Developing San Diego’s Desert Empire
July 1, 1971
In 1850, when California entered the Union, San Diego County was one of the largest in the state. It not only extended all the way eastward to the boundary of Arizona but also extended far to the north, where it bordered for nearly 200 miles on what was later to become the state of Nevada. In those days, for instance, Death Valley was part of San Diego County.
This enormous size of the county did not last long, however, and, as the latter half of the nineteenth century wore on, San Diego’s vast northern extension was gradually whittled away and eventually used to form other counties. Thus, most of present-day Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as a small portion of Inyo, are formed from territory that was originally part of San Diego County. But despite the loss of the northern area, San Diego County’s eastern boundary continued, throughout the nineteenth and into the early twentieth century, to reach clear to the border of Arizona, which is to say, to the Colorado River.
What finally brought about the reduction in the eastern limits of San Diego County, bringing it down to its present size, was the development, through irrigation, of a large portion of what had been known since the 1850’s as the Colorado Desert. With the successful development and settlement of this region during the early years of the twentieth century, it finally broke away and, in 1907, became the new county of Imperial. But for more than half a century, during the period when its development was still being attempted and before it was yet a reality, this region remained a part of San Diego County-what might be called San Diego’s desert empire.
The great bulk of the land to the north that San Diego County lost during the latter half of the nineteenth century was desert. This hardly left the county with any shortage of that commodity, however. Its whole eastern half was entirely desert, what’s more, one of the driest and hottest desert areas to be found anywhere in North America. But more importantly, much of San Diego’s desert empire was topographically quite peculiar, for a sizeable part of it was below sea level, over 270 feet below sea level at its deepest point.
At one time, in the distant geological past, the waters of the Gulf of California extended much further north, covering most of what is now the Colorado Desert. Later, the waters of the gulf receded. Later still, the surrounding mountains on the east and west slowly elevated and brought about the gradual sinking of a nearly 200-mile-long block of the earth’s crust and the formation of a great trough-like depression at the head of the gulf. Into the eastern side of this depression emptied the Colorado, a river almost without peer as a carrier of silt. Over a long period of time, the Colorado’s silt-laden waters formed an enormous delta, partially filling the depression and damming off its below-sea-level northern portion from the waters of the gulf, which otherwise would have inundated it. However, during heavy floods, the wandering of the river on its broad, flat, continually rising delta was such that, instead of emptying into the gulf, the river would sometimes flow toward the west and then northward into the sink. On one occasion it did so for a prolonged period, creating a large freshwater lake about 100 miles long, 35 miles wide, and over 300 feet deep-stretching from north of present-day Indio to about 17 miles south of the international line. This ancient lake has come to be known as Lake Cahuilla, after the nearby Indians of that name.
Lake Cahuilla, which may have existed for several thousand years, eventually disappeared and a long dry period ensued. At some point the sea may have succeeded in reclaiming the area, possibly by an invasion of tidal water, for spring tides at the head of the gulf run well over thirty feet. Then, in fairly modern times, from about A.D. 1000 to 1450 or 1500, not long before the first Spanish explorers arrived, another high-level, fresh water lake was formed, once again to dry up. For from around the year 1500 on, the main course of the Colorado was southward toward the gulf.
Perhaps the first person to recognize that the peculiar topography of this desert area might offer a ready potential for a largescale irrigation project was Dr. Oliver M. Wozencraft. Wozencraft was one of the 49’ers who, coming by way of the Southern Emigrant Trail, passed through here on his way to the gold fields. He later claimed that it was at this time that he first became aware of the possibilities for irrigation. If so, his original idea must have been based largely upon supposition, because the true nature of the area was not clearly understood until investigated by William P. Blake in 1853. Blake, a young geologist accompanying one of the government’s Pacific railroad route explorations, was the man who first actually established that the area was a below-sealevel bed of an ancient lake; that the soil was not merely sterile sand but an exceedingly rich silt deposited there by the Colorado River; and that with irrigation is was “probable that the greater part of the Desert could be made to yield crops of almost any kind.”
