The history of Montclair, as with other communities in Southern California, is rich and colorful. Serrano Indians were the earliest known inhabitants of the land that is now Montclair. These early inhabitants built a village on the banks of a sycamore tree-lined creek that flowed along a route that is now Mills Avenue. In 1774, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza named that sycamore tree-lined creek “Arroyo de los Alisos,” the Stream of the Sycamores, later renamed San Antonio Creek. Captain de Anza returned to the area in January 1776 as part of the famous trek that established the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. He had successfully opened up Alta California (present-day California) for settlement and missions.
Up until the 1890s, Montclair was little more than grazing land and a watering hole. In 1897, Mrs. Edward Fraser was instrumental in founding “The Township of Marquette,” giving the area its first modern name. This signaled the beginning of land development and the formation of a viable community.
In the early 1900s, Emil Firth, a Los Angeles land developer, named the 1,000-acre land tract (that would one day become Montclair) “Monte Vista.” Settlers moved in shortly after the tract opened in 1907, and the first “modern” settlement within the tract was called Narod. Citrus groves dotted the landscape and the fragrance of orange and lemon blossoms scented the air.
The completion of three rail lines through the region opened Southern California’s citrus market to the rest of the country. The orange was remaking the terrain and the state’s economy. Pioneers moved into the area to establish grove farms and participate in the new industry.
The Monte Vista Land Tract experienced a population boom after World War II, and like most southland areas, housing and commercial development replaced citrus groves. Veterans receiving GI benefits for home purchases moved into the area to buy from the abundant supply of affordable housing that was being mass produced by developers. As the population grew, local residents opposed to annexation by a neighboring city formed the Monte Vista Improvement Association with the objective of incorporating the Monte Vista Land Tract. Residents were asked to vote on the incorporation proposal in the April 1956 election.
Incorporation was approved by a vote of 682 to 455 on April 25, 1956. Upon its official incorporation on April 25, 1956, the City of Monte Vista had a total population of 8,008 spread over 4.2 square miles. Now, 50 years after its incorporation, Montclair is a thriving full-service city with a population representative of the ethnic and cultural diversity that is characteristic of Southern California. Although the early years of Montclair were not without its growing pains, this small city has proven it can survive, prosper, and be a leader in the Inland Empire.
Sources: Guide to Montclair Living, Monte Vista Incorporated in 1956, Highlights in the History of Montclair, and Guideposts in History.