S-3 Pageant of History


Pageant of History Begins to Unfold

(Sun-Telegram Historical Writer)
Copyright (1960), The Sun. Reprinted by permission

...Continued from page S-2:

the Dumetz capilla was a hastily erected brush structure rather than a more substantial building.

Fortunately the story of the naming and founding of San Bernardino is no more obscured. After the text of the Beattie history had been written, Fr. Caballeria was found to be yet alive, living in retirement in his native Barcelona, Spain. He wrote telling of his detailed personal inspection of the "Book of Asistencias." The Beatties were able to quote from the important letter in a footnote.

Fr. Dumetz, after erecting his little capilla, returned to San Garbriel where he died the following year. Other priests, according to Caballeria, kept up the mission two years, making journeys to the San Bernardino Valley at intervals.

One such visit appears to have been violently interrupted by the major earthquake of 1812. This was the same earthquake that razed the massive stone cathedral San Juan Capistrano, killing several worshipers.


In San Bernardino the quake struck terror among the Indians. Their medicine men, who appear to have felt themselves displaced by the priests' introduction of Christianity, declared that the white visitors had made the native gods angry and that the quake was the god's signal for revenge.

Incidentally, the little capilla, whether of brush or adobe, was wrecked by the temblor and some new hot springs opened almost at its door. The hot springs gushed forth black water, typical of the warm underground flow in the Bunker Hill-Urbita district.

This was also interpreted by the medicine men, or witch doctors, as a sign of the gods' displeasure.

The result was that the priests were driven away even though they had unsuccessfully sought to quiet the natives' fears by covering the new spring of black water. In going, a yet faithful Indian convert, Hipolito, was left in charge. From his name is said to be derived the place name Politana, later used in the days of the Lugos to describe the area in the southern portion of San Bernardino and northern part of Colton.


From the earthquake of 1812 to the erection of two adobe warehouses on Cottonwood Row in 1819, the San Bernardino Valley was again Indian territory. During this seven-year interval, some major shifts of population are said to have affected the Indian inhabitants.

The Indians to whom Fr. Dumetz came were designated by him as Guachama. McGroarty designated the Guachama as of the Gabriele-no [sic] tribe or group and termed them "lazy."

Forty years later, G. Hazen Shinn, former San Bernardinan who lived for five years among the Cahuilla, wrote in his "Shoshonean Days" that the Guachama were Gabrieleno and "docile." Shinn revealed that the Guachama, after 1812, migrated back toward Los Angeles.

In this period came the Serrano, a group the remnant of which has not been absorbed by the white civilization and still occupies the San Manuel Reservation north of Patton. They arrived in greater force into the San Bernardino Valley.

Image of Bishop Conaty Conducting ceremonies at the laying of the cornerstone of Bunker Hill Capilla
Bishop Conaty Conducting ceremonies at the laying of the cornerstone of Bunker Hill Capilla


In 1810 some Serrano rancherias already existed but the major portion of this group appears to have lived in the San Bernardino Mountains and along the foothills of the desert side. The Serrano migration was induced by pressure from the desert Chemchuevi who, in turn, had fought and been defeated by their usual allies, the Mojave.

From even farther north, other Shoshonean groups, generally referred to as Paiute, moved into former Chemehuevi range. Almost simultaneously, some Cahuilla moved into the San Bernardino Valley and occupied the old Guachama rancheria on Cottonwood Row.

Thus in 1819, when the fathers at San Gabriel again looked to the San Bernardino Valley, this time as a suitable place to pasture excess cattle, they found the Serrano and to a lesser extent the Cahuilla as occupants. The 1819 penetration was carried out under the direction of Father Payeras.


There are some accounts which would indicate that the valley Indians invited the missionaries back. At least, the 1819 rancho, which was promptly named San Bernardino, after the earlier capilla, had not been established long before the state's most extensive irrigation system of the period, the Mill Creek Zanja, was dug.

The dates of 1820 and 1823 are both given for the zanja construction. The earlier date is the one preferred in the Beattie history, while the later one rests on the legal base of Daniel Sexton's testimony in the celebrated Cave vs. Crafts water suit of the 1870s.

Sexton, who came to the valley even prior to the San Bernardino Rancho grant to the Lugos, married an Indian girl who was a niece of Chief Solano of the Serrano. The old chief later lived with Sexton.

Sexton said that Solano built the zanja with assistance of his Indians, the men using shoulder blades of cattle for shovels and the women carrying off the dirt in baskets.


The Beattie history prefers the 1820 date, basing its authority on a dairy of Fr. Jose Sanchez of the San Diego Mission. Father Sanchez made an exploratory trip through the valley in 1821 at the behest of his Franciscan superiors to find sites suitable for a new mission. An account of his trip appears in Dr. H. I. Priestley's "Franciscan Explorations in California."

The San Diego priest spoke of the adobe structures of the mission rancho on Cottonwood Row and noted that Indians were planting much grain at the time of his visit. Father Sanchez recommended a mission for the San Bernardino Valley but urged it be erected on the banks of Lytle Creek near the present Foothill Blvd. crossing.

Chief Solano, who was at least the foreman of the zanja construction, was a Serrano. That fact may cast some doubt on the belief that the Cahuilla occupied Guachama rancheria when the 1819 rancho was established by San Gabriel Mission.

