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According to historians, the Temecula Valley has been inhabited for 10,000 years. They believe the Temecula Indians originally
migrated from Shoshonean lands near the Great Basin.
Each band of Luiseno Indians has its own variation of the creation story. Oral tradition passed down among the people of the local
Pechanga (pe-CHONG-ah) Band of Luiseno told of the union of the night sky Father (Tuukumit) and earth Mother (Tamaayawut) at Exva
Temeeku (in the heart of the Temecula valley), where for them life began. Unlike the historians’ theory, many Luisenos hold
the view that the Shoshones migrated to the Temecula region from the north.
An ancient legend, told with many variations, has it that that this valley was named by Naxachish (nah-ha-chish), a spiritual Indian
wanderer, who traveled from place to place in search of food, naming the villages he found along the way. One day he stood on a summit
and saw below a vast and beautiful valley through the coastal fog. Sunshine passed through the fog, creating diffused sunlight.
Absorbing the scene, Naxachish proclaimed this picturesque place “Temeeku”, which in the language of the Luiseno, may be translated
as “where there is sun”. Pausing as he departed through the Rainbow Gap at the southern end of the valley, he gazed upon the land he
had named and was turned to stone, some say, by the arrow of an archer.
The first Spanish visit the Indian village at the mouth of Temecula Canyon. The expedition, which originates from Mission San Juan
Capistrano, includes Franciscan Juan Mortebor de Santiago, Corporal Pedro Lisalde, seven soldiers and five Indians.
The Temecula Valley comes under the control of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.
Pio Pico becomes major domo of the mission and the administrator of the surrounding Temecula valley land.
Pablo Apis, a former alcalde of Mission San Luis Rey, is imprisoned for opposing Pio Pico’s administration.
In 1821 Jose Sanchez, a Franciscan priest, recorded that he had accompanied Mariano Payeras, prefect of the missions, on a visit to
Temecula. It was during this period that the Pala Mission was built and proselytizing of the native Indians was begun.
By the mid-1840’s it became apparent that Mexico’s hold on California could no longer be retained and governors of the province began
the process of making land grants to individuals. In 1844 Vincent Moraga, an official of the Pueblo of Los Angeles, was granted Rancho
Pauba by California Governor Manuel Micheltoreno. That same year the Governor granted Rancho Temecula Felix Valdez, a Mexican
The passing of the ranchos into private ownership brought into full bloom the romantic era rancheros and vaqueros, for which early
California is best known. It was a short-lived era, but perhaps nowhere in California did its aura linger longer than in the Temecula
1844 Rancho Temecula
Governor Manuel Micheltoreno and later Governor Pio Pico began the process of making land grants to individuals. These large land
grants were called ranchos. The first grant, Rancho Temecula, was made provisionally to Pio Pico in 1840. Felix Valdez, a Mexican army
officer acquired it in 1844 and in 1846 it passed to Jean Louis Vignes.
Map of Mexican Ranchos in Temecula Valley
1845 Rancho Santa Rosa
In 1845 Rancho Santa Rosa was granted to Juan Moreno by Governor Pio Pico. In 1855 he sold the rancho to Augustin Machado, owner of
the large La Ballona Ranch in Los Angeles, for $1000 in cash and $500 in livestock.
In 1876 Rancho Santa Rosa was purchased by a syndicate consisting of F. W. Ludovici, an American, and A. C. Jeffrey of Liverpool,
England. John Dear sent his 17 year old son, Parker, from England to inspect the rancho lands. John bought into the syndicate after
receiving Parker’s favorable reports on the rancho.
1845 Rancho Pauba
In 1845 Pio Pico approved the Rancho Pauba land grant. The land, through which the Temecula river flows, was granted to Vicente
Moraga and Louis Arenas, a Los Angeles vintner.
Jean Louis Vignes may have envisioned Rancho Pauba in Temecula as an ideal place to grow wine grapes when he bought the ranch in
1848 and combined it with Rancho Temecula into one operation. However, as far as it is known, Vignes never planted grapes in
Temecula. It was not until 1968 that the first commercial vineyard was planted.
1845 Little Temecula Rancho
In 1845 Governor Pio Pico granted the 2,283 acre Little Temecula Rancho to Pablo Apis, a Luiseno Indian. With the grant of land, the
Luiseno had reason to believe that here, at least, was one parcel of ground that would always be Indian.
