The first humans entered the New World during the last ice age 15,000 years ago when sea levels were low enough that people from northeastern Asia (Russia) could possibly walk or paddle across the shallow and narrow Bering Sea (Beringia). A rich habitat of seals, walruses, bears and fish encouraged hunters to travel across. It has been assumed, but not proved, that hunters migrated further through an ice free corridor from Alaska to the interior American plains, but this corridor may have not been ice free until 13,000 years ago. New thinking is that it is more likely that earlier groups with seaworthy boats followed an ice-free coastline, including California, more than 8,000 years ago. There are important archeological sites documenting colonization of California sites on the channel islands; Santa Rosa Island, San Miguel and San Clemente Islands. Early sites have been documented along the mainland coast in the San Diego and Santa Barbara areas.
Reference: California Prehistory, edited by Terry Jones & Kathryn Klar pg.53. ‘One if by Land, Two If by Sea: Who were the First Californians?’ Jon Erlandson, et al.
Over 200 years after Cabrillo first explored the Alta California coast for Spain in 1542, The Spanish ignored Alta California until Great Britain and Russia started exploring the Pacific coast. The Spanish governor of Baja California led a land and sea expedition northward that resulted in the founding of a San Diego fort (presidio) and father Junipero Sera’s first mission (San Diego de Alcala).
Reference: Historical Atlas of California, by Derek Hayes pg. 36-38, San Diego History Center.
Because England was an enemy of Spain during the American Revolution, Spain provided some logistical and financial support to the 13 American colonies during the on the eastern seaboard. rebelling against England. Spain worried about England and Russia trying to claim part of Alta California. This was one of the reasons the Spanish were motivated to expand their presence and build missions and presidios along the California coast.
Reference: The Role of Spain in The American Revolution: An Unavoidable Strategic Mistake, Major Jose I. Yaniz
After Junipero Serra’s death the last California mission was founded La Misión de San Luis, Rey de Francia (The Mission of Saint Louis, King of France). At its prime, Mission San Luis Rey’s structures and services compound covered almost 950,400 acres, making it the largest of the missions, along with its surrounding agricultural land. Native Americans in this area came to be called the Luisenos by the Spanish.
The Mexican War of Independence began in 1810 while Spain was having bigger problems in Europe. The French had invaded and occupied part of Spain. Supporting New Spain (Mexico) was too costly and too far away. California was a remote territory. The Spanish colonists were often left to fend for themselves. Ironically, it was Mexican born Spaniards who initially led the uprising for Independence. Following 11 years of conflict, Spain accepted Mexican Independence.
Reference: Historic Ranchos of San Diego, by Richard Pourade
After the departure of Spain, Mexico worried that the Spanish missions held too much property and power over the people. Mexico began a program of secularization whereby the mission lands were confiscated and redistributed to Mexican citizens. Some land grants were modest, others were huge Ranchos of tens of thousands of acres.
Reference: Pico Pico the last Governor of Mexican California, by Carlos Manual Salmon.
Americans and Europeans were already streaming into California looking for land. American settlers were assuming California would one day become part of the United States. Many Californios, who felt that Mexico had been neglecting Alta California for years, also believed it was inevitable that the Americans would invade. The Americans did invade California with a large Army force from the east, plus Naval detachments that were waiting offshore, and militias of Mountain men that formed the temporary Bear Flag Republic. In addition to California (which included today’s Arizona), New Mexico, disputed parts of Texas, and the heartland of Mexico were also invaded by U.S. forces.
Reference: Lay of The Land, by Michael Pallamary pp. 1-12
Before the war ended, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill and the Gold Rush was on. By 1853 more than 300,0000 prospectors came to California.
Reference: Historical Atlas of California, by Derek Hayes pg. 88
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was imposed on Mexico, ending the war. The treaty ceded California, Arizona, and New Mexico to the United States. In return, Mexican residents in these States would become American citizens and their property respected. However, the treaty called for title and boundaries of private property to be verified.
The U.S. Civil War, largely fought well east of California, delayed the U.S. from sending survey teams to California. Because survey teams were often led by and composed of military officers who had been trained as civil engineers. The first priority was to survey the International boundary between Mexico and Alta California. Old Town San Diego was the next priority. It would be years more before survey teams reached today’s Fallbrook area.
Reference: Lay of The Land, by Michael Pallamary
Vital Reche and his family were originally staying in Temecula with his wife’s brother John Magee while Vital searched for land to homestead. In 1870 the Reche family was living and farming in Live Oak Canyon, which Vital named his Fall Brook Ranch. The Census Bureau designated this area as the ‘Pala District’. Reche could not file for the homestead immediately because the U.S. Survey crews had not yet confirmed the boundaries to Rancho Monserate. However, Reche befriended the surveyors, renting them crude cabins he built on his farm, so Vital likely had excellent information on where the Rancho Monserate boundary would be drawn and where his homestead could begin.
References: U.S. Census records, Homestead records, writings of Don Rivers, FHS Historian.
The California Pacific Railroad was formed to build a railroad from National City to Oceanside, east through the treacherous Temecula canyon and then in a northerly direction toward San Bernardino, 211 miles distant. At Oceanside, a line running east up the Santa Margarita River was built with mostly Chinese laborers. From Barstow, trains would connect San Diego to the rest of the country. The railroad reached Fallbrook in March 1882. The Fallbrook station opened with a telegraph station and a Wells Fargo office at the intersection of today’s De Luz Rd and Sandia Creek Rd.
Reference: San Diego History Center, The California Southern Railroad and the Growth of San Diego, by Douglas Lowell
Two land speculators; William M. Scott and his son in law Francis W. Bartlett arrived in 1884, formed the Land and Town Company to buy acreage up the hill from the train station in Santa Margarita canyon. F.W. Bartlett applied to the County of San Diego to create “West Fallbrook” under the State Townsite law. The County surveyor Charles Sanford arrived to officially lay off 75 acres of Bartlett’s property with street names that we still use today.
Reference: 1885 maps and writings at Fallbrook Historical Society,
After the Mexican American War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted American citizenship to Mexican residents of California, and the promise that their land titles would be respected. Native Americans were not citizens of the United States and generally did not hold title to the land they were living on, which was homesteaded by settlers. On June 2, 1924, Congress granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S.