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Top 10 Interesting Historical Facts about Temecula, CA

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While Temecula did not officially become incorporated until 1989, the history of this area goes back much further than that. Temecula has come a long way from the origin of wine country to a past littered with conflicts, stagecoach robberies, and cowboys. Here are our ten favorite historical facts about Temecula, CA.

1. Temecula’s Unique Name

Temecula gets its name from the Luiseño or Payómkawichum word Teméeku (The-MEH-too), meaning “sun place.” If you’ve ever been to this area of California, the name won’t surprise you. Interestingly enough, the name of this area originates in a Luiseño story detailing the origins of the world. In this story, the world’s origin is a place called “Éxva Teméeku,” a place where the sun and the sand meet. Some claim Temecula is the only place in California to keep its Indigenous name. However, this is somewhat debated. 

2. A Great Place to Live

Ancestors of the Luiseño have been living in the Temecula Valley as far back as 900 CE. Thanks to the rich farmland and fantastic weather, humans have found this area a great place to live for centuries. While “Luiseño” is a common name for the tribes who lived in this area and shared a language, several groups of Native Americans made the Temecula Valley their home. Luiseño had lived in Temecula for over 800 years before Father Juan Norberto de Santiago first arrived to set up a Mission in 1797. While Santiago eventually returned to Mexico, his records of the Temecula area still survive.

3. Lost History

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 caused a fire that destroyed many of the records we had of early Temecula. As a result, the area’s history surrounding the early 1800s is scarce or completely gone due to this fire. While this earthquake was not centered in Temecula, it did leave over 400,000 people homeless and led to the destruction of many historical documents. 

4. Desperados and Stagecoach Robberies

Who doesn’t love a good western drama? Early in Temecula’s history, it was plagued by desperados and robberies. Juan Flores was a gang member responsible for the murder of a San Juan Capistrano shopkeeper. This led to the greatest manhunt in California and Flores’ eventual capture. Thankfully, the days of stagecoach robberies and roaming outlaws are far in the past, as Temecula has moved well into the modern age. However, there is still an air of that Old West romanticism in the area, shown in some historic architecture. 

5. Nothing Stops the Temecula Mail

Temecula was home to the second post office in all of California. This post office was opened in 1859 and connected Temecula to the rest of the world via the mail, which came in on stagecoach and eventually trained. While the post office is a historic milestone, its location is far from set in stone. Some estimate the city moved up the Temecula post office 7 or 8 times in its lifetime. 

6. Big Ranch, Big Dreams

In 1905, Walter L. Vail began buying property in the Temecula Valley region. Vail was a cattle rancher, and while he had cattle ranching operations elsewhere, he was looking to expand his empire to Temecula. While Walter L. Vail died the year after beginning to buy property, his son continued his legacy. Interestingly enough, his ranch grew to cover 97,500 acres after Kaiser Development Company purchased it in 1964, double the size of San Franciso (the city and the county). 

7. That Temecula Fighting Spirit

Temecula saw its share of conflict over the years, from early participation in the Mexican-American wars to its history with highway robbery and murderers. However, there’s one fighting aspect of Temecula that’s far tamer. Prizefighters Jack Dempsey and Jack Sharkey both trained in the area, setting up a boxing ring over the Blind Pig Saloon. While this was back in the 1920s, you can see one of their fights here. While the fight didn’t happen in Temecula Valley, it’s still a fascinating piece of the area’s history. 

8. Temecula Cowboy Boom

The Vail Ranch wasn’t the only thing bringing cowboys to Temecula. The great land and even better climate made the area great for ranching, bringing cowboys to the site. Most of Temecula’s money came from ranching or agriculture, meaning that cowboys and ranchers had a monopoly on the area in the 1960s. To this day, you can feel this American spirit in the area, and the dependence on agriculture carries over into Temecula’s reputation as home to incredible wineries and vineyards. 

9. Wine Country Begins

While Temecula was known for its agriculture, it was in the mid-1970s that its potential began to be realized. Development in the area made people recognize that Temecula was perfect for growing avocados and grapes. This discovery led to the creation of many vineyards synonymous with Temecula and turned Temecula into the wine country it is today. On one of our wine-tasting tours, you can look at some of the best vineyards in Temecula. 

10. The Buffman Project

We’ve last saved one of the more interesting historical facts about Temecula. In 1993, Zev Buffman had an idea to try and revitalize Temecula’s Old Town. The district was less than lively, known for closing early and attracting few visitors. Buffman had an idea to embrace the Old West style infused throughout Temecula and turn it into a venue that would bring jobs and tourism to the area. While Buffman eventually paired with Roy Roger’s son for this endeavor, the project never got off the ground. Concerns about noise levels and crime caused the project to falter and several lawsuits. While Buffman tried to move this project to another location, it never got off the ground, leaving the area undeveloped. 


Check out our tours if you’re interested in learning more about Temecula. Our wine tour takes you through some of the oldest vineyards in the area and lets you get a real feel for Temecula’s agricultural history. If you’re interested in exploring the nearby areas, we offer tours all around Southern California. Here at Best Coast Tours, we work hard to merge the best parts of history with the excitement of today to bring you fascinating and exciting tours across Southern California. So be sure to book a trip with us today!