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1880 - 1899 Historic Dates in San Bernardino and The Railroad:


May 3, 1888 - Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry (1853 - 1929), nicknamed "The Jersey Lily"  Lillie Langtry comes to San Bernardino

Lillie Langtry, an English actress known for her beauty and charm, was born in 1853 on the small island of Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands.

In 1881, at the suggestion of her friend Oscar Wilde, Lillie began her stage career.  A year later she started her own production company, touring the UK .

Mrs. Langtry came to the United States in 1882 and her first tour in the States was an enormous success.

Lillie rapidly became a superstar and for for decades commanded record-breaking fees (e.g., in 1905 when Lillie was in her 50's she was earning $2,500 a week for her work in vaudeville).

Lillie toured the United States thirteen times between 1882 and 1917.  

Records show that Mrs. Langtry performed in San Bernardino in July of 1887 and again in May of 1888.

Click here to see the May 3, 1888, souvenir program from the San Bernardino Opera House in which Lillie Langtry starred as Lady Ormond in "A Wife's Peril". 

Lillie performed on stage until 1918.  She died in Monaco in 1929 (the same year Wyatt Earp died).


Note: Langtry, Texas was named after a railroad civil engineer, not Ms. Lillie, and was the home of Judge Roy Bean ("Justice of the Peace, Law West of Pecos").  Bean, infatuated with Lillie Langtry, often wrote her, but never met her.  He even named the saloon that he dispensed his justice from, "The Jersey Lilly" [sic]. 


1880 - Gold Scale from Starke's Hotel










This gold-weighting scale, used in the late 1800s, sat behind the registration counter of Starke's Hotel.  The hotel was built in 1880 by Augustus Starke, replacing the 1858 Pine's Hotel that had been built on the same site.

The Starke's Hotel, shown in the above photograph, was the first two-story brick hotel in San Bernardino and was located at the southeast corner of 3rd Street and Arrowhead Avenue.

The gold scale was donated to the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum in 2008 by William Starke, the great-great-grandson of Augustus Starke.


November 02, 1881 - Gas Lamp

In 1881 the National Gas Company of New York, secured a franchise and put in an extensive [gas] plant.  November 2nd, 1881, the city [of San Bernardino] was first lighted by gas and the Times of that date declares: "Gas under the new dispensation was a brilliant success as was abundantly made manifest last evening.

"The brilliancy of light from many places of business and residences was equal to an illumination.  It is a light, soft, pure, clear, and brilliant.  Its power and diffusive qualities, united with its other good merits, make it a marvel among the successes of artificial illumination.

"The exhibition of its effects last evening was highly gratifying to the throngs of our public streets, to our citizens in their residences, to our guests at the hotels, and to those enjoying the charms of the dance or the delights of social intercourse."

[In 1891] the city was first lighted by electricity, the San Antonio Electric Co. putting in from 500 to 800 incandescent lights.  

(Ingersoll's Century Annals of San Bernardino County, 1769-1904, pp. 169 & 383)  

Note: This gas lamp is on display in the San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum



1882 - Chair from Opera House 










This chair was in the personal box of James Waters, who is pictured at the right.  James Waters, along with Herman Brinkmeyer (seen on the balcony of the Opera House), built the San Bernardino Opera House in 1882, four years before Los Angeles had an opera house of its own. 

The Opera House featured everything from Italian Grand Operas and Shakespeare's plays, to musicals and magicians, and to vaudeville and silent movies.  All of the greats performed in San Bernardino's finest theater, including Lillie Langtry, Al Jolson, Lillian Russell, Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Sarah Bernhardt, Edwin Booth, the Barrymores and many more. 

The Opera House was located on the east side of D Street between 3rd and 4th Streets and was torn down in 1927.  

The chair and the painting of James Waters were donated to the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society by Mary Renter, the great-great-granddaughter of James Waters.

Click here for a detailed look at the Opera House.

Click here for the story of Jim Waters, from mountainman to builder of an opera house.


1883 - Harvey Girls and "The Harvey Way"

In 1883, Fred Harvey visited the Harvey Lunch Room in Raton, New Mexico.  He fired all of the male waiters because of poor service and a midnight brawl.  Harvey then decided to replace the waiters with females.

CLICK HERE to view a Photo History of "Fred Harvey and The Harvey Girls".


September 13, 1883 - Second Train in San Bernardino

In addition to Calfornia Southern Engine No. 4, another train was in San Bernardino on September 13, 1883, that was pulled by the California Southern Engine No. 12 (decorated with corn stalks and flowers).

