Piru Mural 2009- Rancho Camulos
Large Adobe Rancho Camulos

The Story of Rancho Camulos
Rancho Camulos Museum
Home of Ramona
Experience an Island of Historic Tranquility
Although Rancho Camulos became well known among Californians for the accomplishments
of three generations of Del Valles in both the political and agricultural history of the state, it
is best recognized as the "Home of Ramona." When Helen Hunt Jackson published her
best-selling novel Ramona in 1884, it was her intention to supply the general reader with an
appreciation of the California Indians' plight as illustrated by the trials and tribulations of the
fictional Indian girl, Ramona. Disappointed that A Century of Dishonor, her earlier book
reciting past injustices towards the Indians, received so little notice, she wrote Ramona
hoping to elicit popular support for the Indians, much as her acquaintance Harriet Beecher
Stowe had done with Uncle Tom's Cabin. Ramona inspired four motion pictures and a pageant
performed annually in Hemet, California, since 1923.

The setting and characters in Jackson's book Ramona appear to be composites drawn from
places Jackson visited and people she met in her travels throughout Southern California
during the early 1880s. Various portions of the novel were drawn from her visits to California
Indian reservations, missions and ranchos. It appears likely that Jackson chose Camulos as
the setting for a portion of her novel upon the advice of her close friends, Antonio and
Mariana Coronel. In the opinion of the Coronels, Camulos was one of the few remaining
ranches still reflecting its colonial origins. Antonio Coronel assisted Jackson in the
preparation of an itinerary of ranches and missions, and Jackson heeded their advice, briefly
visiting Camulos on January 23, 1882. In her novel published two years later, Ramona's
fictional home on the "Moreno Ranch" was located "midway in the valley [between lands] to
the east and west, which had once belonged to the Missions of San Fernando and San
Bonaventura [sic]." This geographical location, and the description of the setting recounted
in the novel accurately matched Camulos:

The house was of adobe, low, with a wide veranda on the three sides of the inner court and a
still broader one across the entire front, which looked to the south.... The two westernmost
rooms had been added on, and made four steps higher than the others ... Between the
veranda and the river meadows, out on which it looked, all was garden, orange grove and
almond orchards. [Jackson, Helen Hunt, Ramona: A Story. Boston: Little Brown & Company,

Additional features of Camulos accurately referenced in Jackson's novel were all
unmistakably part of the ranch setting, including the wooden cross on the hill, the chapel, the
bells and the fountain and courtyard. Among the earliest articles recognizing Camulos as the
inspiration for the fictitious Moreno Ranch was a San Francisco Chronicle article by Edwards
Roberts, published after his visit to Camulos on April 27, 1886, just prior to the completion of
the railroad line through the Santa Clara Valley.

Jackson's novel was serialized in the Christian Union and quickly became a best seller and an
American classic. It inspired four motion pictures and a pageant performed annually in Hemet,
California, since 1923. D.W. Griffith's silent motion-picture version of Ramona, starring Mary
Pickford, was filmed at Camulos and the nearby town of Piru during a two-day shoot on April 1
and 2, 1910. At the time this one-reeler was made, it was billed as the Biograph Company's
"most elaborate and artistic movie yet filmed." The chapel, the adobe and patio, and the
nearby mountains were all used as backdrops.

Railroad promoters, writers and photographers all became drawn into the burgeoning
Ramona craze, publishing hundreds of articles in books, magazines and newspapers touting
the Ramona connection. The book ultimately had an entirely unanticipated, but profound
cultural effect. Its publication in 1884 and subsequent popularity almost perfectly coincided
with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Ventura County in 1887. The romantic story
of Spanish California coupled with the vivid descriptions of the setting brought literally
thousands of curiosity seekers looking for the "Home of Ramona" and the fictitious heroine.

Ramona became so phenomenally popular that schools, streets and even towns were named
in honor of the novel's fictional heroine. With the huge influx of tourists and settlers flooding
into California during the 1880s and 1890s on the newly established railroads, many
communities claimed Ramona for their own in order to profit from the vast tourism
bandwagon. Writers such as George Wharton James and others visited Rancho Guajome and
the Estudillo house in San Diego to photograph and research the conflicting claims for the
setting of the novel, a controversy made possible by the death of Helen Hunt Jackson in
1885. James, in his 1909 book Through Ramona's Country, expressed the opinion that
Camulos was still the "avowed and accepted home of the heroine." According to James,
Camulos had changed little since the time of Jackson's first visit. In 1888, Charles Lummis, a
close friend of the Del Valle family since his arrival in California four years earlier, published
a promotional booklet filled with photographs he had taken at the ranch, proclaiming Camulos
as the home of Ramona.

