From Maine to Mecca


Nevada Christensen Colley was born in 1907 in Payson, Utah. In 1928 she graduated from the Nurses Training School at Salt Lake City County General Hospital as a registered nurse. In 1931 she moved to California where she worked at Hollywood Hospital. She met her husband-to-be, Clifford Colley, when he was a patient at the hospital. Nevada was one of the early nurses in the Coachella valley. She and Clifford had twin sons, Fred and Charles.

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Mecca is a town in the California desert, 126 feet below sea level. In summer the temperature can rise to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. It is often 100 degrees at midnight. In those early days there was no electricity or air conditioning. There was little agriculture, and the population was sparse. Electricity did not come to remote parts of Coachella Valley until after World War II. Until then it was kerosene lamps and wood burning stoves.

In 1876, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed laying track in temperatures of 110 to 130 degrees through a desert of blow sand, alkali, and sage, with trees no higher than squat sprawling mesquites.

Prospectors were lured into the desert hills to search for gold and founded the famous Iron Chief Mine in Eagle Mountain. This mine was later called the Kaiser Mine and supported a population of 4,500 people.

Colley knew many of the old timers and listened to their stories, sometimes humorous, but always telling of their struggles and fortitude in developing a town in one of the most formidable deserts in the country. In From Maine to Mecca, she tells their stories in hopes to inspire future generations.


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