Temecula City History

“Beautiful Temecula is a city in southwestern Riverside County, California, United States with a population of 100,097 according to the 2010 United States Census, making it the lowest populated American city over 100,000 population.

The area was inhabited by the Temecula natives for many hundreds of years before their first meeting with the Spanish missionaries (the people are now generally known as the Luiseños, after the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia). The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians believe their ancestors have lived in the Temecula area for more than 10,000 years. In Pechanga mythology, life on earth began in the Temecula Valley. They call it, “Exva Temeeku”, the place of the union of Sky— father, and Earth— mother (“Tuukumit’pi Tamaayowit”). The Temecula Indians (“Temeekuyam”) lived at “Temeekunga”— “the place of the sun.”

In 1798, Spanish Missionaries established the Mission of San Luis Rey de Francia and designated the Indians living in the region “Sanluiseños”, or shortened to “Luiseños”. In the 1820s, the Mission San Antonio de Pala was built.

The Mexican land grants made in the Temecula area were Rancho Temecula granted to Felix Valdez and Rancho Pauba to the east granted to Vicente Moraga in 1844. Rancho Little Temecula on fertile well watered land at the southern end of the valley, which included the village of Temecula, was made in 1845 to Luiseño Pablo Apis, one of the few former mission converts to be given a land grant. A fourth grant, known as Rancho Santa Rosa in the hills to the west of Temecula, was made to Juan Moreno in 1846.

The Luiseño and Cahuilla tribes were involved in the local battles of the Mexican-American War during the following years. In January 1847 in an event known as the Pauma Massacre, Luiseño captured 11 Mexican soldiers, who had stolen some of the tribe’s horses. The Californios mounted a military retaliation directed by General xx in Los Angeles. A combined force of Mexican soldiers and Cahuilla Indians killed 33 to 100 Luisenos (most estimates are 33-40 dead), in an action that became known as the Temecula Massacre.

As American settlers began to move into the area after the war, friction with the native tribes increased. A Treaty was signed in the Magee Store in Temecula in 1852, but never ratified by the United States Congress. In addition, the Luisenos challenged the late land grant claims, as under Mexican law, they were supposed to be able to stay on the mission lands which they had cultivated and settled. They challenged the Apis claim to the Little Temecula Rancho by taking the case to the Land Commission. On November 15, 1853, the Board rejected the Luiseño claim. When they appealed in 1856, the court found in favor of the heirs of Pablo Apis (who had died in late 1853 or early 1854). The Luiseño of Temecula village remained on the south side of Temecula Creek until 1872 when the Apis grant was acquired by Louis Wolf. They were then evicted in 1875.

When a stagecoach line started a local route from Warner Ranch to Colton in 1857, it passed through Temecula Valley. Within a year, the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line, with a route between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, stopped at Temecula’s Magee Store. On April 22, 1859, the first inland Southern California post office was established in Temecula in the Magee Store. This was the second post office in the state, the first being located in San Francisco. The Temecula post office was moved in the ensuing years. Its present locations are the seventh and eighth sites occupied. When the American Civil War put an end to the great Butterfield Overland Stage Service, but stage service continued on the route under other stage companies until the railroad reached Fort Yuma in 1877.

In 1862, Louis Wolf, a Temecula merchant and postmaster, married Ramona Place, who was mixed-race and half Indian. Author Helen Hunt Jackson spent time with Louis and Ramona Wolf in 1882 and again in 1883. Wolf’s store became an inspiration for Jackson’s fictional “Hartsel’s store” in her 1884 novel, Ramona.

In 1882, the US established the Pechanga Indian Reservation of approximately 4,000 acres (16 km2) some 8 miles (13 km) from downtown Temecula. Also in 1882, the California Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad, completed construction of the section from National City to Temecula. In 1883, the line was extended to San Bernardino. In the late 1880s, a series of floods washed out the tracks and the section of the railroad through the canyon was finally abandoned. The old Temecula station was used as a barn and later demolished.

In the 1890s with the operation of granite stone quarries, Temecula granite was shaped into fence and hitching posts, curb stones, courthouse steps, and building blocks. At the turn of the 20th century, Temecula gained a place of importance as a shipping point for grain and cattle.

In 1904 Walter L. Vail, who had come to the United States with his parents from Nova Scotia, migrated to California and with various partners began buying land in Southern California. Vail started buying ranch land in the Temecula Valley in 1905, buying 38,000 acres (154 km2) of Rancho Temecula and Rancho Pauba, along with the northern half of Rancho Little Temecula. Vail was killed by a street car in Los Angeles in 1906, and his son, Mahlon Vail, took over the family ranch. In 1914, financed by Mahlon Vail and local ranchers, the First National Bank of Temecula opened on Front Street. In 1915, the first paved, two-lane county road was built through Temecula.

By 1947, the Vail Ranch contained over 87,500 acres (354 km2). In 1948, the Vail family built a dam to catch the Temecula Creek water and created Vail Lake. Through the mid-1960s the economy of the Temecula Valley centered around the Vail Ranch; the cattle business and agriculture were the stimuli for most business ventures. In 1964, the Vail Ranch was sold to Kaiser Land Development Company. A later purchase by the group brought the total area to 97,500 acres (395 km2), and the area became known as Rancho California. The I-15 corridor between Los Angeles County and San Diego was completed in the early 1980s and the subdivision land boom began. When Rancho California incorporated in December, 1989, the citizens voted to officially name their city “Temecula.”

The 1990s brought rapid growth to the Temecula Valley. Many families began to move to the area from San Diego and Orange County drawn by the affordable housing prices and the popular wine country. In 1999, The Promenade Mall opened in Temecula. In 2005, Temecula expanded by annexing the neighboring planned community known as Redhawk. The annexation brought the population to 90,000. “