A particular highlight of Gilman Historic Ranch is the Wagon Museum that displays a collection of authentic wagons, including an overland stagecoach, a “prairie schooner,” and a chuck wagon. Saddles are also on display. In addition to exploring the artifacts, visitors can gain insight into life on the Western Frontier when they read diary entries of a Kansas woman, Helen McCowen Carpenter, about the grueling journey west. Inside the museum is an affordable gift shop with unique items for purchase.
On the ranch, visitors will find authentic sheds that were used for olive curing, milk storage, and carriage housing. Also nearby are the ruins of the Jose Pope Adobe house that the Gilmans lived in before their ranch house was built and we also used as a stop on along the Bradshaw Trail. Inside the Victorian style ranch house, visitors will find family photographs, various household items of the era, and other items originally owned by the Gilmans.
In close proximity to the ranch house is the location of the infamous murder of a young woman’s father by Willie Boy, a young Paiute Native American. A visit from President Taft to the Riverside area around the same time led the public to believe that his life was in danger, gaining the murder national press coverage and sparking an extensive manhunt. Though several versions of this story exist, one interpretation was captured in the film “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here” which starred Robert Redford and was filmed in part at the Gilman Ranch.
Gilman Ranch is a terrific setting for relaxation or play, with picnic tables and barbeque grills shaded by olive trees planted by the Gilmans over 100 years ago and bordered by a green lawn that hosts a dazzling variety of fruit and nut trees, including white figs, black figs, plums, blood oranges, naval oranges, tangerines, walnuts, persimmons, pomegranates, lemons and grapefruit. Nearby are short hiking trails offering incredible views of the Banning Pass. A very short distance away is a creek that runs year-round and attracts wildlife like deer, bears, coyotes and bobcats.
A variety of fun and informative programs are offered at Gilman Ranch that serve as an excellent way to explore the Old West. Make reservations to learn more about the California Gold Rush and pan for fool’s gold (Pyrite), or sign up for the Native American program to have hands on experience of the native american lifestyle. Pick up a park brochure at the Riverside County Park District Headquarters or drop into the park and check it out.
Surrounded by cottonwoods and watered by three natural springs, the present Gilman Ranch site has attracted people throughout time. The superb location of this canyon with an exceptional food and water supply offered a prime habitation site for the Cahuilla Indians in this area.
Later, under the Spanish government, this site was originally part of the San Gorgonio Rancho, the farthest outlying cattle ranch of Mission San Gabriel. The Rancho was later claimed by but never granted to three Anglo settlers: Isaac Williams, Powell Weaver and Wallace Woodruff. The first permanent landmark in the Banning area was an adobe house constructed in 1854 on the present Gilman Ranch site by Jose Pope, Mayordomo (ranch foreman) for Isaac Hills. Pope raised cattle for a time and then sold his land to sheep rancher G.S. Chapin 1862. A year later, Chapin sold his property to stageman and local entrepreneur Newton Noble. Noble lived in the adobe, converted it into a stage stop and opened the first post office in the San Gorgonio Pass in 1868.
Noble’s property lay along the Bradshaw Trail, a heavily traveled route from Los Angeles to Arizona during 1860s and 1870s. The trail was originally part of the network of Indian trails that William D. Bradshaw, miner and freight driver, learned from Cahuilla and Maricopa Indians. The Bradshaw Trail became an important communication route for federal troops as they expanded control over Arizona and New Mexico. During the last years of the Civil War, the trail was the only way in and out of southern California by stage. With the advent of the railroad, staging ceased in the 1880s, but the Bradshaw trail remained a freight route. A remnant of the trail can still be seen on the Gilman Ranch.
Originally from New Hampshire, James Marshall Gilman moved west during the early 1860s, operating a mercantile business in The Dalles, Oregon. In 1869 Gilman came to southern California looking for a cattle ranch to buy. While staying in San Bernardino he heard about 160 acres for sale in the San Gorgonio Pass. Gilman met with Noble and purchased the land and about 200 head of horses and cattle and continued to operate the stage stop. In 1871 Gilman married Martha Benoist Smith, daughter of the first pioneer settler in the Pass, Dr. Isaac Smith. They lived in the adobe until 1879, when they began construction of the ranch house, later building on a two-story Eastlake style addition, which was lost in a fire in 1977 and was later rebuilt. The Gilmans eventually raised seven children.
