History of the San Jacinto Valley

San Jacinto Valley points of historical interest

The historical evidence of the San Jacinto Valley dates back at least 16,000 years with the discovery of bones of mastodons, mammoths, and saber-toothed cats.  They were all unearthed during the construction of the dams for Diamond Valley Lake in the early 1990s.  The skeletons are now on display at the Western Science Center located at the East Dam.  Also on display are artifacts of early Native Americans.  There is a viewpoint of the lake at the West Dam off Winchester Road.

The San Jacinto Valley Maze Stone

San Jacinto Valley Maze stoneThe earliest Native American artifacts date back an estimated 1000 years.  They are large rocks with a maze carved into the surface of the stone.  One is located west of Hemet, near the hills, and the other rock was found in a field in San Jacinto, about 3 miles north of the Hemet Maze Stone.  The San Jacinto Maze Stone was moved to the Soboba Indian Reservation.  The San Jacinto Museum has a replica of the rock on display in addition to a drawing of the Hemet Maze Stone. There are displays of Native American culture from the past 200 to 300 years that include grinding stones {matate}, ollas, and woven baskets.  Similar artifacts can be seen at the Western Center, and the Hemet Museum.

The Spanish Influence

The Spanish influence began in 1774, when Don Juan Baptista De Anza explored a overland route from southern Arizona to San Francisco.  He camped near the river coming from the mountains to the east, and gave it the name, San Jacinto.  When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1842, Jose A. Estudillo, a San Diego administrator, was deeded 35,000 acres, which included all of the San Jacinto Valley.  There was no development of the land until the early 1860s, when two of Jose Estudillo’s sons came to start cattle reaching in the valley.  By 1870, they were selling off parcels to the American pioneers.  In 1885, both Francisco Estudillo and Jose Antonio Estudillo constructed two story brick mansions in San Jacinto.  Francisco deeded land to the railroad bringing the train from Hemet to his doorstep to the end of Main Street in San Jacinto.San Jacinto Valley Estudillo Mansion

Francisco’s mansion is on a 6-acre parcel, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the Francisco Estudillo Heritage Park.  The restored mansion is open for tours on Saturdays.  The San Jacinto Museum is located on the grounds of the park.

The Santa Fe RailroadSan Jacinto Valley train

The Santa Fe Railroad Depot in Hemet has been preserved and houses the Hemet Museum.  The museum has displays of fossils, local Native American artifacts, Spanish exploration, Mexican settlement, and pioneers of the American era, a special display on the Hemet Dam.

Another stop on the railroad was Winchester, located about 5 miles west of Hemet.  The 2 story Patterson House houses the Winchester Museum that chronicles early American
San Jacinto Vally train passengerspioneer life and history.


Helen Hunt Jackson was commissioned to chronicle the plight of the Native Americans living in southern California in the 1880s.Author of Ramona, Helen Hunt Jackson She is the author of the novel “Ramona” that she wrote after her time spent in the San Jacinto Valley.  The book is about the struggle of the Native Americans, the Mexicans, and the introduction of the American pioneers with resulting conflicts. The book was adapted into an outdoor play in 1923.  The setting is in a natural amphitheater in the hills south of Hemet called the Ramona Bowl.  The play, in its 90th year, is for 3 weekends each year in April and May.  There is also a museum on the grounds of the bowl area.

Russians fly to the San Jacinto Valley

In 1937, the Russians set a world non-stop flight distance record.  A single engine aircraft, ANT-25, with a crew of three, flew from Moscow, over the polar region, and down to Southern California.  They covered a distance of 6300 miles in 62 hours.  The costal region was foggy, so the crew flew inland and located a pasture of a dairy in San Jacinto to land their aircraft. San Jacinto Valley Transpolar Flight A Riverside County Historical Marker along Cottonwood Avenue in San Jacinto identifies the site.  The San Jacinto Museum has an extensive display of related Russian memorabilia including a large 1:7 scale model of the aircraft.  The model, built in 1987, was flown at a model aircraft show in Las Vegas.  There is also a Russian display at the March Field Air Museum.

Another museum related to flying is the Ryan School of Aeronautics Museum located at Ryan Field in Hemet.  During World War II, many pilots were trained at the airport in Hemet.

For more information:
San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce (951) 654-1645
Hemet/San Jacinto (951) 658-3211
Email: info@visitsanjacintovalley.com