Welcome to the

American Local History Network's  

Page for

Riverside County, California

A web page devoted to the history of Riverside County, California.



This page is meant to be a learning experience for all involved.  I'm hoping that we can use this page to bring together ideas, research, queries, and reminiscences about the history of Riverside County, and to a lesser extent, the Inland Empire as a whole.

My name is Steve Lech, and I've been a local history enthusiast for many years.  I've often thought that there should be an forum wherein anyone who is interested in local history as a hobby can submit ideas, research, oral histories, etc. The Internet has given us that opportunity, and I hope that this will be an enjoyable undertaking for all!!!

You are the 105253rd visitor to this site since August 21, 1998.  

Read - The History of Riverside County

Riverside County was formed in 1893 by carving out a small portion of San Bernardino County and a larger part of San Diego County.  

Long before the arrival of the white man in what is now Riverside County, the area was inhabited by a number of Native American people, including the Serranos, the Luisenos, the Cupenos, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuillas.

When Spain claimed California for it's own, the Spaniards began putting a series of missions in what was then called Alta California.  While no missions were ever built in what would become Riverside County, the Riverside County area played a vital role during the mission period.  The San Gabriel mission claimed lands in what is now Jurupa, Riverside, San Jacinto, and the San Gorgonio Pass, while the San Luis Rey mission claimed land in what is now Lake Elsinore, Temecula, and Murrieta.  These lands were used for grazing of the large herds of cattle and sheep that belonged to the missions.  In 1776, and again in 1778, Juan Bautista de Anza, an army captain charged with discovering an overland route from the Mexican state of Sonora to San Gabriel and Los Angeles, passed through much of Riverside County and described fertile valleys, lakes and sub-desert areas.

The Mission Period lasted until 1832, when Mexico, having taken over California from Spain 10 years earlier, desecularized the missions, and began doling out the vast mission holdings to political favorites, wealthy people, and cronies of the governors of California.  The "grants" were called ranchos, and many of the ranchos in Riverside County have lent their names to modern-day locales - Jurupa, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Temecula, and La Laguna (Lake Elsinore).

With the advent of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, land speculators, developers, and colonists began to swarm to Southern California.  The first colony in what would become Riverside County was Riverside itself.  Judge John Wesley North, a staunch temperance-minded abolitionist from Tennessee who was ostracized back home after he talked a crowd out of lynching a black man, brought a group of associates and co-investors out to Southern California, and founded Riverside on part of the Jurupa Rancho.  A few years after, the navel orange was planted and found to be such a success that full-scale planting started.  By the time of Riverside County's formation, Riverside had grown to become the wealthiest city per capita in the country, due to the riches of the navel orange.

In the mean time, developments at Lake Elsinore, San Jacinto, and South Riverside (present-day Corona) were gaining in popularity and population.

However, by the late 1880's and early 1890's, there was growing discontent between Riverside and San Bernardino, its neighbor 10 miles to the north.  To begin with, there were many political, spiritual, and economic differences between the two towns.  San Bernardino was predominantly Democratic in nature, allowed saloons, and had been a hot-bed of secessionist sympathy during the Civil War.  Riverside was temperance minded (few saloons if any were allowed in Riverside proper), and Republican.  In addition, both towns were competing for settlers in an era in which many towns were languishing or dying because of a lack of inhabitants.  After a series of instances in which charges were claimed about unfair use of tax monies to the benefit of the City of San Bernardino only, several people from Riverside decided to investigate the possibility of a new county.  Joined by San Diego County residents in the Temecula and San Jacinto Valleys and the desert region who were tired of living so far from their county seat, they petitioned the State legislature, held an election, and on May 9, 1893 formed Riverside County.

Further developments in Riverside County included Banning and Beaumont in the San Gorgonio Pass; Hemet south of San Jacinto; Moreno Valley east of Riverside; Perris, Lake Elsinore, Murrieta and Temecula along the California Southern Railroad; Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio and Coachella along the Southern Pacific route to Yuma; and Blythe on the Colorado River.