Following the publication of Blake’s findings in 1856, the reclamation of this vast desert wasteland became the great obsession of Wozencraft’s life. But to Wozencraft, the essential aspect of. his scheme was that he be able to acquire ownership of the land he proposed to reclaim. This involved about 1600 square miles-well over a million acres -or an area roughly 25 miles wide and over 60 miles long. He managed in 1859 to get the state of California to approve his plan. However, despite numerous bills to this end being introduced in Congress, he was never able to get the federal government to agree to his being given this enormous tract of land. Nevertheless, he exhausted his personal fortune trying. And he died, in Washington D.C., in 1887, at the age of 73, still trying.
There were many, of course, who thought Wozencraft’s Grand Colorado Scheme a crackpot’s dream. After all, the whole idea of reclamation was then only in its infancy in the United States, and pouring water onto the desert sounded to many people like a peculiar form of madness. J. Ross Browne, generally rather shrewd about such matters, could see that there were, indeed, impressive possibilities in Wozencraft’s scheme. But he sagely announced that, before establishing a farm there himself, he was going to wait until the canal was completed. Not one to pass up an opportunity for a little humor, he remarked that he could “see no great obstacle to the success of the plan except for the porous nature of the sand,” but that “by removing the sand from the desert success would be assured at once.”
Aside from those who objected to Wozencraft’s scheme as impractical, there were also those who opposed it on other grounds. According to one theory, instead of developing the area as irrigated farm land, man should assist nature by recreating the great lake that had once existed there. This new lake, through its cooling effect and the increased condensation of moisture it would provide, would, it was prophesied, completely alter the climate of the surrounding desert, making it as pleasant and productive as the rest of Southern California. A somewhat similar proposition was put forth by John C. Fremont in 1879, at the time he was governor of Arizona Territory, except that he proposed the digging of a canal that would flood the Colorado Desert not with fresh water from the river but with sea water from the Gulf of California. In addition to improving Arizona’s climate, Fremont’s scheme also envisioned providing Arizona with a convenient commercial outlet to the sea.
Another theory took a somewhat similar assumption regarding the effect on climate, except to turn it around the other way. According to this theory, areas such as the Coloradio Desert were nature’s great heat furnaces and were responsible for providing the rest of Southern California with its mild, dry climate. But if these natural heat furnaces were given over to wholesale irrigation, then the wonderfully salubrious climate of Southern California might be destroyed. The logical conclusion to be drawn from this theory was that the desert should be left alone.
Meanwhile, however, amid rival proposals over what ought to be done with the area and Wozencraft’s continuing efforts to secure ownership of the land, other attempts were being made to develop the desert by using the waters of the Colorado River for irrigation. One of these attempts was in California and another just across the international line on the Mexican portion of the delta.
Under the federal government’s Swamp and Overflow Act of 1850, lands falling within these categories could be transferred to state ownership. From this law, California later acquired over two million acres of land, and, in turn, passed legislation governing the conveyance of such lands to private individuals who would undertake projects to reclaim them. In the early 1870’s, a San Diego resident by the name of O. P. Calloway became interested in the possibility of sufficiently controlling the waters of the Colorado River, through a system of levees and canals, to bring under cultivation a large flood plain lying some distance upstream from Yuma. This is the area now known as the Palo Verde Valley. Calloway made some preliminary surveys and apparently filed some claims on land. But, lacking sufficient funds to carry out his plan by himself, he managed to get interested in the project a wealthy San Franciscan by the name of Thomas Henry Blythe.
Blythe had come to California in 1849 from England. In late 1850 and early 1851, through the purchase of two quit-claim deeds for the total price of slightly over $2,000, he had acquired a triangular-shaped, blocksized parcel of real estate located amid the sand dunes in the northeastern portion of the San Francisco peninsula. This area afterward became the heart of downtown San Francisco and this single piece of property, which came to be known as the Blythe Block and which was bounded by Market, Geary, and Grant (then Dupont) streets, made Blythe a millionaire. From this beginning, he went on to acquire interest in a number of mines in California, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as some timber land in Oregon. Rather eccentric and something of a recluse, he travelled to Europe several times, but otherwise spent most of his time living in a cabin in the Trinity Mountains, at least until the mid-1870’s when he returned to San Francisco to reside.
