What is Temecula?
Temecula is a city in southwestern Riverside County, California, United States, with a population of 100,097 during the 2010 census and an estimated 2013 population of 106,780. It was incorporated on December 1, 1989. Temecula is bordered by the City of Murrieta to the north and the Pechanga Indian Reservation and San Diego County to the south. The City of Temecula forms the southwestern anchor of the Inland Empire region.
The city is a prominent tourist destination, with the Temecula Valley Wine Country, Old Town Temecula, the Temecula Valley Polo Club, the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, the Temecula Valley International Film Festival, championship golf courses, and resort accommodations attracting a significant amount of tourists which appreciably contributes to the city’s economic profile.
Pre-1800: The area was inhabited by the Temecula Native Americans for hundreds of years before their contact 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 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”.
Other popular interpretations of the name, Temecula, include “The Sun That Shines Through The Mist” or “Where the sun breaks through the mist”.
The first recorded Spanish visit occurred in October 1797, with a Franciscan padre, Father Juan Norberto de Santiago, and Captain Pedro Lisalde. Father Santiago kept a journal in which he noted seeing “Temecula …an Indian village”. The trip included the Lake Elsinore area and the Temecula Valley.
Today, over 1,000 Native Americans (this may mean tribal members, but includes those whose families were categorized “Spanish” and/or “Mexican” in the late 1800s/early 1900s) live in the Temecula Valley. The wine industry was founded by the Californios; colonial Spanish settlers planted grapes and vineyards well-suited for the climate. The vineyards were then adapted by Anglo-American settlers and European immigrants from Spain, Italy and France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
1800–1900: 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 to the east Rancho Pauba granted to Vicente Moraga in 1844. Rancho Little Temecula was made in 1845 to Luiseño Pablo Apis, one of the few former mission converts to be given a land grant. It was fertile well watered land at the southern end of the valley, which included the village of Temecula. A fourth grant, known as Rancho Santa Rosa was made to Juan Moreno in 1846, and was in the hills to the west of Temecula.
The Luiseño and Cahuilla were involved in local battles not part of the Mexican-American War. In January 1847 in the Pauma Massacre, Luiseños captured 11 Mexican soldiers, who had stolen some of the tribe’s horses. The Californios in Los Angeles mounted a military retaliation directed by General Pio Pico. In the Temecula Massacre, a combined force of Mexican soldiers and Cahuilla Indians killed 33 to 100 Luiseños (most estimates are 33–40 dead).
As American settlers moved into the area after the war, conflict with the native tribes increased. A treaty was signed in the Magee Store in Temecula in 1852, but was never ratified by the United States Senate. In addition, the Luiseños challenged the Mexican land grant claims, as under Mexican law, the land was held in trust to be distributed to the indigenous population after becoming subjects. They challenged the Apis claim to the Little Temecula Rancho by taking the case to the 1851 California Land Commission. On November 15, 1853, the commission rejected the Luiseño claim; an appealed in 1856 to the district court found in favor of the heirs of Pablo Apis (he had died in late 1853 or early 1854). The Luiseño of Temecula village remained on the south side of Temecula Creek when the Apis grant was acquired, in 1872, by Louis Wolf; they were evicted in 1875.
A stagecoach line started a local route from Warner Ranch to Colton in 1857 that 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. The American Civil War put an end to the 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 United States government 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.
1900–1989: Temecula, 1909. In 1904 Walter L. Vail, who had come to the United States with his parents from Nova Scotia, migrated to California. Along with various partners, he began buying land in Southern California. Vail bought ranchland in the Temecula Valley, 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; 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 the Kaiser Aetna partnership. 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”.
1990–present: 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 fall 1999, The Promenade Mall opened in Temecula. In 2005, Temecula expanded greatly by annexing the neighboring planned community known as Redhawk, bringing the population to 90,000. After a period of rapid population growth and home construction, the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis and the resultant United States housing market correction caused a sharp rise in home foreclosures in the Temecula-Murrieta region.