The rich and colorful history of Fullerton had its early beginnings with a peaceful tribe of Indians known as the Gabrielinos. It is unknown how long this tribe of Indians lived in the area, but they were there to greet the first Spanish explorers who arrived in 1769. The soldiers of Gaspar de Portola were sent by Spain to claim the territory and bring Christianity to the Indians. By the 1830s, the landscape of Fullerton began to change, and the 35,000-acre land grant was given by the King of Spain to a Spanish soldier named Pacifico Ontiveros.
After the Mexican American War, California became part of the United States in 1848. This triggered a rush of settlers, homesteaders and businessmen hoping to stake their claim of fortune. With the discovery of gold in 1848, another flux of settlers arrived, including miners. Ontiveros began to sell his parcels of the Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana to the new settlers. Abel Stearns was one of those new settlers who purchased many of parcels from Ontiveros. Due to financial setbacks, Stearns sold his parcels in the 1860s.
During its infancy, Fullerton rivaled an atmosphere of a textbook western town. The construction of the railroad brought in rowdy characters, and homesteaders often relayed stores of gunfights in the saloons. The steady flow of families and the construction of schools, banks and stores eventually stabilized the area. Agriculture was the leading industry in Fullerton, and packing houses were shipping as much as $15 million of oranges per year.
Adding to Fullerton’s already good fortune was the oil boom. The first wells were struck in the late 1890s, and the oil boom continued throughout the 1920s. The city was incorporated in 1904, and Charles Chapman became the first mayor. The 1920s heralded an economic boom in Fullerton, and improvements were made to the city’s street, water and sewer systems.
After years of steady revitalization, Fullerton today is a city of unique shops, trendy sidewalk cafes, entertainment venues, airy parks, specialty restaurants and upscale housing.
Downtown Fullerton has an old world atmosphere with tree-lined streets, paved walkways and a cluster of more than 70 historic buildings. The historic downtown is more than just another shopping venue. It is a vibrant cultural center with landmarks, such as the Plummer Auditorium, Downtown Plaza and the world-acclaimed Museum Center.
From the quiet picnicker to the outdoor enthusiast, there are over 50 parks with recreational facilities for residents to enjoy. There are miles of equestrian trails, hiking, biking and running trails throughout Fullerton’s parks. Sport fields, tennis courts, picnic tables with barbeques are some of the features of Fullerton’s many parks. Independence Park offers a swimming complex, tot playgrounds, skate complex, state-of-the-art gymnasium and a farmer’s market with plenty of fresh produce. The Fullerton Arboretum stretches over 25 acres with rare plants and sculpted gardens.