Camulos was widely photographed and painted by many of the professional photographers
and artists of the day. Pasadena photographer Adam Clark Vroman illustrated Camulos in the
Little, Brown and Company's 1912 edition of Ramona. Famed artists Henry Chapman Ford and
Alexander Harmer painted Camulos. Well-known eastern illustrator Henry Sandham, who
accompanied Jackson on her tour of the missions and Indian reservations, made many
sketches and paintings of Camulos which illustrated his edition of Ramona in 1900, published
by Little, Brown, and Company.

In 1887 Ventura photographer John Calvin Brewster photographed Camulos, recreating
scenes from Ramona which eventually were published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Del
Valle family, members and friends posed for these scenes and others that depicted the
romance between Alessandro and Ramona. Occasionally the family complained about the
excursion trains that stopped at the ranch and the avalanche of tourists that descended
upon the ranch demanding to see Ramona, and invading the orchards and house. Reginaldo
Del Valle even considered at one time building a hotel to accommodate tourists, when he
thought his mother's gracious hospitality was becoming a burden in her later years and the
cost of accommodating so many guests was getting out of hand. The Del Valle family
eventually capitalized on the Ramona phenomenon by establishing the "Home of Ramona
Brand" trademark for their oranges,

Camulos continued to receive tourists at the ranch even after the Southern Pacific Railroad
relocated its main line to the south through the Santa Susanna Pass in 1903. Two daily trains
continued to make trips down the Santa Clara Valley in the 1920s until passenger service was
discontinued in the 1940s. Throughout this period, Camulos continued as a scheduled stop.
An article in Sunset Magazine for December 1925 indicated that Camulos was still welcoming

As one of the most widely recognized settings for Jackson's novel Rancho Camulos became
not only a tourist destination in and of itself, but was also emblematic of California's colonial
past in both reality and in fiction. It is a tribute to the power and influence of Jackson's novel
that her popular fiction achieved a capacity to fire the collective imagination of the American
public to an extent that the more prosaic reality of colonial California might never have
equaled. It was in large part this brand of fictionalization and romantic invention that induced
Americans to move in vast numbers from east to west, with expectations of discovering the
fabled land of Ramona.

By the time of American involvement in World War II, the anti-American sentiments expressed
in Ramona combined with its dated sentimentalism ended its popularity with readers. Also a
factor was the wartime attraction of newcomers to California motivated by jobs, not
picturesque scenery. The Ramona myth played a central role in fashioning a regional identity
for Southern California at a time when the West was trying to establish a historical and
cultural legitimacy separate but comparable with the eastern part of the country.
Where the history, myth and romance of Old California still linger...
Rancho Camulos Restored Fountain
California Historic Landmark #553

National Register of Historic Places
November 1, 1996

National Historic Landmark
February 16, 2000
has been designated a
This residential complex possesses
significance in commemorating the
history of the
United States of America.

Ygnacio del Valle established Rancho
Camulos in 1853, on part of a Mexican
land grant of former mission lands.  
Rancho Camulos inspired the setting for
Ramona, an 1884 novel that generated
national interest in the history of Hispanic
settlement in California. August Rübel
purchased the property in 1924 and
preserved the significant historic features
of the site.

National Park Service
United States Department of the Interior
Rancho Camulos Museum
A Non-Profit California Corporation

We are a 501(c)3 organization.  
Donations made to Rancho
Camulos Museum
are tax-deductible.

For further information
about Rancho Camulos
write to:

Rancho Camulos Museum
P O Box 308
Piru CA 93040

or call
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Author Helen Hunt Jackson
In 1884, Helen Hunt Jackson published the first
copy of "Ramona".  Today, the fictional
Ramona lives on in print and theater.  She is still
a celebrated character of the great early West.
Welcome to the official website of
Rancho Camulos Museum near Piru California,
where the history,myth and romance of Old California
still linger...
Ramona Cover by Charles Lummis
This book was published in 1888 by Charles
Fletcher Lummis, then city editor of the Los
Angeles Times
HHJ Bookcover
Special thanks to
for providing the complete text of
All Rights Reserved 2009
Rancho Camulos Museum
Ventura County Landmark #152
SCV News and Highlights presented in advertising partnership with KHTS

Click Here for our Online
New Public Tour Hours

Rancho Camulos is open for docent-led
tours without appointment on most
undays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with tours
starting on the hour.

Rancho Camulos is open to the public
ONLY by docent-led tours. In addition to
the schedule above, Regular, Group, and
School tours and private event bookings are
available year-round. Please call
805-521-1501 or  
email us to schedule a tour
or event.

Please note: for the safety of our visitors
and docents it is museum policy to close
during inclement weather.
Henry Walthall as Alessandro and Mary Pickford as Ramona on
the steps of the Rancho Camulos adobe in 1910.

Free Silent Film Screening

June 14,  2:00 p.m.
Historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse
320 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel, CA 91776

RSVP and get your free tickets at www.missionplayhouse.org
Discussion after the screening with film historians

VIP Reception Immediately following film to benefit Rancho Camulos.
Tickets: $25. Contact cachristopher1@att.net to make a reservation or call