The oldest settlement in Los Angeles County and second oldest community in all of California after San Diego, San Gabriel lies in the San Gabriel Valley in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains. All three took their names from Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, one of twenty-one missions established by the Spanish in the late eighteenth century and the seed of present-day San Gabriel. Mission San Gabriel left a permanent imprint on Southern California. The arrival of Spanish missionaries permanently displaced the area’s Native American inhabitants, but also permanently influenced the future of California, stimulating what would prove to be a rich agricultural industry.
Eventually, Mexican political interests interfered with the mission’s work, leading to the dispersion of its extensive land holdings and the dissolution of its influence. Ranchers and farmers assumed prominence as the nineteenth century progressed. A trickle of Americans heading west late in the century evolved into a continuous expansion of San Gabriel’s population in the 1900s, marked by a significant growth spurt in the 1940s and a new suburban look in the second half of the century. By 2000, San Gabriel was a prosperous community of more than 40,000.