Nearly a hundred years later, in 1850, California became a state and the large Spanish land grant of San Jacinto Nuevo Y Potrero became public land, developed by ranchers and traveled over by John Butterfield's legendary but short-lived Overland Mail Company. His Tucson-to-San Francisco stage, via San Diego and Los Angeles, opened up the Temescal approach to Los Angeles, passing through the oak groves of what is now Perris Valley, continuing through what is now Moreno Valley, and over Reche Canyon into Redlands.
In 1883, Frank E. Brown formed the Bear Valley Land and Water Company. Brown ("Brown" is "Moreno" in Spanish) built a dam at Bear Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains and contracted to provide water to the tiny, and new communities of Moreno and Alessandro. In 1891, the formation of the Perris and Alessandro Irrigation District increased the demands upon Bear Valley water, and resulted in litigation with the city of Redlands which claimed priority rights. Redlands won their suit in 1899. This compounded a period of drought which forced the failure of numerous farmers who had developed a strong agricultural base of deciduous and citrus fruit trees.
As a result of the loss of water delivery, the residents of Moreno Valley were forced to leave the area in search of a more livable environment. The more expensive homes were moved in their entirety by steam-powered tractors. Many of them were relocated to the city of Riverside. Others, stolen during the owner's absence, were relocated to parts unknown. By 1901, few people resided in the Moreno Valley, and those who remained turned primarily to the dry farming of hay, grain, and grapes. Mr. Brown had lost his dream, and the valley named after him remained as a reminder of an empire's vulnerability to such simple needs as water.