Muscupiabe Drive by Nicholas R. Cataldo

Do you ever wonder how the names of streets came about? For San Bernardino County residents, a little imagination and cultural knowledge will help decipher monikers like Riverside Avenue, Foothill Boulevard, Live Oak Canyon Road, and Bear Valley Road. But there sure are some strange sounding thoroughfares that keep us stumped to this day.

A classic example in San Bernardino is "Muscupiabe Drive". It's a funny sounding name that kind of tickles when you pronounce it. But what in the world does it mean?

As it turns out, the origin of this street has a pretty colorful past.

Archaeological research has determined that a Serrano Indian village existed in the Cajon Pass near today's Caltrans south bound truck scales at Interstate 15 and Highway 138 or hundreds, if not thousands of years. It was called Amuscopiabit , which means place of little pines.

Much like apartment dwellers of today, the Serranos often stayed for relatively short periods of time. When the natural resources in the surrounding area were depleted, the 15 to 20 men, women, and children -- whose lifestyles centered around hunting and gathering-- moved elsewhere, only to be replaced by new "tenants" later on.

With the constant intrusion of horse thieves bullying their way from the Mojave Desert to the San Bernardino Valley, extensive missionary work, and the increasing flow of immigrants passing through the Cajon Pass, the peace loving Serranos scattered into the mountains. By the early 1840's, Amuscopiabit was no more.

The demise of this Native American village coincided with the collapse of missionary influence in the San Bernardino Valley. And following Mexico's independence from Spain, the era of privately owned ranchos began.

The eighth and last Mexican land grant in San Bernardino County was presented to an English sailor named Michael White, known to the Mexicans as Miguel Blanco. On April 29, 1843, Governor Manuel Michel Torena deeded White, who had become a Mexican citizen, one league of land located near the mouth of the Cajon Pass. Naming it (and somewhat simplifying for easier pronunciation) after the old Indian settlement of Amuscopiabit------this chunk of real-estate was called Rancho Muscupiabe.

The rancho, which extended from the mouth of Lytle Creek to Devil Canyon (near today's Cal State San Bernardino), was established for the purpose of protecting other landowners who had helped support the establishment. White's job was to head off Indian stock thieves coming from the Mojave Desert through the Cajon Pass. He built a fortress home of logs and earth and constructed corrals for his stock on the bench near Cable Canyon overlooking both the Cajon Pass and the Mohave Trail.

Unfortunately, White's tenure on the Rancho Muscupiabe was a brief one. Not only did he fail to stop raids into the valley, but he lost his own livestock as well. Things got so bad that his family was only with him for about six weeks and after nine months he abandoned the place.

Michael White's problems were far from over when in 1853 claim was made to the United States Land Commission. White was awarded half of the land and his attorney the other half. However, in 1859, he sold his share to Henry Hancock who surveyed the Rancho and by a mysteriously fortunate circumstance increased its size from one league to 7!

In old age, Michael White was reduced to poverty on his San Isidro ranch near the San Gabriel Mission which he was forced to sell in order to take care of outstanding debts. He believed Americans had treated him badly and swindled him out of lands and other property.