Dr. Gerald A, Smith of Bloomington, author of both "Indians of the San Bernardino Valley" and "Prehistoric Man in the San Bernardino Valley," believes the Guachama rancheria settlement was only a short lived one and that it was Serrano. He bases his belief on artifacts obtained in digging in orange groves on the site.


Artifacts did not extend in depth as they did both at the Dunlap site in Yucaipa or at the Lytle Creek bank rancheria adjacent to which Fr. Sanchez proposed a mission be located.

Whatever is the final verdict on the Guachama rancheria occupants in 1819, it is probable that after that outpost of San Gabriel was established it attracted Indians from several groups interested in irrigated crops and believers in the teachings of the padres.


Despite the warfare between Indian groups or tribes on the desert, the San Bernardino Valley was a peaceful place in the decade following the rancho establishment in 1819. Both crops and believers multiplied to the extent that enlargement of the outpost was decided upon.

Instead of adding to the structures on Cottonwood Row or starting a mission at the site recommended to the west along Lytle Creek, the missionaries went southwest to Barton Hill and began a far more extensive structure than the earlier ones in the valley.

It was built of adobe and thatched roof. Principal structures were warehouses built in the form of the letter "L" with a corral fence and one or two small buildings, forming a rectangle.


In the present "restored asistencia," the corral has become a patio. The restoration was started by the San Bernardino County Historical Society along authentic lines. Then, during depression years of the 1930s, the restoration became a WPA project.

Tiled walks, tile roofs, a chapel and even a bell tower appeared. Undoubtedly all added to the attractiveness of the completed project, but such refinements were never there during mission days.

Carlos Garcia was the original majordomo of the outpost.

George W. Beattie, in a book published several years before the "Heritage of the Valley," told the story of the projected inland mission chain of the Franciscans. He labeled the buildings atop Barton Hill the "asistencia." Fr. Zephryn Englehardt, major Franciscan historian, was warm in praise of the Beattie research but flatly denied that the establishment ever was an asistencia.


At any rate, it did not last long. Within the decade the new Mexican government had secularized the missions, stripped them of their ranchos and lands and reduced the central establishments to the status of parish churches.
With clerical control gone, the San Bernardino Valley Indians yet clustered around the structures until desert tribes came as raiders, burned the asistencia and killed many peaceful residents.
Soon a colonization scheme was tried by parceling the former mission rancho into small farms. It was the first subdivision project in San Bernardino County history, but it was a failure. The area was too far removed from large population centers to be safe for lone settlers.


Next came a three-way tug-of-war for the San Bernardino Rancho, a tussle between three of California's most prominent cattle baron families, the houses of Lugo, Palomares and Pico.

Ygnacio Palomares, whose broad acres extended west from San Antonio Creek to beyond Spadra, won the first skirmish. He obtained a permit to pasture cattle on the rancho, built a little adobe for his foreman in Live Oak Canyon and promptly filed for title.

The Palomares petition fell athwart the ambitions of both the Lugo and Pico familes [sic].

Antonio Maria Lugo moved next. He was California's largest land owner who could, it was said, ride horseback from San Diego to Monterey and sleep every night of the trip on one of his own ranchos.

Lugo felt he had so much land he would be at a disadvantage if he sought more. Accordingly, Lugo asked for the San Bernardino Rancho in the name of his three sons and a nephew. The sons were Jose del Carmen Lugo, Jose Maria Lugo and Vicente Lugo. The nephew was Diego Sepulveda.


Meanwhile, Palomares had filed his formal petition for the ranch and had had the application approved by the prefect at Los Angeles. That gave Palomares two victories, but it was Lugo who won the last battle and with it the war. Possibly the fact that California's governor was his nephew helped. At least Lugo won the title.

The four young men moved their cattle onto the rancho. That was in 1842. Jose del Carmen repaired the burned asistencia and made it his home. Jose Maria built an adobe house on what later became Arrowhead Ave. in San Bernardino. The kitchen of this house stood until 1926-27 when it was bulldozed under to make room for the present County Courthouse.

Vicente Lugo built a home on Bunker Hill close to the site of the old Dumetz capilla. Diego Sepulveda took the Yucaipa Valley area and erected there a two-story adobe, most elaborate of the four rancho homes. The Sepulveda adobe, later occupied by John Brown Sr., James W. Waters and several generations of the Dunlap family, is now county property and being restored.


The rancho owners were soon plagued with Indian raids. The earlier depredations of the Chemehuevi were replaced by organized mounted bands of Ute from the Great Basin commanded by the cunning Walkara, king of the horse thieves.
Sometimes mountain men like Pegleg Smith, James Beckwourth and Bill Williams joined Walkara's forces, striking in simultaneous raids from San Juan Capistrano all the way up the province to San Luis Obispo.

Horses and cattle by the thousands, mostly horses, were driven through the passes by the swiftly striking raiders before the Californians could rally forces for pursuit.


The situation became so critical that a former English sailor, Michael White, volunteered to establish a barrier fortress at the mouth of Cajon Pass. For this White, whose name was rendered Miguel Blanco by the Mexicans, was granted Rancho Muscupiabe.

White built a strong log house

Next Page