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History of Riverside, California

History of Riverside, California

Founded in 1870, Riverside CA was named because of it is located next to the Santa Ana River. Riverside became the county seat in 1893, when Riverside County was established in California. Today, it is home to various landmarks, and surrounded by various cities. However, it has come a long way from the original developers first settled in the area.

Precolonial Period

Before Spain had colonized Alta California and Mexico, Native Americans commonly visited the land that would later become Riverside, California. However, there are no permanent settlements currently known, there is evidence of temporary settlements existing. In later years, explorers had written about villages that were occasionally spotted along the river.

Additionally, White Sulphur Springs has produced various artifacts along with rocks with grain grinding holes in them south of Mount Rubidoux. These have given some evidence and insight to the activity of Native Americans during the precolonial period.

Spanish Period

On March 20th, 1774, an exploratory expedition led by Juan Bautista De Anza had been attempting to discover land routes to Alta California from Mexico, and had reached the land region that is currently known as Riverside, California. The area had been described as being fragrant and beautiful with hints of rosemary and various other herbs. Additionally, the area provided rich grasslands that were great for grazing cattle and horses. It was then the area was named Valle de Paraiso, which translates into Valley of Paradise. It is this description which is considered the first officially recorded mention of the area which would become the California city of Riverside.

On December 31st, 1775 De Anza was leading another expedition to the area. The second expedition had the goal of colonizing and was heading to Monterey, spending the night of New Years Eve along the Santa Ana River banks, waiting until the following day to cross the river.

The expedition group are believed to have taken routes following a course that started somewhere around Lake Perris within present day Moreno Valley. Then, going towards the Box Springs Grade by the 60/215 Hwy, crossing Riverside heading towards where the current location of Martha McLean – Anza Narrows park. To recognize where the expedition group had gone across the Santa Ana River, a marker was dedicated within the park. Additionally, Riverside city started working on a statue of De Anza which would measure 20ft in height. The project was started in 1939 to commemorate the expedition of De Anza, receiving donations from both federal grants and private parties. In May 1942 this dedication was completed and placed on the corner of 14th St and Market St.

American Period

In 1873, William Saunders, the Bureau of Agriculture’s superintendent, was convinced by Eliza Tibbets to create her a test grower for use with his new seedless oranges originating from Bahia Brazil. The citrus industry was revolutionized by the orange trees sent to her by Saunders, as Tibbets planted and nurtured the trees. Later, these oranges would be named Washington Navel Oranges, proving to become Saunders’s most successful experimentation. Furthermore, the event turned out to be among the most outstanding occurrences within the social and economic development within the state of California. Over the following 60 years, and beyond, these two small orange trees that Eliza planted in Riverside, California would expand into a massive industry.

Prior to the Washington navel orange trees being planted by Tibbet, there had been a citrus industry within California already being introduced. Although, there had not been an outstanding early or mid-seasoned variety of sweet oranges in the area, which adapted to the climate greatly. At the time, the extant citrus had been the most seeded trees growing with seeds, as seeds could be obtained either from the Spanish missions or locally. Meanwhile, growers continued to experiment, but there had been a lack with quality standardization.

In 1873, two trees were planted by Eliza Tibbets in her garden. It has been stated and accepted that Tibbets cared for these trees using dishwater remains to maintain them and ensure they continued to stay alive. The reason for dishwater to be used for watering the tree, was due to Tibbets not being connected to the canal waters. It has been suggested by agricultural officials the success of Tibbet’s two trees is attributed to her care for them.

In 1875 to 1876, the trees produced their first fruits. In 1879, the Washington navel oranges were displayed publicly at a fair. It was at this fair the commercial value and characteristics for the oranges, including shape, size, quality, texture, color, and being seedless was recognized. Because of the semiarid weather within Riverside, it was ideal conditions for Tibbet’s orange trees, with thick skins allowing it to become packaged and shipped off. Because of the contrast that existed between the new Washington navel oranges, and the existing seedling trees, the majority of new grove planting had opted for Washington navel oranges. The extensive planting of Washington navel oranges as nursery trees occurred as Tibbet had sold local nurserymen budwood from her trees, allowing them to clone her trees.

Legacy of Introduction

After the success of Tibbets’ navel oranges, citrus planting quickly increased, with the predominant plant being Washington navel oranges. Soon, the commercial success for the earlier orchards created widespread interests. By the 1900s, Washington navel oranges were officially the most grown citrus in the state of California.

The state and national economy was driven significantly by the spread of Riverside produced Washington navel orange growth, which expanded throughout the state. By 1917, the Washington navel oranges had become an industry obtaining $30 million annually within California. This amount reached $67 million by 1933, going from 1 million boxes (1887) to over 65.5 million boxes of grapefruit, lemons, and of course oranges by 1944. The citrus industry in California experienced explosive growth, despite the 1930s depression years.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Guide: Riverside County” Retrieved 7 November 2017.