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The CAGenWeb Project sincerely thanks the dedicated volunteers who devoted time and effort toward making this site a successful one:
Aileen Fish-Underwood, County Coordinator 1996-1999
Edward A. Black Sr, County Coordinator 1999-2013
Paul Pettit, County Coordinator 2014-2017
Present Spanish explorer Melchor Díaz was one of the first Europeans to visit the area around Imperial Valley in 1540. The explorer Juan Bautista de Anza also explored the area in 1776. Years later, after the Mexican-American War, the northern half of the valley was annexed by the U.S., while the southern half remained under Mexican rule. Small-scale settlement in natural aquifer areas occurred in the early 19th century (such as at the present-day site of Mexicali), but most permanent settlement (Anglo Americans on the U.S. side, Mexicans on the other side) was after 1900.
In 1905, torrential rainfall in the American Southwest caused the Colorado River (the only drainage for the region) to flood, including canals that had been built to irrigate the Imperial Valley. Since the valley is partially below sea level, the waters never receded fully, but instead collected in the Salton Sink in what is now called the Salton Sea, the world's only artificial inland sea.
Imperial County was the last of California's 58 counties. It was formed in 1907 from the eastern portion of San Diego County and El Centro was named as the county seat at the same time. The county took its name from Imperial Valley, itself named for the Imperial Land Company, a subsidiary of the California Development Company, which at the turn of the 20th century had claimed the southern portion of the Colorado Desert for agriculture. Much of the Imperial Land Company's land also existed in Mexico (Baja California). The objective of the company was commercial crop farming development.
By 1910, the land company had managed to settle and develop thousands of farms on both sides of the border. The Mexican Revolution soon after severely disrupted the company's plans. Nearly 10,000 farmers and their families in Mexico were ethnically cleansed by the rival Mexican armies. Not until the 1920s was the American side peaceful and prosperous.
The county experienced a period of migration from drought-trodden dust bowl farms, though migrant labor and prosperous job-seekers alike arrived in the 1930s and 1940s from all around the U.S., especially during World War II and during the construction of the All American Canal from its source, the Colorado River, between 1948 and 1951. By the 1950 census, over 50,000 residents lived in Imperial County alone, about 40 times that of 1910.
Fort Yuma is located on the banks of the Colorado River in Winterhaven, California. First established after the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, it was originally located in the bottoms near the Colorado River, less than 1 mile (1.6 km) below the mouth of the Gila River. It was to defend the newly settled community of Yuma, Arizona, on the other side of the Colorado River and the nearby Mexican border. In March 1851, the post was moved to a small elevation on the Colorado's west bank, opposite the present city of Yuma, Arizona, on the site of the former Mission Puerto de Purísima Concepción. This site had been occupied by Camp Calhoun, named for John C. Calhoun, established in 1849. Fort Yuma was established to protect the southern emigrant travel route to California and to attempt control of the Yuma Indians in the surrounding 100-mile (160 km) area.
This site was updated last on 21-Feb-2019 14:00
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