert was dotted now with innumerable little fruit orchards, and the village had enjoyed nearly ten years of propriety and development.
But in 1894 began the terrible ten-year drought, and a story with a different mood. The first few years of the drought did not affect the desert pioneers too seriously because they could use water from the canyon streams to water their crops. New men ventured into Palm Springs. Among these men was the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, George Hamilton Fitch, who in 1895 bought some of the fields near the old Indian village southeast of the new McCallum town site. Fitch sent John Gilmore, a correspondent, to manage the ranch but Gilmore was soon replaced by an Englishman, Bert Coons. A small orchard of apricots was set out, and a shed was built where the fruit was to be sorted and packed.
However, as the drought lowered the water level,trouble with the Indians developed. They had a legal right to the first forty inches of water from the Whitewater Ditch and now demanded that the government give them full rights to the water from the canyon streams. They too had orchards. So in 1897 or 1898, the Indians were awarded exclusive rights to the water from the canyons. With the ditch down to a slow trickle, this reduced the whites to hauling water from long distances.

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