Beaumont's 'Arc of History'
Beaumont’s `arc of history’ to cityhood
As history unfolded, so did Beaumont’s long and winding journey to cityhood.
Now more than a hundred years old, Beaumont has not only retained its heritage but is sharing it with future generations.
“The newcomers will know little of the town’s beginnings, “ wrote local historian Marilyn Curtis White in her paper, History of Beaumont, California—before there was a Beaumont. “But behind the new stucco town there will always lurk the ghosts of their predecessors, waiting for the curious to ferret them out.”
Back to our roots
Now that Beaumont has celebrated its centennial on Nov. 18, 2012, let’s journey back to our roots and see how the people who lived and settled here helped create our community.
It might seem surprising, but the place we call home has been known by three different names: Summit, San Gorgonio, and Beaumont. In the beginning, our town was part of San Bernardino County. And a century ago, when a chicken dinner went for fifty cents and ladies’ dress pumps sold for $1.45, it could take up to five hours on dirt roads to travel by car from Beaumont to Riverside.
The historical odyssey of the San Gorgonio Pass that eventually led to cityhood for Beaumont actually began eons ago when Native Americans first inhabited the area. For centuries, tribes lived in villages isolated from the outside world until the discovery of the Pass.
Discovery of the Pass
Beginning at about the time of the American Revolution, and continuing for nearly 80 years, Spanish explorers, Catholic missionaries, U.S. government survey parties, and a handful of white settlers trekked through the region. (Explorers and survey parties were looking for an inland route to the Pacific Ocean.)
By the 1860s, stagecoaches hurtled through the Pass and then in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Transcontinental Railroad rolled through and signaled an influx of fortune seekers, settlers and investors to the Pass. Farming and raising livestock took root and began spreading throughout the area.
In the late 1870s, pioneer settler Reznor Perry Stewart built a barn, plowed land, and eventually bought 1,800 acres to grow grain and raise hogs. From far and wide, other settlers flocked in to create an agricultural bounty and ship their crops by train to waiting markets. Like small towns all across America, the railroad kept Beaumont’s economy humming. Townsfolk looked to the future while yearning for progress and self-governance in an age of big possibilities.
Starting in the late 1880s, our forefathers took important, visionary steps that created a city scarcely a generation later. They bought and subdivided land, laid out roads, put in water pipelines, planted trees, started a local bank, built businesses and schools, and created a library district. These early pioneers established a foundation for all that we see today.
The early history of Beaumont
Former mayor Guy Bogart was the source of this informative timeline of Beaumont’s early years, which was compiled in 1957:
- 1884: George C. Egan of Banning lays out the town site of San Gorgonio (now Beaumont).
- 1884: First church services are held in town.
- 1887: Dr. H.C. Sigler and associates of the Southern California Investment Company buy San Gorgonio and change the name to Beaumont. Miles of eucalyptus trees are planted and the Beaumont Hotel is built for $40,000.
- 1887: The Beaumont Sentinel newspaper started, but stops publishing in a few years.
- 1888: Southern Pacific Railroad depot is built on Egan Avenue.
- 1893: Beaumont becomes part of the new Riverside County that was carved out of San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
- 1895: Jack Rabbit Trail (officially the San Gorgonio Grade) is surveyed and built.
- 1900: Mountain View Cemetery is started.
- 1907: Beaumont town site (population about 300) and the Edgar Canyon Water District are bought by Claredon B. Eyer and Kenneth R. Smoot of Chicago. Water improvements begin.
- 1908: The Beaumont Woman’s Club starts in the home of Mrs. J. W. Elder.
- 1909: The Bank of Beaumont opens its doors at Fifth Street and California Avenue.
- 1909: Cherry Valley Grange is built.
- 1910: The first high school classes welcome students, at first in store buildings and later in a large tent.
- 1911: Beaumont Library District forms.
- 1911: Edgar Canyon Reservoir is built
- 1912: Beaumont incorporates on its third attempt. The vote is 155 to 115.
Many, like local historian Thelma McLaughlin, who wrote the article, A History of Beaumont, watched the community grow into a modern city. She saluted the unselfish dedication of those who built this town.
“Let’s pause for a moment to be thankful for the people of enthusiasm and just plain people who had a part in the building of `beautiful breezy Beaumont’ . . . a place to buy, boost and believe in.”
(Special thanks to the Beaumont Library for historical research assistance.)