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San Diego History

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History of San Diego, California

Anthropologists believe humans first settled in the San Diego coastal area as early as 20,000 years ago. Over the next several thousand years, Native Americans settled in the region. Including the Kumeyaay Indians, hunters and gatherers, inhabited the area.

In 1542, a Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailed from Mexico to the San Diego Bay, under the flagship of Spain. He named the area San Miguel and declared it the possession of Spain. Sixty years later, in 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino was mapping the coastline of Alta California for Spain, when he decided to name the area for a Spanish Catholic saint, San Diego de Alcala. The name has since remained.

In 1769, California Governor, Gaspar de Portola, and his expedition founded the Presidio of San Diego, which was a military post. It was founded on Presidio Hill, which is near the present site of Old Town. That same year on July 16, Franciscan friars raised and blessed a cross, establishing the first mission in Upper California.

In 1774, colonists started to arrive. The native people began to rebel and burned the mission as well as killed the priest and two others. Two years later, a fire proof mission was rebuilt. By 1797, the mission was the largest in California.

In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain and San Diego came under Mexican rule. In 1834 the San Diego Mission became secularized. At that time, 432 people petitioned the governor to form a pueblo. The original town of San Diego was located at the foot of Presidio Hill, which is now Old Town. In 1830 the population was about 600; by 1838 the town lost its pueblo status because the population dwindled to 100-150 residents.

The Mexican-American war was then started in 1846. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848, ending the war. San Diego then became a U.S. city. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state to join the United States. San Diego County was established as one of California’s original 27 counties and San Diego became the county seat. The population of San Diego at this time was 650.

In 1867, Alonzo Horton arrived from San Francisco. He acquired 800 acres of bay front land, which became New San Diego (today’s downtown San Diego). By 1870, the population of San Diego reached 2300. Gold was found in present day, Julian, which set off a local rush.

In 1885 the transcontinental railroad reached San Diego, causing the population to boom to 16,000 by 1890. Significant U.S. Navy presence began in 1901, with a Navy Coaling Station at Point Loma. Established in 1917 was Camp Kearny, the site of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. In 1922 a San Diego Naval Base was established. Since World War II the military has played a leading role in the local economy.

By 1970 San Diego had become the second largest city in California with a population of 696,474. Currently San Diego is the 9th largest city in the U.S. with a population of 1,279,329 (as of July 2008). Its biggest industries are tourism, manufacturing and military.

San Diego History Timeline

1542- Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovers San Diego Bay.

1602- Sebastian Vizcaino names area San Diego de Alcala

1769- First mission established in Upper California

1774- Colonists arrive

1775- Kumeyaay burn mission and kill priest

1795- First public school opens in San Diego

1821- Mexico wins independence from Spain- San Diego under Mexican rule

1846-1848 Mexican-American War- San Diego become U.S. city

1850- California becomes 31st state

1867- Alonzo Horton buys 800 acres- New San Diego established

1870- 1,440 acres set aside for city park- now Balboa Park

1872- Fire sweeps Old Town, destroys many buildings

1885- Transcontinental Railroad reaches San Diego

1912- Navy base established on North Island

1916- Plans begin for San Diego Zoo

1936- Minor League baseball team moves to San Diego to become San Diego Padres

1964- Sea World opens

1970- San Diego becomes California’s 2nd largest city

2004- PETCO Park opens

2008- Population reaches 1,279,329