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, 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
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 visitors.
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
|Where the history, myth and romance of Old California still linger...
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
All Rights Reserved 2009
Rancho Camulos Museum
|Ventura County Landmark #152
|SCV News and Highlights presented in advertising partnership with KHTS
|Rancho Camulos Museum is open to the public for
Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. unless closed for a private event.
Please call or check website for closure dates.
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 on most
Saturdays, 1p.m.- 4 p.m. (See above for
special hours during October.)
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
Henry Walthall as Alessandro and Mary Pickford as Ramona on
the steps of the Rancho Camulos adobe in 1910.
Rancho Camulos will be open for
docent-led tours on Saturday, October
11th, 18th and 25th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for children.
Two Great History Events Scheduled for November 8th:
FREE Living History Day Followed by
"Ramona Nights": Film Festival and Fundraiser
Rancho Camulos Museum will host a fun-packed day of historical happenings for history buffs of all
ages on Saturday, November 8th. From 12 p.m. - 4 p.m., the museum will offer a FREE living history
day. Historical re-enactors will share stories of Rancho Camulos' past, dating back to the mid 1800s.
Learn about those who lived and worked at the rancho, which became the inspiration for author
Helen Hunt Jackson's bestselling novel Ramona, published in 1884. Visitors will have the chance to
make adobe bricks, handmade tortillas and do laundry the 19th century way with washtubs and
See the 1928 film "Ramona," starring Dolores del Rio. Following a festive buffet of tapas (small
plates), wine and limoncello, the film will be shown in the museum's 1930 schoolhouse. Live music
will accompany the film, which was recently "discovered" in the Czech Republic. A panel of scholars
led by film historian Hugh Munro Neely will lead a discussion following the screening. Tickets: $50.
Seating is limited! Purchase your tickets online by clicking here. You may also buy tickets by mailing
checks to Rancho Camulos Museum at P.O. Box 308, Piru, CA 93040. For more information, email