City of Perris

City of Perris City of Perris

 

City of Perris

History

The old Perris DepotPerris is named in honor of Fred T. Perris, chief engineer of the California Southern Railroad. The California Southern connected through the city in the 1880s to build a rail connection between the present day cities of Barstow and San Diego.

CSR purchased the land from Southern Pacific Railroad in the Pinacate area for a town site. Local 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 site.

The Perris station came online in April 1886. By 1887, six passenger trains and two freight trains stopped at Perris daily and rapid growth followed for several years. After storms repeatedly washed out the tracks in the Temecula Gorge, service to San Diego through this route ended.

Perris officially incorporated as a city in 1911.

History of Perris

The City, which turned 100 years old in 2011, began as a sleepy farming community on the California Pacific Railroad line. There was no State Recreation Area at Lake Perris, or even a Lake Perris, no National Cemetery adjacent to the City, not even March Air Force Base.

Select a time-period to learn more about the City.

  • Early Days

    Before 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.

    When Spanish and Mexican miners found gold deposits in the surrounding hills, things changed. 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.

    Old Downtown PerrisThe first pioneering farmers and businessmen and women came to Perris drawn by the lure of cheap land and opportunities to make a good living. The settlement, once a stopover on the California Southern and later Santa Fe Railroad, would make its reputation as a grain, fruit and vegetable basket in Riverside County and throughout the region. Alfalfa, potatoes, onions and later grapes would sprout from the soil around Perris.

    “Land in plenty for more than 1,000 settlers,” gushed a headline in the Perris Progress of Nov. 12, 1914, three years after the City incorporated. “Perris Valley a Prosperous Ranching Community with Many Special Inducements for Colonists.”

    The newspaper explained further: “The special inducement for colonizing in Perris Valley is that it will appeal to a man with $2,000 to $3,000 to invest. With that amount of money, any man of average intelligence can take his family into this valley merely by imitating the world of the prosperous farmers already located there, build for himself a comfortable home, establish a lucrative business with a permanent, substantial income and do it without breaking his neck.”

    An article in the “New Era” magazine noted that Perris was “the acme of perfection is found, whether it be in the red orange soil of the foothills, the rich vegetable mold in the watered canyons, the gravelly loam of the uplands…or the mild adobe soil of the lowlands.” Yields of crops like barley, wheat, rye, alfalfa, oats and a variety of fruits came in abundance.

    “The orange here attains its most perfect state,” New Era wrote. “The peach, apricot and prune attain their highest excellence in a region like Perris valley where the climate and soil are exactly suited to their culture, and this is the home of the luscious nectarine.”

    Business owners, merchants, entrepreneurs and homesteaders were drawn to the fledgling community. Some of the names remain etched in City archives and on street corners. Names like Mapes, Bernasconi, McCanna, Hook and Motte are reminders of the City’s century-old past.

  • Before and After the Railroad

    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.

  • Fred T. Perris

    Ironically, the man for whom the City is named—California Southern Railroad surveyor Fred T. Perris—never actually lived within Perris municipal limits. Perris, however, is credited with surveying or supervising the surveying of much of the Perris Valley where the railroad eventually became reality. A restored surveying wagon used by Perris or one of his crews is on display in the historic Depot Building on 4th Street.
  • Perris Becomes a City

    The old Perris DepotThe 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.

    The railroad may have provided the location on which Perris was to build, but it was the need for a water system that prompted the impetus for local government.

    In early 1911, residents of the then unincorporated community of Perris submitted a petition to Riverside County supervisors seeking incorporation. On April 18, 1911, the community voted on the petition; 101 votes were cast, a majority for cityhood.

    On May 26, 1911, Perris became an officially incorporated City. The best guess of the City’s population at incorporation-about 300. By 1920, when the next U.S. Census took place, the City had grown to 499 residents.

  • 1911 and Beyond

    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. The annual Rods, Rails and Potato festival in June celebrates the regions agricultural past.

    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 attract international recognition.

    To learn more about Perris, visit: perrismuseum.com.

 

Historic Photos and News Stories

Select a year to see the related flip-book of newspaper clippings.

See newspaper articles and clippings from Perris newspapers in the first and second decades of the twentieth century.

1910-1920

See newspaper articles and clippings from Perris newspapers in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century.

1930-1940

See newspaper articles and clippings from Perris newspapers in the fifth and sixth decades of the twentieth century.

1910-1920

See newspaper articles and clippings from Perris newspapers in the seventh and eigth decades of the twentieth century.

1910-1920

See newspaper articles and clippings from Perris newspapers from the 1990's to the centennial year.

1910-1920