John Guthrie McCallum brought his family to Palm Springs in the hopes that the dry, healing desert climate would aid in his oldest son’s recovery from a severe respiratory disease. The McCallum family were the first non-Native American residents recorded to live in what would later become the city of Palm Springs.
When the McCallum family first arrived, their only shelter from the desert elements came from huge grey-trunked old fig trees with large leafy branches. According to the McCallum Saga, written by Katherine Ainsworth, John McCallum’s oldest son, Johnny, “laid on a cot in the shade of the trees while the other children played nearby, and watched as the family home was built.”
The McCallum family L-shaped house was made out of adobe bricks.The Cahuilla workers mixed together water from the hot springs, mud and fiber. They trampled the materials together and placed them in forms which created the bricks. After the adobe bricks were molded, they were left in the sun for several days to dry.When they were partially dry, they were turned up on one edge, so they would dry more completely.
After his family was settled in their home, John McCallum, with the aid of some of the members of the Tribe, began plowing and planting some of the land he had purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad. To water his orchards, McCallum had a stone-lined ditch constructed that ran from the mouth of the San Gorgonio Pass where the Whitewater River spills onto the desert to his ranch at the base of Mt. San Jacinto near the hot springs. The 19-mile ditch brought the water across the desert and into his ranch.
You can view the McCallum Adobe, the home of the Palm Springs Historical Society, and the Cornelia White House at the Village Green, 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free.
There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history.
The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a weekly story whose time and place corresponds with today.
The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.
Visit www.pshistoricalsociety.org for more information.