The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1974, Volume 20, Number 1

By Kurt Van Horn

Images from the article

Tempting Temecula! Fair village of the dale,
To tell all the charms would all language entail;
No valley of Nile, nor vale of Cashmere
Can match thee in beauty, fair town with no peer.

One of the most interesting and dramatic eras in the history of Southern California is the nineteenth century. Encompassing the periods of the Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and American occupation, the nineteenth century forms the historic basis of many of the communities of the state. Temecula is typical in that it clearly mirrors all four periods.

Temecula, first popularized over a half century ago in Helen Hunt Jackson’s romantic novel Ramona, is situated in a rich agricultural valley in southern Riverside County, formerly a part of San Diego County. Located on a major inland artery of the state, Highway 395, it is approximately 70 miles north of San Diego. The beauty of the area lies in its bordering mountain ranges, the San Jacintos, Cahuillas, Lagunas, Santa Rosas and Tehuques. Further enhancing the natural setting are Santa Gertrudes Creek, and the Temecula and Santa Margarita rivers.2

The first known inhabitants were the Luiseño Indians, who settled in the valley sometime between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries when they established themselves on a bench of land approximately two miles south, south-east, of the present town of Temecula several hundred feet above the south junction of the Temecula River and Santa Gertrudes Creek. There are differences of opinion concerning the exact location of the original settlement. The majority of evidence, however, tends to support the B. E. McCown excavations of the early 1950s. Based upon his report, Temeku, the Luiseño encampment was at the intersection of the Temecula River and Santa Gertrudes Creek.3 Another credible theory has been proposed by Leland L. Bibb in his article “The Location of the Indian Village of Temecula”.4 His information was based upon maps, drawings, and written observations made during the mid-to late-nineteenth century. According to Bibb’s findings the village was located on the south side of the Temecula River near the Spanish warehouse excavated by the McCown party. These two theories appear to be in harmony rather than in opposition. Like many California Indians, the Luiseños were a nomadic group who at one time undoubtedly lived above the junction of the two streams. As their village prospered and grew, they moved to another site-the Willows Station/Spanish warehouse area-to accomodate their increased population.

The Luiseños were first visited by the Spanish in the Mid-sixteenth century; however, it was not until the establishment of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in 1798 and the sub mission at Pala in 1816 that the Indians were given a name. To these people the Franciscans bestowed the name San Luiseños. The name was later shortened to Luiseño and adopted by the tribe as their designation.5

The word Temecula, for which the area is known, is a derivation of the Luiseño geographical name Temeko. This was changed during the Spanish occupation to Temecula. A more poetic interpretation of the origin of the name is that conveyed by several current residents of the area. It is as follows:

In the beginning the world was a void and the universe was in a constant state of flux. There shone no light from the sun or moon. Emanating from this world of darkness appeared two mythical Indian figures-Kuk-mit (the sky) and To-mai-yo-vit (the Earth), the latter being the mother of all things. From this union came the products of their creation-the winds, the sea, the rivers, the rocks, and their children the Luiseño Indians. As their children matured the tribe migrated to a place called Na-che-vo Po-me-sa-vo, a canyon that later proved to be unsuited for their continued growth and prosperity. Therefore, they returned to Tem-ech-va Te-ech-o their original home. Grateful for their return, the Earth mother, To-mai-yo-vit, uncovered the sun-thereby blessing them with eternal light. Rising like a giant ball into the heavens it left in its place Temeku, “the Land of the Rising Sun.”6

The first series of events affecting Temecula were a direct result of the breaking up of the mission holdings through the passage of the Secularization Act of August 17, 1833, and the institution of the Supplemental Decree by the Mexican Congress in April of the following year. These were not simply anticlerical measures imposed by the new Mexican government. The missions were distinctly a frontier institution and had never been intended to exist beyond a time when the country had become adequately civilized.7 The United States Board of Land Commissioners determined:

The Missions were intended, from the beginning, to be temporary in their character. It was contemplated that in ten years from their first foundation they should cease. It was supposed that within that period of time the Indians would be sufficiently instructed in Christianity and the arts of civilized life… ; that these Mission settlements would become Pueblos,…8

Mission lands were never granted in fee simple or in perpetuity, and could, therefore, be legally separated from the missions on order of the proper authority.9 Secularization came in 1833 during Governor José Figueroa’s regime and inaugurated a period of wholesale disposition of mission lands. According to historian Robert Glass Cleland, “The new land policy was in fact so liberal that California governors issued fully seven hundred concessions… between the Secularization Act of 1833 and the American occupation thirteen years later.”10

While these acts had little immediate impact upon the Luiseño Indians, their long-range application contributed to the later cultural and economic dispersion of the Luiseños. With the settlement of the Mexicans on their newly acquired ranchos, the Indians were forced either to accept the rule of the Mexican grandees or migrate.

