This town was named for one of the officials of the Southern Pacific Railroad, David R. Colton. The Slover Mountain Colony Association, formed in 1873, marked the beginning of the history of the community of Colton. Five gentlemen bought 2,000 acres of sandy land south of San Bernardino from William A. Conn, which "property had been considered worthless for farming."1
The Association may have received an inkling that the railroad would have to traverse this land, as it lay in a direct line between Spadra [Pomona] and the San Gorgonio Pass. At any rate, the Association plotted the property and began offering inducements to settlers.
The following year, 1874, the citizens of San Bernardino held a mass meeting, at which it was asked that the city's business men to purchase $100,000 worth of bonds. It developed, however, that the railroad would not promise to build through the town, but "as near to it as possible".2 As no definite promise could be extracted from the railroad, no bonds were subscribed for. The railroad, somewhat embittered over San Bernardino's failure to subscribe for the bonds, entered into an agreement with the Slover Mt. Colony Association.
The latter deeded the Western Development Company, which was but another name for Southern Pacific, one square mile of land, on which the railroad was to make its headquarters for the San Bernardino Valley. The agreement also detailed that the railroad would share in improvement of a town site, and to share in proceeds from the sale of lots.3
The Southern Pacific Railroad built a large hotel, put in other improvements, and threw its entire influence into the building up of Colton.
On August 11, 1875, the first train that ever entered San Bernardino Valley entered Colton, and for a year or more it remained the terminus of the line. In 1877, the Colton Land & Water Company was formed and absorbed the original association. In 1887 the town was incorporated as a city of the sixth class.
Map of Colton, 1887
1 Brown & Boyd, op. cit., p. 95.
3 Ingersol, op. cit., p 551.