Perris 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.
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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. Whenl 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.
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.
The 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 attract international recognition.
To learn more about Perris, visit: perrismuseum.com.