Soon after getting Blythe interested in his project, Calloway was killed by Indians along the river. Blythe’s interest, however, not only continued but it grew. His first claim on land along the river, made under the state’s swamp and overflow law, was for about 40,000 acres. He also filed a water claim on the river and may have been the first person in the state to do so. Shortly afterward, he, or rather numerous people acting for him, filed on over 35,000 acres of additional land in this area, this time under the Desert Land Act of 1877. He also made another filing on Colorado River water. A little later, he filed on nearly 100,000 acres of additional swamp and overflow land and made yet another filing on the river. While there may have been a certain degree of overlapping, altogether he seems to have claimed a total of about 175,000 acres of land in this area and his filings on the river to have totaled nearly 400,000 miners’ inches of water. During the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, he reportedly spent almost $90,000 trying to bring these lands under cultivation. Although he was not successful, because of his early efforts, when the Palo Verde Valley finally was developed in the early twentieth century, its principal town came to bear Blythe’s name. By that time, however, Riverside County had been formed and the area was no longer part of San Diego County.
This was not the only desert area along the Colorado River that Blythe had become involved in developing. Back in 1874, in San Francisco, a group of about a dozen men, most of whom were Mexicans and one of whom was named Guillermo Andrade, had formed a company to exploit a hemplike plant that grew wild on the overflow lands along the Colorado River on the Mexican side of the delta. Under the provisions of a Mexican homesteading law, a number of friends and relatives of the organizers of the company filed on adjoining parcels of public lands on the delta. As soon as the titles were issued, these lands, totaling about 340,000 acres, were transferred to the company.
After two or three years, the hemp operation failed and most of the company’s shareholders became disillusioned with the venture. But not so Andrade. And not so another shareholder who had later been brought into the company, Thomas H. Blythe. Andrade and Blythe now reached some kind of oral agreement. They not only proposed to keep the venture going but to greatly expand the scope of the whole enterprise. Blythe was to supply the capital. Andrade was to supply his time and effort, his Mexican citizenship, and his not inconsiderable influence with the Mexican government.
As a start, Blythe bought up 90 per cent of the company’s shares, thereby gaining control of the 340,000 acres of land it held. Next, Andrade secured a contract from the Mexican government to build two wagon roads, the money for which was furnished by Blythe. One of the roads ran between Yuma and their company’s headquarters on the lower Colorado, a place called Cuidad Lerdo. The other road ran between the port of San Felipe, on the Gulf of California, and Real del Castillo, then the capital of northern Baja California and the center of gold mining activity. In return for building these roads, Andrade obtained title to approximately 575,000 acres of additional land on the Mexican portion of the delta. One key parcel of land, the Rancho de los Algodones, nearly 48,000 acres lying along the west bank of the Colorado just below the international boundary, was purchased by Blythe from its private owners. Altogether, the two men now held title to virtually the entire Mexican portion of the delta, an unbroken tract of land extending along both sides of the river and stretching from the international line to the Gulf of California.
Next, Blythe and Andrade, along with two prominent Mexican political figures, one of whom, Manuel Romero Rubio, was President Diaz’s father-in-law, formed a second company and acquired title to the islands of Tiburon, San Esteban, and Angel de la Guarda. They also acquired the lands surrounding practically all the feasible port sites in the northern half of the Gulf; obtained concessions for fishing, pearling, etc.; established a steamship line; and secured a franchise and subsidy to build a railroad from the head of the Gulf to connect with the United States. In all, they acquired about one and one-half million acres of land and almost complete control over the entire northern Gulf region.
It took nearly seven years of long, hard struggle to secure all their land titles and reach the point where Blythe and Andrade could actually begin full-scale operations. At this point, however, on April 4, 1883, Thomas Blythe suddenly dropped dead.
