Situated less than twelve miles from downtown Los Angeles and just under twenty miles from Los Angeles Harbor, South Gate is a young city, having laid its roots in the last century and grown to maturity in the past sixty years. During the eighteenth century, the area between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Pacific seacoast now occupied by South Gate was home to at least two villages of Gabrielino Indians whose ancestors had settled the area more than two thousand years before. Spanish explorers first ventured to California in the 1500s, but it wasn’t until the late 1770s that the Spanish made a permanent imprint on the Indian lands, building missions and striving to convert the native peoples to Catholicism and to teach them to live as Europeans. By the late nineteenth century, the traditional Gabrielino way of life was no longer evident.
Spanish ranchers controlled the future South Gate lands during much of the nineteenth century, before their ranches gave way to dairies and vegetable and fruit farms. By 1917 developers saw in the cauliflower fields and apple orchards the potential for a shiny new residential community, selling tracts of land for houses and introducing an infrastructure that also beckoned Eastern companies looking to gain a foothold in the West to expand their markets. Though financial difficulties threatened to ruin the fledgling community in the 1930s, and an earthquake destroyed buildings and took lives in 1933, South Gate managed to pull through. War industries buoyed the town in the early 1940s, with industrial and population growth combining to spur the city’s continued success throughout the second half of the twentieth century.