PLOUGHSHARE & PRUNING HOOK
Volume 2 Number 3 June 1997
Winchester and Valle Vista....Part III
The year, 1891 was significant to a great many people living in Winchester and Florida who increasingly needed more and more water. Finally, after building a road, gathering men and supplies, and constructing various buildings to hold equipment, supplies, animals,
and workers, the Lake Hemet Water Company started its monumental task of building a dam in Hemet Valley in the San Jacinto Mountains in order to hold back winter water for summer use. Everyone in Winchester and Florida, and for that matter the people in the town of San Jacinto, believed that the Hemet Valley reservoir water would be shared by all. The local newspapers reported this, and even one of the directors of the Lake Hemet Water Company announced the great extent of the water usage. On June 19, 1890, Hancock M Johnston's statement to a San Jacinto Valley Register reporter was printed: "Florida, San Jacinto, Winchester, Perris, and even Lake Elsinore would get water from the mountain reservoir". All this positive information only increased the need to prepare to deliver and receive more water.
After a series of rousing meetings and numerous newspaper articles touting the need and importance for an irrigation district, the San Jacinto and Pleasant Valley Irrigation District was formed on August 3, 1891. The District covered over 18,000 acres, but none of those included the 6,000 acres owned by the Lake Hemet Water Company Directors, the absence of which should have been significant to the Irrigation District's Board of Directors. The first Board of Directors consisted of W M Casterline and Fred W Swope of San Jacinto and William Haslam, Peter Milliken, and F T Lindenberger of Winchester with Casterline named president and Lindenberger secretary.
In February 1892 the irrigation district purchased the San Jacinto Valley Water Company, taking over the finished and unfinished Cienega, flume, and ditch works started by Griffin. Sometime after this take over, the consulting engineer hired by the district, George Manual, issued a report that not enough water could be harvested from the Cienega. Other sources must be found, and he recommended that the district purchased either the Fairview Land and Water Company's water scheme or the Lake Hemet Water Company scheme. Even if the district had a great deal of money, which it did not have, it would have never been able to purchase the Lake Hemet scheme because the two men who owned the majority of the Lake Hemet stock had no wish to sell and would have fought any eminent domain attempts. Furthermore, they knew that the district could not produce sufficient water to irrigate 18,000 acres.
The Fairview Land and Water Company Directors, on the other hand, were more than willing to sell their water scheme, i.e. the Florida Water Company. On March 15, 1892, all water rights, title, and interests of the Fairview Land and Water Company were conveyed to the Florida Water Company, and on March 27, 1892 the Florida Water Company was sold to the San Jacinto and Pleasant Valley Irrigation District, paid for with irrigation district bonds supposedly worth $101,750. Everything was sold to the irrigation district except the water rights owned by the people who purchased their Fairview/Florida lands before March 15, 1892, which totaled about 1400 acres. These people were eventually referred to as the 3/20ths.
By selling their water scheme to the irrigation district, the Fairview Directors and stockholders thought they were in a better position to sell the remainder of their lands. On August 5, 1893, G W Griffith from Colorado in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Reverend Rueben Van Pelt, bought an option to sell all the unsold Fairview lands, houses, town lots, and water rights for $33,000. These two men subsequently formed the Valle Vista Land Corporation. Prior to their purchasing the option, Griffith and Van Pelt were told that plenty of water would be available either from the irrigation district or from the Lake Hemet Water Company.
Before and after the irrigation district officially took control of the Fairview/Florida Water Company scheme, a ditch was run from the Fairview tract to the Cienega, further attempting to put more water in Griffin's flume. The district also advertised for bids to be submitted to bore wells at the Cienega, dig a twelve mile dirt ditch on the north side of the district, and lay lumber for flumes. In addition to the bids, notices were placed in the Winchester Recorder announcing
assessments and tax levies. The district could use its bonds to trade for land and water systems but had to have cash to pay for the interest on the bonds and expenses to run the district, such as supplies, salaries, and railroad contracts which it inherited from the Fairview Directors. Not only was water in short supply but money was too. Invariably many of the bills incurred by the irrigation district involving the Fairview lands were paid by the 3/20ths in order that they might retain control of their water rights.
The year 1893 was probably the best year for the people living in Winchester and participating in the irrigation district. On March 9 of that year, Griffin received a report that there was a fine stream of water in the irrigation ditch. And the Recorder printed that elation was had by all when a man stood atop one of the highest hills and lighted a fire to signal the arrival of the water to Winchester. By April the newspaper announced that the district's south canal to the Olive Green place would be completed by June 1st.
Next month the demise of the water district and the final chapter of a dream.
Community Brochure Created
The Winchester historical society is proud to announce the creation of a brochure extolling some of the finer points of our community. Also in it are some of the history of how the community has arrived at what it is today. This brochure should be available soon to local merchants. You can keep it or by addressing it send it to a friend. This brochure was one of our goals for the year. For those on the mailing list, one is being sent with the current newsletter.
Patterson House Re-roof Fund Established
Thanks to some generous contributions this past couple of months a fund has been established to re-roof the Patterson House. The house which belongs to the Historical society is badly in need of a new roof. As of this date $325 has been collected for this project. The house built in 1891 is one of the oldest houses still standing in the greater San Jacinto Valley. If you would like to help in this fund send your check to the society at the address below. Also donations to keep this newsletter being published are always welcome.
Historical Tidbits From Our Past
03/09/1893 No fear of a poor grain crop is manifested by any of our farmers now, as more rain has already fallen this season then fell the whole of last. On Saturday just .29 fell, .53 on Sunday, and .49 Monday.
03/09/1893 Ben C. Jordan, a representative of The Riverside Daily Press, passed through Winchester the latter part of last week on a tour of the new Riverside county. Mr. Jordan is writing up this portion of the county for his paper. He seemed very favorably impressed with this town.