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A Brief History of Moreno Valley, California


The original inhabitants in the Moreno Valley area were the indigenous people such as the Cahuilla and Luiseño. Rock carvings and granite mortars used to grind acorns and other food materials can still be seen in the local foothills. This was the setting found by early Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza in 1774. 

Moreno Valley is located in what was once called the San Jacinto Plains. In the 1840s this land was part of the massive Rancho San Jacinto, described as the tablelands stretching from Box Springs to the San Jacinto Mountains and between the Badlands and Temecula.  

In the late 1880s, the first townsite to appear in the valley was Alessandro, built in the vicinity of today’s Van Buren Boulevard along what was then called the Road to Temecula. The road was later named Highway 395 and today is known as the I-215 freeway. Alessandro extended east under what is now the north end of the runways at March Air Reserve Base. The town was named Alessandro after the hero in Helen Hunt Jackson’s popular novel, Ramona. Outside the Alessandro townsite, Alessandro Tract lands were advertised at $25 to $100 per acre.

The town of Moreno was established in 1891 at the junction of Alessandro and Redlands Boulevards. The officers and directors of the Bear Valley and Alessandro Development Company named the town Moreno, Spanish for brown, to honor Frank E. Brown, the catalyst of the Moreno-Alessandro water development plan. The Moreno post office was established on February 19, 1891. By this time, the area was called Moreno Valley and Alessandro Valley.

In 1893, Riverside County was formed from parts of San Bernardino County and San Diego County taking Moreno and Alessandro from San Bernardino County into the new Riverside County.

As agriculture in the vicinity increased, water demands and a severe drought caused a decrease in the available water supply. By 1899, most of the wooden buildings in Moreno and Alessandro had been loaded on wagons and moved to Riverside, dragged away by steam tractors, torn down or abandoned. By the early 1900s the entire valley was nearly deserted except for a small number of dry farms producing wheat, oats, and barley. 

Surveyed in 1912, the original name of Sunnymead was the Sunnymead Orchard Tract located on about 1,100 acres of the old Alessandro Tract. Most lots were 10 acres. Phase two of the development came in 1926 when the Sunnymead Orchard Farms Tract was surveyed with lot sizes of mostly two and three acres. Sunnymead post office was established on October 12, 1928.

On March 1, 1918, Alessandro Aviation Field, an Army installation named for its location on 640 acres of the former Alessandro Tract officially opened. The pilot training field was renamed March Field less than three weeks later in honor of Lt. Payton C. March who had been killed in a training plane crash in Texas.

In 1923, Edgemont, the community located at the southern edge of the Box Springs Mountains was subdivided for poultry ranches by civil engineers for the California Hotel Farm Co. and recorded in Riverside County Map Book 11. Earlier, the general area was called Rose Arbor because a Mr. Rose had a restaurant there.   

In October, 1940, construction of Camp Haan, a World War II U.S Army anti-aircraft artillery camp, began along then Highway 395 on 1,500 acres opposite of March Field. When the war ended, Camp Haan was deactivated. It was not long before the Camp Haan buildings were dismantled and sold. Part of the former Camp Haan site is now Riverside National Cemetery.

In June, 1941, March Field was redesignated March Army Air Field and in June 1942, was redesignated March Army Air Base. In September 1947, March Army Air Base was redesignated March Air Force Base to reflect the establishment of the Air Force on an equal basis with the Army and Navy under the Department of Defense.

In 1984, the City of Moreno Valley incorporated, absorbing the towns of Moreno, Sunnymead and Edgemont.

In 1993, March Air Force Base was selected for realignment. In 1996, March officially became March Air Reserve Base.


Moreno Valley, California -In the Beginning by Vi Hamner

Riverside County, California Place Names by Jane Davies Gunther

Along the Old Roads by Steve Lech

Brief Historic Timeline of Moreno Valley, California by Gary Speck

Images of America Moreno Valley by Kenneth Holtzclaw and the Moreno Valley Historical Society

City of Moreno Valley’s General Plan Final Program EIR July, 2006

Conversation with Keith Mullins, Moreno Valley Environmental and Historical Preservation Board



A Brief History of the Moreno Valley Historical Society

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The first meeting of the Historical Society was held in October, 1984 at Brand Mark Realty in the Indian Plaza at Sunnymead Boulevard and Indian Street. Helen Blazer was appointed President, Dave Douglass was appointed Secretary and Tom Ford was appointed Membership Chairperson. Subsequent meetings were held in the Community Center on Perris Boulevard, the Moreno Valley Library and the Edgemont Women’s Clubhouse. There were more than 160 charter members, some representing entire families. These numbers show that the citizens of Moreno Valley wanted their heritage researched and preserved. The Historical Society was incorporated as a non-profit organization in April, 1987. 

Currently, the Historical Society is in need of an office or building space or sponsor for our non-profit group. Please contact us if you can help. morenovalleyhistoricalsociety@gmail.com