Blythe’s estate, exclusive of the Mexican holdings, was worth between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000. Although Blythe’s attorney, W. H. H. Hart, claimed that Blythe had made a will, and produced an office copy to prove it, no legally admissible will was ever found. For a man of such wealth to die without leaving a will was bound to bring about extensive litigation; yet no one could have foreseen the legal snarl that actually came to pass. Nearly two hundred aspirant heirs from various parts of the United States and the United Kingdom filed their claims with the San Francisco probate court. It was to take seven years before the court made a preliminary award of the estate; ten more years before that award was conclusively upheld; and an additional thirteen years before law suits emanating from the estate were ultimately settled. Both state and federal courts were used. Some thirty appeals were taken to the California Supreme Court and four appeals reached the U. S. Supreme Court. Blythe’s illegitimate daughter, Florence, the eventual sole successful heir to his estate, spent an estimated one million dollars winning the case. The heiress was living in England and only ten years old when her father died. By the time she collected the inheritance, she had grown up, married, and become a widow. Fortunately, throughout the long hassle the Blythe Block continued to appreciate in value.
There were a number of rather sordid aspects to the struggle for Blythe’s estate. One of the claimants, Nellie Fermin, was an ex-mistress with whom Blythe had had a nasty legal battle, a few years before. Another claimant, Alice Edith Dickason, had been living with Blythe for several years prior to his death. She claimed half the inheritance should come to her as his common-law wife. Unfortunately for her, since she was much younger than Blythe, he had usually introduced her as his niece. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, he was her common-law uncle, not her husband. It also turned out from the various court proceedings that Blythe’s name was actually not Blythe at all, but Thomas Henry Williams.
Another aspect of the case concerns Guillermo Andrade. Following Blythe’s death, Andrade approached the probate court contending that he and Blythe had had a series of oral partnership agreements. The court, in recognizing this partnership arrangement, appears to have made a grave error in judgment, even though it is rather easy to see how it came about. Although arrangements had been underway by Andrade and Blythe, just prior the latter’s death, to transfer all of the Mexican land titles over to Blythe, most of the lands were still held in Andrade’s name. Therefore, when he came before the court declaring that two-thirds of these allegedly valuable lands were Blythe’s, and belonged to his estate, the court found it difficult to say no. Where the catch came in was that the titles to the lands were connected with certain obligations to develop and colonize them; and, since Blythe had been putting up the money, the estate was not obligated to do the same. The court, though it probably foresaw certain difficulties, apparently decided to meet these obligations until the estate was settled, then let the heir or heirs decide what they wanted to do-never dreaming, of course, of the years it would take to settle the case. By September, 1885, however, three and one-half years after Blythe’s death, over $60,000 from the estate had already been spent on the Mexican holdings and, with no end in sight, the court now ordered all payments stopped.
Andrade reacted to this in several ways. For one thing, he contended that the court had broken the partnership agreement and therefore forfeited all rights to the land. But in order to secure his position, he got the Mexican Government to declare the lands officially forfeited for failure to carry out the colonization requirements. He then got the government to sell most of the lands back to him, personally. He raised the money to do this by a previous arrangement for the sale of a portion of these lands to a San Francisco syndicate. Next, in another tricky maneuver, he got the Mexican courts to declare the Rancho de los Algodones, a key piece of land, and moreover, one that was in Blythe’s own name, as escheated to the Mexican government on the grounds that there was no will and no legal heir to Blythe’s estate. Then Andrade turned around and sued the Mexican government, as Blythe’s heir, for failure to fulfill the partnership agreements. Under this device, the government sold him the Rancho de los Algodones in settlement of his claim.
Now, all of this concerns us here, because, in the early 1890’s, the forty-year-old scheme to build a canal to reclaim the desert lands of the Colorado Desert was revived. The instigator of the new scheme was an engineer named Charles Robinson Rockwood. By the mid-1890’s, Rockwood had gathered together a small handful of associates, principally Dr. William T. Heffernan, a government surgeon at Yuma, Samuel W. Ferguson, formerly general manager of. the Kern County Land Company, A. H. Heber, the Chicago agent for that company, and H. W. Blaisdell, of Yuma, a mining man with a wealthy connection in Boston. To promote their enterprise, a New Jersey corporation was formed, called the California Development Company.
