Father Juan Norberto de Santiago was the first white man to set foot in the Temecula Valley in October, 1797. He was on an expedition from Mission San Juan Capistrano, seeking a site for a new mission. His exploration party consisted of seven soldiers and himself and they headed to what is now Lake Elsinore, then south through the Temecula Valley and on to the ocean. Father Juan Santiago established a rancho at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, CA and in 1810 returned to Mexico.
In 1821, Jose Sanchez, a Franciscan priest, recorded that he had accompanied Mariano Payeras, prefect of the missions, on a visit to Temecula. It was during this period that the Pala Mission was built andChristianization of the Native Americans began.
In 1831, some American trappers rode into the valley, consisting of Ewing Young, Isaac Galbraith and John Turner. In 1845, Rancho Temecula was granted to Felix Valdez.
In January, 1847, a massacre took place in a nearby canyon. This canyon is just below the present site of the Vail Lake Dam and was the scene of the bloodiest battle of the Mexican war. During this time, the Temecula Indians decided to capture eleven Mexican soldiers, whom they later executed at a place now known as Warner Springs. The Mexicans went after the Temeculans, with the help of the Cahuilla Indians, who had been wanting to settle a score with Temeculans over some previous skirmishes. The Temeculans were killed and buried in a common grave, which is still visible from Highway 79.
Juan Flores was a leader of a gang of outlaws, who killed a storekeeper in San Juan Capistrano, as well as in Temecula. With some help from Manuilito Chapalac, he hid out near Santiago Peak, where he and his remaining followers, who by that time had killed the Los Angeles County Sheriff and were captured by posses from El Monte and San diego. Juan Flores escaped and this triggered the greatest manhunt in California. He was finally captured in Simi Pass, which is north of Los Angeles. On February, 21, 1857, the Los Angeles jailer surrendered him to a mob and Juan Flores was hung on a street of the town.
The Butterland Stage Route was headed eastbound from San Francisco and stopped for a change of horses in Temecula during the night of September 18, 1858. On board were the drivers and G. Bailey, who was the special agent for the Post Office Department. The stage stopped at the Magee store over the next three weeks, two stages each week for horses and drivers to be changed. Passengers were served food and were able to refresh themselves. The Butterfield Stage lasted less than three years; however other stages and routes served Southern California beyond the Butterfield Stage era.
The stages brought new settlers to the area and mail became an important link with the rest of the country. On April 22, 1859, the first inland Southern California post office was established in Temecula in the Magee store.
This was the second post office in the state; the first being located in San Francisco. The Temecula post office has moved a number of times. The current location is the seventh and eighth sites it has occupied.
Another migration reached Temecula Valley, that was brought on by the discontent of the Civil War. It was also during this time that the Mormon March, which was the longest military march in United States history, passed through Temecula on the way to San Diego.
A rail line was completed between National City and Temecula in January, 1882. Regular service started two months later and local residents had good access to San Diego. The rail service provided a minor business boom with several new stores being built. The line was extended to San Bernardino in 1883. there was a series of floods during the 1880's, which washed out tracks. The railroad was abandoned and the Temecula station wound up as a barn and was later demolished.
At the turn of the century, Temecula gained a place of importance as a shipping point for grain and cattle. Temecula became a cowtown, as cattle drives from the cow country took place.
Walter L. Vail had migrated to California with his parents and in 1904, along with various partners began buying vast acreages in Southern California. Vail was already a cattle rancher on a grand scale before he started buying ranch land in the Temecula Valley. In 1906, Vail was run over by a street car in Los Angeles. His son took over the family ranch.
Mahlon Vail and other local ranchers in 1914, financed the First National Bank of Temecula.
In 1915, the first paved two lane county road was built through Temecula.
The late 1920's-1930's brought more interesting events to Temecula, including murders, a bank robbery, a flood and visits by Hollywood celebrities. Prize fighters Jack Dempsey and Jack Sharkey worked out in a makeshift ring on the second floor of the old Welty building over the Blind Pig Saloon and some moon whinging was conducted in the surrounding hills.
Vail Ranch, by 1947, contained approximately 87,500 acres. The Vail family had dreamed of building a dam, which would catch Temecula Creek. In 1948, to the tune of more than $1 Million, the dam was completed and created Vail Lake.
During the 1960's, the Old West lifestyle continued in Temecula with the clientele of the Swing Inn, the Long Branch Saloon and the Stables bar being mainly ranchers, cowboys and Indians.
The Long Branch Saloon was converted to a meeting house and the Stables Bar became the site for retail stores. The Swing Inn still remains, as seen in the picture above.
The I-15 was completed in the early 1980's; which became a corridor from Los Angeles County to San Diego. Rancho California incorporated in December, 1989 and the citizens voted to officially name the city, Temecula.
Temecula is an awesome place to go for wineries in Southern California. Winemaking made its debut in California at Mission San Juan Capistrano by the Mission padres. The first modern commercial vineyard in the Temecula Valley was established in 1968 by Vincenzo and Audry Cilurzo.
The Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival is held annually on the first weekend of June at Lake Skinner Recreation Area. The event features morning balloon launches, evening balloon glows, wine tasting from more than 20 wineries, wine competition, food and wine pairing, concerts, giant arts and craft fair, kids fair and fine art paintings on exhibit.
Other places and things to are the Temecula Valley Polo Club, the Temecula International Film Festival held annually in September and championship golf courses. Other industries that contribute to the economy are education, health care, leisure, professional, finance and retail.