FORT SAN BERNARDINO -- Warned of impending Indian attacks, the Mormons started building a stockade, or fort, in
December 1851 and lived there for over a year while developing their farms. This replica of the "old fort" is in the museum
at the San Bernardino Asistencia.

Download the original scanned newspaper article (21 MB)

San Bernardino 150 Years Old Today

(Sun-Telegram Historical Writer)

Copyright (1960), The Sun. Reprinted by permission

Today, May 20, 1960, San Bernardino observes its 150th birthday anniversary.

The date of 1810 which appears on the municipality's official seal commemorates the initial entrance into the San Bernardino Valley of Padre Francisco Dumetz, a priest from the San Gabriel Mission who conducted the first Christian worship, gave the valley its name and erected a small religious structure, or capilla, probably on Bunker Hill at what is now named De Siena Springs.

The venerable Father Dumetz, a close associate of Fr. Junipero Serra, had a long and notable career in the Christianization of the native California Indian. He arrived in California from the College of San Fernando in 1770 as one of the first two replacements for the missionary band which had reached Alta California the year before.


Father Dumetz served at Mission San Buena Ventura and later was assigned to take charge of Mission San Fernando, where he spent his most active years. With advancing age Dumetz relinquished the duties of the San Fernando direction and retired to San Gabriel where he assisted in that establishment, the central one for the southern portion of the province.

Earlier Spanish explorers knew about the broad and fertile San Bernardino Valley. Pedro Fages, military commander, set out to chase some deserting soldiers from San Diego in 1772. He followed their trail up the San Diego River Valley and, high up in the Descanso Mts., he found that the AWOL soldiery had continued east into the Borrego Desert.

Fages had no taste far desert travel. He had seen lots of it only three years before on his overland trip from Baja California prior to the July 16, 1769, founding of San Diego. Instead of returning to San Diego, Fages decided to do a bit of exploring in the all but unknown back country.

He proceeded north and is believed to have utilized the San Jacinto River entrance way from the Temecula Valley to the Perris Valley. Scholars who have attempted to trace the Fages route from his diary believe Fages came into the San Bernardino Valley by way of Reche Canyon and exited to the Mojave Desert by either Lytle Creek or Cajon Pass, more probably the former.


After Fages, the next visitor was Fr. Francisco Garces, another missionary priest, who had explored the Colorado River Valley from around Yuma.

He crossed the Mojave Desert from the camps of the Mojave Indians some 10 or 12 miles north of the present Needles. Garces was led to San Gabriel by Mojave guides who traversed the ancient Indian trade trail following the Mojave River and crossing the San Bernardino Mts, from about the present Cedar Springs, up Sawpit Canyon and down the saddle between Devil and Cable Canyons.

Garces saw the San Bernardino Valley in March 1776, slightly more than three months before the Declaration of Independence was signed in far off Philadelphia.

This priest rode muleback and was accompanied by a Christianized Indian from Baja California named Sebastian, in addition to guides furnished by the Mojave. He named the valley San Joseph.


Between the Garces visit in 1776 and the Dumetz entrada in 1810, the mission fathers at San Gabriel learned more and more about the inland valleys of the region. Fragmentary records that have been preserved indicate some natives of the valley went to San Gabriel for baptism. It is very possible Dumetz came in 1810 in response to invitations of these Indians.

Admittedly there are some missing links as well as some divergent opinions regarding the earliest settlements in the valley. The original record of the Dumetz expedition of 1810 was found in a manuscript book at San Gabriel, a volume that recounted the affairs of the mission's outpost asistencias.


This record was referred to by Fr. Juan Caballeria in his "History of the San Bernardino Valley" published while he was stationed at St. Bernardine's Church. Fr. Caballeria had previously been at the Santa Barbara Mission and studied documents there as he wrote a history of that mission.

San Bernardino was founded and named by the Franciscan missionary-priest Francisco Dumetz on May 20, 1810. Dumetz built a rude shelter to serve as a chapel and raised the cross, probably at Bunker Hill.

The Caballeria account was largely followed in Luther Ingersoll's "Century Annals of the San Bernardino Valley" and in the multi-volume Brown and Boyd "History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties."

When the elaborate 1910 centennial celebration was held in San Bernardino, the noted John Stevens McGroarty wrote a separate historical account dealing with the Dumetz expedition.

Unfortunately for present day researchers many records of the California mission period were not preserved. When the missions were taken from the church during the period of Mexican rule their lands were parceled into ranchos and many mission structures fell into ruin. Others were used as commercial structures. Even in the early 1900s no adequate safeguards prevented theft or progressive deterioration of remaining records in some instances.


Thus, apparently, the original record of the Dumetz expedition disappeared from San Gabriel Mission sometime around 1910. It appears to have been available to both John Stevens McGroarty and to Bishop Thomas Conaty immediately prior to the San Bernardino Centennial. Bishop Conaty gave an address at a cornerstone laying at the site designated as that of the Dumetz capilla. McGroarty was a speaker at the same ceremony held on May 20, 1910. Both speakers referred to the record of the Dumetz expedition.

Some 15 or 20 years later when George W. Beattie, a former county schools superintendent, was doing research for the fine series of historical articles and books he was to author, he could find no trace of the Dumetz source accounts. From the earlier use of the word Guachama as the Indian place name for the valley, Beattie reasoned that the Dumetz expedition must have halted on Cottonwood Row in the Mission Township, rather than at Bunker Hill. For the Cottonwood Row location was the site of what native inhabitants termed the Guachama Rancheria.

In what is in most every respect the most carefully prepared history of the early days, "The Heritage of the Valley," by this author and his wife, Helen, the Cottonwood Row location is given. The Beatties reasoned also that

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