Jason L. Rector was the first man to make a permanent home in Coachella. A native of Iowa, he was born on January 16, 1853 (or 1851 based on various records). He received his education in a private school in Iowa, and then went on to obtain a position in the government postal service, after which he engaged in farming and the real estate business.

Southern Pacific Railroad was in the process of building the railroad and in 1876 reported its first trains left Los Angeles, California for Indio (originally called Indian Wells) and returned on May 29, on a four hour schedule. A. N. Towne was General Superintendent.

The history of the city and town of Coachella dates back more than 100 years to 1898 when the Coachella Valley was merely a part of the great undeveloped sand waste of the Colorado River basin. At that time, a heavy growth of mesquite and greasewood covered the valley.

This area came into being as a place on the map when Jason L. Rector, known as the town's founder, established a mesquite wood terminal on a Southern Pacific Railroad siding from where lumber was hauled to market in Los Angeles. This spur or siding was named “Woodspur'' and did a thriving business.

The Rectors then set about laying a townsite on land owned by J. L. Rector. In this they had the help of C. E. Mawby and the backing of the Requa interests. A name had to be selected for the future town, and the suggestion was made that it be called Rector. However, Mr. Rector declined the honor and proposed the name of “Conchilla,” from the Spanish meaning of little shells, or "Land of the Little Shells" named for all of the little shells found in the area.

This name was agreed upon. The developers formally laid out the townsite in January 1901, and sent a prospectus to the printers, which was to announce the opening of the new town and the tremendous agricultural possibilities in the surrounding area. But the printers returned the prospectus with Conchilla spelled Coachella (misreading the letter “n” for an “a” and misreading the “i” as an “e”). Rather than delay their announcement, Mr. Rector and the others decided to accept the name, which was also adopted by the Valley.

Coachella remained a town until incorporation on December 13, 1946, after residents voted by a 5-1 majority to form a city. Coachella first began as 2.5-square-miles. The area of land between what is now First through Ninth Streets were then called Fourth North and Fourth South.