Feb 1, 200602:53 PMThe Life
For sale: 80-acre oasis. Price: 2 mules and a buckboard wagon.
Feb 1, 2006 - 02:53 PMIn the late 1890s, "Alkali" Al Thornburg, a horse trader from East L.A., spent his Army tour of duty carrying messages on horseback between Tubac, Arizona and Los Angeles. By following old stagecoach roadways and Indian trails, he accidentally stumbled across Thousand Palms Oasis. Alkali rested his horse under the Oasis palm trees on several occasions. After leaving military service, he discovered the Desert Land Act of 1900, which made it possible for him to own this patch of real estate if he lived on it for at least three months annually, during three successive years. But he wasn't overly enthusiastic about making the desert his permanent home, and he always rushed back to East L.A. at the end of each three-month period.
So Alkali swapped the Oasis for Louis Wilhelm's wagon and mule team in August of 1905. Louis was also known as "the Lucky Dutchman."
Everyone had a nickname back in those days.
Four years later, the Dutchman's twelfth child, Paul, was born.
Sounds like the Dutchman got lucky on many occasions.
Paul Wilhelm was only nine years old when he was first introduced to what his dad called the family's "Desert Holdings." Paul immediately fell in love with the Oasis, and grew up to be a desert writer and naturalist. His columns appeared in several publications, including Desert Magazine (now defunct) and the Indio Date Palm newspaper (gobbled up in a merger).
No, it wasn't his writing that put them out of business.
Paul lived on the Oasis during most of his adulthood, and before his 1994 death, he generously ensured this land would be made available to the public.
These palm trees served as the backdrop for Cecil B. DeMille's epic film, King of Kings. So what are you waiting for? Go see 'em!
Thousand Palms Oasis (now a centerpiece of the Coachella Valley Preserve) was recently featured in a PSL cover story.