Rancho Bernardo History
Opening of the Community Center
Please select here to view articles from the opening of the Community Center.
Please select here to view the article on the location of first Fire Station in Rancho Bernardo
Please select here to view some brochures of model houses.
Timeline of Human Occupation and Landownership of Rancho Bernardo
  • 15,000 BC – 11,500 BC
Anthropologists believe that humans first settled in the San Diego area as early as 20,000 years ago along the coast and 12,000 years ago within the desert.  
Santa Rosa Island, among the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California, is the site of the oldest known Indian remains discovered in North America dating back to 13,000 BC.  Possibly the San Diego area was inhabited by the same ancient Indians, but artifacts have not yet been found.  
The climate was much cooler as North American was coming out of an ice age.  There is a general warming effect that continues until 3500 BC, after which the region enters shorter patterns of alternating cooler and warmer temperatures.  Even when cooler and slightly wetter weather prevails, fauna is considerably the same as it is today - a mixture of semi-desert scrub and sparse conifer woodland. Deer, elk, bear and antelope are more plentiful.
  • 11,500 BC – 10,000 BC
Fluted spear points, hallmarks of Clovis, are uncovered at three sites in the greater San Diego area. Clovis artifacts are well represented in the Mojave Desert and Baja California.  With a high likelihood these Paleoindians occupied and thrived in this area for centuries.  
  • 10,000 BC – 7,000 BC
The oldest identified inhabitants of the San Diego area are known as the San Dieguito people or Kumeyaay.  
  • 7000 BC to 1000 BC
La Jollan people or Luiseno, assimilate the original San Dieguito people (or evolve from them).  The Luiseno occupy most lands to the north, including San Luis Rey, and inland, including San Pasqual.  
  • 1000 BC to 1000 AD
Yuman-speaking peoples intrude and assimilate the La Jollan peoples.  
  • 1000 AD to 1600 AD
Yuman and Shoshonean groups migrate to northern San Diego area.  Cahuilla and Cupeno peoples are nearby but are not attributed to occupying this portion of northern San Diego. Luiseno and Kumeyaay remain the strong holders of the immediate area.
  • 1542 – 1769
Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claims California for the Spanish Empire. Indian occupation remains unchanged.
  • 1769 – 1821
A band of Spanish soldiers and Franciscan missionaries arrive in San Diego in 1769. The area of San Diego County is given to the authority of the missions. In early 1800’s the name appearing on maps at that time for a parcel of land about 25 miles north of the town of San Diego is “El Paraje O Cañada de San Bernardo.” In English, which means “The place or canyon of Saint Bernard.”
  • 1821 - 1842
Mexico wins war for its independence from Spain in 1821.  Mission lands are now under the control of the new Mexican government.
  • 1842 - 1848
The Mexican Government offers massive tracts of land to anyone agreeing to settle on and work the lands.  The San Bernardo Land Grant of 1842 grants 17,763 acres to English Sea Captain Joseph Snook (Later ‘Don Jose’ Francisco Snook). Snook trades goods between California, Mexico and Peru. He wishes to settle down in California.  He becomes both Catholic and a Mexican citizen as requirements to obtain the land.
Snook stocks the ranch with herds of cattle, sheep, horses, mules and oxen. Contemporary writings described Rancho San Bernardo as one of the largest stock-raising operations in the region.
  • 1848 - 1867
California becomes the Territory of the United States in 1848 after two years of military conflict. Snook dies the same year and bequeaths his ranch and buildings to his wife Maria and siblings.  After the death of his brother and then his wife, Rancho San Bernardo is handed down to nieces and nephews living in England.  They sell the ranch and its holdings in 1867 to Thomas Fox, representing the interests of James McCoy.
  • 1867 – 1943
McCoy begins a process of subdividing the rancho. McCoy sold off parts of his acreage to three men, Sylvester Lyman, Omar Oaks, and Charles Wetmore. Lyman and Wetmore, in turn, subdivide their property into smaller ranches.
For the next century, Rancho Bernardo is a stopping-off point for travelers heading between the north and San Diego.  It is made up of a collection of private ranches, treeless grazing land, farms, and horse trails. 
  • 1943 - 1960
The Daley Family, San Diego ranchers, buy Rancho San Bernardo.  The population of Rancho Bernardo is estimated to be under 500 in 1960.  
  • 1961
Developer Harry Summers and business partner W.R. Hawn announce a joint venture with Lawrence and Donald Daley to develop the ranch into a Master Planned Community to be called Rancho Bernardo. 7 Oaks is one of the first communities developed and sold.
Master Planned Communities
Although Master Planned Communities were known in Greek and Roman times, the concept of designing a community from scratch was little used in the United States until the 20th Century.  Most communities grew organically and increased in size as people moved in or extended families spread out.  Master Planned Community designers, however, thoughtfully implemented grid systems for development, designated parks and open spaces, shopping areas, schools, libraries and civic buildings.  The first true Master Planned Community in the United States was Charleston, SC which was founded in 1670.  Washington, D.C. was also a Master Planned Community when the US Capitol moved from New York in 1790.
In 1928, San Clemente, CA was incorporated by Ole Hansen who designated that all buildings must be approved by an architectural review board in order to retain control over development and building style.  In the United States, suburban growth in the Sunbelt states coincided with the explosion of Master Planned Communities as Americans migrated for jobs and sunny retirement communities.  During the latter half of the 20th Century, Florida, California and Arizona benefited the most from such population shifts.  Today, Master Planned Communities are everywhere as the general desire for community living, strict architectural standards, and defined rules and regulations give members the assurance they need that property in their community will be maintained and value-enhanced.  
 Bernardo Branding Magazine Issues
A community publication from the early years of RB. It ran from early 60's to the mid 70's. As 7Oaks was the first community, much of these issues are about that area. Please select here to access the magazines from the Rancho Bernardo History Museum website. Only   post issues from the '60s due to copyright issues but they are and interesting read or at least browse.