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
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, 1884]
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...
|California Historic Landmark #553
National Register of Historic Places
November 1, 1996
National Historic Landmark
February 16, 2000
has been designated a
NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK
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
For further information
about Rancho Camulos
Rancho Camulos Museum
P O Box 308
Piru CA 93040
|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
|Official Ramona Citrus Crate Label
"Home of Ramona Brand" with view of south
veranda at Rancho Camulos, Camulos, Ventura
U F. del Valle, copyrighted 1900.
Schmidt Litho Co., Los Angeles, Cal.
|This book was published in 1888 by Charles
Fletcher Lummis, then city editor of the Los
|Special thanks to
for providing the complete text of
|Ventura County Landmark #152
|SCV News and Highlights presented in advertising partnership with KHTS
|Click Here for our Online
|Rancho Camulos Museum and National Historic Landmark
is open to the public for docent-led tours
Saturdays, 1-4 p.m.
Group tours can also be arranged. Call 805-521-1501 or
e-mail email@example.com for more information.
|Public Tour Hours
Rancho Camulos is open for
docent-led tours without appointment
Saturdays, 1p.m.- 4 p.m.
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.
Rancho Camulos will be
closed on the following
Saturdays in June for private
events: June 1st, 8th and
29th. Saturday tours will be
available on June 15th and
22nd from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
|Book Your Wedding Now
Looking for a beautiful site for your
outdoor wedding? Rancho Camulos is a
unique and gorgeous venue for creating
memorable wedding ceremonies and
receptions. Call 805-521-1501 or e-mail us
at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn
more and book a wedding tour. Dates are
filling quickly, so don't delay. Click here
for some beautiful wedding photos taken
last fall at RCM!
|Save the Date:
Ramona Days 2013
Saturday, September 7th
1 - 6 p.m.
The Ramona Pageant Players and dancers return to Rancho
Camulos to celebrate the Ramona story and old Californio
lifestyle. More details of this year's event to follow.