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Back in the Day: How a fatal shooting led to a post office’s backwards name

By in Press Enterprise on October 26, 2017

By Kim Jarrell Johnson

An area located at the present-day intersection of Highway 79 and Sage Road figured in a case of murder — as well as the funny story of the naming of a post office — in early Riverside County history.

The land was homesteaded by James Campbell Fain. Fain was born in Illinois or Indiana (depending on the source) in about 1820.

It is not known exactly when he came to California, but he was already living on the land he homesteaded in May 1878, when he registered to vote. At the time, that area of Riverside County was still part of San Diego County.

In May 1884, Fain’s nephew, William Fain, came to Fain’s home along with a man by named Albert Lancaster. William Fain later testified that they were met by an angry and agitated James Fain, who was waving a six-shooter and threatening to shoot.

William Fain dismounted, hid behind his horse and pulled his own revolver. Seeing the two guns, Lancaster prudently jumped off his horse and ran behind the house. William Fain said his uncle fired one shot at him before he fired — and fatally wounded his uncle.

At the inquest a few days later, jurors found that the incident was justifiable homicide in self-defense. However, a grand jury decided William Fain should be tried for murder.

On July 24, after deliberations lasting about 20 minutes and with only one ballot, William Fain was acquitted of the murder charge.

After his death, James C. Fain’s property was put up for sale. It was bought by Samuel Tripp, who was already living in the area with his second wife, Caroline, and numerous children.

Tripp applied to the federal government to open a post office at his home. According to the oft-repeated story, his application requested that the post office be named “Cedar,” though the […]    

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