The basis for these baronial grants, as issued under the Secularization Acts, was the Colonization Act of 1824 together with its important supplementary Reglamento of 1828.11 These required an applicant to file a formal petition with the governor in order to obtain a parcel of land. According to the law, the petition had to contain the following: a description of the desired grant; a declaration of no prior liens or attachments; assurance that the petitioner was a Mexican citizen either by birth or naturalization; and a map or dise&ntlde;o. The latter set forth the area, location, natural boundaries, and land marks of the grant. After examination by the governor, the grant and dise˜no were forwarded for verification and approval to the local official of the district in which the land was located.

During the first few years after the passage of the Secularization Act there appreared to be a strict if not tedious compliance with the provisions that had been set down in the Colonization Act. However, in the early 1840s, when a confrontation between Mexico and the United States seemed inevitable, exactness of description and adherence to set standards of recording deeds were literally thrown to the wind. This was done in an effort to make as many grants as possible to people of Mexican allegiance before the American occupation. It was the speed and the carelessness with which these deeds were recorded that created legal deficiencies which were later to become the crux of the Indian land problem.

The 1840s marked the granting of the Pauba, Big Temecula, and Little Temecula Ranchos. These land grants were later to have a far-reaching effect on the Temecula Valley. On December 14, 1844, Governor Manuel Micheltorena deeded to Felix Valdez the Big Temecula Rancho. Encompassing some six square leagues or 26,608 acres, it was one of the larger grants made.12

In May of 1845, Governor Pío Pico granted to Pablo Apis, Chief and representative of the Luiseño Indians, Temecula de Apis or the Little Temecula Rancho. Consisting of a mere 2,283 acres, it was a farthing when compared to some of the other Mexican grants of the day. Its importance, however, was threefold. First, it occupied the most fertile land in the Temecula Valley, so necessary for improved agricultural productivity. In addition, there was an abundant supply of underground springs that could be utilized to irrigate the soil.13 Second, the grant was strategically situated. Located on what was to become the inland trail from the town of San Diego to points north, it was necessary to pass through the rancho in one’s journey through the Temecula Valley. Finally and most important, it was the meeting place for both Indians and white settlers in the area. It was particularly for this last reason that Pablo Apis applied for a patent on the Little Temecula Rancho. Not only would it mean a refuge for his people, it also would provide available land upon which the Luiseño Indians could assume the white man’s customs and practices, thus affording a gradual assimilation into Anglo culture.14

The last grant to be made in the valley was the Pauba Rancho. The petition was signed on November 9, 1844, by Governor Manuel Micheltorena, deeding the 26,597 acre rancho to Vicente Moraga.15 This final grant completed the chain of ranchos that was to dominate the life of the valley.

The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, by which the United States acquired the southwest territory from Mexico, was signed on February 2, 1848, ushering in the end of the golden era of the ranchos. The passage of the treaty and the subsequent California Gold Rush of that same year engendered a disruptive force within California’s economy. No longer were the rancho and the ranchero the guiding force behind the fiscal activities of the Pacific Coast. Now it was the onslaught of settlers, converging in droves upon the gold fields and the agricultural lands of the vanquished, that were to create and mold the destiny of this new United States possession. Entering on the heels of these argonauts came the United States Land Commission. The Board of Commissioners, meeting in San Francisco from 1852 to 1856, had as its duty to ascertain the legal owners of the various California ranchos and to adjudicate all disputes arising from such claims. Of the Pauba, Big Temecula, and Little Temecula Ranchos, only the grants of the Pauba and Big Temecula were to be verified on the basis of the original petition.16

The Apis claim to the Little Temecula Rancho was taken before the Land Commission in 1852 by the counsel for Apis, E. O. Crosby. On November 15, 1853, the Board rejected the Indians’ claim on the basis that there was nothing to designate in which part of the Temecula Valley the grant was located.17

The dispersion and decline of the Luiseño Indians was effected by the renouncement of the Treaty of Temecula. The treaty was concluded between Oliver M. Wozencraft, agent of the United States government, and the chiefs and headmen of the Luiseños, the Kah-we-ahs, and the Co-com-cah-ras, in the village of Temecula on January 5, 1852. According to the agreement, the Indians were to be given a reservation consisting of the original grant together with herds of cattle and horses and any other means of assistance. However, on July 8, 1852, the United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty thereby breaking the agreement reached by their agent. Thus, with rejection of both the Apis grant and the Treaty of Temecula, the Indians were forced to assume a semi-nomadic existence in the valley.18

As the number of immigrants traveling to California increased during the 1850s, new and more direct trails were opened. One of these was the southwestern leg from Fort Yuma on the Colorado River to Warner’s Ranch and from there through the Aguanga Pass into Temecula. Here the trail followed the valley by the Laguna Rancho, through Temescal Canyon toward the village of Los Angeles.

