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The Village of Temecula

By Dick Diamond

It has been over two hundred years since the Europeans first came through the Temecula Valley. In October of 1797, Father Juan Norberto de Santiago and Captain Pedro Lisalde walked into the valley. They were accompanied by seven soldiers and five Native-American, whom may have been Juanenos (from Mission San Juan Capistrano). The expedition was searching for a location for another mission.

Father Santiago remarked in his journal that the party has encountered an "Indian village" that was named Temecula.

A year later, Santiago finally selected a site and it was named the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. All natives living under the jurisdiction of the mission were to be called Luiseno Indians. Thus it is that the Mission Band of Pechangas and the Mission Band of Palas are known as Luisenos.

Fr. Antonio Peyri was in charge of Mission San Luis Rey. For a period of twenty years, under his direction, the mission prospered so that it became known as the "King of Missions."

At this time, the entire Temecula Valley (north to the top of the Murrieta grade on I-215, westward to Temescal Canyon on I-15, eastward to Anza Road in the Temecula Creek area, and south to the point where Temecula Creek and Murrieta Creek merge to become the Santa Margarita River) was a cattle ranch under the jurisdiction of Mission San Luis Rey.  However, there are records that the Mission San Juan Capistrano also claimed part of the valley for their cattle ranching endeavors.  The cattle ranged the area providing meat for the mission and hides to be traded with Yankee ships that were plying the California coast from Boston, Philadelphia, and other U. S. ports.

By 1818, the Temecula Valley had become Mission San Luis Rey's chief producer of grain.  It was at this time that the first buildings built by Europeans were constructed in what is now Riverside County.  These buildings were a granary, chapel, and majordomo's house.  They were built as the original site of the village of Temecula on a bluff south of Temecula Creek where it joins Murrieta Creek to become the Santa Margarita River.

It was not until a few years later that the village of Temecula was moved to the flatlands on Temecula Creek approximately three miles east from the original village. (That would be on the land near the Wolf Store at Redhawk Highway and Highway 79 south.)

When the Spanish period ended with Mexican independence, the Spanish missions were secularized and began a slow decline. The ranchos came into their ascendancy.


Some of the information in this article was taken from Jean Keller's report, "Historic Resources Analysis of the Vail Ranch Headquarters," published August 1996 for Jerry D. Swanger, Sr. as part of an overall analysis of the Vail Ranch properties, which include the homes east of Redhawk and also the commercial/industrial property facing Highway 79 South and extending from Redhawk Highway to Butterfield Stage Road.