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The First Lady in Desert Hot Springs

By   /   November 16, 2012  /   Comments Off

Back in those days transportation was challenging, weather severe, rattlesnakes plentiful, and water difficult to come by. She was a “crack shot” and fearless of rattlesnakes, both the scaly kind as well as the two legged variety. Born in Cambridge, educated at Vanderbilt, raised on a Texas cattle ranch and a legal secretary who worked in Chicago and Los Angeles – this little lady pioneer was first to homestead Desert Hot Springs when it was a barren and desolate wilderness.

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A Delicate Cactus Thorn

Desert Hot Springs Homestead by Carl Eytel (circa 1915)

Desert Hot Springs Homestead by Carl Eytel (circa 1915)

This English born lady raised on a Texas cattle ranch was the first person to actually live here in this part of the desert, on her homestead which is now the city of Desert Hot Springs.

She staked out her 160 acre homestead just south of Two Bunch Palms watering hole.

Miss Hilda M Gray worked in a Los Angeles law office as stenographer and had a college degree when she filed her land patent claim in 1911.

Miss Gray was already settled in, living on the land when she greeted Cabot Yerxa upon his arrival in 1913 later showing him the survey markers to establish his land claim.


The Amazing Story of Miss Hilda M Gray


This 5’6″ 118 lb forty year old woman was described as sweet and kindly. She lived in a two room cabin she had built measuring 10 by 12 feet, with walls of 1″ pine boards fitted with a small pot belly stove inside for occasions when it got chilly at night.

She lived alone and for companionship she had a small white dog named Trixie and raised chickens while cultivating a winter vegetable garden. She also had two transportation burros for the last three of the five years she years she lived on her land. There were no roads across the sand.

It was a seven mile hike to the train station which was the only transportation hub connecting to civilization. Palm Springs was then a village of two dozen buildings.

Hilda was generally of an introspective nature, not prone to wickedness or demanding behavior and was fearless of rattlesnakes, both the scaly kind as well as the two legged variety.

Back in those days transportation was challenging, weather severe, rattlesnakes plentiful, and water difficult to come by

Miss Gray was not to be troubled by anyone or anything as she was also a crack shot when rattlesnakes around here were as common as weeds. The mystery of Hilda M Gray was that of her middle initial. She never told anyone what that M stood for and no one thought to ask.

At this time no photographs have been found of Miss Gray.  The population of Desert Hot Springs is nearing 30,000.


2013 Centennial

In 2013 the City of Desert Hot Springs celebrates the centennial of homesteader Cabot Yerxa’s discovery of the natural hot mineral water now famous worldwide for health and therapeutic benefits.

It is also the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the city.

“pioneering first homesteader of the city.”

Although Cabot Yerxa is the most celebrated homesteader, Cabot himself acknowledged in his 1950s newspaper columns that Hilda M Gray was living here first, having proved up her homestead patent in 1916. Cabot proved up his homestead patent in 1921.

 Desert Hot Springs Centennial

Miracle Waters – The Natural Hot Mineral Waters of DHS

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About the author

Dean M Gray

Writer, Artist & Publisher. Dean started in the newspaper business at the age of nine earning 90 cents a week walking 3 miles delivering a newspaper door to door. 500 miles later he graduated to a bicycle route. Delivering news evolved into reporting news when he started publishing his first independent newspapers in high school. He served as editor for college newspaper has been published in newspapers and magazines. Dean has been writing his way out of a paper bag and traveling uphill ever since. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. His publication is Desert Vortex News - http://www.desertvortex.com

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