Old Spanish law provided a measure of protection to the Indians, insisting that the natives’ rights to the lands upon which they lived be
recognized. When the Treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848 between the United States and Mexico, the United States agreed to
recognize land ownership as it had been before the American conquest.
To carry out the terms of this agreement, a United States Land Commission was created to determine boundaries of grants made by
Mexico, and to pass the validity of claims to such lands. The Commission rejected Pablo Apis’ grant in 1853, he died the same year. The
decision was appealed by this family in 1856 and a patent was finally issued to Maria Antonia Apis et al. in 1873.
War breaks out between Mexico and the United States on May 13, 1846.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican War. Mexico cedes California to the United States.
John Magee establishes a store on Little Temecula Rancho, at the crossroads of the Southern Emigrant Trail and the San Bernardino to
San Diego road. It provides a resting place for settlers and gold seekers traveling the southern route into California.
Louis Wolf, a native of Alsace, France, comes to northern San Diego County. He takes out naturalization papers and opens a general store
about one fourth of a mile north of the Magee store. Wolf’s store becomes a stopping place on the road from Yuma to Los Angeles.
The first Butterfield Stage going east from San Francisco stopped at Magee’s store. Butterfield Overland Mail Company, headed by John
Butterfield, had been awarded a six-year contract by the United States Postmaster General to provide semi-weekly mail and passenger
service between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco by way of Los Angeles.
On April 22, 1859 the very first Post Office in Temecula is established. With its establishment it became one of only seven post offices in
California south of the Tehachapi Mountains. U.S. President James Buchanan appointed Louis A. Rouen as the first Temecula Postmaster.
Rouen served at the Magee store, near what is now Margarita Rd and the Temecula Parkway (79 South).
Temecula Post Office History
Nine boys and two girls were enrolled in a school in Temecula with an average daily attendance of seven. Louis Wolf was the Temecula
School District clerk. It was probably known as Little Temecula School because it was located on the Little Temecula grant. The
schoolhouse was situated on Magee Road, now known as Loma Linda Road, and close to the eastern base of the hill where the Wolf Tomb
was later built.
Around 1888 a separate school district was created to serve the new town site. The first classes were temporarily held in the Welty’s
Hotel. Then Mercedes Pujol donated a school site where the building sat by itself, with a few eucalyptus trees planted around it and two
privies out back. The new school was named the Pujol School District.
In 1914 two local school districts, Pujol and Santa Gertrudis, joined to form the Temecula Union School District. The new school district
was created to facilitate the construction of a new school.
In 1915 the new Temecula Union School opened with two classes of four grades each. There were eight 8th-grade graduates in 1916. The
Temecula Union School was used for classes until June of 1968. The school burned down in 1971.
The Temecula Indians are evicted from the Little Temecula Rancho by the San Diego Sheriff’s posse. The Indians are taken to an area in
the hills south of the Temecula River which will eventually become the Pechanga Indian Reservation.
President Chester A. Arthur signed an Executive Order creating a 3,200 acre Pechanga Indian Reservation for the Luiseno Indians of
Helen Hunt Jackson, author of the novel Ramona, described her impressions upon her second visit to the area.
“It is no exaggeration to say that it was one waving wheat field. I think that there was not a tillable spot in sight which was left
unimproved. Little orchards had been set out, vineyards started, canals and fences built. The whole expression of the place had been
altered. Its air was now of a contented and hopeful industry, looking ahead. All this change had come form the increased feeling of
security given by the fact of the spot having been set apart as a reservations.” - Helen Hunt Jackson
A rail line is completed from National City to Temecula and the silence of the valley is broken by the whistle of a locomotive. Louis Wolf
and Macedonia “Mac” Machado form a partnership to take over a small general store near the Southern California Railroad line, a
location now on the southeast corner of Main and Front Streets.
Map of the Town of Temecula - 1884
In the late 1880’s a series of floods wash out the section of track from Fallbrook to Temecula and this section of the railway is abandoned.
The railroad from Temecula to Colton continues to support the cattle and granite industries until 1935.
The Temecula Post Office is moved from Louis Wolf’s store to a small building owned by Macedonia Machado. The building, constructed by
Simon Mundt in 1882, is located on Main Street near Front Street. W.S. Bullis is appointed postmaster.
