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San Timoteo Canyon

Orange groves in San Timoteo Canyon from Redlands, CA

San Timoteo Canyon is a river valley that runs from south of Banning, California, in Riverside County to a point just south of San Bernardino, California in San Bernardino County.[1] San Timoteo Creek formed it and flows through it, a tributary of the Santa Ana River.


  • History 1
    • Outlaws, Cahuilla vigilantes, and militias 1.1
    • American expansion 1.2
  • Present day 2
    • San Timoteo Canyon State Park 2.1
    • Fossils discovery 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
    • Further reading 4.1


The canyon was part of the winter homeland of the Serrano people for thousands of years. There were hot springs in the area.

The San Bernardino de Sena Estancia was established in 1819 as a ranch outpost Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, for the grazing of cattle by the Mission Indians. The original buildings grew to include a chapel, tile kiln, lime kiln, and a grist mill.

The canyon was part of Rancho San Bernardino, the 1842 Mexican land grant by Alta California Governor Juan B. Alvarado to José del Carmen Lugo, José María Lugo, Vicente Lugo, and Diego Sepulveda.[2] The Cahuilla village of Politana rancheria was established here afterwards.

Outlaws, Cahuilla vigilantes, and militias

In the summer of 1851, Juan Antonio, the Californian Native American chief of the Mountain Cahuilla band, with a group of his tribesmen pursued and fought the Irving Gang of John "Red" Irving and his San Francisco and Sydney outlaws in San Timoteo Canyon. Irving's band of raiding thieves had robbed people and stolen property throughout the San Timoteo area, including on Rancho San Bernardino where Juan Antonio's Cahuilla village at Politana was located. Acting on the orders of the local Justice of the Peace, the Californio owner of the rancho and whose house the Irving Gang were robbing at the time, the Cahuilla attacked and pursued them into San Timoteo Canyon, where in a running fight they killed eleven of the gang.[3] There were decades of precedent for the Mountain Cahuilla who working on the local ranchos, tracking and hunting down bandits and other tribe's raiders was a vigilante service they were requested for in the San Bernardino region, during the 1822—1846 Mexican rule in Alta California. With this 1851 order, they were still authorized to carry out requested local vigilante law enforcement actions, now within the year old U.S. state.[3]

However some newly arrived American settlers to Southern California and the area resented the killing of "white men" by "indians" and mistook it to be the beginning of a Mission Indian uprising. A company of militia from the Presidio of San Diego was sent against the Cahuilla.[3] At the time, present day San Bernardino and Riverside Counties were within San Diego County, and served by troops based at the presidio. Juan Antonio's Cahuilla band fled Politana, going to their homelands in the San Jacinto Mountains. The American leader of the militia, Major General Joshua Bean, discovered the truth about the events and with difficulty restrained his troops from attacking the Cahuilla, preventing a battle and massacre.[3]

Closely following the outcome of the Irving Gang incident, in late 1851, Juan Antonio, his warriors and their families, moved eastward from Politana, toward the Saahatpa.[3]

In November 1851, the Garra Revolt occurred, a conflict of the Yuma War. The Cupeño leader Antonio Garra attempted to bring Juan Antonio and the Mountain Cahuilla band into the Serrano, Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians independence revolt. Juan Antonio, a new ally of the Americans, captured Antonio Garra, ending the Garra Revolt.[3]

American expansion

One of San Timoteo Canyon’s more famous residents was the teenaged Wyatt Earp, whose family lived in the canyon from 1864 to 1868.

The canyon was used in 1877 by the Southern Pacific Railroad for its new southern transcontinental route's tracks into/out of the Los Angeles Basin and Southern California, to/from the eastern U.S.

For a time in the mid-1950s it was considered as one of three possible alignments for the path of Interstate 10 in California, as part of the new Interstate Highway System program, though the central route through Redlands was selected.[4]

Present day

San Timoteo Canyon State Park

San Timoteo Canyon State Park is in development for public access and recreation facilities, and is not yet open.[5] In 2001 a portion of the canyon, through the efforts of the Riverside Land Conservancy and others, was protected for a regional park, and came under management of the California State Parks.[6] When the regional park opens, it will add some much-needed public open space for the fast-growing Inland Empire. The park's features will include: trails for hiking and horseback riding; flora and fauna in the canyon's varied habitats; and historical landmarks, including the San Timoteo Schoolhouse.[7]

San Timoteo Schoolhouse County Park

The San Timoteo Schoolhouse, completed in the canyon in 1883, is on the National Register of Historic Places in Riverside County. It was acquired by the Riverside County Parks Department in 1993, has been restored, and is open as a museum.[8]

Fossils discovery

In 2010, a construction crew found a deposit of prehistoric animal fossils dating back 1.4 million years before present. The well-preserved cache contained nearly 1,500 bone fragments. They included: a giant cat that was the ancestor of the saber-toothed tiger; ground sloths the size of a modern-day grizzly bear; two types of camels; and more than 1,200 bones from small rodents. Other finds include a new species of deer, horse, and possibly llama.[9]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: San Timoteo Canyon
  2. ^ Ogden Hoffman, 1862, Reports of Land Cases Determined in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Numa Hubert, San Francisco
  3. ^ a b c d e f The Native Americans of Southern California, 1852. Family Tree Legends Records Collection (Online Database). Pearl Street Software, 2004-2005. pp. 40-41 For description of Juan Antonio's campaign against John Irving and his gang of San Francisco and Sydney outlaws, as well as the subsequent repercussions, see Beattie, Heritage of the Valley, 84-89; History of San Bernardino County (San Francisco, Wallace W. Elliott and Company, 1883), 77-79; Los Angeles Star, June 7, 1851, and November 20, 1851, Hayes, Scrapbooks, XXXVIII, Bancroft Library.
  4. ^ Moore, Frank Ensor, "Redlands Astride the Freeway", Chapter VIII - The Route Controversy: Through Redlands or San Timoteo Canyon?, pages 37-40, Moore Historical Foundation, Redlands, California, 1995, ISBN 0-914167-07-3.
  5. ^ San Timoteo Canyon State Park . accessed 7.14.2014
  6. ^ Riverside Land Conservancy Newsletter, Fall 2006. Retrieved October 4, 2009.
  7. ^ .California's State Parks: A Day Hiker's GuideGoogle Books: McKinney, John. Wilderness Press, June 2005. Retrieved October 4, 2009.
  8. ^ information about the San Timoteo Schoolhouse County Park.
  9. ^ Calif. utility stumbles on 1.4M-year-old fossils

Further reading

  • Christian, Peggy; "Historic San Timoteo Canyon"; Sagebrush Press, Morongo Valley, California: 2002.
  • Google Books: University of California Publications in Geological Sciences, Volume 144, Issue Date: November, 1999 – includes a chapter on the biostratigraphy and biochronology of San Timoteo Canyon.

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