Rockwood’s plan, like Wozencraft’s before it, was to construct an intake on the river near Yuma; then, using the course of the Rio Alamo, an old flood channel of the Colorado, to extend the main canal westward through Mexican territory for about 50 miles before reentering the United States near present-day Calexico. The reason for this seemingly roundabout course was the area’s peculiar topography. The Rio Alamo route followed the natural gradient of the delta toward the Salton Sink, as the belowsea-level portion of the delta was now being called. A canal directly westward from Yuma, one entirely within the territory of the United States, would have been enormously more expensive to dig. Furthermore, it would have had to cross the Algodones Sand Hills, a belt of large, shifting sand dunes, several miles wide, which it was feared would be continually blocking the canal. Of course, the so-called All-American Canal was later built along this route, but at many hundreds of times the cost of the earlier canal.
The California Development Company, unlike Wozencraft, felt no concern over the fact that it did not own all the land for which it was proposing to provide irrigation water. After all, the land was practically worthless without water, and this it would completely control. In other words, the company was not planning to farm, but to sell water. To obtain the life-giving liquid, a landowner would first have to purchase a water right. After that, he would simply pay for the amount of water he actually used.
On the other hand, the California Development Company did need control over the route of its canal through Mexico. This meant getting the owner of these lands, Guillermo Andrade, to cooperate with their plan. Although the men running the company were probably not aware of it, Andrade was unable to make the necessary arrangement with them until he reached his settlement with the Mexican government regarding Rancho de los Algodones. This took several years. As soon at it was settled, however, he negotiated with the company the sale of a 100,000-acre strip of land running parallel to the border. It contained most, but not all, of the route of the proposed canal, while Andrade himself retained ownership of the remaining land over which it was to run. Because of Mexican law, a subsidiary Mexican company, the Sociedad de Irrigacion y Terrenos de la Baja California, had to be set up to hold the 100,000 acres. Besides payment, Andrade received a contractual provision that up to 50 percent of the water from the canal could be used, at a fixed rate, to irrigate lands on the Mexican side of the delta. These were lands that were either owned by him or in which he held an interest. Totaling well over a halfmillion acres, these lands were afterward acquired by a group of Los Angeles businessmen, headed by O. F. Brant, of the Title Insurance and Trust Company, and General Harrison Gray Otis, and Harry Chandler, both of the Los Angeles Times, who used them to form the giant Colorado River Land Company.
Despite the relatively low construction cost that the route of their proposed canal
entailed, the promoters found investment capital extremely difficult to come by. Finally, in return for control both of the California Development Company and of the actual, canal construction, George Chaffey, a prominent Southern California irrigation expert, agreed to supply the financing and build the canal. Wozencraft had tried to interest Chaffey in the project back in the early 1880’s, but at that time Chaffey had felt that the area was too hot for people of European descent to survive in. Since then, Chaffey had had some experiences in the deserts of Australia that had changed his mind on this point.
In 1901, the first water and the first settlers began to arrive in what Chaffey had now christened as the Imperial Valley; obviously, the names Salton Sink or Coloradc Desert were hardly suitable to entice people to the area, but the new name had a glorious ring to it. Given the difficulties and the hardships of pioneering, the Imperial Valley grew rapidly-almost too rapidly, in fact, because it was turning out to be rather difficult for the main canal to supply enough water. This was primarily because of problems with the intake. As a result, a new intake was made, this one just below the border on the Mexican side. But in the haste to provide the desperately needed water, an inadequate flood gate was constructed. And now, along came the most unusual series of floods of the unpredictable Colorado that had ever been known. Soon the river had taken over the canal as its main channel and began pouring into the basin. The Salton Sea started to form and to rise alarmingly. It began to look as if, quite by accident, the proponents of recreating the great lake in the desert were about to have their way after all. Finally, however, after more than a two-year, all-out struggle, the Southern Pacific managed to close the break and stop the flooding of the valley.
