Chino City is situated on the western end of the Riverside-San Bernardino area, San Bernardino County in California. The city is bounded by the Chino Hills to the west, Ontario to the northeast and the unincorporated Riverside County to the south. Chino City was incorporated in 1910 and is based on a rich agricultural heritage. In fact, the city’s motto is ‘Where everything grows’. The 2010 United States Census estimated Chino City’s population to be about 77,983 spread over the city’s total area of 29.7 square miles. The land, on which the city is currently situated, was initially known as Rancho Santa Anna del Chino.
The current research paper seeks to outline the history of Chino City from the beginning to the present and how the past has shaped the present in the City of Chino, California.
Chino City was incorporated in 1910 and is based on a rich agricultural heritage. However, the city’s origin in modern times can be traced as far back as 1771 to the days of the establishment of the Mission San Gabriel. Here, in the first documented modern residents of Chino - the Tongva, Native American people, were baptized in the same year at the Spanish mission. They were variously called the ‘Gabrieleno’ or the ‘Fernandeno’ after the Spanish conquest. The Tongva people occupied a settlement called Wapijangna in then Santa Ana River watershed but were also known to have populated the stretch of territory in the Los Angeles Basin, as well as the Southern Channel Islands. Adele Perez Dominguez, who turned 97 in 2014, is one of the known remaining full-blooded Gabrielena/ Tongva tribal elders. She is a descendant of prominent Tongva chief Captain Romero and great aunt of Chief Red Blood Anthony Morales. Today there are just 1,700 people left who identify themselves as Tongva/Gabrielena.
Though the exact origin of the name ‘Chino’ has been explained in many versions no one knows the exact origin of the name. According to one explanation, ‘Chino - a curly-haired or mixed-race person was the chief of the native Indian population that resided in the area. Another theory of the name origin comes from the president of the Chino Valley Historical Society, who, based on the US civil war era letters, deduces that the ‘curl’ in this case referred to the top of the grama grass that was plentiful in the valley around Chino.
After some resistance from the Tongva, the Spanish crown laid claim to the Chino Valley territory until Mexico attained independence and took possession of the territory. After twenty years, the Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado of Alta California gave Rancho Santa Ana del Chino to Mario Antonio Lugo from the notable at that time Lugo family. Two years later Alvarado’s successor granted an additional two leagues to Lugo’s son-in-law Isaac Williams. However, Williams’ great herds of horses and cattle began to attract the attention of raiding Native Indians and white men and thus, began a series of raids on the ranches. Later, during the Mexican-America War (1846-1847), the Battle of Chino took place on Williams’ rancho. The rancho then became a popular stopover for travelers during the California Gold Rush, after which coal was discovered at the rancho in the mining rush. California was admitted to the union in 1850 after which private lands were separated from public lands. Richard Gird became the next owner of the rancho, which was then subdivided from 1887 to lay the foundation of the ‘Town of Rancho’, hence the future city’s incorporation in 1910.
Right from the early days, Chino Valley began to set trends in the agricultural evolution of the region. From the 1900s, the area was renowned for producing sugar beets, then sweet corn which was called ‘chino corn’ followed by peaches, walnuts, tomatoes, and strawberries. In fact, the city’s logo spots the image of the cornucopia.
Despite its agricultural successes, the Chino community had to deal with social and legal problems of its own. As such, the California Institute for Men (CIM) a male-only state prison was set up in 1941 in the City of Chino. It holds the distinction of the first minimum-security correctional institution built in the United States of America. Over 4,800 correctional facilities are known locally as “Chino” or “Chino Men’s” so as not to mistake it with the City of Chino. CIM was built mainly for the purpose of relieving the overcrowding in San Quentin State Prison, built-in 1852, as well as the Folsom State Prison, which was built in 1881. CIM was a unique correctional facility and was referred to as ‘the Prison without walls’ . It did not have wall fencing, only a five-strand barbed wire fence to keep out dairy cattle. One of CIM’s most outstanding programs has been the commercial diver training program that started in 1971. Its success was marked by the high employment rates of the ex-convicts, who undertook the program once released. Though the training program was temporarily discontinued due to budgetary shortfalls in 2003, it was resumed in 2006. Though CIM has over time increased security measures including fencing, it still holds the distinction of being the largest correctional facility holding Level 1 inmates in the Californian prison system.
