Timeline of San Diego History

Local events are in black ~ World and national events are in gray

Kumeyaay Native Americans   Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo   Junipero Serra   Alonzo Horton   George Marston   California Building, Balboa Park   San Diego Convention Center
Early ~ 1760 ~ 1780 ~ 1800 ~ 1820 ~ 1840 ~ 1860 ~ 1880 ~ 1900 ~ 1920 ~ 1940 ~ 1960 ~ 1980

20,000 BC
Hunting peoples of northeast Asia follow herds of Caribou, bison, and mammoth across the present day Bering Strait, which at several points in this period is a grassy plain a thousand miles broad. They then move south along ice-free corridors into the American continents. 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 in the desert.

12000 BC to 7000 BC
Original inhabitants of the San Diego area are now known as the San Dieguito people. The earliest cultural group, dated at about 7500 B.C., is referred to as the San Dieguito Paleo-Indian, which researcher Malcolm Rogers described in 1929 as a "scraper-maker culture." The Rogers site is above the San Dieguito River east of Rancho Santa Fe.

7000 BC to 1000 BC
La Jollan people assimilate the original San Dieguito people (or evolve from them). Today's La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is neighbor to a major archeological site from this period.

1000 BC to 1000 AD
Yuman-speaking peoples intrude and assimilate La Jollan cultural group. Diegueños, the Indians nearest the San Diego Mission and most of the central San Diego area, are of Yuman stock, as are the Kamia and Yuma tribes to the east. Indians gather acorns and grind them into flour, from which they make a healthy mush. Archaeologists have found evidence of ceramics, cremations, pictographs, stone tools, clay-lined hearths and elaborate stone walls, some built for defense and others for irrigation.

1000 AD to 1600 AD
Yuman and Shoshonean groups migrate to northern San Diego area. Shoshoneans occupy almost a third of California. In the northern San Diego area Shoshoneans comprise the Luiseño in North County, Cahuilla in the far northeast, east of Mount Palomar; Cupeño in a small region around Warner's Springs; Ipai or Northern Diegueño, from the San Dieguito River Valley to Mission Valley; and the Ipai or Kumeyaay from Mission Valley to Ensenada. The eastern limit is approximately around the Salton Sea and Salt Hills in Imperial County and, in Mexico, the Cocopa Mountains. Map of tribal distribution from Library of Congress website

Columbus discovers the New World.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa is the first European to gaze on the Pacific Ocean.

Hernán Cortés first meets Moctezuma in the great city of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). Two years later, he returns to conquer Tenochtitlan.

Cortés lands at La Paz in Baja California and establishes a temporary colony there.

September 28, 1542
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sails his flagship, the San Salvador, from Navidad (Mexico) into San Diego Bay on September 28, under the flag of Spain. He comes ashore, probably near Ballast Point on Point Loma. He names his discovery San Miguel and declares it a possession of the King of Spain. Cabrillo dies in the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara less than four months later. At this time the native population of San Diego area (estimated at 20,000) includes Luiseño, Cahuilla, Cupeño, Kumeyaay, Northern Diegueño Indian groups. Indians gather acorns from at least six species of oaks, collect fresh fruits and vegetables, hunt and fish.

November, 1602
Sebastian Vizcaíno arrives with his flagship "San Diego", sent north by Spain from Navidad in Mexico. Vizcaíno surveys the harbor and what is now Mission Bay and Point Loma, naming the area for the Spanish Catholic saint San Diego de Alcalá. He maps the coastline as far as Oregon and gives many locations the names by which we know them today.

November 12, 1602
First Christian religious service of record in California is conducted by Fray Antonio de la Ascensión, a member of Vizcaíno's expedition, celebrating the feast day of San Diego. A meeting follows the Mass, and later Indians appear with bows and arrows, but the Spanish offer gifts and communicate with sign language. The encounter ends peacefully.

Jamestown becomes first permanent English settlement on the banks of Virginia's James River.

Mission at Loreto, the first of 23 in Baja California, is established by Jesuit missionaries.

Mission at La Paz in Baja California is established.

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