History of Valley Center

Valley Center, California, is an unincorporated rural community in northern San Diego County with a population of approximately 25,000. The town covers about 100 square miles. Much of it is in agriculture.

A brief history:

The earliest known documented reference to the North American Indians living in the region is in a diary by a Franciscan missionary who explored the area for the San Diego Mission in 1795.

In 1845, Rancho Guejito was established. This historic site dates from the era when California was part of Mexico. It is the only rancho among 800 original ranchos still in existence with its boundaries intact.

In 1862, homesteaders came to Valley Center after President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act permitting newcomers to claim 160 acres of land for a nominal filing fee.

The bear incident of 1866:

The name Bear Valley or Bear Valley Township was commonly used to describe the area from 1866 when the largest California Grizzly Bear ever captured was taken in the town. It weighed 2,200 pounds. Before that incident, the town had no official name. The town name was changed in 1874 to Valley; in 1878, to Valley Centre; and, in 1887, to Valley Center.
Additional historic information on Valley Center, California, can be found in the archives maintained by the Valley Center History Museum in the Valley Center Room of the County Library branch at Valley Center, 29200 Cole Grade Road. The library is open Tuesday from 10 AM to 6 PM, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 AM to 8 PM, Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM. The building is closed on Sunday and Monday. Library telephone number: (760) 749-1305.

A book and a documentary film on Valley Center history are available at the library. The book, The History of Valley Center, California: the Homestead Years, 1860-1900, was written by Petei McHenry in 1998. The film, available on video cassette, Paradise Found: the Valley Center Story, was written by Robert Lerner in 1997.

View our timeline
Persons with an interest in local history are invited to volunteer to serve on the Board of Directors or on one of several committees. Docents conduct tours of the Museum.

Schools and other organized groups are invited to arrange special Museum tours on request.