In 1952, the California Institution for Women (CIW), the female-only correctional facility was also set up. On 31st December 2012, the institution had over 1,800 women within its confines. Even though CIW’s postal address ascribes it to the City of Corona in Riverside County, CIW has been physically located in Chino City since 2003 following the annexation of land, which previously belonged to the unincorporated San Bernardino County. The original female-only correctional institution was located in Tehachapi in 1932 but in 1952 the female inmates were transferred to the CIW after the 1952 Kern County earthquake. CIW was originally called the ‘California Institution for Women at Corona’ but then followed the objections of the residents of Corona against the use of their city’s name for the institution. In 1962, the name was changed to Frontera (a Spanish derivative of the word –Frontier).
Chino City also played a role in the World War II American campaign with the Cal-Aero Academy. It was initially a private academy providing piloting training among other pioneering aircraft, possessing the Stearman and BT-13 planes. Cal-Aero became an Army Corp flight training facility, which trained over 10,000 combat flight officers before the end of the WWII. The area also played host to the decommissioned warplanes after WWII. Though a large number of the airplanes were smelted into aluminum ingots, Chino Airport ended up playing host to two airplane museums, which are the Planes of Fame and Yanks Air Museum. Some of the planes on display are still functional.
Today the museums form an integral part of providing recreation, educational, as well as historical value to Chino City and visitors who are on tour. The Planes of Fame Museum, initially called the ‘Air Museum’, was founded in January 1957 and displays planes initially saved from the smelters, which can still be restored to fly. Further improvements on the facility resulted in the moving of some planes to the nearby Ontario Airport, California. As recently as 2002, improvements have been made at Chino with the opening of the Enterprise Hangar. Yanks Air Museum also hosts some of the largest and historically significant collections of WWII fighter planes, torpedoes and bombers with the oldest in the collection a prewar 1903 Wright Flyer, through to the 1980s F-15 Eagle, the Blue Angels F-18 Hornet among others. The total collection of airplanes is estimated at 190 units and today the museums form an integral reminder of Chino City’s history and role in wartime America.
Farming has continued to play a pivotal role in the demographics of the suburban Chino City area. For example in the 1950s, the thriving dairy farming drew a large number of Dutch settlers and the highly efficient dairies made it the nation’s largest milk-producing state. Scott Brothers Dairy is one of the pioneers in the milk production in the area since 1913 (which makes 2014 the farm’s centenary anniversary) when it was set up by Ira J Scott. The family-owned establishment has witnessed efficient management changes through four generations. During this timeline, it has changed locations from the first in Philadelphia Street in Pomona, California to a new location on East End Avenue, since 1961. The family runs not only the farm production line but also the processing plant, which takes milk exclusively from the family-run farm. Moreover, in the 1960s and 70s, the rural setting also made Chino a splendid setting for Hollywood shoots of “mid-western flavor”. Some of the movies shot in the area include the 1960s “Back Riley’s Back in Town” featuring Ann-Margaret and Michael Parks and “The Stripper”, which starred Jo Anne Woodward. Still, the area did not escape the strained race relations of the late 1960s with Chicano versus white, as well as Chicano versus Black racial tensions. By the 1970s, Chino Town was taking the form of a suburban city and many of the city’s residential developments took to the middle-class manner living of most American cities. Still, a number of areas retained the industrial and farmland character.
Even as a small and rapidly-growing city, Chino still has a variety of recreational facilities typical for much larger cities. However, it is interesting to note that the agricultural setting lays the foundation for cultural and recreational and educational sites. Prado National Park offers recreational space of over 2,000 acres of the lush Chino Valley. Moreover, activities such as fishing, camping, picnicking and horse riding are also widespread among the locals. Local newspapers, such as Champion Newspapers (established in 1887), carry articles in celebration of Chino’s illustrious history. On Sunday, May 23, 2014, the newspaper published an article on the induction of Chino Constable Charles W. Keller, who was killed in a gun battle in 1916, into the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington. During the 1984 Summer Olympics, Chino City had the privilege of hosting the shooting event at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park located inside the Prado National Park. In 2008, Chino was awarded the decoration of the “100 Best Communities for the Youth” for the second time in just three years.
In conclusion, beginning from the 1970s Chino City has seen remarkable growth in both business and industry. Apart from the long-established reputation as the premier center for dairy production, Chino City has developed into a residential area with a well-established commercial presence. Chino has also experienced addition to the number of its museums with the opening of the Chino Youth Museum in 1999. The latest museum is located in the historic First National Bank Building in downtown Chino, which also features the historical journey of the city. Perhaps as a testament to the relevance of the Youth Museum, Chino’s population today is predominantly comprised of young people with an average age of 31. Inhabitants of the city aged over 65 years form only 8.5 percentage of the total population. In political terms, Chino City is represented in the Congressional District, the Senate District, as well as the Assembly District. Moreover, due to its rich aviation history, every spring Chino City holds the renowned Chino Air Show to showcase and test its numerous flight vehicles.