Mystery in History The Rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield Part 1

About the history of the rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield who mysteriously brought a little too much rain to San Diego.


Nothing much distinguished the 39-year-old man who stood before the San Diego City Council on Dec. 13, 1915--except his occupation. Although he modestly preferred to call himself a "moisture accelerator," Charles Mallory Hatfield always would be known as "the rainmaker." The Minnesota-born pluviculturist had been "persuading moisture to come down" in thirsty southern California since 1902, when he perfected his technique on his father's ranch near Bonsall. His credentials were impressive. In 1904 he raised the level of the Lake Hemet Land and Water Company's reservoir by 22 ft., and he collected $1,000 from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for producing 18 in. of rain during the first four months of 1905. He traveled to the Klondike the following year to fill the streams around Dawson City so the miners could pan for gold. And the farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley were so impressed with his work that he was invited to return for eight successive years. However, only the urging of the Wide Awake Improvement Club had induced the skeptical San Diego councilmen to request Hatfield's professional services. The city's population had doubled in four years, and an adequate water supply was necessary for continued growth. While the year's total rainfall had been average, it had been too intermittent to replenish the depleted reservoirs. The new 13 billion-gallon Morena Reservoir had never been more than half full, and on Dec. 10 it held a scant 5 billion gallons of water. For $10,000 Hatfield promised he would fill this reservoir to overflowing before the end of 1916, and agreed that if he failed the city would owe him nothing.

Hatfield immediately set out for the Morena Reservoir, located 60 mi. east of San Diego in the lower elevations of the Laguna Mountains, where, with the assistance of his brother Paul, he built a "rain attraction and precipitation plant"--a 24-ft. wooden tower topped with a fenced 12-ft.-square platform to hold the vats from which his secret chemicals were dissipated into the atmosphere. Three dry days passed, but 1.02 in. of rain fell on Dec. 30. Using a formula that was "300% stronger . . . than ever before," the Hatfields worked around the clock. There were only a few showers during the next two weeks, but then a six-day storm that began on Jan. 14 delivered 4.23 in. of rain to San Diego. DOWNPOUR LAYS MANTLE OF WEALTH ON SAN DIEGO and COUNTY RAIN RECORDS SMASHED read the headlines. By the time the rainmaker telephoned city hall on the 17th, 12.73 in. of rain had fallen at Morena. With a "loud, clear, and confident" voice, he explained, "Within the next few days I expect to make it rain right. . . . Just hold your horses until I show you a real rain."

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