Actually, the Southern Pacific was not only the savior of the Imperial Valley but had played an important role in its growth in the first place. For once water had been brought to the desert, the principal problem, if the Imperial Valley was to develop and grow, was transportation. Back in 1877, the Southern Pacific had completed its line between Los Angeles and Yuma. And between 1902 and 1904, it completed a spur line extending the length of the Valley from present-day Niland as far as the border at Calexico. Even though it was 225 miles each way, there were two trains daily to Los Angeles and back. This meant that the Valley’s economy soon became oriented toward Los Angeles, which also, so the Valley felt, gave more support to its development than did San Diego.
San Diego, though it had long talked and dreamed of a railroad over the mountains that would connect its magnificent harbor with Yuma and other points in the interior, had still not been able to make this dream a reality. So while it was the closest major city and port to the Imperial Valley in terms of map distance, San Diego was actually quite remote from the Valley, considerably father away by rail than Los Angeles, and consequently played a less important role in its development. The Valley was highly critical of this situation, as reflected by an editorial in the Calexico Chronicle, entitled “More San Diego Hot Air”:
A writer in the San Diego Union of
Sunday?Dr. Gochenauer?revives the
importance of a railroad to Imperial.
It is convincing, timely, and all that;
but, then, what’s the use? San Diego
is wedded to her lethergy [sic] and will
do nothing. Let the sleeper sleep. In
the meantime Imperial will continue to
do business with Los Angeles; and it
is a pity politics and business couldn’t
go together, and let us pay our taxes
where we get our support. Maybe sometime it will be so. Meantime, give us
no more hot air. The editor has a pair
of bellows in his office that cost only
a dollar and a quarter?and at the same
time is just as effective for hot air?and can build as many railroads?as
Nothing came of the implied threat of possible annexation to Los Angeles, but sentiment over the lack of a rail connection with San Diego was intense. And as the Valley continued to develop and grow, and as its tax contributions increased, it more and more chafed under its distant colonial-like status in regard to San Diego, feeling that it was getting neither the attention nor the county government services to which it was entitled.
Early in 1907, the state legislature passed an act establishing certain conditions where
by new counties might be formed. Quickly availing itself of the new law, the Valley petitioned for a referendum on the question. An election was set for August 6 of that year. Since it was the middle of summer, with the temperature reading about 120 degrees, probably a majority of the Valley’s residents were over on the coast cooling off. But those that remained voted 1,120 to 88 in favor of separation, and only a week later, on August 15, 1907, the new county of Imperial came into existence.
Thus, practically within the twinkling of an eye, San Diego had lost its newly developing, rapidly prospering desert empire. Eventually, through the construction of the San Diego and Arizona Railway, the Imperial Valley and San Diego were connected by rail, but this line, so difficult and expensive to build, was not completed until 1919, a dozen years after the Valley had made its decision to go its own way. Today, this once desolate desert area is tied with Riverside, another former San Diego County area, as the leading agricultural county in Southern California.
Information on the earlier boundaries of San Diego County, as well as other county boundary matters to which reference is made, may be found in Owen C. Coy, California County Boundaries (Berkeley: California Historical Survey Commission, 1923). The geology and geography of the Colorado Desert are discussed in Edmund C. Jaeger, The North American Deserts (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957); also in the same author’s The California Deserts, 4th ed. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965), the various editions of which can be compared for changing ideas in recent years on how this area was formed. See, too, Fred B. Kniffin, “The Natural Landscape of the Colorado Desert,” University of California Publications in Geography, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1932) ; and Godfrey Sykes, The Colorado Delta (Washington, D.C.: Published jointly by Carnegie Institution of Washington and the American Geographical Society of New York, 1937).
On Wozencraft, see Barbara Ann Metcalf, “Oliver M. Wozencraft in California, 1849-1887” (unpublished M. A. thesis in
History, University of Southern California, 1963) ; and Helen Hosmer, “Imperial Valley,” The American West, Vol. 3, No. 1
(Winter 1966), pp. 34-49, 79; their bibliographies contain references to source materials, particularly government documents. The results of Blake’s investigation appear
in Reports of the Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, Vol. 5, pt. 2 (Washington, 1856), which is Senate Ex. Doc. No. 78, 33rd Cong., 2d. sess; the quote is from p. 249.
