In one of his expeditions (circa 1820) along the westside of the San Joaquin Valley, explorer Gabriel Moraga reported the location of two large isolated poplar trees, which he called “Dos Palos.” In 19th Century Spanish, “palos” was used to describe tall pole-like trees (e.g. Palo Alto-Tall Tree or Palos Verdes-Green Trees). 21st Century usage often translates it as “sticks” much to the chagrin of longtime local residents. The “Rancho Sanjon de Santa Rita” Mexican Land Grant cites “Los Dos Palos” or “The Two Trees” as a boundary marker. In 1891, former school principal Bernhard Marks convinced “Cattle King” Henry Miller to develop a small town nearby. They gave it the name “Dos Palos Colony.” Miller was from the Alsatian area of what is today Germany and Marks was a Jewish native of Poland. Together they pronounced it with their unique accents as “Dahce Palace.” This pronunciation remained in use for over one hundred years until a 21st Century Spanish pronunciation revival.
Marks brought forty pioneer families west, mostly from Iowa and Nebraska, to establish the community. In 1892, unable to find good water, many of the settlers left. Marks convinced Miller to establish another town two miles away on land unsuitable for farming and ranching due to swamps, and unsettling soils. Some of the settlers relocated. This new town was named Colony Center, California. In 1906, Dos Palos Colony was renamed South Dos Palos and Colony Center was renamed Dos Palos. The Post Office briefly misspelled it as one word, “Dospalos” but that was corrected within a year. About a dozen of the colony’s original families still reside locally.
Through the years, people from many other locations joined the community including Italians in the 1910’s, Azoreans in the 1920’s, Japanese in the 1930’s, Army Air Corps Cadets from across the nation to train at Eagle Field in the 1940’s, White and Black dust bowl migrants from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas in the 1950’s to work the cotton fields, and in the 21st Century a strong infusion of Mexican and Asian cultures. Together this blend of Midwestern, Southern, and Ethnic diversity has given our little town a unique mix of cultures. Dos Palosans: are proud of their agricultural heritage, honor family traditions, and strongly support local youth, especially their involvement in churches, organizations, and sports.