Welcome to the

American Local History Network's

Page for

San Bernardino County, California

A web page devoted to the history of San Bernardino 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 San Bernardino 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 [Timeout locking counter file] visitor to this site since August 21, 1998.  
Read - The History of San Bernardino County

In 1850, when the first California legislature met to divided the new state of California into its original 27 counties, the area that would become San Bernardino County was then in the huge San Diego County.  A year later, it became part of the expanding Los Angeles County.  But in April, 1853, a bill was introduced to divide off the eastern portion of Los Angeles County - and San Bernardino County was born.

For several thousand years before San Bernardino County was created, though, many Native American peoples inhabited the area.  These included (in broad terms) the Serrano in the mountains and high desert, the Cahuilla in the San Gorgonio Pass and San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains (now mostly in Riverside County), Chemehuevi and Mojave along the Colorado River, and to a smaller extent, the Gabrielenos in the southwest area of the county.

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 San Bernardino County, the San Bernardino County area played a vital role during the mission period.  The San Gabriel mission claimed lands in what is now the San Bernardino Valley, the Cajon Pass, and the San Gorgonio Pass.  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 the southwestern corner of San Bernardino County, near present-day Ontario.

California's 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 San Bernardino County have lent their names to modern-day locales - Chino, Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and the San Gorgonio Pass.

In 1851, with California being admitted to the United States only the year before, Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon church, gave permission to some of his followers in Utah to found a Mormon colony/outpost in southern California.  Apostles Amasa Lyman and Charles Rich, accompanied by nearly 500 men, women, and children in 150 wagons left Utah and arrived near present-day Devore in the Cajon Pass early in June.  That next February, they purchased the San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugos and set aside an area for a town - San Bernardino was born.

San Bernardino as an official Mormon settlement lasted only 5 years - in 1857, Brigham Young recalled the colonists, and many returned.  The vacuum that was created by so many leaving so quickly was soon filled by opportunists of all kinds - San Bernardino found a reputation as a tough town.

During the 1860's, San Bernardino, and the nearby Bear and Holcomb Valleys, were a local hotbed of confederate sympathy.

In the 1870's, navel oranges were planted at Riverside (then in San Bernardino County), found to do extremely well, and opened up the San Bernardino Valley to several ventures which over the next 30 years would be built around farming and orcharding.   These included Ontario, Upland, Fontan, Rialto, Highland, and Redlands.

In the 1880's, gold was discovered in Bear and Holcomb Valleys in the San Bernardino Mountains, and opened up a surge of mining developments in the mountains and high desert which continue today.

Although San Bernardino County had its area cut 2 more times since it's creation (in 1872, a large portion in the north was given to Inyo County, and in 1893 the southernmost sliver was divided off to form part of Riverside County), San Bernardino County remains the largest county in the United States today.

Follow this link to the
San Bernardino Local History query page
Add a question, or help someone out with information!

See Historical Views from around the County!
I have a few postcard views from around San Bernardino 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!!
San Bernardino area The beautiful San Bernardino Railroad Station - circa 1910 (?) 
A passenger train lumbering up Cajon Pass - circa 1955
Colton area View of Colton from Slover Mtn - circa 1905
Redlands area A great old drawing of Redlands from Smiley Heights - circa 1905 (?)
Desert area (Barstow, Victorville, Needles, etc.) The Fred Harvey hotel and railroad station at Mojave - circa 1910

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 the 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 Nancy Wenzel at the Foundation at (909) 781-8241.

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.

These are the "official" history sites of the various cities listed below
San Bernardino County Museums
Apple Valley History
History of Big Bear Lake - 1
History of Big Bear Lake - 2
City of Colton
Grand Terrace History
Hesperia History
History of Ontario
History of Rancho Cucamonga - 1
History of Rancho Cucamonga - 2
History of Rialto
History of San Bernardino
Brief History of San Bernardino
San Bernardino County History
History of 29 Palms
History of Upland
Victor Valley History
Other historical links in and around the County:

San Bernardino County Museum - A must for people interested in the history, natural history, etc. of San Bernardino Co.

The Museum's Historic Branch sites - A wealth of information on the Assistencia in San Bernardino, the John Rains house in Rancho Cucamonga, and many others historic sites countywide!

Park sites in San Bernardino County - Here is a listing of national, state, and BLM parks in the County.
San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society - This group owns and operates an old steam engine, and is getting ready to set up a museum of area railroad history.
Petroglyphs of the Mopah Mountains
San Bernardino Sesquicentennial


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, 2004 

The American Local History Network - This site generously hosted at no charge by USGenNet(tm)

This nonprofit research network is an independent affiliate of the American Local History Network, Inc. (ALHN), and hosted at no charge by USGenNet, a nonprofit historical and genealogical Safe-Site Server solely supported by tax-deductible contributions. No claim is made to the copyrights of individual submitters, and this site complies fully with USGenNet's Nonprofit Conditions of Use.

Copyright © 1998-2004 by Steve Lech