By Peter Bradley
If your family is looking for a summer activity that is both local and educational, there are several historic church sites in San Bernardino and Riverside counties to visit. This will also help your children when they need to write a report for school this fall.
Site of First Parish
San Salvador de Jurupa Parish was founded in 1852 to serve the Catholics in the Aqua Mansa community, who came from New Mexico. The town and the church structure were lost in the 1862 flood. The parish cemetery, being on higher ground, survived and was used from 1852-1941. The site is part of the San Bernardino County Parks system with regular tours. To access it, take Riverside Avenue south from Interstate 10 in Rialto, go east on Aqua Mansa Road.
San Bernardino County Asistencia
This outreach location of the Mission San Gabriel was most probably an “estancia,” a cattle rancho with a few added amenities. It was built in 1830 and abandoned in 1834. Restored in 1925, it is a facility associated with the San Bernardino County Museum. The restored chapel is popular for weddings and designated as State Historical Landmark # 42. It is located at Barton Road and Nevada Street in Redlands.
Mojave Indian Trail Monument
Father Francisco Garces celebrated the first Mass in our current Diocesan area on March 21, 1774, as he accompanied a land-based expedition from Mexico to the San Gabriel Mission. The monument marks the 1776 trip that Fr. Garces took from Needles to the San Gabriel Mission.
This historical landmark (#618) is located eight miles northwest of Crestline. It is found on Monument Peak and access is granted from the U.S. Forest Service’s Lytle Creek Station.
The DeAnza Trail
By the early 1770’s, the Spanish Missions in southern California were in desperate conditions, needing food and supplies. A land route from Mexico was needed. In January of 1774, Capt. Juan Bautiste de Anza left Sonora, crossing the Colorado River into today’s Riverside County, and finally reached the San Gabriel Mission. His travels through today’s Anza Borrego State Park were recognized with State Landmark # 103 where the expedition camped on March 16, 1774. It is located seven miles southwest of the town of Anza on the Cary Ranch.
Divine Word Seminary
In 1833, the California Missions were secularized and distributed as land grants to prominent people. This site was named Rancho La Sierra and given to Vicente Sepulveda in 1846 by Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California. The 18,000-acre property was purchased in 1857 by Abel Stearns, who already owned the adjacent Rancho Jurupa. Willits Hole acquired the ranch in 1909 and built the Hole Mansion in 1912. The mansion and surrounding land were purchased by the Society of Divine Word Missionaries in 1956. The mansion was designated as City of Riverside Cultural Heritage Board landmark # 44. It is located at 11316 Cypress Avenue in the La Sierra area of Riverside.
These historic sites are a reminder to us that while the Diocese of San Bernardino began in 1978, the roots of the Catholic Church in our area can be found several centuries earlier.
This will be my last article for the Heritage Road Series, as I retire this month from the Archives Office. I want to thank the many families who have shared their memories and historical items about the parishes and schools with the Diocesan Archives. I have enjoyed writing about the Catholic history in San Bernardino and Riverside counties that began in the 1850’s with San Salvador de Jurupa Parish. Let us all look forward to our 50th Diocesan Anniversary in 2028.