Short history of Wrightwood, California

Wrightwood is a small village located in the Swarthout Valley in the eastern part of the San Gabriel Mountains. At an altitude of approximately 6,000 feet, the cool temperatures, dry air, towering pine trees and aromatic sage continue to attract visitors and full-time residents to this beautiful valley.

The Serrano Indians were the first people to inhabit this area. They were “seasonal” wanderers coming to the mountains in the summer months to gather pine nuts and acorns and settling at the foot of the mountains near the Cajon Pass in the snowy winter months.

In the 1800's, prospectors were drawn to the mountains in search of precious metals. Samuel Guffy was one of those settlers. He lived in a cabin near a small lake that later would become the property of Wrightwood's founder.

The Swarthout Valley was named after the Swarthout brothers. The Swarthout family came to San Bernardino in 1851 with a large wagon train of Mormon immigrants from Salt Lake City, Utah. Three of the brothers, George, Nathan and Truman Swarthout, owned adjoining ranches in San Bernardino. They raised large herds of cattle and grazed them on public lands as did other ranchers at the time. The area they used for grazing became known as the Swarthout Valley, probably because they owned most of the cattle that were rounded up each year in the area.

Wrightwood was owned and named by Sumner Wright. He arrived in Colton, CA in 1886. He became the president of a very successful company that bought and sold property. Through his work, he became aware of the beautiful Swarthout Valley and in 1906, purchased the small cabin and some property from the prospector, Samuel Guffy. Sumner Wright raised cattle and planted apple orchards. He purchased as much land as possible in the valley including Harry Heath's dairy farm that was located on the eastern edge of what is now Wrightwood.

Several unfortunate incidents occurred during the 1920's that caused Sumner Wright to lose all his holdings. He subdivided his property in 1924 to form the village of Wrightwood. He and his wife, Kate VanArsdale Wright, returned to their home in Colton.

Today, Wrightwood still attracts many people who own weekend get-away cabins and homes in addition to about 4,525 year-round residents. The historic Big Pines recreational facilities are located just four miles west of the village and offer skiing, hiking, picnic areas and fishing at Jackson Lake.

Wrightwood is a beautiful place to spend a day, a week or a lifetime!

~ A WHS article, 2011 ~