Los Angeles County
Pre-History to 1799 A.D.

1.7 Billion Years Ago

Rock formations found on what is now the eastern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains begin to form beneath an ancient sea. The coastline is found quite a bit east of its present location in what is now Utah and Idaho.

65 Million Years Ago

Toward the beginning of the Cenozoic Era, the Los Angeles Basin and area mountains lie beneath swampy sea-marshes and lagoons, receiving sediment from large rivers flowing out of the low-lying ancestral Nevadan mountains. Dinosaurs are extinct. The San Gabriel Mountains begin to form.

24 to 5 Million Years Ago

At the beginning of this era, what will become the Los Angeles area lies beneath a deep, subtropical sea and, before the San Andreas Fault begins its push, is located about 100-150 miles southeast of where it is today. The land later begins to emerge, with the local shoreline running along the San Gabriel, Santa Monica and Santa Ana Mountains and the Covina Hills. These ancient hills, ripe with volcanic activity, rise to no more than an elevation of 1,000 feet. Dry land around the submerged Los Angeles Basin becomes subtropical, receiving about 30-40 inches of rainfall a year. It is covered with scrub forest and inhabited by ancient horses, rhinoceros and camels.

5 to 1.8 Million Years Ago

Los Angeles area hills are forced upwards in height to become mountain ranges. The sea level drops.

1.8 Million to 10,000 Years Ago

Large mountain ranges now are present and the Los Angeles Basin, formed from accumulating sediment deposits, slowly rises from the sea. The shoreline recedes to about where it exists today. The climate is cooler and moister than present, similar to that of present-day Monterey Peninsula, with glacier activity along the peaks of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains and Redwoods growing in the Santa Monica Mountains. The basin becomes a large grassy, brush-covered and marshy plain, roamed by Saber-Tooth Tigers (or Saber-Tooth Cats), Giant Ground Sloth, Dire Wolves, Western Horses, Ancient Bison, Short-Faced Bears (Artodus Simus), Columbian Mammoths, American Mastodons and many other now-extinct species. A number of these animals find themselves unwittingly trapped in the tar fields of what will be known as the La Brea Tar Pits.

8,000 B.C.

The Saber-Tooth Tiger (or Saber-Tooth Cat) becomes extinct in Southern California. The Los Angeles Basin is covered in grassy plains with scattered strands of junipers and cypress trees, streams, marshes, small lakes and ponds. The Chumash begin settling in coastal villages in the Los Angeles area.

7,000 B.C.

A young women who would later become known as La Brea Woman, dies in the Park La Brea area of Los Angeles, perhaps killed by a blow to the head. Her remains are unearthed about 9,000 years later in 1914. The period is also the possible era of Los Angeles Man, who is then believed to make his residence in West Los Angeles. Much later, in 1936 A.D., the mineralized cranium of his skull is discovered in the Ballona Creek area by workers excavating a storm drain.

5,000 B.C.

The Chumash engage in sophisticated basketry and make use of asphaltum (tar) for water-proofing. There is increased reliance on hunting and the more sophisticated technological developments such as the throwing stick, knives, drills, and fish hooks. Burials include more artifacts.

2,000 B.C.

Large coastal villages appear. The Chumash engage in warfare and trade and form alliances. There is increased division of labor and craftsmanship. Funerary practices are more elaborate. They still practiced little to no agriculture as they continue to enjoy an environment rich in natural resources.

200-500 A.D.

The first Indians later known as the Gabrielino arrive in future Los Angeles County from the Mojave area, displacing earlier residents related to the Chumash.

800 A.D.

The Chumash engage in sports competitions and the development of musical instruments. Trade in the region is widespread, including the use of shell beads for money.


About 25 Gabrielino Indian villages exist in what will become Los Angeles County. The population is about 300 to 500 people.


Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo lands on Catalina Island, the first European contact with the future Los Angeles. Seeing at a distance the Indian campfires at Santa Monica Bay, he names it Bay of Smoke.


Father Crespi, a member of a Spanish land expedition led by Captain Fernando Rivera Y Moncado, first makes record of Los Angeles (August 2). Local Indians, from the nearby village of Yang-Na (located near what is now the Civic Center) greet the party. A series of earthquakes are experienced by the expedition while in the Los Angeles area.


Fathers Pedro Cambon and Angel Somera establish the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel (Saint Gabriel the Archangel) at its first location in modern-day Montebello (September 8).


Padres are forced to move the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel to its present location in modern-day San Gabriel due to flooding at the original site.

Mission San Gabriel, San Gabriel. Photo by Klyde Wilson.


Governor Felipe de Neve issues instructions for the establishment of a new pueblo (town) with the proposed name El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles Sobre el Rio de la Porciuncula (August 26). It becomes known as El Pueblo (The Town). The first Indians are baptized at the Mission San Gabriel seven years after the establishment of the mission.


Governor Felipe de Neve visits the future site of the new pueblo to clear the land and mark it off. Forty-four men, women, and children begin life at the new pueblo, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciuncula River)(September 4). Only two of the original adult settlers are white Spaniards. The other settlers are of Indian, Mestizo, African, and Mulatto descent. Twenty-two are children.


Father Junipero Serra arrives in El Pueblo to condemn the moral condition of its residents.


The first three land grants in the Los Angeles area are given to three soldiers, Juan José Dominguez, Manuel Nieto, and José Maria Verdugo. These are Los Angeles’ first ranchos.


José Vanegas, one of the original settlers and an Indian, is appointed Alcalde (mayor) of El Pueblo.


Construction begins on what would later become known as the Gage Mansion in Bell Gardens and the oldest surviving home in Los Angeles County. The home later becomes part of the Rancho San Antonio land grant given to Don Antonio Maria Lugo in 1810. (Special thanks to Shane P. Kimbler of Bell Gardens for this information)


The Mission San Fernando Rey de España (Saint Ferdinand, King of Spain) is founded by Father Lasuén (September 8).