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Rancho Los Cerritos

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In 1930 eleven cogged stones were discovered at Rancho Los Cerritos. Dating to 2-5,000 BC, they represent the earliest presence of Native Americans in the area; however, little is known of these first peoples. Between 500 and 1200 AD, another group from the Great Basin of Utah and Nevada displaced the inhabitants of the region. They built 50-100 villages in the greater Los Angeles area; their village of Tibahangna lay near the river on the Cerritos property. Identified today as the Tongva, they lived off the land, gathering acorns, seeds and berries, fishing the rivers and oceans, and hunting for small game. Their highly complex society included extensive trade, technological achievements, a rich oral literature, formalized birth, rite-of-passage and death traditions, and a belief in a supreme being, Chinigchinich.

After Spain began settling California, the Tongva and other Native Americans were forced to move to nearby missions, where they learned new trades and were introduced to Christianity. Thus, the Tongva became known as the Gabrielino, named after the nearby Mission San Gabriel.

Mission and Focus

Master BedroomThe mission of Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site is to restore and preserve the ranch house structure and grounds; collect appropriate resources; and interpret the relationship of the Rancho’s diverse peoples, from the period before Spanish settlement when Native Americans controlled the land, through the development of the Long Beach area, to the present day. This is accomplished through a broad spectrum of educational programs, exhibits, and publications designed to provide local residents, students and other visitors with an understanding of the forces that shaped this region.

The adobe ranch house, built in 1844, is the most important “artifact” at Rancho Los Cerritos, and the museum collections are aimed toward researching and sharing information about the house. For this reason, our collections include objects and archival materials that are directly associated with the Rancho and its owners, occupants and workers from prehistoric times through 1955.

The museum also collects artifacts, primary documents and photographs needed for research, exhibition and educational purposes in keeping with the mission statement. These items may be originals or items representative of those once found at the Rancho.

Furnishings in the exhibit rooms depict the work and leisure of both the owners and workers on a 19th century ranch. Handcrafted and mass produced objects demonstrate the changes occurring in America’s Victorian years, as well as the transition from a rural landscape to populated cities. Using various Bixby family reminiscences, many of the rooms are furnished with furniture, glass, ceramics, metals and tools from the 1870s.

The museum’s collections include more than 1,000 items of clothing and textiles from the 1830s-1930s. There are also over 1,100 historic photographs of the rancho and its occupants, as well as various maps, letters, deeds and other documents relating to the site. The collections also includes archaeological artifacts discovered onsite.

Rancho Los Cerritos is designated as site number “LAn 696,” which refers to its registry in Los Angeles County as part of a statewide archaeological survey. The grounds under and surrounding the adobe are rich in archaeological materials. The site includes known trash pits from the 1840s-50s and from the 1870s-80s. The cache of “cogged stones” discovered in 1930 suggests that people have called this site home for at least 5,000 to 7,000 years.