History of Mentone Part Three
As I stated in an earlier publication, the fledgling area of
Mentone suffered from an inadequate water supply that discouraged early
settlers who had purchased the land from the promoters working for the
railroads. Many of the new Mentone inhabitants moved away and most of the newly
planted orange trees dried up.
W.J Tench saved Mentone from disaster. He approached the
Land Company with a proposal that if he could secure a reliable source of
water, the Land Company would give him a parcel of land and also lease him the
existing pipelines. The Land Company, whose back, was against the wall, agreed.
And, in September of 1898, Tench, with the help of Ah Yee, a Chinese laborer,
began digging a well at the north east corner of his property. It took two
years to complete (which is amazing considering Mentone’s rock infested
ground). The two of them dug a hole four- feet wide, six- feet long and 190
feet deep. Dynamite had to be used to clear out some of the huge boulders.
Every ounce of rock and sand had to be lifted from the hole using a bucket
which was raised by a horse-powered windlass. They beefed up the sides of the
hole with redwood timber 2 x 12’s, and a ladder was built (and added to) as the
Tench hit some water at 165 feet, but kept on digging.
Eventually he struck a bed of clay, and the local folk said that if he
punctured the clay he most likely would lose all the water he had discovered.
He decided to dig through it in spite of their comments, and on April 11,
1900, water spouted through in a gusher.
At the completion of the well, Mr. Tench requested that the
Land Company fulfill their part of the agreement, which they had agreed to do,
after their representative verified the water source. The pipelines were leased
to Tench for a period of five years with a second five year period if the
service was deemed satisfactory.
Many stories concerning the Tench Mentone Water Company
abound, some are true, some are questionable, and some are downright wrong. One
famous story says that during the digging of the well, the Chinese laborer had
placed a dynamite charge in a huge boulder, and was climbing up the ladder, but
wasn’t quite out of the hole when the charge went off. It was said, “He was
blown out of the hole!” and was not hurt, but that his yellow-tinted skin
turned ghostly white.
In 1903, Tench built a reservoir that would eventually store
a quarter- million gallons in an open pool from which 10 and 12 inch pipes
reached through Mentone, feeding scores of smaller laterals. The lines reached
all the way west to Wabash Avenue (Redland’s city limits). It remained as it
was originally built until the 1970’s when stricter health requirements
demanded that the sides be finished and an inflatable roof was added.
In 1905, Tench was notified by the Pacific Land Development
Company that the McIntosh interests had acquired the pipelines and that they
were unwilling to renew his lease. Mr. Tench had to relinquish his hard-earned
pipelines in 1906. Even though the Mentone Water Company suffered a diminished
supply; they still continued to provide water to many Mentone residents. A
fierce competition began between Tench and McIntosh. (Continued in next issue)
Six generations of Soffels are represented here at Soffel
Farms. Ron Soffel’s great grand- father, in 1914, planted some of the first
orange trees in the region, and possessed the first all-electric home on the
north side of Redlands. In the 1940’s, Ron’s grand-father, Joe Soffel, planted
the first avocado trees, in spite of many growers telling him the trees would
never survive this far inland. The avocado trees surrounding Redland’s Airport
prove his critics wrong.
The fourteen acres of Soffel Farms produce organic
blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, onions, watermelons, avocados,
oranges, grape-fruit, pomegranates, honey jams and bar-b-que sauces made from
honey. Think you’ve tasted everything? Wait until you taste their low sugar
blueberry jam! Yum!
The blueberries are grown on over 2000 plants and consist of
over six different varieties. During Christmas season they offer some of the
freshest Christmas trees available.
The retail store is open seven days a week from 10am to 6pm.
The store is run by Ron’s sister- in – law, Shannon.
Starting the last two weeks of April (right now) you can pick
your own blueberries, which are the only fresh, plant- grown ones available in
There are amazing benefits of blueberries. This little fruit
softens dry skin, boosts your brain power and may even prevent cancer. They
contain many naturally occurring antioxidants, which help to protect the body
against free radicals. They are literally bursting with nutrients. They can
help regulate stomach irritations regarding motility because they contain fiber
and tannins that act to draw tissue together and decrease inflammation. Soffel
Farms offer the biggest and juiciest ones available. And don’t forget their
honey and honey by-products.
The Soffels have been in the bee business for
decades, and bottle-up the best honey in the Inland Empire. No other insect has
served the needs of man like the honey bee. Most folks don’t have a clue how
important the honey bee is to civilization. They pollinate crops, an estimated
one-third of all the fool crops we consume. Check out the 10 facts about honey
bees you may not know (included in this publication).
1545 E. San Bernardino Avenue,
Serving Mentone and surrounding communities since 1914