It has been often said that No. 12 was the first passenger train that arrived in San Bernardino.  No doubt it looks like a train decorated for a special occassion.  California Southern Engine No. 4  is considered by some as a "inspection" train and not the first passenger train.

The San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society has a copy of a letter from Fred Perris (with an attached photograph) that says that California Southern's Engine No. 4 pulled the first passenger train into San Bernardino.  

Unfortunately, there is little documention of the events of September 13, 1883.


1885, Third Street, San Bernardino

Above is an 1885 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of San Bernardino's 3rd Street.

The Mormon names of the north-south streets are being changed to letters of the alphabet.

In the upper left is the Waters and Brinkmeyer's Opera House, built in 1882.

In the lower right is the Starkes Hotel, the first two story brick hotel in town.

Notice the abundance of drug stores and artesian wells.


January 01, 1885 - Horse Cars 

The driver shown here in 1889 is Lucas Westhoff. (Photo from San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society)

Public transportation in San Bernardino began with simple horse-drawn streetcars (they were called horse cars even though they were usually pulled by mules).

In 1885, the City Street Railroad Company was organized and their horse cars traveled up and down "D" Street and along the Third Street, providing service from the Santa Fe Depot to downtown San Bernardino.

The mules often balked at their heavy tasks making for noisy rides and sometimes unpredictable schedules. 

In 1901, the San Bernardino Valley Traction Company (SBVT) was incorporated, becoming the first company to operate electric streetcars in San Bernardino.  It was not long after that the horse cars began to disappear.

In 1904, Judge Oster dissolved the City Street Railroad Company.


On January 12, 1888, the San Bernardino, Arrowhead & Waterman Railroad Company began construction of a railroad line from San Bernardino to Harlem Springs (hot springs and amusement park).

In June of that year, the company secured a franchise for a horse car line to transport passengers from 7th Street and A Street (now Sierra Way) to downtown San Bernardino.

By November 1888, the horse car line was completed.  Two horse cars were bought for $1,100 each and two mules were obtained.

On March 6, 1893, operations on the narrow gauge railroad to Harlem Springs were suspended.  In January 1894, the horse car line, starved for passengers, was abandoned as being unprofitable.


1886 - First Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino

Three years after the first train arrived in San Bernardino, Santa Fe constructed a beautiful two-story depot in San Bernardino (located about 350 feet east of the current depot).

Until the opening of this depot the ticket and passenger needs were handled out of a modified box car.

A Fred Harvey Lunch Room and newsstand were located within the depot.

On November 16, 1916, the depot caught fire and burned to the ground.  Since San Bernardino was the Los Angeles division headquarters, the official Santa Fe records that were stored in the depot were completely destroyed in the fire.

Click here to view a photo history of the first Santa Fe depot in San Bernardino.


1887 Map of San Bernardino

The above map of San Bernardino is surrounded by more than 25 buildings that were erected before 1887.

At the bottom is a numbered listing of buildings and cultural features that are highlighted on the map.

To give you a better idea of the detailed workmanship, one of the buildings has been enlarged.

You can see an enlarged view of all the buildings in Photo Histories, Architecture of San Bernardino - 1887:

Above you can see a small section of the map that has been enlarged showing the location of the Stewart Hotel (No. 10 on the map).  Also shown are the St. Charles Hotel (No. 6), the National Hotel (No. 7), the King House (No. 8) and the S. B. Brewery (No. 9).

The original lithograph is over 290 MB and can be enlarged several time to reveal minute detail. Unfortunately, it is too large to put on this website.  

You may view all of the intricate details of this lithograph in a very large copy (5 Ft x 4 Ft) that hangs in the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum.


January 21, 1888 - Society of California Pioneers

A Few of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers: W. T. Holcomb; John Brown, Jr.; John Brown, Sr.; George Miller; B. B. Harris

The San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers was formed on January 21, 1888.  To become a member one had to be a male; a U.S. citizen; a resident of California before December 31, 1850; a resident of the County of San Bernardino at the time of its organization (April 26, 1853); or a male decedent of a person eligible for membership.

Over a period of time the pioneers build three log cabins to serve as a meeting place and a location to house historic document and artifacts.  The first cabin was constructed in 1901 and the third and last cabin burned in 1973 destroying many historic items.

The San Bernardino Historical Society was formed in 1976 and in 1983 the two societies joined to become the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society, with it's headquarters located at 8th and D Streets.

Click here to view a photo history of the Society.


