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Department History

Department History Deputies, c. 1934With the vast improvements and reclamation of land in the Imperial valley settlements rapidly and the people, ambitious to govern themselves, petitioned the board of supervisors of San Diego county, the valley being then a part San Diego county setting up plausible claims for a separate government and July 9, 1907, the board adopted resolutions calling for an election to pass the question of dividing the county. The line of division proposed was to the section line lying between ranges 8 and 9 east of San Bernardino meridian. The territory embraced in the projected county had an area approximating 4,000 miles with a population estimated at 10,320. The date of election was for August 6, 1907.

When these preliminaries had been finally settled, and probably long before, the question as to where the county seat should be located became a burning one, so to speak, which resulted in a bitter contest between the village of Imperial and El Centro. Although much younger than Imperial, El Centro won out after a strenuous and desperate struggle on its part; this, however, by so narrow a margin that a recount of the votes was sought by her rival, but the legal contest took place.

On August 12, 1907, the supervisors of San Diego County met and canvassed returns of the election. The result of this proceeding determined that the people of Imperial County were almost unanimous in favor of division and there upon the board officially declared that the county of Imperial had been born. At the election the board of supervisors which had been chosen for the county met at El Centro at ten o’ clock in the morning, in the Valley State Bank building, and there organized by choosing F. S. Webster, of the third district, chairman.

The first measure adopted was an ordinance prohibiting the sale or distribution of liquor, malt or spirituous, anywhere in the county, except under the most restrictions. At a later meeting of the board, ordinance No. 3 was adopted prohibiting gambling or betting. If there has been liquor sold in Imperial county, or any gambling pursued, the acts have been surreptitious and in defiance of these laws.

Shortly after the organization of the county Sheriff Mobley Meadows secured a building that had been used as a furniture warehouse, real-estate office and dwelling, for a temporary court house! In this same building two rooms were set apart in which to confine malefactors. This was the first county court house and jail.

In September, 1907, the board of supervisors appointed its chairman F. S. Webster, and the district attorney, J. M. Eshelman, to appear before the board of supervisors of San Diego county and insist upon that body turning over to Imperial county its share of moneys, which San Diego county had theretofore refused to do. After several trips to San Diego county had been made and through some further difficulties the mother county made a satisfactory settlement with Imperial.

Picture of Imperial County Sheriff's Force, c. 1914

At about the close of 1907, a substantial jail building had been completed and the county offices removed to a new building which had been erected by the board of supervisors as a temporary court house. In 1909 a site for a permanent court house was decided upon in an addition to the townsite lying west of the Date canal. Some time before this the first daily newspaper in the town was established by Edgar F. Howe and his sons, Armiger W. and Clinton F. Howe.

Smythe, W.E. (1913). San Diego & Imperial Counties, California: Vol. 1. A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement (pp. 473-474). Chicago.IL: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.

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