Mystery in History The Rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield Part 3

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


When Hatfield arrived in the city after four days of hiking, the city council refused to pay him. The rainmaker had been so eager to start to work that he had left San Diego before the contract was signed. When he threatened to sue the city for his fee, the council agreed to pay him only if he would assume responsibility for the $3.5 million in damage suits that had been filed against the city for hiring a rainmaker. (The rains were later judged to be "an act of God, not . . . of Hatfield," and the city settled for 5 cents on the dollar.) Hatfield was philosophical about the loss and said, "It was worth the publicity, anyhow."

The rainmaker's reputation spread around the world after his feat in San Diego. In 1922 he was called to Naples by the Italian government to end a drought, and his last contract took him in 1930 to Honduras, where he doused a raging forest fire in 10 days and produced a total of 15 in. of rain in two months.

David Hatfield, Paul's son, claimed the brothers' greatest achievement occurred in 1922, on the California desert in unpopulated Sand Canyon, when they decided to "shoot the works." They hauled in barrels of chemicals, set up a tower, and waited two days for the rain. "It rained for about a day, but in one hour the weather bureau recorded 250 in. of rain," David reported. (The current Guinness record is 73.62 in. in 24 hr.) The canyon was destroyed, the Southern Pacific tracks were washed out for 30 mi., and a man living 20 mi. away was "running for his very life."

After 503 successful rainmaking attempts, Charles retired from the business and settled in Eagle Rock, a suburb of Los Angeles, where he sold sewing machines. Although rain aggravated his varicose veins in his later years, he was ready to return to San Diego to fill the reservoirs once again. In 1956 the 81-year-old Hatfield attended the Hollywood premiere of The Rainmaker, a film that had been inspired by his career.

The Hatfields were offered large sums for their rainmaking process on several occasions. After Sand Canyon, Charles and Paul decided their formula was "too devastating a force to unleash to any one individual, or to a group of bureaucrats who might misuse it," David reported. "They looked around and they saw very few people of integrity, men who stood by their words at all costs, and they said, `Well, the secret will die with us.' And that's what happened."

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