1884 and Before
People have been living in and around what is now the Claremont area for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived in the Los Angeles basin, they encountered several different tribal groups who are descendants of Takic peoples and are related to other members of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family, including the Aztecs of Mexico; the Hopi, Papago and Pima of Arizona; and the Ute of Colorado and Utah. Takic speaking groups such as the Tongva (Gabrielino) and the Serrano were organized as hunters and plant gatherers who traveled between the basin and the mountains to utilize seasonal resources. The Tongva (Gabrielino) are one of the groups who regarded Mount Baldy as being sacred, referring to it as Snowy Mountain. The best-documented material evidence of their presence in the Claremont area was found next to Indian Hill, a mesa located near what is now the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens that they continued to frequent up to late 19th-century.
In 1771, as the Spanish period in California began, Mission San Gabriel was founded. The lands claimed by the mission stretched from the San Bernardino Mountains to San Pedro Bay. Claremont was part of this vast tract. The Spanish forced the Tongva (Gabrielino) and Serrano from their lands in the early 1800s. In 1812, they, along with the Cahuilla and Quechan-Yuma tribes, staged an unsuccessful revolt against that and other local missions.
In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain, and Alta California became a province. In 1834, the missions were secularized by the Mexican government, and most of the land within the present city limits of Claremont became part of the Rancho San Jose, owned by Ricardo Vejar and Don Ygnacio Palomares. That same year, many indigenous peoples were forcibly relocated to the missions, and lacking immunity to Eurasian diseases suffered from a series of devastating smallpox outbreaks. The survivors found themselves with few options other than working for the ranchers.
After the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the United States took possession of California. The 1849 California Gold Rush brought a flood of new immigrants into the territory, which became the 31st state in 1850. This new influx brought new smallpox epidemics, which continued to ravage the local Native American population. In 1875 the United States established a reservation for the surviving Serrano; the Tongva, whose descendants continue to live in Claremont and beyond, remain unrecognized and landless as a tribal group.