Biography of Jason L. Rector
Riverside County, CA Biographies





JASON L. RECTOR
One of the upbuilding of the Coachella section of country and the first man to make a permanent home here is Jason L. Rector, a native of Fremont county, Iowa, where he was born January 16, 1851, and where his grandparents were among the original pioneer settlers. His father, Benjamin Rector, grew up and was among the first white settlers in what is now Fremont county. He served as major of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry during the Civil war. After his marriage to Mahala A. Thomas he settled down to farm pursuits in Iowa, where he later became well and favorably known. He was a delegate to the national convention that nominated Lincoln for president.

J. L. Rector received his education in a private school near his birthplace, completing it in the Iowa Wesleyan University at Mt. Pleasant. Returning to his home he secured a position in the government postal service which he retained one year, after which he went to Newton, Haney county, Kan., and engaged in farming and the real estate business. In 1876 he came westward with a construction crew, but returned to Newton and took up business pursuits, and for a time taught school there. In 1884 he came to San Diego, Cal., where he engaged in the butcher and cattle business buying stock throughout the southern part of the state, and it was in the pursuit of this calling that he had occasion to visit what is now the Coachella valley, buying beef cattle from the Indians. From San Diego he went to Redlands and soon afterwards accepted a position from the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and the A. N. Towne estate to get out wood from the large tracts owned by them in this locality. He moved to the section of country which at that time was but a desert waste and pitching his tent on the present site of Coachella, set to work to carry out the contract with his employers.

In 1901 Mr. Rector relinquished this work and carried into execution a long cherished plan of surveying the valley and his next step was to put down a well to test the idea that an abundance of water was available for irrigation, and this has been determined by the well watered tracts of land that have made the desert "blossom as the rose" and the land to become some of the most valuable of any in the state for fruit and farming purposes. His first well tapped a fine artesian spring and while it was small many have been developed since that produce as high as ninety inches of water and some have been put down fifteen hundred feet and have a continuous flow of pure water. When it was found out that Mr. Rector had struck water in that arid region many men came from various places to inspect the result. Large amounts of money had been expended by several persons interested in the development of the section, but without success and the well that has been the means of developing the valley was the first one put down by hydraulic means, since which time that has proven the only successful method.

By the well directed efforts of Mr. Rector irrigation was made possible and sturdy citizens were located on homesteads the prior rights to which had been forfeited by previous settlers, who, on account of being unable to get water, had abandoned their claims. Upon his suggestion the legality of these claims was contested by the government as well as by himself, with the result that others were located and one of the most prosperous sections of Riverside county has been built up. Erecting an adobe house Mr. Rector advertised the fact that he was prepared to locate settlers at a cost of $10 per filing, his time being well filled, and fresh in the minds of many pioneers of this region was the visit to the little adobe dwelling, the only habitation within a radius of many miles. As the country became settled up Mr. Rector, always having in mind the necessity of having a market for the principal products, organized in 1902 the Coachella Valley Produce Association, of which he became president and manager and which shipped the first car of fruit ever raised in the valley, in fact, for several years the entire crops of the valley were disposed of through this company. Later a large packing house was erected for cantaloupes, which at one time controlled the entire acreage of the valley, amounting to over two thousand acres. Three years later, after a very successful business, an ice plant was erected in connection with their other interests and this was continued several years, ice being manufactured by the most modern methods and at a less cost than in almost any other part of Southern California.

It was in 1904 that Mr. Rector put into use a plan he had been formulating several years and which revolutionized the fruit business throughout the entire state. He built the first pre cooling plant, and for a time it was the largest in existence as well as the finest. His method and appliances were evolved from his own plans and he at once applied for a patent on the system and for several years it was pending in the patent office. Others have since put his ideas into use for their own benefit. His plant was constructed with four sections, having a capacity of four carloads each, and was used for pre cooling cantaloupes, grapes and tomatoes. The goods were shipped on consignment only and so satisfactory was the output upon reaching destination that when it came the time of year to let contracts, buying came to Coachella from all the principal cities of the United States to bid for them. It was a big item to dealers to handle this fruit, as they were advertised throughout the world by so doing. The company was organized as the Coachella Valley Refrigerating Company, of which Mr. Rector was the sole owner. This company was the first one to get passing reports for their cars of produce while enroute and many of their trains were run on a passenger train schedule. They were the first to wrap cantaloupes in tissue paper and by their system of inspection were noted for putting out the best grades of fruit. At the World's Fair in St. Louis the cantaloupes exhibited by them took the second prize, and at the Portland, Ore., Exposition the seedling dates displayed secured honorable mention.

In 1905 the A. N. Towne Estate, under the Coachella Land & Water Company, caused the town to be platted, later selling out to Mr. Rector, who in turn sold to Strong & Dickinson of Los Angeles, he with others having previously installed a water system with over two miles of pipe, and also having planted all the ornamental trees that now grace the town and make it attractive. Most of the land in the whole valley has passed through his hands. In 1911 he made the only hand drawn map of the valley and that same year was among those who promoted a cotton gin, which is ready for operation. He also carries on a wide general real estate business, besides being a representative of the lands owned by the Southern Pacific Company. In addition to his holdings in the valley Mr. Rector has a home in Los Angeles, wherein his mother and brother reside. His only son is a resident of Mexico. It may be confidently stated that Mr. Rector is in reality the father of the Coachella Valley, as ever since he has known anything about it he has been its warmest advocate and always has been ready to give of his best efforts, as well as time and means, to advance worthy projects. Every movement has had his hearty co-operation. A progressive Republican, he is keenly interested in political issues. His life throughout has been one of firm integrity and generous principles and he is well worthy representation in the history of Riverside county.

From:
History of Riverside County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by Elmer Wallace Holmes
And other well known writers
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1912


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