Christmas Valley: From desert grazing to dreams of grandeur
Christmas Valley is an unincorporated community in Lake County located about 18 miles southeast of Silver Lake. It is named for nearby Christmas Lake, which is an intermittent lake that is usually dry.
The lake is named for Peter Christman, who was a pioneer stockman who used the area for grazing. He lived in Silver Lake. Through the years, his last name has been corrupted to Christmas.
A post of named Lake was established just east of present Christmas Lake in 1906 and operated until 1943. The region was primarily used as grazing pastures and experienced a boom during the homestead era shortly after the turn of the 20th century.
In 1961, developer M. Penn Phillips platted a townsite at the site and named it Christmas Valley. A road system was established, and streets were named for the Christmas holiday. An infrastructure was developed, including a water system, a lodge, a golf course and an airport. Also, an artificial lake was constructed and named Christmas Valley Lake. A post office was established in 1963.
Phillips conducted an aggressive advertising campaign to promote the community. It was claimed that the area was primed for agriculture and retirement. He encouraged would-be farmers and retirees to purchase lots, mostly sight unseen. The advertising proved effective and lots sold out quickly.
Phillips claimed a community of more than 5,000 would soon be the center of commerce in the region. Unfortunately, very few people moved there. In the 1970s, the Phillips company faced several lawsuits about misrepresentations of the property, and the Phillips era is usually considered a scam.
Today, Christmas Valley is mostly a hay farming community. There are some commercial businesses that provide services to locals and visitors. There is a nine-hole golf course, an airport, rodeo grounds and a community hall. The man-made lake is now known as Baert Lake. The unpaved street system has few homes.
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