If, as Napoleon Bonaparte once said, an army travels on its stomach, during World War II, Hesperians were giving the most meaningful sort of support to troops in the Pacific theater.

Although it's hard to see many traces of it today, Hesperia was a farming community during the era, and crops grown here made their way into the bellies of soldiers on the far side of the ocean.

It was all thanks to the Tatum family.

"They were farmers down in the Lake Perris area. I guess Clyde Tatum was kind of a visionary," says local historian Gary "Griz" Drylie. "He was willing to risk everything and came out smelling like a rose."

The Tatums raised cattle, grew onions, potatoes and alfalfa. And they didn't go about it on a small scale.

"The actually leased Hesperia as a whole" in 1941.

But eventually, Hesperia's farm years came to an end.

"They were shipping potatoes all over the place. But as any farmer knows, you just have a few bad years, and you're in the dumper."

Clyde Tatum went on to build houses at George Air Force Base, now the Southern California Logistics Airport.

He could have chosen to buy Hesperia instead, for $5 an acre for 20,000 acres.

"Clyde thought that was outrageous."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is part of a series running up to the city of Hesperia's 20th anniversary looking at the history of the community.