The county of Riverside crosses several different geomorphic areas of California: beginning from the city of Riverside and snipping into the Transverse Range, cutting into a portion of the Peninsular Range and the Colorado Desert, and then ending in the Mojave Desert. It is considered as a part of both Southern California and the “Inland Empire”; it is composed of the western parts of two different counties that makes up the Riverside-San Bernardino area.
Riverside started out as mere farming, and grazing land for missions under the jurisdiction of Spain and then Mexico, and its eventual U.S. statehood truly began to draw in a great variety of people in the following years, and continuing to do so to this very day. The city of Riverside itself is southwest of San Bernardino and east from Los Angeles and located on the Santa Ana River, which is how its name was earned. Riverside is considered the fourth largest county in California by its population, stretching for approximately 200 miles across “fertile river valleys, low deserts, mountains, foothills, and rolling plains”.
The range of the county extends all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Colorado River, and its borders are shared with other prominent counties such as Orange, San Diego, and San Bernardino. The county took its name from the city of Riverside; it was formed in 1893 from the combining of a small portion of San Bernardino County and of a larger portion of San Diego County. Its political and county history is considered to have officially begun in the year of 1893, when voters who lived in the chunks of lands that were from San Bernardino County and San Diego County voted in approval of the formation of Riverside County. However, the land had already been occupied for a long time before the arrival of the Europeans and their descendants’ settlement. It was occupied by people such as the Native Americans: the Serranos, Luiseños, Cupeños, Chemehuevi, and the Cahuillas. One of the first Europeans to have travelled through the area was a man named Juan Bautista de Arza, who led an overland expedition with his 34 experienced soldiers in 1774. He was an army captain who was charged with the mission of discovering an overland route from Sonora, a state in Mexico, to San Gabriel and Los Angeles.
When he passed through what is now known today as Riverside County, he described seeing “fertile valleys, lakes, and sub-desert areas”. It was deemed as a Valley of Paradise, and it was mostly inhabited by Native Americans, who lived in niches of the rocky hills and were left relatively undisturbed. Later in the late 18th century, all of California and Mexico had been claimed by Spain– and the Spanish mission fathers of different mission lands such as San Gabriel, San Juan Capistrano, and San Luis Rey (located in Los Angeles, Orange County, & San Diego: in that order), colonized the available land for their missions. In the area that would eventually become Riverside County, no missions were ever built. Instead, it was claimed by San Gabriel and other missions, its interior valley (now known as western Riverside county) used for grain and cattle. However, this was not to last. Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1827 and took back California.
According to Chapter 3, “Mexican Californios: Conflict and Culture, 1821-1846), in Competing Visions: A History of California by Robert W. Cherney, Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, and Richard Griswold del Castillo, with the secularization of its mission lands, many native Californians fled to the inlands and into the foothills back to the remnants of their people, in an attempt to return to the lives they had once known. However, in the end they eventually came to a realization that things had greatly changed for them since then, even for tribes who were far from the missions. The changes were due to exposure to diseases and their traditional lands never being the same again after the “grazing of Mexican livestock and the introduction of European plants” (86).
The lives of the people living in Mexican California were greatly affected by Mexico’s victory and independence from Spain. The lands were then given as grants to Californians who were citizens of Mexico; the first land grant was given to a prominent figure in California, a man named Juan Bandini in 1838. The piece of land given to him was known as El Rancho Jurupa. According to Riverside: History, Bandini gave El Rancho Jurupa to a husband of one of his daughters, who sold the land to a man named Louis Rubidoux, who was in charge of the land along with other ranchers. It was after Rubidoux’s death that the land was purchased once again, by a man named John North. Schools, churches, and libraries were established, and communities grew.
The area became a town known as Riverside, with John North known as its founder. Approximately twenty years later after Mexico’s independence, the country suffered once again more casualties, but this time from the U.S.. During the Mexican-American war, there were thousands of increasing casualties in Mexico, soldiers and civilians both, first in the north and then later in the Valley of Mexico. By the year of 1847, the U.
S. army occupied Mexico City and waited for Mexico’s surrender. At that time, the Mexican government were experiencing intense pressure from the European creditors, lacking money to pay their troops, and were also experiencing internal rebellions from its people.
These existing factors led them to realize that they had no other choice but to surrender to the U.S.’s territory demands in exchange for the removal of foreign troops from their homeland. As a result, they signed a treaty of peace, famously known as the “Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo”, which ended the war and then established provisions, which specified the boundary between the two nations as “starting one marine league due south of the southernmost point of the Port of San Diego and running east of the Colorado River, then east following the Gila River and as yet undefined latitude line to the Rio Grande” (Cherney, Lemke-Santangelo, & Griswold del Castillo 108). After the Treaty in 1848, California had become a U.S. territory and then a state two years later, in 1850.
After it became a state, all kinds of people began to flow in: travelers, migrants, immigrants, settlers, etc, such as gold miners, entrepreneurs, adventurers, politicians, people seeking religious freedom, and more. The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenges of a New Era by Richard A. Walker and Suresh K. Lodha says that “California has long boasted rapid population growth, drawing in large numbers of migrants from other countries and from elsewhere in the USA, because of its continuous economic expansion and demand for labor” (24). Approximately 27 percent of the people living in California right now are foreign-born, as opposed to the 13 percent statistic for the United States as a whole; and most people are usually concentrated in large metropolitan areas in the coast, such as Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego, etc. However, even with large numbers already living in metropolitan areas, rapid growth has been occurring in the Inland Empire area, encompassing the Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in Southern California. It is observed that the geographic distribution of people residing in these areas is uneven, by their ethnicity and race– as people of European descent usually dominate mountainous regions while there are disproportionate numbers of Hispanics and Latinos residing in inland valleys; the coastal cities are considered as having the most mixed population.
Moreover, by the number of its population, Riverside is considered the fourth largest county in California– although the number is nothing compared to Los Angeles’s, having approximately a population of 4,304,997 compared to the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area, which has a population of 12,944,801. Just like the majority of other counties in California, the history of Riverside began with the Native Americans and the Spanish missions. Riverside has come a long way from being a humble land being used for grains and cattle grazing for the Spanish missions. It was a journey for the county– being occupied and sold to multiple people by Mexico, fought for by the United States– and then ending with it becoming a populous and still growing county in California. Bibliography”Riverside County History.” 2017.
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“Riverside Metropolitan Museum: Plant Communities of Riverside County.” 2017. Riverside,California | City of Arts & Innovation | Riverside Metropolitan Museum. AccessedDecember 2. https://www.riversideca.gov/museum/na-plantcom.
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In CompetingVisions: A History of California, 2nd ed., 107–9. Wadsworth, MA: Cenange Learning.Walker, Richard, and Suresh K. Lodha. 2013. The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challengesof a New Era. Berkeley: University of California Press.