Today, Riverside County encompasses an area of nearly 7,200 square miles, and boasts a population of 1.3 million people.  Over the last decade, it has consistently been one of the, if not the, fastest growing areas in the country.

Riverside County Reference Material 

Here is a page detailing most of the books that have been written about Riverside County and the places within

See Historical Views from around the County!

I have over 1,000 postcard views of the Mission Inn, Riverside City, and Riverside County in my collection.  I'll post a few every so often so that you can see them.  Do you have any?  Would you like to see them here?  Send 'em to me, and I'll post 'em!!
Riverside area (Riverside, Corona, Norco, Jurupa) A view along Main Street - Riverside - circa 1915 
A view of Riverside from Huntington Dr. - circa early 1900s 
The Holyrood Hotel - 1904 
The Salt Lake RR Depot - Riverside - circa 1905 
Downtown Corona - circa 1890's
Perris/Mid-County area Santa Fe Depot, Perris - early 1900's
Southwest area (Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Temecula) Amesbury Plunge, Lake Elsinore - 1920's
Banning/Beaumont and the San Gorgonio Pass Main Street, Banning - early 1900's 
Southern Pacific Depot, Beaumont - early 1900's
Hemet/San Jacinto Main Street, San Jacinto - circa 1905(?) 
Hotel Vosburg, San Jacinto - circa late 1920's 
Florida Avenue, Hemet - circa mid-1920's
San Jacinto Mountain area (Idyllwild)  
Desert/Coachella Valley area (Palm Springs, Indio) A view along Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs - circa 1938 
A view of the La Quinta Hotel, La Quinta - circa 1952 
An early street scene, Indio - circa 1915

Riverside County Local History

Query Page

Here is where we post questions (and hopefully get answers!) to questions regarding many aspects of the County's history.  Please take a look to see if you can help!

Play an Active Role in Local History!!


The Mission Inn Foundation, which runs the museum and tour program for Riverside's national historic landmark, the Mission Inn, is looking for  

volunteer docents

for upcoming Docent Training classes.  Volunteers receive about 8 months of training in the history, art, architecture, and background of the Mission Inn, then join the cadre of veteran docents in leading tour guests throughout the building.  The 8-month course (once a week except during the holidays) begins in September.  For more information, please contact The Mission Inn Foundation's Museum at (909) 788-9556. 



Please visit my other sites as part of the California USGenWeb Project!  Follow these links to pages about


Riverside County                                San Bernardino County

Here, you'll find many links of interest to genealogists, and a query system to see if there are others researching your area or family line.  I try to check the new queries periodically, and will help where I can.

American Local History Network links!

The Homepage of the American Local History Network - This is a project to provide local history information on a county-by-county basis.  Check out THE homepage to learn more!!

The California Main Page of the American Local History Network - This is the homepage for the above dealing with California as a whole.  It includes links for all counties, and stuff that is of a general interest nature about California.

Riverside County Local History Links!

These are the "official" history sites of the various cities listed below:

History of Banning
History of Corona
History of Hemet
History of March Air Force Base
History of Moreno Valley
History of Palm Springs - 1
History of Palm Springs - 2
History of Perris
History of Riverside
Old History Photos of San Jacinto

Other historical links in and around the County:  (Always growing - do you have one to add?  Send it to me!)

The Riverside Museum - See great color photos from around the city, and a virtual tour of a Victorian house!
        The Riverside Museum Press - A great selection of local history books, and others too!
The Citrus State Historical Park - This park is set up like an old-time citrus orchard.  Many things are still planned.
Park sites in Riverside County - Here is a listing of national, state, and BLM parks in the County.



Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  E-mail me.  I don't pretend to be an expert - but remember, this is to be a forum for everyone!!!

Steve Lech - rivcokid[at symbol]earthlink.net

This page is always being revised - check it often. Last updated December 11, 2004Sunday, 12-Dec-2004 08:10:36 CST

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Copyright © 1998-2004 by Steve Lech