Paleo-Indian sites dating from c. 10,000 BC show that the San Bernardino county
area has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years. Artifacts in
the Calico area suggest much earlier human occupation, but this
has not been confirmed. In the past three thousand years various
Indian tribes flourished in the area: the Gabrielenos occupied the
West Valley; the Serranos lived in the foothills of the San Bernardino
Mountains; the Vanyumes lived along the Mojave River; the Mohave
lived along the Colorado River; and in the 1500s the Chemehuevi
moved into the Mojave Desert.
The first explorers to enter the area were Pedro Fages, Military
Commander of California, in 1772 and Fr. Francisco Garces, a missionary
priest, in 1774. On May 20, 1810, Franciscan missionary Francisco
Dumatz, of the San Gabriel Mission, led his company into a valley.
In observance of the feast day of St. Bernardine of Siena, Dumatz
named the valley San Bernardino. This name was later given to the
nearby mountain range, and later the city and county.
In 1842 the Lugo family was granted the Rancho San Bernardino,
a holding of 37,700 acres encompassing the entire San Bernardino
Valley. Captain Jefferson Hunt, of the Mormon Battalion, led a group
of settlers into San Bernardino. In 1851 the Mormon Colony purchased
the Rancho from the Lugos.
In 1860 gold was discovered in Holcomb and Bear Valleys in the
San Bernardino Mountains, and placer mining began in Lytle Creek.
Silver was being mined at Ivanpah in 1870, and the rich silver
mines of the Calico district were developed in the 1880s. Borax was
first discovered in 1862 in the Searles Dry Lake area near Trona, and
transported out by twelve-, eighteen- or twenty-mule team wagons.
In 1857 three orange trees were set out on a farm in Old San Bernardino;
by 1882 a rail car load of oranges and lemons grown in the East
Valley was being shipped to Denver. As early as the 1840s vineyards
were planted in the Cucamonga area and in the 1870 census San Bernardino
County was credited with producing 48,720 gallons of wine.
In 1850 California was admitted into the United States. On April
26, 1853, San Bernardino County was created from parts of Los Angeles,
San Diego and Mariposa Counties. In 1854 the city of San Bernardino
was incorporated as the county seat. In 1893 Riverside
was created out of parts of San Bernardino and San Diego
Many noted people have been associated with San Bernardino County
history. Jedediah Smith was an early explorer (1826); Kit Carson
traversed the Cajon Pass with a group of trappers in 1830; as a
teenager Wyatt Earp and his family traveled to San Bernardino by
wagon train, arriving in 1864; President Lyndon Johnson worked as
an elevator operator in the Platt Building in San Bernardino in
1925; and President Bill Clinton
visited the recently closed Norton Air Force Base in May 1994.