A Brief History of the Perris Valley- Courtesy of Perris
Valley Historical and Museum Association.
to the 1880's, the Perris Valley was known as the San Jacinto
Plains after the river that crosses it. From pre-historic
times, Indians inhabited the hills, their trails crisscrossed
the valley until Spanish and Mexican miners found gold deposits
in the surrounding hills. Sheep roamed the valley, but, as
the mines expanded to include tin, coal and even clay, more
people discovered what Perris Valley had to offer: moderate
climate, rich soil and plenty of flat land.
In 1881, the California Southern Railroad (CSRR) decided
to lay their tracks through the valley thereby terminating
the transcontinental route of the Santa Fe Railway at San
Diego. Mr. Fredrick Thomas Perris was put in personal charge
of all surveying and construction of the route.
With the completion of the railroad in 1882, settlers began
flocking to the valley staking out homesteads and buying
railroad land at Pinacate. At one point, Pinacate was reported
to have a population of 400 people.
In 1885, people in the central and northern parts of the
valley discussed the desirability of a town more conveniently
located. Land for the project was purchased from the Southern
Pacific Railroad and Fred T. Perris, CSRR's new Chief Engineer,
returned to the valley to study the citizens proposal. The
citizens offered to erect a depot, dig a well, and donate
a number of lots to the railroad in exchange for establishing
a station at the new town.
town site of Perris was officially named a station on the
Transcontinental Route of the Sante Fe on April 1, 1886 and
by 1887, six passenger trains and two freight trains stopped
at Perris daily. This rapid growth proved short-lived when
heavy storms repeatedly washed out the tracks in the Temecula
Gorge in the early 1890's, causing the railroad to abandon
service to San Diego by way of Perris. In 1911 Perris became
an incorporated city.
While the railroad had played an important part in establishing
the new town, the people now turned to agriculture for their
future development. Because of limited groundwater, dry grain
farming was the main crop before water was brought to the
valley by the Eastern Municipal Water district in the early
1950's. Alfalfa, the King potato (which would produce two
crops a year), and still later, sugar beets became the mainstay
of farming the Perris Valley.
With the construction of Lake Perris in the late 60's and
early 70's - Perris once again became attractive - this time
as a recreational area. In addition to the lake's activities
Perris' hot air ballooning. Orange Empire Railway Museum
and skydiving activities are attracting international recognition.