top of page


The Early Years

Following the conclusion of the Mexican War in 1846, California officially became part of the United States, setting the stage for significant waves of migration and development. However, it was the California Gold Rush of 1849 that truly catalyzed the influx of American settlers into the region, drawn by the promise of prosperity and fortune. Amidst this backdrop of change, the Cucamonga Rancho witnessed numerous transitions in ownership, yet the area now occupied by present-day Upland remained largely uninhabited, serving primarily as ranchland and a thoroughfare until the arrival of George Chaffey in 1882. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Chaffey was a visionary shipbuilder with a penchant for innovation. Having already established the Etiwanda irrigation community in 1881, he embarked on a bold endeavor to transform the landscape of the Cucamonga Rancho and create a thriving community in the heart of California.

In 1882, Chaffey acquired a significant parcel of land, totaling over 8,000 acres, in the Cucamonga Rancho, supplemented by extensive water rights from San Antonio Creek, at a total cost of $90,000. His ambitious master plan centered on implementing advanced irrigation systems, facilitated by the distribution of water through cement pipes to each farm lot, ensuring equitable access for all landholders. Central to Chaffey's vision was the creation of Euclid Avenue, a grand thoroughfare stretching seven miles from the colony's southernmost boundaries to the mountains. Named in homage to his favorite mathematician, the avenue boasted a 200-foot-wide double drive with a central parkway flanked by 65-foot-wide drives on either side, embodying Chaffey's commitment to modernity and progress. Furthermore, Chaffey foresaw the introduction of electricity in Ontario, with plans for street lamps placed at regular intervals along Euclid Avenue and the operation of an electric streetcar for daily transportation. The colonization of Ontario commenced on November 1, 1882, with Chaffey swiftly selling 190 acres of land within the first week, totaling $28,500 in value. To bolster the success of his irrigation plan and appeal to potential buyers, Chaffey established the San Antonio Water Company on October 25, 1882, wherein each landowner became a shareholder. Over time, the Ontario colony evolved into a hub renowned for its citrus groves, though initially, orange trees were scarce and expensive, prompting the cultivation of other fruits. By 1889, however, the landscape had transformed, with citrus orchards covering vast expanses of land.

Transitioning to the birth of Upland, it originated as the northern segment of Chaffey's Ontario Model Colony, initially referred to as "North Upland" or affectionately dubbed "Magnolia" after a local hotel. However, concerns arose due to the existence of another city in California bearing the same name. While documents often referenced the area as Mongolia Township, the accurate designation was the Magnolia Tract. "Upland" was initially utilized for the Upland Citrus Association but gradually encompassed the entire expanse of North Ontario by 1902. 


The arrival of the railway in North Ontario in 1887 marked a significant milestone, connecting the burgeoning community to Los Angeles and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe network. This newfound accessibility facilitated growth and prosperity, transforming Upland into a thriving urban center. Ontario's official incorporation in 1891 precipitated territorial disputes, with Upland residents wary of potential annexation by Ontario. In response, Upland embarked on a journey towards independent incorporation, culminating in a resounding vote for cityhood on May 5, 1906 and incorporation by the Secretary of State on May 15, 1906. The subsequent expansion of Upland's boundary lines in 1935, encompassing annexed land from Ontario, solidified its position as a prominent municipality in California. Renowned for its gentle gradients and picturesque landscapes, Upland's rich history continues to shape its identity as a vibrant community nestled amidst the foothills of California.

bottom of page