Included in one of these waves of settlers into Southern California were William Moody and Daniel Cline. Arriving in the Temecula Valley in 1853, they soon took up residence on the once contested lands of the Little Temecula Rancho. There they established a general store and roadhouse, later known as the Willows Station,19 which was to prove instrumental in the growth of the valley. The Willows (as Temecula was later known), benefiting from its strategic location in the valley, soon evolved into the socio-economic center for white settlers, travelers, and Luiseños. Judge Benjamin Hayes, while traveling through the valley in 1860, noted that “Kline [sic]20 and Moody have been here for 7 years… have 200 acres under fence. Reports say they are worth $20,000 made here.”21

Indirectly providing economic stimulus to the valley was the Post Office Appropriations Act of 1857. With its passage and the subsequent creation of the Butterfield Overland Mail Company (1857-1869), a means of transportation was provided by which settlers could more readily enter Southern California via Temecula. The Willows became a way station for the mail company on its route from Fort Yuma to the Bella Union Hotel in Los Angeles, thus assuring the Willows’ economic position in the valley.22

Two of the more illustrious arrivals in the valley during this period were Louis Wolf and John Magee.23 Establishing themselves first separately and later in partnership, they were able to assume virtual dictatorial control over the entire valley. Their strength was particularly manifested in both their land holdings and general store. By 1870 the Little Temecula Rancho had passed into the hands of John Magee, however, in that same year, he lost possession through a sheriffs sale of the property to satisfy a judgement rendered in favor of C. A. Johnson for the sum of $4,383.11.24 Information on Wolf’s acquisition of the Little Temecula Rancho is sketchy. However, the San Diego Book of Deeds reveals that Wolf made a number of small purchases of land in the valley beginning in August, 1868 and culminating with the control of the Rancho by mid-1870.25

The little village of Temecula grew and evidently prospered. By 1860 it had a population of 110 (85 whites, 2 blacks, and 23 Indians) with 313 Indians living in the Temecula Indian Village. Some of its more prominent residents were: Doña Victoria de Pedrorena, John Magee, Joseph Gifthaller, James Ingalls, Juan Machado, Daniel Cline, William Moody, Louis Wolf, John Raines (Indian subagent at Temecula), and H. S. Burton.26

From 1860 to 1870 the physical aspects of the village remained static, but the population seemed to vacillate with changes in the weather. During the drought of 1862-1863, for example, there was a noticeable decline in the number of ranchers. It was not until the 1870s and the chartering of the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company that the village gained public attention. On September 26, 1872, the San Diego Daily World proclaimed:

It is not of San Diego exclusively we propose speaking in this article, but of Temecula. We think we can see evidence of a bright outlook for that beautiful valley, and that in the near future it will be the junction of a system of numerous and important railways. The railroad from Los Angeles will come into Temecula from the extreme northwest…. the Texas and Pacific may also cross the San Jacinto and go through Temecula. This is a goodly number of roads to make a junction in this beautiful valley, and the brilliant future of the place is hardly a matter of doubt.

In view of the fact that all these different roads will probably pass through Temecula, a union depot will in all likelihood be established at this point…. The roads will prove of incalculable benefit to this beautiful region and assure Temecula a future of prosperity and development. 27

This vision of prosperity was of short duration. With the Panic of 1873 and the subsequent bankruptcy of the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company most hopes were dissipated.28

In 1872 the Pauba and Big Temecula Ranchos passed into the hands of Francisco Sanjurjo and Juan Murrieta,29 Castillians by birth. Purchasing the two grants for approximately $52,000, about $1.00 per acre,30 they began raising cattle, sheep, and dry grains, thus contributing to a renewed prosperity in the valley.31

Further assisting in the orderly development of the Pauba and Big Temecula Ranchos was José María Gonzales, a recent arrival from Spain. Born in Cádiz in 1835, Gonzales had been reared and educated according to the precepts of the Catholic Church. His marriage to a Scottish girl by the name of Ormiston so disappointed his family that he was forced to leave his native land.32 Arriving in San Francisco in the early 1870s, via Scotland, England, China, and the Philippines, he met and joined in partnership with Juan Murrieta. From the outset the partnership was a fruitful venture. Murrieta and Sanjurjo provided the money and ranching know-how and Gonzales contributed his leadership and accounting skills.33

Throughout this period the ranchers of the valley were a little too energetic in expanding their cattle and sheep holdings in proportion to the supply of feed available. Looking around the valley for more land, they found the Indians squatting on some of the most fertile land in the entire area-the Little Temecula Rancho. Feigning anger at the Luiseños’ alleged disrespect for the previous Land Commission and Senate rulings, and desirous of enhancing their holdings, the ranchers petitioned the San Francisco courts for a Decree of Ejectment against the Luiseño Indians. Obtaining the decree, Louis Wolf, José Gonzales, Juan Murrieta, Francisco Sanjurjo, and many of the other citizens of the area, assisted in driving the Indians from the Temecula Valley.34

Recognizing the end of an era, the San Diego Union on September 23, 1875 reported:

For forty years these Indians have been recognized as the most thrifty and industrious Indians in all California. For more than twenty years past these Indians have been yearly told by the United States Commissioners and agents,…, as well as by their legal counsel, that they could remain on these lands. Now, without any previous knowledge by them of any proceedings in court they are ordered to leave their lands.35

