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Pioneer Elinor Martin donates piece of history to the people of Canyon Lake

The plaque Elinor Martin donated to the people of Canyon Lake is displayed on the wall inside the POA building. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Canyon Lake pioneer Elinor Martin recently donated a piece of Canyon Lake history to the Property Owners Association. The large plaque that now hangs on the wall inside the POA building was one displayed in the old Canyon Lake Village Store at Holiday Harbor Park. Elinor and her husband, Don, operated the store in the early days of the development of Canyon Lake.

The plaque was presented to Elinor’s mother, Leta Evans, in the early 1970s by the president of the Corona Land Company, the developer of Canyon Lake.

After a lifetime of living in Canyon Lake, Elinor and Don are preparing to move to Salem, Oregon, at the end of February to be closer to their son. As a parting gift, Elinor donated the plaque to the people of Canyon Lake.

The plaque reads:

On this property, Henry H. Evans started ranching in 1880. The family ranch house that stood near what is now Lucky Cove (then Salt Water Creek) is long gone, but to the Evans family, including Don and Elinor Marin who operated this store, the land is still alive with memories and mementos of days when this area was called Railroad Canyon.

Mrs. Martin’s father, George Dewey Evans, was born here in 1897. Back then, the canyon was still raw country, peopled by Mexican railroad workers, bootleggers, and miners. Abandoned mines that once produced about $1.50 a day in gold ore may be seen behind the hills west of Mariner’s Day.

With his seven brothers and sisters, Dewey learned this canyon area from the backs of cow ponies while driving the Evans’ cattle herds across the grazing land. It was the children’s job to keep the stock off the Santa Fe railroad tracks running down the canyon between Perris and Alberhill.

In winter, especially, the cattle would lie on the tracks to keep warm. Occasional casualties (one train killed 14 beeves) were welcomed by the section workers living in boxcars in Big Bass Cove area. For them, it meant fresh meat.

In 1916, when a major flood washed out the canyon tracks, young Dewey Evans walked on the rails and ties floating on the surface of the roiling waters. He saw the rebuilt spur suffer the same fate in the flood of 1927. The following year, Santa Fe abandoned the branch and some sections of the old tracks are still on the bottom.

In 1925, five years before Henry’s death, most of the ranches’ 1500 Acres were sold to Temescal Water Co. The dam was built and the first water impounded in 1929. Dewey and his school teacher wife, Leta, rented land from Temescal briefly as pasture before opening the reservoir as a public fishing and duck hunting resort in 1937. The Evans family, since that time, has continued to operate the property as recreation area. Momentos of Railroad Canyon are in the case.

Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

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