A Brief History of San Bernardino, CA
San Bernardino, CA, has a rich and varied history traceable back to the land’s original occupiers in 1000 BC. The city’s diverse past is land-marked by mountains, Mormon colonists, and the story of McDonald’s.
Read on for a brief insight into the enthralling history of San Bernardino, one of the anchor cities of California’s ‘Inland Empire’.
The Tongva & Serrano Indians in San Bernardino, CA
The Tongva Native American tribe inhabited much of the Los Angeles basin, including what we now know as San Bernardino. It is said that they followed the direction of the arrow-shaped rock structure on the San Bernardino Mountains, when they came across the hot and cold springs located there.
The Serrano (meaning ‘people of the mountains’ in Spanish) Indians occupied the valley since around 1000 BC. They built rural villages that the Spanish referred to as rancherías.
Politana in San Bernardino, CA
The city’s history seemingly goes quiet until the 19th century. In 1810, the town of Politana was recorded as the first Spanish settlement established in the Valley, containing a chapel and supply station used by missionaries.
Just two years later, the town was destroyed by superstitious tribes-people after the area was badly affected by earthquakes. It was rebuilt by the Serrano Indians, and in 1819 they invited the missionaries to return, where they all lived until the 1842 José del Carmen Lugo family land grant of Rancho San Bernardino.
The Anglo-American Colony
The first Anglo-American settlement was established in 1851 by ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’, or Mormons, when California was officially declared a state. The Mormon colonists equipped the town with irrigated farming, and supplied lumber and agricultural produce throughout Southern California.
However, attitudes towards the Mormons soured after the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah, 1857, in which mass slaughter and attacks on emigrant wagon-trains were committed by Mormon settlers.
The Mormon people fell out of favor in the area, and many left. Those who stayed faced resentment, especially when the land was taken over by new settlers. The area was turned into a frontier town, with the settlers installing saloons and drinking alcohol, which the Mormons did not participate in.
The Arrowhead & Cold Springs
The San Bernardino Mountains’ ‘arrowhead’ formation points in a direction, which if followed, leads you to the region’s natural cold springs. Ancient tribes-people spread word of the arrowhead upon its discovery, telling that following its path directed you to healing waters.
This word of mouth soon caught on, and a hotel nearby started capitalizing on the rumored healing properties of the cold springs by bottling it in the building’s basement. By 1905, the bottled water was being transported to LA and sold with an arrowhead trademark.
The World’s First McDonald’s
The very first drive-in McDonald’s restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, CA in 1940, by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald. It was originally a hotdog joint, with carhop girls as servers.
It attracted young working families coming in for cheap meals, and the brothers decided this was their primary target audience and began expanding their empire.
They shifted to serving hamburgers, which were easier and more efficient to make. They also got rid of the carhop servers and established a unique, fast service process, which included no indoor seating area and orders being taken and delivered over one counter.
In its place today is a McDonald’s Museum, filled with original merchandise, memorabilia and Happy Meal toys throughout the years. McDonald’s lovers can go to view original serving bags with the old logo, and original serving equipment, some of which was used in the recent movie The Founder about the fast-food enterprise’s second owner.
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