J. Ross Browne’s comment on Wozencraft’s Grand Colorado Scheme is from his
Adventures in the Apache Country (New
York: Harper & Brothers, 1869), pp. 47-48. Suggested alternative uses of this desert may be found in J. D. Widney, “The Colorado Desert,” Overland Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 1, (Jan. 1873), pp. 44-50; “Message of Governor J. C. Fremont,” in Journals of the Tenth Legislative Assembly, 1879 (Prescott: Office of the Arizona Miner, 1879), pp. 40-48; and John C. Van Dyke, The Desert (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901), esp. pp. 57-59. See also Lieut. Eric Bergland, “Preliminary Report upon the Operations of Party No. 3, California Section, Season 1875-76, with a View to Determine the Feasibility of Diverting the Colorado River for Purposes of Irrigation,” in Annual Report, Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian (1876),
Appendix B, pp. 109-125; also in Annual Report, Chief of Engineers, War Department (1876-77), Vol. 2, Part 3, Appendix JJ, pp. 329-345, which is House Ex. Doc. No. 1, Part 2, 44th Cong., 2d. sess.
Some of Calloway’s and Blythe’s activities in what later became the Palo Verde Valley are brought out in an undated, ninepage typescript, author unknown, located in the Palo Verde District Library; also in Arthur Woodward, “Empire on the Colorado,” Desert Magazine, Feb. 1939, pp. 2224, 39-40. The relations between Andrade and Blythe, and between Andrade and the Blythe Estate, are described in considerable detail in my “Guillermo Andrade and Land Development on the Mexican Colorado River Delta, 1874-1905” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation in History, University of Southern California, 1967).
For Rockwood, see his autobiographical “Born of the Desert,” Calexico Chronicle, Second Annual Magazine Edition, May 1909, pp. 12-29, which, along with Heffernan’s “Personal Recollections,” was also published as a booklet by the Calexico Chronicle, in 1930; and Margaret Darsie Morrison, “Charles Robinson Rockwood: Developer of the Imperial Valley,” Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4, (Dec. 1962), pp. 307-330. For Chaffey, see J. A. Alexander, The Life of George Chaffey (Melbourne: Macmillan & Company, Ltd., 1928).
Three histories that pertain specifically to the background and early development of the Imeprial Valley are: Edgar F. Howe and Wilbur J. Hall, The Story of the First Decade (Imperial: Edgar F. Howe & Sons, 1910); F. C. Farr, ed., The History of Imperial County, California (Berkeley: Elms and Franks, 1918) ; and Otis B. Tout, The First Thirty Years (San Diego: Otis B. Tout ). See also David O. Woodbury, The Colorado Conquest (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1941) ; Robert G. Schonfeld, “The Early Development of California’s Imperial Valley,” Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 50, Nos. 3-4 (September and December, 1968), pp. 279-307, 395-426; and Margaret Romer, “From Boulder to the Gulf” (Parts 1-8) Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 34, Nos. 1-4, and Vol. 35, Nos. 1-4 (1952-1953). The floods of 1905-07 and the Southern Pacific’s efforts to control them are covered well by H. T. Cory, The Imperial Valley of the Salton Sink
(San Francisco: John T. Newbegin, 1915); and George F. Kennan, The Salton Sea (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1917).
The quotation at the end of my article is from the Calexico Chronicle, April 13, 1905, p. 4. The back files of this newspaper, which contain a good deal of information on the development of the Colorado River delta on both sides of the border, were microfilmed several years ago by the Sherman Foundation. In order to make this material more readily available to researchers, the Foundation has donated copies of the microfilm to the California State Library, Sacramento, to the Honnold Library of the Claremont Colleges, and to the Calexico and San Diego public libraries.
William O. Hendricks formerly taught history at California State College, Los Angeles, and at the University of Southern California. Dr. Hendricks is now director of the Sherman Foundation Library in Corona del Mar, where the collection is focussed on the history of the Pacific Southwest. His paper was originally presented at the 7th annual San Diego Congress of History last March.