During the years 1853-1884 the village of Temecula was centered around Louis Wolf’s store at the Willows Station. In addition to serving as headquarters for the entire north end of San Diego County, the store provided the following conveniences to the settlers: saloon, livery stable, hotel, general store, post office, and school. As one may suspect, Wolf was the postmaster, justice of the peace, tax collector, et cetera.36 However, his most important function was that of labor organizer. Providing the Indians with food and liquor at his store, he set them to work whenever their accounts got too big. When shearers were needed for the sheep, Wolf supplied them, with the understanding, of course, that the men’s pay would come through him. If a man wanted to work in the valley and, on the other hand, if a rancher needed laborers, all transactions were made through Louis Wolf. As justice of the peace, his law was the frontier type. With Blackstone in one hand and a bottle in the other he was a willing listener to any and all disputes. One of his more interesting verdicts, and somewhat typical of his idea of justice, was the case of Sumner, owner of the Laguna Rancho, versus Dighton, a sheep herder in Sumner’s employ. According to the verbal contract between the defendant and the plaintiff, Dighton was to herd sheep for Sumner and receive as remuneration food and lodging and sixty sheep every six months, or an equivalent of thirty dollars per month. After innumerable drinks, which the defendant was required to buy, Wolf ruled: “I find for the plaintiff the full amount of ninety dollars payable in sheep at the rate of three dollars per head at the end of his six month contract.”31

Prior to construction of the railroad one of the most pressing problems faced by Southern California ranchers and farmers, particularly those in the Temecula Valley, was that of transportation. A region of vast distances, cut off from outside markets and hemmed in by a back country of rugged mountains, the rancher (sheep and cattle) was a victim of nature’s own form of geographic isolation. Confronted with economic stagnation the villager of Temecula was literally forced to take to the trail in the transportation of his crops, cattle, and sheep. According to Mrs. Ysable Grace (Gonzales) Barnett,38 daughter of José María Gonzales, prior to the building of the California Southern Railroad the ranchers would either cart or drive their produce to the railhead at Colton for transshipment to Los Angeles.39 The impact of this problem of geographic isolation on the inland agricultural and ranching communities offered considerable opportunities for the entrepreneur, who made the rancher’s problem his cause, in the attempt to promote the linking together of towns from National City to Colton, by rail.

In 1880 the little village of Temecula at the Willows station had a population of 232.40 Some of its more responsible citizens were listed in a “Petition to the Board of Supervisors of San Diego County for the Appointment of E. J. Tollan as Justice of the Peace of Temecula Township”: M. Machado, José Valencia, Francisco Estudillo, James Banks, Charles Thomas, Felipe 0. Caryas, T. Cantarinj, Frederico Machado, J. B. Kennedy, A. H. Lancaster, Marius Nicolas, Ed. Saines, S. A. Tripp, Peter Mouren, J. Murrieta, S. V. Tripp, W. G. McDuff, Louis Wolf, and John Magee.41

Prompted by the necessity to provide rail transportation into San Diego from the Southern Pacific railhead at Colton and at the same time link the communities of the north county with the mother city, thereby boosting the economic prosperity of San Diego by increasing trade, the California Southern Railroad Company was chartered on October 12, 1880. It had as its purpose the construction, ownership, and operation of a railroad “for the transportation of persons and property,… , from the Bay of San Diego in a general northerly direction to the town of San Bernardino.”42 The estimated distance of the road was 116 miles, to be subscribed to at a cost of $1,000 per mile.

The surveys for the California Southern Railroad were conducted soon after the approval of the articles of incorporation. The engineers conducting the survey of the route were Fred T. Perris (for whom the town of Perris, California was named), M. G. Wheeler, and F. Copeland.43 According to the story that was told to Mr. Frederick White by his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Frederick E. Fox, the railroad was doomed from the outset because the “Eastern” engineers and surveyors failed to employ the suggestions made by the local ranchers. Emphasizing this theme, Mrs. White cited the following story that was popular among the ranchers during the period. While working in the canyon one of the engineers asked an assistant to scale the face of the gorge and locate the high watermark. Approximately two-thirds of the way up the face of the escarpment the assistant stopped and held up a pine cone that he had found in the immediate vicinity. Showing it to the engineer he stated that it probably had washed downstream from the Smith Mountains (Lagunas). At this the engineer retorted, “Nonsense,” and then proceeded to plot what he considered to be the natural flood level of the canyon-some ten feet above the floor of the gorge.44

The work of grading and laying track through the Temecula gorge was done primarily by Chinese. None of the other railroad construction workers would accept such a hazardous job. Working for $1.7545 per day from swinging scaffolding along the almost perpendicular cliffs, the Chinese were able to achieve the impossible by completing the construction of the railroad through the Temecula Canyon.

Writing about the train trip on the California Southern, W. H. Bishop of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine noted:

The Railroad traverses some striking natural scenery, notably the Temecula Cañon—a gorge of the wildest and grandest description, some ten miles in length, through the Coast Ranges. A brawling stream runs down its center.

