Los Angeles County
Pre-History to 1799 A.D.
1.7 Billion Years Ago
Rock formations found on what is now the eastern
slope of the San Gabriel Mountains begin to form beneath an ancient
sea. The coastline is found quite a bit east of its present location
in what is now Utah and Idaho.
65 Million Years Ago
Toward the beginning of the Cenozoic Era, the Los
Angeles Basin and area mountains lie beneath swampy sea-marshes and
lagoons, receiving sediment from large rivers flowing out of the
low-lying ancestral Nevadan mountains. Dinosaurs are extinct. The San
Gabriel Mountains begin to form.
24 to 5 Million Years Ago
At the beginning of this era, what will become the Los Angeles
area lies beneath a deep, subtropical sea and, before the San Andreas Fault
begins its push, is located about 100-150 miles southeast of where it is today.
The land later begins to emerge, with the local shoreline running along the San Gabriel,
Santa Monica and Santa Ana Mountains and the Covina Hills. These ancient hills,
ripe with volcanic activity, rise to no more than an elevation of 1,000 feet.
Dry land around the submerged Los Angeles Basin becomes subtropical, receiving about
30-40 inches of rainfall a year. It is covered with scrub forest and inhabited
by ancient horses, rhinoceros and camels.
5 to 1.8 Million Years Ago
Los Angeles area hills are forced upwards in height to become
mountain ranges. The sea level drops.
1.8 Million to 10,000
ranges now are present and the Los Angeles Basin, formed from
accumulating sediment deposits, slowly rises from the sea. The
shoreline recedes to about where it exists today. The climate is
cooler and moister than present, similar to that of present-day
Monterey Peninsula, with glacier activity along the peaks of the San
Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains and Redwoods growing in the Santa
Monica Mountains. The basin becomes a large grassy, brush-covered and
marshy plain, roamed by Saber-Tooth Tigers
(or Saber-Tooth Cats), Giant Ground Sloth, Dire Wolves, Western Horses,
Ancient Bison, Short-Faced Bears (Artodus Simus), Columbian Mammoths, American
Mastodons and many other now-extinct species. A number of these
animals find themselves unwittingly trapped
in the tar fields of what will be known as the La Brea Tar Pits.
The Saber-Tooth Tiger
(or Saber-Tooth Cat) becomes extinct in Southern California. The Los Angeles
Basin is covered in grassy plains with scattered strands of junipers and
cypress trees, streams, marshes, small lakes and ponds. The Chumash
begin settling in coastal villages in the Los Angeles area.
A young women who would
later become known as La Brea Woman, dies in the Park La Brea area of Los
Angeles, perhaps killed by a blow to the head. Her remains are unearthed about 9,000 years
later in 1914. The period is also the possible era of Los Angeles Man,
who is then believed to
make his residence in West Los Angeles. Much later, in 1936 A.D., the mineralized
cranium of his skull is discovered in the Ballona Creek area by workers
excavating a storm drain.
The Chumash engage in sophisticated basketry and make use of
asphaltum (tar) for water-proofing. There is increased reliance on
hunting and the more sophisticated technological developments such as
the throwing stick, knives, drills, and fish hooks. Burials include
Large coastal villages appear. The Chumash engage in warfare and
trade and form alliances. There is increased division of labor and
craftsmanship. Funerary practices are more elaborate. They still
practiced little to no agriculture as they continue to enjoy an
environment rich in natural resources.
Tongva Indians arrive in Southern California from the Mojave area,
displacing earlier residents related to the Chumash.
The Chumash engage in sports competitions and the
development of musical instruments. Trade in the region is widespread,
including the use of shell beads for money.
exist in what will become Los Angeles County. The population is about 300 to 500 people.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo lands on
Catalina Island, the first European contact with the future Los Angeles. Seeing at a
distance the Indian campfires at Santa Monica Bay, he names it Bay of Smoke.
Father Crespi, a member
of a Spanish land expedition led by Captain Fernando Rivera Y Moncado, first
makes record of Los Angeles (August 2). Local Indians, from the nearby village
of Yang-Na (located near what is now the Civic Center) greet the party. A series
of earthquakes are experienced by the expedition while in the Los Angeles area.
Fathers Pedro Cambon
and Angel Somera establish the Mission
San Gabriel Arcangel (Saint Gabriel the Archangel) in modern-day Montebello
Padres are forced to move the
Mission San Gabriel Arcangel to its present location in modern-day San Gabriel due to flooding
at the original site.
Mission San Gabriel, San Gabriel. Photo by Klyde
Governor Felipe de Neve issues
instructions for the establishment of a new pueblo (town) with the proposed name El
Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles Sobre el Rio de la Porciuncula (August 26).
It becomes known as El Pueblo (The Town). The first Indians are baptized at the
Mission San Gabriel seven years after the establishment of the mission.
Governor Felipe de Neve visits
the future site of the new pueblo to clear the land and mark it off. Forty-four men,
women, and children begin life at the new pueblo, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina
de los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the
Porciuncula River)(September 4). Only two of the original adult settlers are white Spaniards.
The other settlers are of Indian, Mestizo, African, and Mulatto descent. Twenty-two are
Father Junipero Serra arrives in
El Pueblo to condemn the moral condition of its residents.
The first three land grants in
the Los Angeles area are given to three soldiers, Juan José Dominguez, Manuel Nieto, and
José Maria Verdugo. These are Los Angeles first ranchos.
José Vanegas, one of the
original settlers and an Indian, is appointed Alcalde (mayor) of El Pueblo.
begins on what would later become known as the Gage Mansion in Bell
Gardens and the oldest surviving home in Los Angeles County. The home
later becomes part of the Rancho San Antonio land grant given to Don
Antonio Maria Lugo in 1810.
(Special thanks to Shane P. Kimbler of
Bell Gardens for this information)
San Fernando Rey de España (Saint Ferdinand, King of Spain) is founded
by Father Lasuén (September 8).