VAIL, Mahlon Newhall

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Mahlon Vail at Vail Dam, Temecula, CA 1949
Mahlon Vail (1890-1965)
Temecula Cemetery, Temecula, CA


VAIL, Mahlon Newhall (1890-1965), fifth of seven children born to Walter Lennox Vail and his wife, Margaret Russell Newhall Vail. Mahlon Vail married Irene Howard (1895-1963), and they had no children. Mahlon’s father, Walter, had purchased 89,000 acres in Riverside County, California, known as the Pauba Ranch and the Santa Rosa Rancho, before his death in 1906. The ranches were managed as one unit by Mahlon, until they were sold in 1965 to developers Macco and Kaiser. Today this area is known as Rancho California.



In the News~

December 11, 2018 [The Press Enterprise]: “Should Vail Dam become Ben Drake Dam? A Temecula-area water board will decide Rancho California Water District proposal would honor its late president. Ever since the Vail Co. built a 152-foot dam on Temecula Creek in 1948-49, the dam has honored Mahlon Vail, whose family owned much of the land around what became Temecula. In January, though, Vail Dam could be renamed after Ben Drake, a grower with ties to Temecula Valley Wine Country who served on the Rancho California Water District board for 17 years and was its president in 2005, 2013 and 2018. The proposal already has passionate opposition from some who say Vail’s legacy should be preserved. Drake died Nov. 7 at age 69, and his legacy deserves to live on, water district board member Danny Martin said Monday, Dec. 10. “Ben was a great man,” said Martin, who also serves as president of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association — a position most recently held by Drake. “I think this updates modern history without really getting rid of the past history of the area.” More than 400 people attended Drake’s funeral, said Martin, who suggested the renaming. The board had been set to discuss the suggestion Thursday, Dec. 13. Martin said he removed it from the agenda because that’s also the day the board will elect its new president and because the board must first discuss a policy that prohibits renaming anything with historic or geographic significance. He expects the issue to be back for a vote in January. Drake also spent time as president of Drake Enterprises, a farm management company that focused on grape and avocado crops in Riverside and San Diego counties, and managed more than 500 acres of avocados and 300 acres of wine grapes near Temecula. Drake’s contributions should be honored, but not at the expense of such an influential figure from the past, said Rebecca Farnbach, a Temecula author and historian. “The Vail family dominated the history of Temecula and everything that went on in Temecula from the time they bought their land in 1905 until they sold it,” said Farnbach, co-founder of the Vail Ranch Restoration Association. Several landmarks in the Temecula area honor the Vail family, but only the dam and a street honor Mahlon Vail, she said. The plaque at the lake says the dam is dedicated to Mahlon Vail “as a monument to his wisdom, fidelity and efforts in the development of Pauba Ranch.” The water district plans to build a new dam because the state’s Division of Safety of Dams says Vail Dam could fail in an earthquake of 7.4 magnitude or greater, allowing them to recognize both Drake and Vail, Martin said. The lake would also keep the Vail name. While he respects Vail’s historical contributions, Martin said, the family owned the dam from its 1949 completion 1964, which is 15 years. The water district bought it in 1978 — 40 years ago. “The water district has owned the dam longer than the Vail family did,” he said.”