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California Genealogy and History Archives

Biographies
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San Bernardino County and Riverside County

 

WILLIAM BABEL There was a time, and not so far in the past, when none but the foreign health resorts were recognized as being of great value in the treatment of certain diseases. One of the results of the great war has been the recognition by the American people of the natural resources of their own country and the appreciation of the real virtue of the waters of some of the springs, especially those in the West. Within recent years Harlem Springs has come into its own, and is now conceded to be a strong factor, among the many others, in bringing San Bernardino before the favorable notice of the country, if not of the world. These springs are now operated by a corporation known as the Harlem Resort Company, but the medicinal properties of the water and mud and the air and healthful surroundings were recognized by William Babel, the efficient and capable president of the company.

William Babel was born near Buffalo, New York, May 9, 1875, a son of Philip and Christiana Babel, natives of New York State, and farming people. They had three children, namely : Lydia, who is now deceased; Albert, who is a prosperous fruit grower of Fresno, California; and William, who is the youngest.

In 1883 William Babel was brought to California by his parents, who then migrated from New York to Contra Costa County, and it was in that region that the lad was reared and attended its schools through the grammer grades, then becoming a student of the San Francisco High Schools, from which he was graduated. He was a chemist and assayer, and was employed with his father for a time in agricultural work, but in 1897 went to Alaska, during the early gold rush to that territory. Reaching Alaska, he followed the Yukon River from its headwaters to the sea, packing on his back all of his supplies over mountain ranges. For the subsequent three years he was engaged in prospecting and mining, and met with the usual miner's luck, making and losing, coming out about even. However, he did gain one thing, an experience he will never forget, and which could hardly have been acquired in any other way, and he does not regard that time as lost. He also learned the value of determination and diligence, and the willingness to work and endure hardships has not left him, nor is it likely to do so during the rest of his lire, and this accounts for much of his subsequent success. When he decided to return to his old home, he made his own boat and came down the Yukon River, a dangerous trip which resulted in shipwreck near the ford of the Yukon. In spite of all his hardships and constant exposure he returned in rugged health, and after a short period spent at home went to Nevada as an expert and assayer for the mother lode and in the Gaudaloupe quicksilver mines. Later he was with the mines in Humboldt County, California, and there it was that he began to make mining a business and not a venture, and in this way acquired a comfortable sum of money. For fifteen years thereafter he was engaged in mining, and was a man of large means when, in 1908, he went to Los Angeles, and for five years was engaged in concrete construction work. Leaving Los Angeles, he came south to Riverside and purchased orange and lemon groves and also superintended over 100 acres of outside orchards. In this connection he developed into an authority on citrus culture, and added to his wealth. However, Mr. Babel is a man who loves the excitement of new enterprises, and although he could scarcely have been more successful in the citrus industry than he was, he disposed of his interests and secured an option on Harlem Springs, organized a corporation January 21, 1921, and now has an undertaking worthy of his enterprise, efficiency and experience. The Harlem Resort Company is capitalized at $240,000, and Mr. Babel is president and general manager of it. This remarkable natural phenomena was first known to the Indians, who long made pilgrimages to these hot springs and sought relief from their ailments in mud baths. The white man has followed the Indian, but he has erected a bath house and plunge, and provided every facility for furnishing the guests with comforts and luxuries. Geologists assert that this water is the same strata as the famous Arrowhead Hot Springs. The water of the Harlem Springs, covering seventeen acres, ranges from cold to eighty and 118 degrees hot. It is the purpose of the present corporation to' erect a modern hotel and bungalow combined, with outside plunge, private baths of both hot water and mud, and mineral baths. This is a wonderful resort, easy of access to the people from all over the world, and here may be combined pleasure with the restoration of health

Mr. Babel married June 17, 1912, Miss Margaret Spinks, a daughter of English-born parents, who came to California when she was a child. She was educated in the schools of Humboldt County, and was a popular teacher in the public schools of California prior to her marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Babel have had three, children, namely Byron, who was born in Los Angeles January 13, 1915; Kenneth who was born at Riverside, January 16, 1919, and died October 12, 1919; and Owen, who was born September 24, 1920, at Riverside.

Personally Mr. Babel is a delightful person, well educated, thoroughly informed on many subjects, and one who has learned much in his various travels. He is an ideal host, as well as fine business man, and under his energetic and capable management his resort is becoming the wonder of this region. He has seen nature under many aspects, but in all of them found them engaging, and it is when dealing direct with the natural resources that he is at his best. Possessing as he does the utmost faith in the properties of the water and mud of his springs, he is anxious to attract to them those who need the help their medicinal properties are certain to render, and will leave nothing undone to make this one of the most famous health resorts in the world. In this commendable work he has the support of some of the leading men of San Bernardino County, for he has already won from the people of this locality an unquestioning confidence in his sincerity and ability, and ample means of his own, as well as additional capital, are at his command for making all the improvements he deems necessary. With conditions as they are, it is not difficult to appreciate what a dominating force this enterprise is and will be, nor to understand the pride the people of this region in Harlem Springs and its efficient promoter, William Babel.

 

Source:
History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011