UA-48555186-1HILDA M GRAY

HILDA M GRAY

Desert Hot Springs Homestead Pioneer

Desert Hot Springs Homestead Pioneer

Settlement Around Two Bunch Palms Watering Hole

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Finding Hilda M Gray Homestead

Finding the Hilda M Gray homestead. To left is the Two Bunch Palms oasis (resort) and in the middle is Miracle Hill near the Cabot Yerxa homestead.

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100 Years at Desert Hot Springs

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Hilda M Gray

Hilda M Gray age 20

In 2013 the city of Desert Hot Springs celebrated the centennial of homesteader Cabot Yerxa’s arrival to the desert and his discovery of the natural hot mineral water now famous worldwide for health and therapeutic benefits. However Cabot was not the first to live here.

In 1909 Miss Hilda M Gray at the age of 37 established her first homestead on land near the Two Bunch Palms watering hole that would eventual become the city of Desert Hot Springs.

Cabot wrote that Hilda helped him find the survey markers for his homestead claim, markers that had weathered 60 years in the desert.

Although Cabot is the most celebrated homesteader, Cabot himself acknowledged in his newspaper columns that Miss Hilda M Gray was living here before him.

Over the years pioneer homesteads were integrated into what became the city, including the homesteads of Cabot and Gray.

Coming a long way from her native England she did not aim to create a city. Yet she accomplished what few men were able to do by staking her desert claim and sticking it out for five years. About half the people that staked a claim never finished up.

Since nearly 30,000 people, including the celebrated Cabot, followed Gray to what is now the incorporated city of Desert Hot Springs. Gray was a desert homestead pioneer and this is her adventure.

 

In 1913 transportation was challenging, rattlesnakes plentiful, and water difficult to come by in a harsh desert environment lacking modern amenities.

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Desert Hot Springs Centennial

Hilda M Gray lived a modest life with land the grand reward. Hilda would invest five years of her life making those 160 acres hers. Challenges were made to be overcome.

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 .Over the years the city forgot Miss Hilda M Gray

and her life became a mystery – until now.


Available now as a 40 minute
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Let’s take a peek at Cambridge England where Hilda was born.

 

Desert Hot Springs Homestead Pioneer
3.67 (73.33%) 3 votes

Finding Hilda M Gray

Hilda M Gray signature

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Her Middle Name Was a Mystery

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Russell Betts at the National Archives

Russell Betts at the National Archives

It was no easy task finding Miss Hilda M Gray. It was intriguing that in the 280 newspaper articles in the Desert Sentinel written by Cabot Yerxa under the title of On The Desert Since 1913, the name of Miss Hilda M Gray appeared more than any other character.

We found the local historical society wanting to know more and the local museum knew little and could not help. Many of the answers we were looking for were out of town.

From the very beginning there was always that mystery of her middle name. Records unearthed in dusty archives always listed her name with the middle initial and even her signature hid her full middle name behind a simple M.

Russell Betts researching National Archives - Riverside CA

Russell Betts researching National Archives – Riverside CA

As far as we know she never told anyone what that M stood for and no one appears to have asked.

In many newspaper reports mentioning her the name was always published as Hilda M Gray.

It wasn’t until we stumbled upon her college records at Vanderbilt University that we finally discovered her middle name was Maude.

That discovery fit the fact that in looking back through hundreds of years Gray genealogy the woman’s name of Maude had been selected the most frequently and the name of Hilda was alone the most unique.

Weeks passed that turned into months and then it was almost a year into the project and we still did not have a photograph of Miss Gray, at any age.

We stumbled upon pictures of her parents and siblings but none of Miss Hilda M Gray.

Author researching Riverside County Archivist

Author researching Riverside County Archivist

Government and institutions had preserved a paper trail of documents relevant to our search.

As we dug deeper into the Riverside County Archives then deeper into the National Archives we began developing an understanding of early homesteads yet found little in the way of photographic documentation.

We began fearing the worst that all pictorial repsentation may have been lost and that we were writing a biography of someone with no face.

She was hiding herself and teasing us to draw out the story as weeks of research wore on holding on to hope that just one picture would turn up. Finally, just last week our prayers were answered when that one picture turned up to brighten our day.

And what a surprise it was featuring a refreshingly attractive young girl age 20 pictured in the early 1890s dress conveying confidence and intelligence with bright engaging eyes.

Finding Hilda M Gray
2.9 (58%) 10 votes

HILDA M GRAY

Desert Hot Springs Homestead Pioneer