Coming out of the canon at the van of the construction work, we were on the Temecula Plains,…. The course of the road was marked henceforth only by an occasional surveyor’s stake. We rode along it through fifty miles of absolutely treeless and verdureless desert.46

September 13, 1883, marked the first scheduled run of the California Southern between the cities of San Diego and San Bernardino. Costing six dollars one way or nine dollars round trip, the journey was supposed to take nine hours and twenty-five minutes.47 It has been impossible for the writer to discover the frequency with which the residents of the Temecula Valley took advantage of this new and “faster” form of transportation. Contrary to what one might expect, that the train would be faster than the horse-drawn buggy, one old-timer, Mr. Stubblefield, reminisced “that whenever the family went to the City of San Diego on business, which was not too often, they used to go by horse drawn carriage so that they could enjoy the scenery and camp out along the trail.”48 According to him, the train was just too slow!

In 1882 Mercedes Tores de Pujol, widow of Domingo Pujol (who had acquired the major portion of the Temecula and Pauba Ranchos from Murrieta, Sanjurjo, and Gonzales in 1876),49 deeded seventeen acres to the California Southern Railroad for the express purpose of building a depot, with two hundred acres to be set aside for the new town.50 Two years later Fred T. Perris surveyed and set out the town of Temecula. Located approximately two miles from the Willows Station, the settlement seemed to exude a growing confidence in the prosperity of the valley. With the infusion of new capital, brought in by settlers traveling from San Bernardino to San Diego and by increased agricultural production, the entire town moved to its new location. This transference marked a new phase in Temecula’s history.51 Typical of the new arrivals to the town were Mary Jane Welty, her husband John, and their eight children. Formerly residents of Rancho Monserate and later Happy Valley, they migrated to Temecula, at Mrs. Welty’s insistance, with the hope of participating in the economic boom of the valley. Aware of a need for adequate housing facilities to accomodate the increased number of people traveling through as well as settling in the valley, they built a two story clapboard hotel in the heart of town. Although it was impossible to ascertain the number of guests they had in their eight room hotel, or the profits made during the period from 1884 to January 3, 1891, when the hotel burned down, the writer was told that Mrs. Welty ran a very profitable establishment. In addition to serving as a hostelry it was the schoolhouse for the children and in some instances for the adults of Temecula. This service was maintained until 1888 and the construction of the Pujol School at the northern end of town.52

This renewed prosperity was not long lasting for in February of 1884 the railroad in the Temecula Canyon was washed out. From December, 1883, it seemed to rain incessantly as the following statistics will indicate:

City of San Diego53
Weather Station
Fall Brook54
Weather Station
December, 1883     1.82″ 3.23″
January, 1884 1.32 3.56
February, 9.05 15.36
March, 6.23 10.90
April, 2.89 3.13

The news of the flood did not reach San Diego until February 20, 1884. Stranded at the southern end of the Temecula Canyon, because of a rock slide, the passengers of the California Southern were forced to walk to San Diego, bringing the first news of catastrophe.55 It was estimated that during the flood approximately 5,000 cubic feet of water per second flowed through the gorge. It carried away bridges and ties, some of the latter reported to have been seen hundreds of miles at sea.56

Because it destroyed thousands of dollars worth of equipment, the flood was the death blow to the financially tottering California Southern Extension Company, and the company relinquished control to its minority interests-the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe-rather than declare bankruptcy. Although the transfer was made in October of 1884, it was not until two years later that the formal transfer of interest was agreed upon.57

A particularly interesting footnote to the reconstruction of the railroad through the Temecula Canyon was found in Herbert Crouch’s “Reminiscences.” Not only underlining the ineptness of the original surveyors, it conveys his belief in the impracticality of building a road through the gorge. He stated:

Seventy-five years old today and I wonder whether I shall live to see the railroad built through Temecula Canyon again. In ’70 or ’71 Charlie Fox, who was a first class engineer, made a preliminary survey through the canyon and condemned it, and when Osgood, Chief engineer of the California Southern went to see Don Juan Forster about the right-of-way he said, ‘Well, I have lived here a great many years and I don’t think you can ever put a railroad in that canyon which will stand.’58

In October of 1884, work commenced on rebuilding the road through the canyon. The additional capital, provided by the Santa Fe, enabled the speedy completion of the operation without any financial interruption. Attesting to the size of the labor force being used was the following excerpt from the October 11, issue of the Riverside Press Horticulturist.

The California Southern now has about one thousand men at work in the Temecula Canyon—regular trains to run after next Monday—probably train runs to Temecula from the North and to Fallbrook from the South—the stage between.59

Trains on the California Southern began running through the canyon on January 6, 1885, ending San Diego’s ten-and-one-half-month isolation.

