San Bernardino

Discover history of this major Inland Empire city including Serranos and the Cahuilla Indians, Mormon settlers, gold claims, railroads, and many sights along Route 66.

San Bernardino

Scenes around San Bernardino:

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    San Bernardino’s Route 66 Rendezvous
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    Route 66 makes a right turn here onto 5th Street, which turns into Foothill Blvd.
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    The Wigwam Hotel is located just west of San Bernardino
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    Not far off Route 66 is the original MacDonalds, which is now a museum.


Indians originally occupied the San Bernardino Valley. Two of the major documented tribes in the early 1800’s were the Serranos and the Cahuilla Indians. Existing evidence indicates that Indian tribes may have dwelled in the San Bernardino Valley for more than 4000 years. Hikers can still take a trip to the Lake Arrowhead area and explore the Indian mortars at a site called Rock Camp.


From 1819 to 1821 San Bernardino went through a Missionary period. The area was actually an outpost for the San Gabriel Mission. During this time missionaries established a rancho, and later an Asistencia Mission where local Indian tribes were encouraged to come to learn how to plant and irrigate crops. Today, a reconstructed version of the original Asistencia is located on Barton Road in Redlands.

Indian Vaqueros

Indian vaqueros inhabited the San Bernardino Valley during the Ranchero era from 1842 to 1851. Life on the rancheros revolved around the raising of cattle. Accfounts of life on the Spanish ranchos stress hospitality of the people, fiestas and rodeos.

The Mormons

A Mormon contingent of 500 settled in San Bernardino in 1851. Three years later in 1854, the city was officially incorporated. The population at that time was 1200 including 900 Mormons. In 1857 approximately sixty percent of the Mormons were called back to Utah by Brigham Young.


In 1860 William F. Holcomb filed five gold claims in an area now known as Holcomb Valley. Holcomb’s claim resulted in a major gold rush. Holcomb Valley was one of the largest gold findings in Southern California. Miners poured into the mountains through San Bernardino in search of their fortunes. For a time, Belleville, a mining town in Holcomb Valley, was the largest city in Southern California with 10,000 residents. To this day the main gold “vein” has yet to be discovered. The Valley remains much the same today and gold is still found by “weekend miners” who make the trek with their pans and equipment.


The railroads made their arrival to San Bernardino in the 1880’s. San Bernardino was changed from a sleepy town to an enterprising city. In 1883 the Southern Pacific arrived in Colton, and in 1885, the Santa Fe completed its line through the Cajon Pass into the city itself. By the 1890’s San Bernardino was becoming an important trade center and railroad town.

History buffs would enjoy a visit to San Bernardino’s History Walk, located at Seccombe Lake Park. Prominent people and significant events are commemorated on thirty bronze plaques along a lovely brick walkway.

Route 66

And for those Route 66 fans, don’t miss the curious Wigwam Motel on the north side of Foothill Boulevard, one of the remaining relics of the 66 era. San Bernardino was made quite famous by all of the excitement of the “Mother Road.” The Route still exists and passes through the city on its way to Santa Monica where it ends.

Where is San Bernardino?