June 05, 1888 - San Bernardino & Redlands Railway

The San Bernardino & Redlands Railway was organized by Oscar Newburg, W. J. Curtis and W. D. Crandall and in the summer of 1887 they obtained a franchise to construct the railroad.

Work began in December and the first passenger train was run over the track on June 5, 1888.

The rail line extended from Third and E Streets in San Bernardino to the center of the business district in Redlands, and was a little more than ten miles in length.

The road and equipment cost a little more than $100,000.

The train made five round trips daily, and connected with the trains on the Southern Pacific transcontinental line and the Southern California Motor Railroad going to Colton and Riverside.


June 19, 1888 - S. B., Arrowhead & Waterman R.R.

S.B.A.W.R.R. = San Bernardino, Arrowhead and Waterman Railroad. The tracks ended at Harlem Springs and never got to Arrowhead Springs.

The San Bernardino, Arrowhead & Waterman RailRoad Company was incorporated on October 28, 1887. It then obtained a franchise from the County for a narrow gauge steam railroad from San Bernardino city limits at 6th and Waterman to Harlem Hot Springs at Base Line St. and Pepper Ave. (now Victoria Ave.).

An engine, two open passengers cars, lumber and rail were purchased.  Construction on the steam road to Harlem Springs began on January 12, 1888 and its grand opening took place on June 19, 1888.

Also in June, the company secured a franchise for a horse car line to transport passengers from 7th Street and A Street (now Sierra Way) to downtown San Bernardino.

In November the company constructed its engine house, machine shop and stables on its at 7th & A Streets.  

By January of 1891, the "City Extension" from 7th and A Streets to the "Union Motor Depot" on Third Street (between E and F Streets) was completed.  This depot served all three of the city's motor lines: to Redlands, to Riverside and to Harlem and later both the Southern Pacific and Pacific Electric operated from this location. 

The high hopes of the promoters did not materialize.  The road failed to be profitable, in part due to the expensive cost of coal for Engine No. 1, seen below.  

Engine No. 1 had been operating on coal imported from Australia. In 1895 Water Kohl had the engine converted to oil at the Santa Fe shops.

On March 6, 1893, operations on the narrow gauge railroad were suspended.  In January, 1894, the horse line was abandoned.  In September of 1894, the company filed papers in insolvency procedings.

On November 30, 1895, the stock was sold to the Kohl brothers and John Andreson and the railroad became known as the "Kohl Road".  The Kohls turned it into a successful venture and six years later sold the old Harlem Motor Road to the San Bernardino Valley Traction Company, an electric streetcar company. 

(from Ira Swett's Tractions of the Orange Empire.)

Click here to see some other Short Line Railroads.


December 25, 1888 - Alice Rowen Johnson

Pictured above are the women of the 1888 graduating class of the State Normal School in Los Angeles.  Alice Rowen Johnson (top row, second from the right) was the area's first black college graduate.

Education in the 19th century was vastly different from what it is today. For a youngster to obtain only eight years of schooling was not uncommon and high school graduation was rare.

The State Normal School of Los Angeles (a two year college) was created in 1881 and the first classes began in August 1882.  In 1919 the name was changed to the Southern Branch of the University of California.

The third and fourth years were added in 1924, and in 1927 the name was changed to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Alice was accepted into the college when she was 16 years old.  She was the first member of her race to enter the school, and on December 25, 1888, she was graduated in a class of 16. Alice became the first known black to teach white children.

Alice was the daughter of Elizabeth (Lizzy) Flake Rowan and Charles Rowan, who lived at 361 D Street near downtown San Bernardino.  Lizzy was a former slave, who at the age of four was given as a wedding present to James and Agnes Flake.

Lizzy came to San Bernardino as part of a wagon train of Mormons in 1851.  Alice's father ran a barber shop for almost 40 years inside the Southern Hotel, located at 4th and D Streets.

Click here to see a biography of Alice Rowan and other pioneer women in San Bernardino.


December 03, 1889 - David H. Wixom

1893 photograph of San Bernardino Fire Chief David H. Wixom

David H. Wixom was a farmer and teamster by trade.

In 1882 & 1883 he was elected City Marshall of San Bernardino and was deputy assessor for four years.

In 1888 he became a member of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers.

Wixom became San Bernardino's Fire Chief on December 3, 1889, and was Chief for five years.

He started the reorganization of the department, making it partly paid (it had been an all volunteer fire department up until then).

During his tenure, new equipment was purchased, plus training of the firefights made for a much improved Fire Department.  

In 1890 the City installed a pressurized water system consisting of 20 miles of pipes and strategically placed fire hydrants.  

