History of the Sylmar Chamber of Commerce

Sylmar Area History

The Tataviam


The Sylmar Chamber was formerly known as the Foothill Village Chamber of Commerce, and was incorporated by a group of civic-minded citizens on December 27, 1946, under the leadership of Oscar E. Jorgenson. An amendment to the charter, approved on June 16, 1958, changed the name to the Sylmar Chamber of Commerce.

That same year, 26 members under President Richard T. Haskins began the first formal Chamber of Commerce participation in the progress of Sylmar. In 1961, with a membership of 47, the Chamber operated an office at 13851 Foothill Blvd. and a part-time secretary was hired to answer the many inquiries of the growing community and to assist the officers and directors of the Chamber in accomplishing their work.

In 1969, the Chamber relocated to an office behind Vons Market, and later shared an office with the police community outreach. In 2008, the Chamber moved to 13731 Foothill Blvd. and is sharing an office with Barry Sylvan Company.

The mission of the Sylmar Chamber of Commerce is to resolutely foster, promote and ensure progressive and orderly economic, industrial, commercial, and agricultural development; to proactively address civic issues and support social interests in order to make the community a better place in which to live and work.

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Fifteen hundred years before the Spainards explored the possibilities of the vast areas of the land grants awarded by the King of Spain in the 1770s, the Shoshone people, also known as Tataviam, lived and roamed in the area we now know as Sylmar. They had migrated from Nevada and Western Arizona, probably driven west by tribes fiercer than they.

The Shoshone built tule grass and willow branch wicki-ups, found ample food and water from springs, and traded with friendly tribes as far away as Catalina Island and Arizona. They once numbered as many as 150,000 throughout Alta California, but by 1920 the U.S. Census showed only 17,000 remained.

The San Fernando Mission, Mission San Fernando Rey de España, was founded on September 8, 1797. In the 1820s, a mission father by the name of Iballa planted four young olive tree seedlings from Spain, thus becoming somewhat responsible for the olive trees Sylmar would be known for.

The history of Sylmar is often intertwined with that of San Fernando, although the latter incorporated as its own city on September 16, 1874. Upon learning of the new city, businessman Robert Widney published a pamphlet about the area’s perfect weather and soil for growing olives. Lured by his favorable description, a group of Decatur, Illinois businessmen bought 2,000 acres east of the railroad tracks and south of Roxford Street. By 1890, they had planted 1,100 acres of olives.

Calling themselves the Los Angeles Olive Growers Association, they built a packing plant and sold olives initially under Tyler Olives and later under the Sylmar Packing label. Sylmar olives became famous throughout the state for their sweetness and purity. One particular challenge was providing water for the young trees, which were watered with buckets from a horse-drawn flat bed wagon.

It took the engineering genius of William Mulholland to bring water from the High Sierra Mountains to Sylmar and the rest of the San Fernando Valley through the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Part of the aqueduct is a series of Cascades, clearly visible from the I-5, which were opened on November 13, 1913. Local stories state that William Mulholland stood on the foothills near the site of the planned aqueduct and noted that the wind caused the green and silver leaves of the olive farms to look like waves crashing against the mountains. He was noticing the reason for the name Sylmar, Sea of Trees. Annexation of Sylmar and the rest of the San Fernando Valley to the City of Los Angeles followed on May 22, 1915.

In 1946, the Sylmar population was around 15,000. In 1958, when the Chamber was renamed, the number grew to 18,000. By 2004, the population has grown to 74,839 residents. As of January, 2009, the population is closer to 90,000 residents.

More information:
San Fernando Valley Historical Society
Andres Pico Adobe * Box 7039/10940 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills, CA 91346 * 818.365.7810 * sfvhs.com
Oviatt Digital Photograph Library at CSUN for Sylmar
Wikipidia for Sylmar
Valley Relics Museum & Vault a private collection of antiques and collectibles from the 1800s to present of the San Fernando Valley
San Fernando Museum of Art and History
The Old Fire Station * 519 South Brand Blvd., San Fernando, CA 91340 * 818.838.6360 * fax: 818.838.6860 * Hours: Open Wednesday thru Sunday 11am to 3pm * Closed: Monday and Tuesday
Friends of Mentryville California’s First Oil Boom Town The Story Of Mentryville: California’s Pioneer Oil Town

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Early Newhall Residents
by Paul Higgins, Environmental Educator
Old Town Newhall Gazette, January-February 1996

In AD 450, a small group of Shoshone-speaking people migrated to the Santa Clarita Valley. The Kitanemuk Indians, who lived in the Antelope Valley, called these people the Tataviam. The name derived from their words taviyik, or “sunny hillside,” and atavihukwa, or “he is sunning himself.” Thus the word tataviam might be roughly translated as “people facing the sun” or “people of the south-facing slopes.”

The Tataviam were more aggressive than the Chumash, who lived here at the time and encouraged them to move west down the Santa Clara River beyond Piru Creek. The Chumash referred to the Tataviam as “Allikliks.” The Chumash word alliklik, thought by some to be a derogatory term, means people who stammer or do not speak clearly.

The Tataviam lived in approximately twenty various-sized villages within the upper reaches of the Santa Clara River drainage east of Piru Creek. Their territory extended over the Sawmill Mountains to the north and included the southwestern fringes of the Antelope Valley.

Some areas they occupied were Nuhubit (Newhall), Piru-U-Bit (Piru), Tochonanga, believed to have been located at the confluence of Wiley and Towsley Canyons, and the very large village of Chaguibit, the center of which is buried under the Rye Canyon exit of I-5. The Tataviam also lived where Saugus, Agua Dulce and Lake Elizabeth are located today. More Santa Clarita history and pictures.

Tataviam is a Uto-Aztecan language of Southern California. Language loss has been especially severe in California, where enslavement and violence against Indian peoples were not actively discouraged. The Tataviam language has not been spoken since the 1920s and few records remain of it, though it appears to have been most closely related to Gabrielino. More information.

Additional resources:
The First Californians
Antelope Valley Indian Museum
Meet the Tataviam
Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

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