Point Happy, La Quinta and Indian Wells


The 1949 Desert Sun newspaper celebrated taking the time to observe the wonders of the natural desert, as people had done for centuries before. “People came down to see the flowers and were armed with all brands of cameras, some with brushes and easels trying to catch the beautiful colors … the county road … takes you through thousands of acres of verbena, just like Washington Avenue … the most photographed spot in the valley is the flowery side of Point Happy just outside La Quinta.

This magnificent place was known in ancient times, but by the turn of the 20th century it was the site of the homesteader Norman “Happy” Lundbeck’s property. On the east side of the rocky hill, Lundbeck operated a farm, operated a stable and a small store along the primeval road through the valley. When Lundbeck died, his wife sold the garden to Chauncey and Marie Rankin Clarke who created Point Happy Date Gardens.

According to the La Quinta Historical Society, the ranch featured numerous gardens and other man-made improvements, including two swimming pools, an archery range, and bridle paths. It was a ranch, orchard, and working farm. Deglet Noor date grove provided the sweet treat. The Clarkes also cultivated a variety of citrus fruits, including limes and tangerines. The ranch house itself was ahead of its time with solar heating and a massive copper roof. Later, air conditioning was added, even in the homes of the families of the workers, each of whom had a radio. The Clarkes entertained frequently; their guests included prominent politicians as well as Hollywood celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino, John Barrymore and Clark Gable.

Valentino visited him often and had a special affinity for Jadaan, the Arabian gray stallion owned by the Clarkes. Chauncey was passionate about Arabian horses. He bought six Arabian mares and five Arabian stallions, including Jadaan, from Point Happy Date Gardens in 1925. Falling seriously ill shortly thereafter, Chauncey sold his Arabian horses to WK Kellogg Ranch in Pomona, where they became prized breeders. He died in 1926.

Marie Rankin Clarke continued until her death in 1928. She bequeathed the spectacular $ 5 million ranch to Claremont College. The college sold the gardens to William Dupont Jr. in the 1950s, and the property was subdivided upon Dupont’s death in 1965.

But for eons before this modern history, the protruding rocks were a known landmark for indigenous people crossing the desert. Somewhere west of this mountain spit was an Indian village called Kavinish. According to scholar Bruce Love, the earliest written record of Kavinish comes from an official American survey of 1856, compiled by John La Croze, deputy American surveyor. The investigation noted an “Indian rancheria” and the artesian well “Palma Seca”, the Indian well, for which the region would take its name in the 20th century.

Love writes: “La Croze offered little description of the village, simply stating that it consisted of ‘a few Indian huts’. definitively attributed to the village, while it was still occupied at the end of the 19th century.

Love notes that the only other possible description was written in 1862 and referred to a place called “Indian villages” between Agua Caliente and Martinez along the Cocomaricopa-Bradshaw trail. During the summer of that year, a traveler by the name of Mahlon D. Fairchild reported that his “group camped overnight in Indian villages, where” there was a measles epidemic and it was pitiful to see the results ”.

The Bradshaw Trail (another story in itself), was at its peak in the 1860s and 1870s and the Indian Well was a regular stopover in the desert, providing the precious water necessary for the survival of the trip. During this period a stagecoach station was established at or near Kavinish, slightly west of the mountain jutting out from the middle of the vast expanse of flat desert.

According to the La Quinta Historical Society, “The Cahuilla were one of the few Native American tribes to dig wells. This well was dug in the wash with steps leading to the water level within 300 meters of Point Happy. This well is the namesake of modern Indian Wells. Nearby Cahuilla villages and travelers made good use of the well until it was destroyed by the floods of 1916. The Cahuilla people were the only permanent inhabitants of the Coachella Valley for hundreds of years. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that Europeans began to cross the valley. Spanish and later Mexican explorers, soldiers and missionaries came here with the sole desire to cross the inhospitable desert as quickly as possible.

According to Cahuilla lore, Kavinish had existed from the earliest days of creation, and according to Love, “While the 19th century village sadly disappeared from depopulation and introduced diseases, the area remained abandoned and vacant until the early decades. of the XXth century. at that time, the first non-Indian settlement appeared. Old Indian Wells Village became a viable town in the 1940s and reached its peak in the 1950s, after which it went into decline, before disappearing in the 1970s. The most recent incarnation of this century-old site is now the Indian Wells Country Club East course, the latest, but certainly not the last, example of human land use in this barren desert setting.

Kavinish, one of the oldest places known to humans in the desert, is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Riverside County. Love will speak for the first time on the excavations carried out on the site twenty years ago.

His speech promises interesting stories about the charred ruins of a circular house site, the remains of a male “master pointer” and a female metate-maker. The excavation revealed rock cairns lined with brush and designed to trap bighorn sheep. Famous local archaeologist Harry Quinn discovered a new type of arrowhead at the site and named it after the ancient village. Love reports a potentially controversial re-internment, the re-burial of Indian remains, as archaeologists believe the practice destroys artifacts and Indians believe it protects their ancestors.

Ann Japenga, the prolific writer on all things desert, says Love’s speech for the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Association at the Indian Wells Resort Hotel on Sunday, December 5, 2 to 4 p.m., will be “a machine.” to go back in time that will take us all back to country clubs and tennis tournaments. Reservations for this free event can be made by calling or emailing Adele Ruxton at (760) 346-8420 or [email protected]

Tracy Conrad is president of the Palm Springs Historical Society. The Thanks for the Memories column appears on Sundays in The Desert Sun. Write to him at [email protected]

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