At its peak the Gilman Ranch consisted of 500 acres. During the 1880s, Gilman gradually shifted from cattle raising to dry farming barley, wheat and oats. He eventually emphasized fruit production, for which the ranch is best known, growing such crops as raisins, grapes, figs, prunes, apricots, peaches, almonds and olives.
Although the Gilman Ranch was a successful ranching and agricultural enterprise, it is best known in connection with the last great western manhunt of Willie Boy, a Paiute Indian who wished to marry a young woman named Carlotta against her father’s wishes. She and her family were camped at the Gilman Ranch working on the fruit harvest when Willie Boy killed her father and escaped with her. Although marriage by capture was an old Paiute custom, Willie Boy’s actions outraged the Anglo community. A presidential visit to the Riverside area stoked the press into a frenzy, leading the public to believe that there was a danger to then President Taft. The manhunt received national press coverage. Willie Boy avoided the posse for three weeks before he died by his own hand.
Today the Gilman Historic Ranch and Wagon Museum preserves, celebrates, and interprets the history of California, from the Cahuilla Indians to the exploration and settlement of southern California and the San Gorgonio Pass, including the homestead ranch of James Marshall Gilman. Come and explore your gateway to the western frontier.
- Reservations are required for all Programs, Tours, or Classes; 48 hour cancellation notice is required.
- Reservations for tours or school groups should be made 1 – 2 months in advance.
- Minimum group size for Programs or School Tours is 15 people; maximum group size is 60 people.
- School Tours available Fridays, between 9:00am-12:00pm by Appointment Only, if arriving late tours will be shortened.
- Programs and tours run 2-3 hours long.
- Non-refundable school/tour reservation deposits of $50.00 required.
- Deposits are to be received 4 weeks prior to scheduled date.
- Mail check to: Gilman Historic Ranch 1901 W. Wilson St. Banning, CA 92220. Please make checks payable to: Gilman Historic Ranch
- 8 chaperones/aides allowed per school tour, $5.00 each, teachers are free.
- School groups should bring lunch, extra snack , water bottle, closed shoes and jacket.
- Store will be open from 12:30pm-1:30pm, cash/checks only.
- For more information or to make reservations for a program, tour, or class, please contact Gilman Ranch at (951) 922-9200.
The Gilman Historic Ranch & Wagon Museum offers two specific programs and one general program tailored to meet the California State standards for the 3rd and 4th grade curriculum’s. These programs help make California’s history personal to each student as they explore this rich historic site. New perspectives are gained through demonstrations that bring a realism to that which is normally only read of in books, and a hands on participation creates a further desire to learn more. Note that the following three programs can be easily adjusted to match any age group or groups with special needs.
California Gold Rush Program
The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 accelerated the population growth to the Western United States, with a tidal wave of immigrants coming to California to seek their fortunes. Students will have an opportunity to “strike it rich” as they pan for fool’s gold (pyrite) near our spring fed stream (and “yes” they keep what they find). The Gilman Ranch is rich in history, as the students will discover while treading on remnants of the wagon trail as early gold prospectors did in 1862. Further exploration of the Ranch will include the Gilman House, several outbuildings, and the Jose Pope Adobe Ruins. Contrast between today’s life style and that of people from the 1800’s creates a lasting memory that immerses visitors in days gone by.
Fee: $5.00 per student (Includes vial for gold)
Native Americans of the Pass Program
This program introduces lifestyles of the Native Americans of the San Gorgonio Pass, emphasizing their cultural and historical significance to the area. With a walk across this ancient site, students will experience the importance, to the Cahuilla, of indigenous plants for medicinal, ceremonial, dietary, and other functional purposes. Hands on opportunities abound, and students may experience grinding seeds with a mano and metate, throwing a rabbit stick, launching an atlatl dart, or drilling holes with traditional hand drills. Every student will return home with a craft, as well as, memories to last a life time.
Fee: $5.00 per student (Includes craft)
Gilman Ranch Tours
Tours for non-school groups start with a look through the Wagon Museum. The Westward migration, California’s past, and the varied history of the Gilman Ranch come to life through the collection of wagons and other artifacts. Other stops on the tour include the Victorian-style Gilman ranch house, original outbuildings (including the carriage house, milk shed, olive curing shed, and long barn with its blacksmith shop and tool room), Jose Pope Adobe ruins, and old stagecoach trail.
Fee: $5.00 per person