Frederick T. Perris
Fred T. Perris was celebrated in Perris on January 26, 2013 with various events and recognition. Because he played a key role our city's history, it's appropriate to study his life. Frederick Thomas Perris was born in Gloucester, England, January 21, 1837. When 12 years old, he went to Melbourne, Australia, with his mother and there was educated for his profession as a civil engineer.
On his way to Australia he stopped at San Francisco, seeing America for the first time in 1849. Returning to America in 1853 he did a large amount of professional work on the Pacific Coast for the United States Government and the State of California in the capacity of Deputy United States Mineral Surveyor. He was naturalized at Salt Lake City, Utah, August 30, 1858 by W.J. Appleby, Clerk and Curtis E. Bolton, Deputy. Saturday, November 29, 1858, he sailed from New York to Liverpool on the Steamship Thornton, under Captain Collins, and was married in Cheltenham, England, May 5th, 1859.
His first railroad work was done in the early 1860's on the Union Pacific under Samuel B. Reed, during its construction. October 12, 1863, he was appointed Territorial Surveyor for the Northeastern portions of Utah Territory by Jesse W. Fox, Territorial Surveyor General. Later he again returned to England to settle his father's estate. From England he returned to Salt Lake City where he was in business for a number of years. In 1874 he came to San Bernardino from Salt Lake City by ox team and was actively and prominently identified with Southern California in both an official and professional capacity. He served San Bernardino as City Engineer, the county as County Surveyor and in 1889 was a member of the Boad of Trustees. This is Marguerite McCann, who turned 100 years old just prior to the Depot grand re-opening ceremony on 1/31/09. She is the oldest living relative of Fred T. Perris He helped survey the Rancho San Bernardino and its sub-divisions.
He acted as Assistant Engineer for Jas. D. Schuyler of the State Engineering Department in measuring water in the valley of San Bernardino and locating the reservoir sites of both Big and Little Bear Valleys. He also laid out the City of San Bernardino. While in the employ of the California Southern Railway Company, he practically built all of the lines comprising the Los Angeles division. When the question of securing a railroad into the valley was agitating the public mind, Mr. Perris was chosen to go to San Diego to meet G.B. Wilbur and L.G. Pratt of Boston, who represented eastern capitalists in railroad matters to learn their intentions and invite their attention to this part of the state.
The result of his mission was a visit of these gentlemen to San Bernardino and an investigation of the city and valley which was the inceptive step of securing the present fine railroad facilities. During the latter part of 1882 he became Chief Engineer and Superintendent of Construction of the California Southern Railway (now the Los Angeles division of the A.T.& S.F. Railway). On September 13, 1883, he drove the first passenger train into San Bernardino and sounded the first locomotive whistle to be heard therein.
In 1900 he was made manager of the Santa Fe's properties. He retired from service on a pension October 1, 1914, and died in 1916. While he never lived in Perris the town, Perris Hill, and Perris Avenue were all named after Mr. Perris. While Chief Engineer of the Santa Fe, the change in fuel for locomotives was made. The working plans and designs for this conversion were prepared in his office about 1894.
In the early 1890's he was connected with the Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company, as a consulting engineer. Mr. Perris was a very public spirited man. He loved his city and was ever ready to serve it to the utmost. His earnings while a member of the Water Commission were donated to various churches of the city in a non-sectarian manner.