California’s Riverside County: A Brief History

Riverside County, CA is a long rectangular county just east of Los Angeles. The county is famous for being the home of the Joshua Tree National Park and for the cities of Riverside, Temecula, Palm Springs and Indio.

Riverside County was initially occupied by various native tribes. The Cupeno, Chemehuevi and Cahuilla tribes were among those who lived in the area. It would not be until 1774 when a Spanish expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza reached the landscape. Various Spanish mission fathers would colonize the land and eventually use it to raise cattle.

Spain took control of the county space in the early nineteenth century. Mexico would declare its independence from the Spanish shortly after and would eventually become independent, claiming the land that would soon become the state of California. In 1834, the land that Riverside County is on would be transferred to those who lived in the region. Juan Bandini received the first land grant in the county in 1838, thus giving him the right to develop his own land in the county.

The area would become popular in the mid-nineteenth century as the United States took control of the area and established the state of California in 1850. The gold rush and the growth of the railroad industry helped bring more people out to California from many parts of the United States. People were especially flocking to the region as a means of finding religious freedom.

The country was officially incorporated in 1893. It received its name for how the city of Riverside is right on the side of the Santa Ana River. The land space for the county was formed off of small parts of San Bernardino and San Diego Counties.

The agriculture industry dominated the local economy during the turn of the century. The manufacturing industry began to take hold as the twentieth century moved along. The military also established a strong presence in the county as the March Air Reserve Base was formed in 1918. The base continues to work to this day as a home for the state’s Air National Guard.

Riverside County became one of the most racially diverse counties during the mid-twentieth century. There were many black communities in Riverside as well as Hispanic groupings in the Coachella Valley region. The Morongo Band of the Cahuilla tribe and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians both have large reservations in the county as well. The two tribes have become influential in the region as they both operate casinos in the county.

Today Riverside County is home to several dozen cities and communities with more than two million people living in the region today. Riverside and Moreno Valley are the largest cities in the county. The region continues to grow with smaller towns being formed over the years. Menifee, Wildomar, Eastvale and Jurupa Valley were all formed in the twenty-first century. Twelve Indian reservations are also located within the county with the Colorado River, Ramona Village, Pechanga, Santa Rosa and Soboba reservations being among the most prominent ones.