On Thanksgiving Day, 1881, brothers George and William Chaffey of Ontario, Canada purchased 1,000 acres of land from Captain J.S. Garcia, a retired Portuguese sea captain. By January, the brothers had expanded their holdings to 7,600 acres. Early in 1882 they subdivided the land into 10-acre parcels, irrigated by concrete pipes that delivered water from San Antonio Canyon, and formed their first colony: Etiwanda, named for an Indian Chief from Lake Michigan. Water rights, instead of belonging to individual members, belonged to the Colony as a whole and water was distributed to members based on the amount of land they owned. In addition, the Company would be responsible for making sure water reaches the member, no matter how far from the source. Shortly thereafter, the Chaffey brothers also established the colonies of Ontario and what would become Upland.

Etiwanda was a community of firsts. In addition to its innovative water delivery system - the first of its kind - Etiwanda was also the location of Southern California's first long-distance phone call (to San Bernardino). It was also the location of the first application of hydro-electric power; George Chaffey rigged an electric dynamo to a water wheel in an irrigation ditch and connected it to an arc lamp on the roof of his home. On December 4, 1882, this became the first electric light to be illuminated in Southern California. In August 1883, Chaffey had electric lights installed inside his home. After the success of his electrical system in Etiwanda, Chaffey was soon employed to install the first electric streetlights in Los Angeles, later becoming President of the Los Angeles Electric Company.

By March 1884, 46 colony members had purchased and developed 1,024 acres, with crops including oranges, apricots, Muscat grapes, and lemons. By the end of the 1880s, the Chaffey brothers moved from their successful colonies to Australia to establish similar colonies there. Nevertheless, Etiwanda continued to blossom into the 20th century. By 1913 the town boasted paved streets, rock curbs, and street lights. The Pacific Electric Railway reached town in December, and early in 1914 a handsome Mission Revival depot was completed at a cost of about $7000. Regular service began on January 25, 1914 and lasted until November 1, 1941 (though occasional special trains rolled through until 1950).

During the later part of the 20th century, the region around Etiwanda and its neighbors experienced massive growth as a suburb of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In 1975, the Tri-Community Incorporation Committee was formed (representing Alta Loma, Cucamonga, and Etiwanda) to propose the formation of a new city in order to regulate growth. As a result, the City of Rancho Cucamonga was incorporated on November 30, 1977 as a formation of the three communities. In the years since, most of Etiwanda's farm land has given way to residential development. At the heart of the former community, a handful of historic buildings and homes remain. Among these are the PE depot, and three homes that have been restored or are undergoing restoration by the Etiwanda Historical Society. A museum is operated by the Historical Society in the former Chaffey-Garcia Home, which is open the second Saturday of every month except November from 10am-1pm.

I Visited Etiwanda