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Home » History of San Bernardino County, California
History of San Bernardino County, California2019-04-29T09:24:07-07:00

History of San Bernardino County, California

San Bernardino County is a massive part of southern California that split off of Los Angeles County in 1853. The country’s history starts well before then.

The county has been inhabited since at least 10,000 BC. Paleo-Indian sites from around the county have been found over the years and continue to be studied to this day.

Spanish explorers reached the area in the 1770s. Pedro Fages, a military commander of the Spanish colony of California, reached the area in 1772.

Missionaries from Mission San Gabriel Arcangel formed a church in the settlement of Politania in 1810. The church was named for Saint Bernardino of Siena. The large mountain peak in the region was also named for the saint. Numerous ranchos were formed around the country in 1821 following Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Rancho San Bernardino was eventually formed as a land grant by the Mexican government in 1842. This land space is where much of San Bernardino, Fontana, Colton and other important cities in the county are based off of. The rancho was sold to a large grouping of settlers associated with the Mormon Battalion in 1851.

San Bernardino County was officially established in 1853 just a few years after California became a part of the United States. It was formed off of regions of Los Angeles, Mariposa and San Diego Counties. The county would eventually get its current shape in 1893 after Riverside County was formed off of a part of the land mass. But even with this, San Bernardino County remains the largest county in the United States with about 20,000 square miles of space covered along southern California.

The citrus industry became a major part of San Bernardino County in 1857 when three orange trees were planted in a farm in the county. More orange and lemon trees started to appear around the county over the years, thus making San Bernardino County one of the top places in the country for citrus farming.

The Cucamonga region of San Bernardino County became a popular place for winemaking in the mid-nineteenth century. The first vineyards of the region were planted in the 1840s. The county would soon produce tens of thousands of gallons of wine as many prominent wineries were soon formed.

Gold was found in the region in 1860 around the Holcomb and Bear Valleys. Borax was found near Trona in 1862. The mineral was mined and carried out from the region by large teams of mules. Silver was soon found in Ivanpah in 1870.

The Mormon influence in San Bernardino County ended up being short-lived as the Mormons were recalled back into Utah in 1857 by Brigham Young. It is unclear as to why this took place, but it is believed that Young was afraid that a colony in the county that could compete with Salt Lake City could try and keep his original colony from thriving.

San Bernardino County continued to grow well into the twentieth century. Today there are nearly two million people living in the county. Many cities have been established over the years as well. San Bernardino is the most prominent city in the county. Other important cities that have been formed over the years include Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Ontario, Chino, Rialto, Needles and Apple Valley. Chino Hills and Yucca Valley were both formed in 1991 and are the most recent additions to the county.