One of my readers asked me what I knew about the history of the name “Salton,” as in the Salton Sink, Salton Sea, Salton Station on the Southern Pacific Railroad line. I reread my post on the New Liverpool Salt Works and discovered I had made a typographical error; the salt works were incorporated in November 1883, not 1893! I am grateful for the opportunity to correct my error.
If you are interested, the earliest reference I can find regarding the name Salton was an article in the May 11, 1884 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:
All the earlier maps show names for the area such as the “Colorado Desert” (1856); Coahuilla Valley, Cabazon Valley, Frink Dry Lake (late 1870s). By the time of the natural overflow of the Colorado in 1891, Salton was in use.
In 1883, George Durbrow and investors incorporated the New Liverpool Salt Company at Salton, on the Southern Pacific main line, south of Mecca, CA. (see correction posted Aug. 27, 2021)
Salt was deposited on approximately 1000 acres of dry sea bed (ancient Lake Cahuilla) by seepage from salt springs in the foothills. Although called a mine, the salt works actually resembled a harvest operation, needing only to cut salt from the field, crush it, bag it, and send it by narrow gauge rail to the nearby railway station at Salton. The quality, quantity, and uniqueness of its gathering led to it being featured in an 1899 issue of Strand Magazine and a 1901 issue of the National Geographic Magazine.
In “The Saline Deposits of California,” California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin No. 24 (1902), Gilbert E. Bailey, described the operation: “The sight at the salt works is an interesting one, for thousands of tons are piled up like huge snow drifts,…Indians operate cable plows, harvesting over 700 tons of pure salt per day. A portable railroad conveys the salt to the works.
The [crystal] lake is constantly being supplied by numerous springs in the adjacent foothills, which flow into the basin and quickly evaporate, leaving deposits of very pure salt that vary from 10 to 20 inches in thickness.”
In February 1891, the Colorado overflowed its banks, into the Mexican delta, leaving water standing in low areas. The following June, it overflowed again, reaching the standing water; the resulting flood from the commingled waters reached the Salton Basin, creating a lake approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, but only 5 feet deep. Being shallow, it evaporated, leaving the Salt Works intact.
However, in 1905-1907, when the Colorado River overwhelmed the California Development Co. intakes for the Imperial Canal, the diverted water flooded the Salton Basin creating the Salton Sea. First the salt field was submerged, then the salt plant, and then the town of Salton and the rail lines.