The Rutherford Report—Preserving San Bernardino County's History

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“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

—George Santayana
Preserving San Bernardino County's History

Inside a nondescript building at a San Bernardino business complex, history lives.

San Bernardino County Historical Archives—a division of the Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk—got its start in 1979 after state lawmakers concerned about historical landmarks and information being lost to the ages ordered counties to preserve items and documents with enduring historical value.

Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Bob Dutton, who previously served in the California Assembly and Senate, said preserving the County’s history is an important task.

“It doesn’t matter what you are looking at, whether it’s how the early Chaffey brothers came in and put a lot of the infrastructure in the west end, or the Silver King Mine and its leading to Calico Ghost Town, or you have the Earp family—Virgil Earp was one of the early town marshals for the city of Colton. These are all part of the rich heritage of San Bernardino County,” Dutton said in a video highlighting Historical Archives.

The division maintains records from as far back as 1853, including birth and death records up to 1926, Board of Supervisors minutes, County budget books, Grand Jury reports, mining records, court files, and scores of other historical documents.

Glass book shelves line the walls of the office’s small reception room, and dusty old books stacked tightly on 14-feet-tall shelves and filing cabinets packed with documents fill the office’s internal storage area.

Visitors come into the office for a variety of reasons. There are attorneys researching cases, genealogy buffs scouring vital records, and then there are the folks trying to nail down who has the rights to various water sources in the County.

“We have lots and lots of people researching water rights, who owned it, when it got separated, when different water entities were created,” Archivist Genevieve Preston said. “We also have lots of people who want to research if they are members of local Native American tribes.”

Archive staff direct the latter visitors to the National Archives office in Perris since the federal government maintains records about births and deaths on tribal land.

About four years ago, the office began building an online database that includes digital images of some records.

Historical Archives is also home to the archives of San Bernardino County Sun newspapers, and holds the archives of the physical papers from 1894 and 1998.

The paper has been digitized in partnership with the California Digital Newspaper Collection at the University of California at Riverside. It is available digitally at Cal State San Bernardino in the Pfau Library and through Issues from 1894 to 1958 are also available on the CNCDC website at

Learn more about Historical Archives and explore its online database by visiting
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