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
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.
The 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.