John Brown Jr. Court Interpreter

John Brown, Jr., acting as court interpreter, supplied the following bit of early history to the San Bernardino Times, of January 22, 1876:

For some days past the District Court has been engaged in hearing the case of Craig, Cave et at. vs. Craft et at., involving the right to use the water of Old San Bernardino. A number of early pioneers were heard in the case. Among them were Daniel Sexton, whose testimony dates as far back as 1842; James W. Waters dates back as far as 1844; S. P. Waite to 1849, and others of later times. Byron Waters, attorney for the plaintiffs, has succeeded in finding a still older witness, Don Francisco Alvarado, who settled in the old adobe building near Mr. Waters’ new residence at Old San Bernardino, in 1826, fifty years ago.

Francisco Alvarado was duly sworn, and testified in substance as follows: ‘My name is Francisco Alvarado. I live near Cornelius Jasen’s residence in Jurupa, San Bernardino County. I was born in Los Angeles city, January 19, 1816, and am thus nearly sixty years of age. When I was a boy not over ten years old, my father moved from Los Angeles to the large adobe that was situated just east of the spot where Mr. Waters has recently built a residence, at Old San Bernardino. This was about the year 1826.

“This large adobe building was occupied by the Major-domo who was in charge of the Indians, and the east end of it served as a granary for the vast quantity of wheat raised by the Indians. This building was not used as a church for the mission, as some say, but was used, as I have said, by the Major-domo.

“These Indians were the Serrano and Cahuilla, and they numbered about 500. They lived south of the old building a few hundred yards, and cultivated the soil north and east. My father was appointed Majordomo, and they referred all their disputes to him; they had no chief then.

“The zanja of Old San Bernardino furnished water for these lands; it was made so as to provide water for cultivation. The zanja used to break very often; during high water it always broke, and the Indians would go up and repair it. I remember going up with little Indians, wading in the ditch, and hunting rabbits with our bows and arrows. I was not over ten years old. I grew up to manhood here around Old San Bernardino.

“The whole country was covered over with cattle as dense as sheep. At the base of the mountains there were many bears; we used to lasso them; we had fine horses. A number of years afterwards a man named Manuel came from Mexico, and began constructing, on the hill near Dr. Barton’s, the second house of adobe in this part of the country. Before completing it the Indian war between the Serrano and Cahuilla broke out, Manuel became frightened, left the country, and did not complete the building. In 1842 the rancho was granted to the Lugos, and they finished the building and lived in it. The roofs of this building fell in, the mortar and tar being poor, but the north roof was made good with clapboard.

When the Lugos came in 1842, houses of adobe were built; one near where Mr. Conunow lives, another on the banks of the Santa Ana river, about four miles southwest of the present town of San Bernardino, and another at San Salvador; also the church about this time. The ruins of these buildings can hardly be seen. There was another adobe erected in Yucaipa, on the hill near Mr. Standifer’s. These were the first houses in this valley. The long adobe for the Majordomo was the first one. Mr. Waters has leveled the old walls, so that I can hardly tell this used to be my old home fifty years ago. The old cottonwood trees are being cut down by where the old zanja ran. When I first saw the zanja, the older trees above Dr. Barton’s were large.”

Progress in the settlement of San Bernardino was very slow during this the second period of its history, which may fairly be called that of Mexican occupation, extending from 1831 to 1851. Stock-raising, the only industry which the residents considered worthy of them, was not calculated to further the rapid development of the country, and agriculture, while it was in-deed advancing to some slight extent, was as yet conducted on a very small scale. The Lugos did cultivate some twenty acres on the Rancho San Bernardino, and the settlers at Agua Mansa raised grain, fruits and vegetables enough for their own needs. But no one so much as dreamed of the production of these elements for profit.

The only settlers of Anglo-Saxon blood in San Bernardino County, up to 1851, were the few who had intermarried with the Mexicans, and who were scattered far apart, occupying some of the large ranchos.

In February, 1850, David Seeley, one of the oldest citizens, arrived and camped on the San Bernardino rancho. He had come in 1847 to Salt Lake, whence, two years later, he came to California. The only dwelling-house on the rancho at that time was at Jumor, where Jose Maria Lugo lived; there was an old adobe building on the lot now owned by Mrs. Wozencraft, but it had not been used as a dwelling for some years past. The Lugos had about twenty acres in cultivation at the Junior, and the rest of their land they used as a cattle range, estimating that they had some 8,000 head of horses and cattle.

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