Also in 1890 a horse-drawn wagon was purchased to carry 2,800 feet of hose.  This wagon has been restored and is currently housed in the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum.

Click here for a photo history of the San Bernardino Fire Department from 1865 to 2003.


July 30, 1890 - Virginia and Nicholas Earp

*  In this 1890 photograph Virginia and Nicholas Earp are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

*  Virginia Cooksey was 19 when she married Nick on July 30, 1840, and had eight children: James, Virgil, Martha, Wyatt, Morgan, Warren, Virginia and Adelia.

*  Nick was a jack of all trades: a farmer, river boat captain, cooper (maker of barrels and buckets), cavalry sergeant, prospector, politician and lawman.

*  In 1864, Nick led a wagon train out of Iowa for San Bernardino.  Included in the group were four families: Rousseeau, Curtis, Hamilton and Earp. Along the way seven other wagons joined the group. 

*  The Earp family traveling to California included: Nick, Virginia and their children: Wyatt, James, Morgan, Warren and Adelia.  Virgil joined them a short time later.

*  The seven month journey ended on December 17, 1864, when the families set up camp east of Sierra Way.

*  A few days later the Earps rented a farm near the Santa Ana River, growing peaches, apples and grapes.

*  After moving to Temescal, then back to San Bernardino, the Earps settled in Colton.  Nick opened the Gem Saloon in 1880 and in 1884 he was elected justice of the peace and later was appointed city recorder.  

*  Virginia passed away on January 14, 1893, at the age of 72 and is buried in San Bernardino's Pioneer Memorial Cemetery.

*  Nick died on February 12, 1907, at the age of 93 and is buried at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

*  For more about the Earps, see Nicholas R. Cataldo's book, The Earp Clan: The Southern California Years.


June 20, 1891 - Otis House...Heritage House


            George E. Otis (1846-1906)                        Heritage House, 8th and D Streets, San Bernardino, CA


*  Judge George Otis built this beautiful Queen Anne style house in San Bernardino sometime before June 1891 as an investment; he was living in Redlands at the time and never lived in this house.

*  Official records show that Otis sold the house to John L. Campbell on June 20, 1891.

*  Past owners of the house include: Campbell's dependents, Mrs. E. D. McLeod, O. F. Higginson, W. W. Brison, Jr., Jeff McElvaine, E. O. Ames, Robert Ames, W. F. and Lilian Miles, Marshall and Betty Miles, and the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan.

*  In December 1978, Santa Fe Federal deeded the house to the City of San Bernardino Historical Society (now the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society).

*  In the spring of 1982, the house was moved from 772 North D Street to 796 North D Street, at the Southwest corner of 8th and D Streets.

*  In July 1984, after renovation was completed,  the house was opened to the public. (Currently the house is open each Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00).

Click here to view the web site of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society.


August 1, 1893 - Patton State Hospital

The State Legislature of 1889 passed a bill to erect an insane asylum in Southern California.  It was finally decided to purchase 360 acres of the Daley Tract at Highlands, with sixty inches of water from the North Fork Ditch for the consideration of $114,000.

The bill providing for the establishment of the asylum appropriated $350,000 for the purchase of the site and the erection of the main building and the north and east wings, which were first completed.  

It was opened August 1, 1893, 100 patients being brought from the north to start with...A completely equipped farm, extensive orchards and grounds are largely cared for by inmates, who are thus healthfully and usefully employed.

In 1902 an appropriation was made to complete another wing of the building, and this was finished in 1903 at a cost of $250,000.  The buildings now accommodate more than eight hundred inmates.  (Ingersoll's Century Annals of San Bernardino County, 1769-1904, pages 178-180.)

In 1927 it was renamed Patton State Hospital after a member of the first Board of Managers, Harry Patton of Santa Barbara.


September 1, 1894 - The Daily Sun 

On September 1, 1894, the first issue of San Bernardino's The Daily Sun was printed.   Since its beginning in the late 19th Century the name of the newspaper has changed from The Daily Sun to the Sun-Telegram, to the San Bernardino County Sun and to its current name, The Sun.

The first newspaper printed in San Bernardino was the Herald, with it’s first issue on June 16, 1860, however it ceased publication six months later.  Many other newspapers were printed before and after The Daily Sun but none lasted nearly as long.

On April 8, 2013, The Sun donated its expansive archives to the San Bernardino County Historical Archives who will digitize all the newspapers, from 1894 to 1999.  The digitized copies will be stored at Cal State San Bernardino’s library and on the internet.