HISTORY OF BORREGO SPRINGS
Anza-Borrego has a long human history, a story that began thousands of years ago
with the Kumeyaay and Cahuilla people. But it was not until the late
seventeen hundreds that the first Europeans began to walk across this land.
In 1774 Jaun Bautista de Anza journeyed through the present day Borrego Valley
on his quest to find an inland route to Spanish settlements on the California coast.
The place that we now know as Borrego Springs, the small community in the desert,
came about much later, and is a relative newcomer when viewed against the backdrop of these
Old Borego...The Historic Heart of the Borrego Valley
by Phil Brigandi
first homesteaders began to arrive in the Borrego Valley around 1910. The valley
was isolated, hemmed in by rugged mountains on three sides. Going to town for
supplies meant at least a five-day round-trip to Brawley, or the long climb up
Grapevine Canyon and on to Ramona. But slowly, a little community began to
develop. In the mid-1920s a road was opened up through Sentenac Canyon, and the
Ensign family put down the first deep well in the valley, attracting more
settlers to the area.
1928 was a banner year for the Borrego Valley. The first public school opened in
the valley; a local voting precinct was established; the first chamber of
commerce, the Borego Boosters Club, was formed; San Diego County assigned a
deputy sheriff to the area; and on March 1, 1928 the Borego Post Office was
created. ("Borego" -- with just one "r" -- was how the old timers always spelled
The first postmaster was Eslie Wynn, an Azusa jeweler who had taken up a
homestead in the southeastern part of the valley around 1918. The original
Borego post office was located in his home. Wynn's place was close to where the
old roads past Borrego and Barrel springs met the road over the hills from the
Narrows that connected with the new Sentenac Canyon route (which later became
Hwy. 78). With the post office there, Wynn's homestead became a natural meeting
place for the residents of the valley. This was the start of Old Borego.
Wynn was quick to take advantage of the increased traffic. Before the year was
out, he installed a gas pump in front of his home, and opened the first gas
station in the valley. In the spring of 1929, Wynn had a new building built
opposite his home, and moved the post office across the way. That September, he
opened the valley's first store in the new building. His clerk was homesteader
Herbert LaNiece. The county also established a branch library in the store
building, and Mrs. LaNiece agreed to serve as librarian. Later, around 1935, a
separate little library building was built north of the store.
The mail for Borego came down from Julian two days a week, and local residents
could pick up their letters at Wynn's post office. Henry Nelson, was the first
to drive the mail, and also carried passengers and freight. Milo Porter, who
homesteaded near the mouth of Henderson Canyon in 1927, hauled the mail from
October, 1928 to June, 1930. "He got $60 a month," his widow, Lelah recalled,
"and furnished his own transportation and his own gasoline."
Fred Robinson had the contract next, but gave it up in February of 1932 to
become road foreman for the new Borego Township.
Eslie Wynn continued to expand his commercial enterprises. In 1933 he built a
garage north of the store building. His mechanic, it seems, was James Thomson, a
recent arrival from Los Angeles. In 1932, Wynn concluded that hauling the mail
paid more than serving as postmaster, and since the government wouldn't allow
him to hold both jobs, he resigned as postmaster on March 1st and started making
the twice a week run to Julian. James Thomson became Borego's new postmaster,
but after his wife's death in 1934, he decided to leave the valley, resigning as
postmaster on July 31, 1934. His replacement was Glenn DuVall, who had proved up
a homestead near Clark Dry Lake in 1929.
Eslie Wynn drove the mail until January, 1935, when he died of a heart attack
after a heated argument with a pair of prospectors who had rented some burros
from him and never paid him. Milo Porter took over the mail contract again, and
held it until July, 1938, when he left the valley for Julian. Glenn DuVall
continued both as postmaster and storekeeper, and was soon joined by his younger
brother, Edward. They promised customers "a good line of staple groceries" and
fresh vegetables every Saturday.
When Glenn DuVall got married in the summer of ‘36, he left the valley, and
Eddie DuVall took over the store and the postmastership. Eddie DuVall got
married about that same time. His wife, Alta, first came to the valley on a
Sierra Club field trip. She taught school in Los Angeles for most of the rest of
What little other commercial development there was in the valley then was mostly
centered around Old Borego. In 1930 Frank Osborne built a little store and
trailer camp on his homestead south of DuVall's, near what is now the northwest
corner of Yaqui Pass and Borrego Springs roads. He also sold gasoline at times.
Osborne remained in the valley until around 1936. The Yaqui Pass Road was built
in 1934-35 to connect with the new state highway through the Narrows. It was
paved by the military during World War II -- the first paved road in the valley.
Across from Osborne's, Noel Crickmer opened the valley's first hotel, the Desert
Lodge, in 1939. Greatly expanded, it survives today as La Casa del Zorro.
Crickmer's original adobe is now a part of the lobby.
The Borego Post Office survived until July 31, 1940, when it was discontinued
due to lack of business. The population in the valley had dropped by more than
two-thirds during the Depression; by 1943, it had sunk so low that the Borego
School had to close for a year. Mail for the few remaining residents came on a
star route from Julian, with Al Mathes doing the driving.
Eddie DuVall kept the store going, though. His son, Denny, recalls how his
father would take his ‘35 Ford and haul a trailer out to San Diego to load up
with merchandise for the store. "He'd come back, and the rear bumper would be
about six inches off the ground!" he says. During this time, Eddie also served
as Deputy Sheriff for the valley. Besides the store, he had several small rental
cottages nearby, and in 1948 he even expanded the place, building an addition
between the store and the garage.
After World War II, things began to pick up again in the valley. Electricity
arrived in 1945, and in 1947, the new community of Borrego Springs went on the
market, shifting the center of valley affairs northwest to Christmas Circle. In
1949, Borrego Springs got its own post office, and the new (and proper) spelling
became official. Eddie DuVall always aggressively resisted the new spelling of
Borrego, and kept his "Borego" Store open until the late 1950s. Even on into the
1960s, he kept a supply of auto parts on hand, and still did a little business
now and then. Eddie DuVall finally died in 1973.
Old Borego has long since passed into other hands, but fortunately many of the
historic buildings there have been preserved by her current owners. The stone
portion of Eslie Wynn's original home and post office is the oldest surviving
building in the valley, and DuVall's Borego Store was a local landmark for
decades. Although it is no longer the center of the community, Old Borego
remains the historic heart of the Borrego Valley -- a reminder of the pioneer
heritage that forms the foundation for modern Borrego Springs.
about the early days of Borrego Springs can be found in
Borrego Beginnings by