Perris artist Rob Padilla created this mural depicting the legacy of the Hunter family on the City of Perris.
Nearly 50 descendants of Perris pioneers Lucinda and Lewis Hunter came to the City’s Victorian-era Train Depot Building Saturday to witness their ancestors being honored by the Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association.
Perris Mayor Daryl Busch presented the family with a proclamation praising the contribution of the Hunter family, who arrived in Perris from Missouri in 1910 and became well-drillers, ministers, farmers and clothiers.
A similar proclamation from Riverside County was presented by Barry Busch, who represented Supervisor Marion Ashley.
“It was a very nice event honoring a family that came to Perris before Perris was even a City,” Busch said. “It was wonderful hearing their
stories about growing up in Perris, going to school in Perris and
working in Perris. This kind of event is what makes Perris what it
is—a place that honors its past and the people who made it great.”
Perris Mayor Daryl Busch and Barry Busch presented Dixie Heldoorn, a granddaughter of Lewis and Lucinda Hunter, with proclamations honoring the family. At right is Perris historian Katie Keyes.
Family members brought several heirlooms, including baby bonnets and scarves made by Lucinda Hunter, who gained the reputation as a first-rate seamstress in Perris. Local artist Rob Padilla created a mural honoring the family’s wide and varied commitments to the City.
The mural will be on display for several months at the Depot Building, 120 West Fourth Street.
Local historian Katie Keyes said historical museum remains committed to celebrating Perris pioneering families.
“We don’t want to forget our history and the people who came to Perris and participated in the City’s growth and progress,” she said.
Perris Valley resident Dixie Heldoorn, a grand-daughter of Lewis and Lucinda Hunter, shared numerous stories about her ancestors.
Lucinda and Lewis Hunter are pictured with their daughters, Beulah and Opal. The family arrived in Perris from Missouri in 1910.
Lewis and Lucinda Hunter arrived in Perris in 1910 from Missouri, where Lewis toiled in the coal mines. Seeking for a healthier climate to work and raise their family, the couple headed west and ended up in Perris, at the time the center of a major agricultural bread and fruit basket. The community would incorporate as a city in May 1911.
The couple had two daughters, Beulah and Opal. The family moved into a home at Seventh and A streets.
Dixie Heldoorn grew up with Lewis and Lucinda, recalling their home as a friendly place where neighbors and neighborhood kids were always welcome.
“Grandpa hated silence,” Heldoorn said. “When things got too quiet, he would invite the neighbors over to make taffy. We had a great childhood. We could go play in the hills or catch crawdads in the San Jacinto River. We had lots of fun.”
Over time, the Hunters became deeply entrenched in the fabric of Perris.
Lucinda Hunter earned the reputation of a top-notch cook and seamstress, making everything from suits to wedding gowns. The family raised cattle, chickens, goats and pigs for meat and eggs. They grew potatoes, carrots, radishes and berries in their garden and even sold tomatoes at the Mission Inn in Riverside. Lucinda Hunter operated a gas station on First and D Streets. A gallon fetched 13 cents.
Lewis Hunter became a successful well driller but also served Perris as a police officer and worked at a farm owned by Hollywood movie mogul Louis B Mayer, of MGM Studios. He also served as a minister.
After World War II, Lewis Hunter paid $2,000 for a surplus building from Camp Haan near March Air Force Base and relocated it to Van Buren Boulevard in Riverside, starting the Woodcrest Community Church on that site. The building remains standing today. Lucinda Hunter died in 1961; Lewis in 1968.
Over the decades, the family continued to thrive.
Lewis and Lucinda’s daughters, Beulah and Opal, were educated in Perris and graduated from Perris Union High School, beginning a tradition that now stretches to four generations and includes 32 graduates.
Opal Hunter married Roy Mix and they had a son, Norman, and a daughter, Sharon.
Beulah married Harry Scott and had two children, Lewis and June. Harry was killed in a well drilling accident and later
Beulah married Millard Hunter and had three daughters—Janice, Audrey and Dixie, who will attend Saturday’s festivities honoring her family.
Dixie Hunter married Floyd Heldoorn of Perris and raised seven children in the Perris Valley. The couple has many grandchildren and great grandchildren still living here.
Dixie Heldoorn said she is proud and honored that her family is being recognized for its contributions to the City of Perris and Perris Valley.
“They added to the community,” she said.