For the Temecula area the middle of August generally marked the beginning of the cattle roundup and it was inevitable that the cattle drive would converge upon the town. However, contrary to the more popular version depicted on television, the cattle were driven around the village to the depot in order to keep the streets clean.60

The end of the roundup signified the beginning of the Temecula rodeo. Gathering in town, the cowboys, Indians, and villagers would participate in a three-day gala event. On both the scheduled and unscheduled agenda were horse racing, cock fighting, calf roping, tocando el gallo, and fist fighting. Tocando el gallo was one of the major events of the fiesta. To the townspeople it was proof of a man’s riding ability. The object of the game was to ride, at full gallop, past a rooster that had been buried up to its neck in the ground, and attempt to detach its head from the rest of the body. This was considered great sport by men and women alike, but the game was later outlawed.61

During the remainder of the year life in this frontier ranching community was sheer drudgery-broken only by the infrequent Saturday night dances in the loft above Hugh McConville’s livery stable or the Sunday picnics in a quiet glade on one of the ranches. Attracting the ranchers and their daughters from miles around, the dances provided one of the most important functions in the entire valley-the fraternization of the town and country folk. The dance or the picnic provided the only opportunity for the people to get together, to talk, to discuss common problems, and as one old-timer said, “it was the only opportunity we had to meet a rancher’s daughter!”62

The winter of 1885 marked the dawn of another era in Southern California. As noted in T. S. Van Dyke’s Millionaires of a Day, the tourist season began some six to eight weeks earlier than usual, bringing forth not so much the average tourist that had characterized all other seasons but rather the retired banker, the rich merchant, the well-to-do stockbroker, and as always the general settler. In other words, permanent residents.63 Affording additional impetus in bringing the Eastern throngs of people to the West Coast was the rate war between the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe. Normally it had cost $125 to come from the Mississippi Valley to Southern California. By 1885 the rates had dropped to $100. With the completion of the Santa Fe in the Cajon Pass in November, 1885 (thus completing the road’s link into Los Angeles), rates fell precipitously.64

The battle was on and cutthroat competition became rampant. Taking advantage of these unusually low rates (five dollars at one point), the “boomers” from Chicago, Kansas City and St. Paul descended, en masse, upon the sleepy villages of Southern California. Anticipating the influx of tourists, paper towns were established, train and streetcar companies were incorporated, and large tracts of land were divided and made available as city lots. The growth in population and rise in interest rates, stemming from this mass migration, was phenomenal. It was estimated that by the summer of 1886 Los Angeles was growing at a rate of 1,000 persons per month and its southern neighbor, San Diego, was expanding at one half that rate. During the height of the boom, interest charges of 10% per month were commonplace.65

A forceful factor in the growth of Temecula was the establishment of the Pauba Land and Water Company. Chartered in the latter part of 1885, the company was under the competent supervision of Charles C. Stevenson,66 governor of Nevada, and D. C. Norton, secretary of the corporation. Encompassing the 26,597 acre Pauba Rancho and 26,331 acres of the Big Temecula,67 the company proposed to attract self-styled ranchers to the valley with the lure of a forty-acre rancho. The advertisements read as follows:

The Pauba
Land and Water Company
offers for sale
The Famous Pauba Rancho
Of 25,000 Acres

Comprising the choicest Valley, Mesa, Wood and Pasture Lands in the State. The Pauba is in San Diego County, California, consists of the very best quality Fruit, Farming, and Stock Raising Lands, and is now for the first time offered at remarkably low prices in Lots to suit purchasers.

Also 15,000 Acres of the Celebrated Temecula Valley Lands, In 40 acre Tracts, well watered throughout.

o   o   o
For particulars, terms, etc., address
D. C. Norton
Sec. Pauba Land and Water Co.
Temecula, Cali.68

The prices for these lands ranged from $10 to $100 per acre, one third down, and the balance in three annual payments.69

In the 1886-1887 San Diego City and County Directory, Temecula proudly proclaimed a population of 400. The town had two hotels, a post office with daily mail, a telegraph station, blacksmith and wagon shops, churches,70 and a school. The leading businessmen and their respective occupations were the following: James Banks and Peter Mouren—The Temecula Hotel; P. G. Hindorff—harness maker; Fred Machado—clerk; John Magee—apiary; J. S. Martin—school teacher; R. J. Welty—Depot Hotel or Welty Hotel; P. Pohlman—notion store; E. J. Tollan—blacksmith and wagon maker; Louis Wolf—postmaster and merchant.71

Further assisting in the growth of Temecula was a stone quarry, constructed by Pattie Quinn in the mountains south of town. Although the economic impact of the operation cannot be ascertained, according to one resident it did assist in providing more jobs and additional capital for the growing town. In fact, many of the granite blocks were shipped to Riverside to be used in the construction of the county courthouse.72

By the end of 1887 Temecula too was sharing in the population boom of Southern California. According to official reports it had a population of 600.73 Arriving by horse or the famed California Southern tourist trains, the influx of new residents helped to make Temecula one of the fastest growing towns in San Diego County.

The spring of 1888 marked the end of the boom in Southern California. Despite the hopeful prognostications of renewed investor interest, paper profits declined and with it tourists, settlers, boomers, and businessmen departed. In their place they left paper towns and railroads-dreams never to achieve fruition. Though some towns were able to survive and prosper during the later decades (1920s), for the most part the average little settlements such as Wildomar, Murrieta, and Temecula, never recovered.

The economic death of Temecula was now assured by the public announcement of the completion of the Surf Line of the San Bernardino and San Diego Railway on August 12, 1888. Its affect upon the community was catastrophic. Seemingly overnight, with the diversion of cargo and passenger rail traffic to the coast route, the population of the valley declined. In the census of 1890 the town registered a population of only 135.74 The final blow to the community came in February, 1891 when floods again washed out the tracks in the Temecula Canyon.