In the 1890’s a new industry developed with the opening of granite stone quarries in the valley. Temecula granite was shaped into fence
and hitching posts, curbstones, courthouse steps and gravestone markers. Many of the fence posts and curbstones can still be seen in
Temecula, Riverside and San Francisco. Quarrying continued until 1915, when the widespread use of cement closed the quarries.
Riverside County was formed and a Board of Commissioners was established by state legislation to organize a new county government.
The Commission designated Temecula as one of twelve original Riverside County judicial townships and as one of the forty original
Map of Riverside County - 1893
Walter Vail and his family purchase 87,500 acres comprised of the four original Mexican land grants, turning the land surrounding the
town of Temecula into one of the last great southwestern cattle ranches and limiting town growth for the next sixty years. Walter Vail
dies in Los Angeles in 1906 and his son Mahlon takes over the family ranch.
In 1948 the Vail Company completes construction of a dam to store irrigation water for the ranch. Damming Temecula Creek creates the
1,100 acre Vail Lake.
The First National Bank of Temecula opens. Located on Front Street, the bank is promoted and financed by Mahlon Vail and local
ranchers. The original building is constructed by E.E. Barnett.
The first paved, two-lane county road is built through Temecula.
From 1904 through the mid-1960’s the economy of the Temecula Valley centered around the Vail Ranch. The cattle business and
agriculture were the stimuli for the most business ventures. During that period, the clientele of the Swing Inn, the Long Branch Saloon
and the Stables Bar seemed to be predominantly ranchers, cowboys and Indians. While the Old West lifestyle continued here, the outside
world was changing dramatically.
The last years of the 1960’s and early 70’s witnessed the beginnings of the dramatic change in the Temecula Valley. Engineers,
contractors, heavy-equipment operators and real estate agents quickly outnumbered cowboys and Indians as the main customers at the
local establishments. Pickup trucks towing horse trailers, trucks hauling cattle and tractors rigged with farm implements were replaced
by cement mixers, lumber trucks and industrial grading equipment. Sales activity switched from cattle, hay and grain to subdivided
real estate acreage.
The Kaiser Land Development Company, the new owner of Vail Ranch, aggressively marketed the valley’s attractions. Soon the area
became known as Rancho California. Many land sales were made to limited partnership syndications, which helped spread awareness of
One side effect of this high-profile development was a second-tier real estate boom in land suitable for avocado groves and grape vineyards
on the east side of the valley. The value of agricultural land skyrocketed.
Vail Ranch is sold to a partnership composed of Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical, Kaiser Industries, Inc., and the Macco Realty Company of
Corona Del Mar. The developers rename the ranch land Rancho California.
The developers of Rancho California commission experts from the University of California to plant a demonstration vineyard along
Rancho California Road.
Vicenzo Cilurzo plants 40 acres on Calle Contento as the first commercial vineyard in 1968. Brookside Vineyard Company quickly follows
within the next few months by planting vines on its own land.
1969 marks the first commercial grape harvest in the Temecula Valley.
With the construction of the Interstate 15 corridor in the early 1980’s, people looking for a less crowded, family oriented environment
were drawn to the valley and the subdivision land boom began.
The rapidly growing population’s need for services traditionally provided by local city government, was the impetus for incorporation. A
group of interested residents and businessmen began a grassroots effort to incorporate. This endeavor sprung from the desire to provide
local police and fire protection, recreational and cultural opportunities and other local services. City hood would also provide residents
with the opportunity for a voice in their local government.
On December 1, 1989 Temecula became Riverside County’s 21st incorporated city.
As part of the incorporation vote, the citizens elect to officially name their city “Temecula”.
The City Council approves the first general plan for the City of Temecula
History Resources - Temecula Valley
Temecula Valley References
A Thousand Years In Temecula Valley. Tom Hudson. Temecula, CA: 1981.
Images of America: Temecula. Loretta Barnett, Rebecca Farnbach & VaRRa. Arcadia Publishing: 2006.
History and Directory of Riverside County 1893-4. A.A. Bynon & Son. Historical Commission Press, Riverside, CA: 1992.
Temecula at the Crossroads of History. Phil Brigandi. Heritage Media Corp.: 1999.
Temecula Remembered. Carole Henderson Wright. Temecula, CA: Rancho Graphics, 1990.