The road through the canyon was not rebuilt. In a way this served as the death knell for Temecula which, like other Southern California towns, grew, prospered, and died in the space of a few decades during the nineteenth century.


1. Elsinore Press, May 10, 1913. Of particular interest concerning the Temecula/Murrieta area and also containing the poem, see: Thriving, Tempting Temecula (Temecula: n. p., 1909), p. 1.

2. There appears to be a divergence of opinion as to the name of the creek which runs through the town. According to the following it is listed as the Santa Gertrudes Creek: Thriving, Tempting Temecula, p. 4; Fred T. Perris, Map of the Town of Temecula (December, 1884); C. C. Stevenson, et al., Map of the Subdivisions of Land of the Pauba Land and Water Co. (Britton and Rey, December, 1887). Several of the old-timers, Mrs. Ysabel Grace (Gonzales) Barnett and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Roripaugh refer to it as Murrieta Creek out of deference to Juan Murrieta the former owner of the Big Temecula Rancho.

3. B. E. McCown, Temeku: A Page from the History of the Luiseno Indians, No. 3 (San Diego: Archeological Survey Association, 1955), p. 45.

4. Leland L. Bibb, “The Location of the Indian Village of Temecula,” The Journal of San Diego History, XVIII, No. 3 (Summer, 1972), pp. 6-11.

5. Philip Stedman Sparkman, “The Culture of the Luiseno Indians,” American Archeology and Ethnology, VIII, No. 4 (Berkley: University of California Publications, 1908), pp. 188-192.

6. Interviews with Mrs. Ysabel Grace (Gonzales) Barnett, Elsinore, California, December 20-22,1966. There are several definitions of the word Temecula. The one being “the Land of the Rising Sun,” (as presented in this article) and another “the Valley of Joy.” The latter, though used on the Map of the Subdivisions of Land of the Pauba Land and Water Co., has proven to be less acceptable to the older residents, perhaps because the former conveys a more pleasing connotation, one of hope and prosperity.

7. Robert Glass Cleland, The Cattle on a Thousand Hills, 1850-1880 (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1951), p. 20.

8. W. W. Robinson, Land in California (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1948), p. 28.

9. Cleland, Cattle on a Thousand Hills, p. 20.

10. Ibid., p. 23.

11. Ibid., pp. 20-30.

12. County of San Diego, Book of Deeds (San Diego: County Recorder’s Office, n. d.), Bk. 1, pp. 37-45.

13. According to Mr. Jack Roripaugh, an early resident of the valley, until the 1920s and the advent of heavy pumping equipment, water could be found from 12-14 feet below the surface of the ground. One may deduce from this that at a much earlier period, with less usage of water, the water table was much higher and more readily accessible.

14. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966.

15. County of San Diego, Book of Deeds, Bk. 1, p. 45.

16. Cleland, Cattle on a Thousand Hills, pp. 35-38. Interview with Mrs. Ysabel Grace (Gonzales) Barnett, Elsinore, California, December 20-22, 1966.

17. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966.

18. General Service Administration, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs: Unratified Treaty of January 5, 1852 with the Nation of San Luis Rey and the Kah-we-as and Co-com-cah-ras (Washington, D. C.: National Archives and Record Service, 1852).

19. The Willows Station was located approximately 2 miles south, southeast of the present town.

20. Contrary to what appears in Marjory Tisdale Wolcott (ed.), The Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes 1849-1875 (Los Angeles: McBride Printing Co., 1929), pp. 220-221, 145-146, the correct spelling is Cline. U. S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States: 1860. California, V, 37.

21. Wolcott, Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes. This is substantially different from their combined assessment of real and personal property in 1860 in which the total was $6,000. U. S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States: 1860. California, V, 37.

22. Roscoe P. Conklin and Margaret B. Conklin, The Butterfield Overland Mail 1857-1869 (Glendale: Arthur H. Clarke Co., 1947) pp. 106-135.

23. Louis Wolf (1835-1887), a native of Alsace, France, arrived in San Francisco aboard a clipper ship, July, 1852, and migrated to the Temecula Valley where he settled in 1857. Carl H. Heilbron (ed.), History of San Diego (San Diego: San Diego Press Club, 1936), p. 69. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966. It is interesting to note that in the U. S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States: 1860. California, p. 29, he spelled his name Wolfe. However, on all subsequent documents it appears as Wolf.

24. San Diego Union, October 20, 1870, p. 4.

25. County of San Diego, Book of Deeds, Bk. 3, p. 367.

26. U. S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States: 1860. California. pp. 29-36.

27. San Diego Daily World, September 9, 1872.

28. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22,1966.

29. For purposes of clarification, Juan Murrieta was in no way related to the famous bandit Joaquin Murrieta.

30. County of San Diego, Book of Deeds, Bk. 19, pp. 5-6; Bk. 20, pp. 151, 294, 298, 446; Bk. 22, pp. 105, 232; Bk. 29, pp. 365-367.

31. Interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Jack Roripaugh, Temecula, California, December 30, 1966.

32. Mrs. (Ormiston) Gonzales died on the ship soon after their departure from Spain.

33. Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Jack Roripaugh, December 30, 1966.

34. Ibid.

35. San Diego Union, September 23, 1875.

36. Elizabeth C. James (ed.), Elsinore History Vignettes (Elsinore: Inland California Publishing Co., 1958), p. 16.

37. Altha Merrifield Cauch, “The History of Elsinore,” 1956, MSS, Elsinore Public Library, III. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22,1966.

38. Mrs. Barnett was born April 25, 1879. She was the first white girl born in the valley.

39. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966.

40. L. P. McCarthy, McCarthy’s Annual Statistician (San Francisco: Joseph Winterburn and Co., 1884), p. 478; and U. S. Bureau of the Census, Tenth Census of the United States: 1880. California, VIII, 10-14.

41. “Petition to the Board of Supervisors of San Diego County for the Appointment of E. J. Tollan as Justice of the Peace of Temecula Township,” February 13, 1880. San Diego History Center, Serra Museum, San Diego.

42. R. V. Dodge and R. P. Middlebrook, “The California Southern Railroad. A Rail Drama of the Southwest,” The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, No. 80 (May, 1950), pp. 20-21.

43. San Diego Union, October 16, 1880.

44. Interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Frederick White, Fallbrook, California, December 22, 1966.

45. Dodge and Middlebrook, “California Southern Railroad,” p. 22.

46. William Henry Bishop, “Southern California,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, LXVI (December, 1882), pp. 63-65.

47. R. V. Dodge and R. P. Middlebrook, “California Southern Railroad, p. 31.

48. Interview with Mr. Charles E. Stubblefield, Fallbrook, California, November 27, 1966.

49. San Diego County, Book of Deeds, Bk. 29, p. 365. This transfer of title included all but 60 acres of the original ranchos. These were retained by the Gonzales family.

50. Ibid., Bk. 48, pp. 78-84.

51. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22,.1966; Perris, Map of the Town of Temecula; and Robinson, Land In California, pp. 29-30.

52. Interviews with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966, and Mr. and Mrs. Roripaugh, December 30, 1966 and April 8 and 17, 1967.

53. E. Herbert Nimmo, Meteorological Summary. Comparative Data for San Diego, California, from the Records of the United States Weather Bureau (San Diego: The Board of Supervisors and the Chamber of Commerce of San Diego County, 1915).

54. Frederick E. Fox, The United States Department of Agriculture, Weather Bureau, Fallbrook, July 1, 1883-July 1, 1884 (Fallbrook, California).

55. Dodge and Middlebrook, “California Southern Railroad,” pp. 33-34.

56. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California 1860-1880, (San Francisco: The History Company, 1890), VII, 614. William H. Hall, Irrigation in California [Southern]. The Report of the Engineering of California on Irrigation and the Irrigation Question, II (Sacramento: J. D. Young, Superintendent of State Printing, 1888), p. 46.

57. Bancroft, History of California, VII, 614.

58. Herbert Crouch, “Reminiscences,” n. d., MSS, San Diego Historical Society, p. 15.

59. Riverside Press Horticulturist, October 11, 1884.

60. Interview with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966.

61. Ibid. The writer was unable to discover when this game was introduced or outlawed in the valley.

62. Interviews with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966; and Mr. and Mrs. Roripaugh, December 30, 1966 and April 8 and 17, 1967.

63. T. S. Van Dyke, Millionaires of a Day (New York: Forde, Howard, and Hulbert, 1890), pp. 40-41.

64. Glenn S. Dumke, The Boom of the Eighties in Southern California (San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1944), pp. 22-23.

65. Van Dyke, Millionaires of a Day. pp. 85-93.

66. See Herbert Howe Bancroft’s History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming 1540-1888 (San Francisco: The History Company, Publishers, 1890), XXV, 321, for a well written precis of his life.

67. San Diego County, Book of Deeds. Bk. 64, pp. 45, 181; Bk. 48, p. 106. C. C. Stevenson, et al., op. cit.

68. The Golden Era. XXXVIII (July, 1889), p. 319.

69. Stevenson, et al., Map of the Subdivisions ofLand of the Pauba Land and Water Co.

70. According to Mrs. Roripaugh the town of Temecula had no building permanently designated as a church during this period. If church meetings were held, they were in the Pujol School House.

71. San Diego City and County Directory 1886-1887, pp. 51-52.

72. Interviews with Mrs. Barnett, December 20-22, 1966; and Mr. and Mrs. Roripaugh, December 30, 1966.

73. Douglas Gunn, Picturesque San Diego with Historical Descriptive Notes (Chicago: Knight and Leonard Co., 1887), p. 81.

74. United States Department of the Interior, Census Office, Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1892), p. 447.

Kurt Van Horn, teaches in the Rialto Unified School District in Rialto, California. He graduated from the University of Redlands in 1966 with a B.A. degree in history and business administration. He earned his M.A. degree in history in 1967 at Claremont Graduate School and received his teaching credentials from San Diego State University in 1968.