of Ramona was first inhabited by the Diegueno Indians, a
semi-nomadic people who traveled between the coast and the
back-country, living in Ramona when it became too cold for them in
Diegueno Indians left considerable archaeological evidence behind
them. Etchings and paintings on rocks, and many grinding stones.
Their grinding stations were always located near stands of rocks,
oak groves, and streams. They ground the acorns from the great oaks
into a meal that was used to bake a type of travel bread.
show that in 1775 Spanish soldiers came to what became know as the
Santa Maria Valley and attacked a native village called "Pamo"
in retaliation for the destruction of a nearby mission. This was the
first recorded contact with white men and may have been in what is
now Ramona, or possibly Pamo Valley.
next contact came when a Catholic expeditionary mission led by
Father Sanchez and escorted by six Spanish troops, traveled through
the Santa Maria Valley from the Presidio in San Diego. Passing
through Ramona, north of Goose Valley they stopped to have breakfast
in Ballena. Ballena means whale in Spanish and was named for the
mountain that looks like a large whale. Afterwards they continued on
to Santa Ysabel and the Warner Springs area. The Padre remarked that
the Ramona area looked like it would be a good area to raise hay.
original mission grant of 18,000 acres in the Santa Maria Valley and
Santa Ysabel was made to Jose Joaquin Ortega in 1843. Three years
later the Ortega house was visited by General Stephen Watts Kearny,
when he passed through Ramona on his way to fight the Battle of San
Pasqual, with the Californio ranchers. Kearny lost his dragoons to
the superb lancers and horsemen who had raised cattle in the area
all their lives.
had several connections to the battle. When visiting several homes
in the area Kearny met one of Ramona's earliest settlers, Edward
Stokes who was originally from England. They met when Kearny was
encamped in Warner Hot Springs. Stokes, a former British sailor was
the son-in-law of Jose Joaquin Ortega and built his own adobe ranch
house in 1843 in Goose Valley. The trail that Kearny and his
dragoons took in December of 1846 still exists in sections today and
is known as Old Survey Road 97.
In 1849 a
Lieutenant Dave Couts brought the first four wheeled wagon into the
rush that flourished in Julian after 1870 led to the creation of a
stage line that ran between San Diego and Julian, and passed through
Ramona. The trip began at 6 AM and arrived in Ramona at 3 PM.
first house built in present day Ramona was the Verlaque House. It
is still standing and houses the Guy Woodward Museum. It was build
as a store on two acres given for that purpose by a Bernard
Etcheverry, who acquired the land grant that had originated with the
Ortega Family. Etcheverry raised sheep until driven out of business
by drought and Ramona's native burrs, which made the wool worthless.
Ramona was called Nuevo, because there was another town named Ramona
farther north. When that town became defunct, Ramona acquired the
name permanently. Helen Hunt Jackson, writer of the famous fiction
book "Ramona" had no connection to the town, nor did the
town site of Ramona was laid out in the 1870s, with Main Street
following the original San Vicente Road. Ramona was developed by the
Santa Maria Land and Water Company, which purchased 3200 acres and
sold them off. The head of the development was a man named Milton
Santee. The plan also was to build a religious seminary here, but
nothing ever came of it.
first brought into town by pipelines from Hatfield Creek.
Augustan Barnett made bricks to build the Ramona Hotel, later called
the Kenilworth Inn and opened in 1887. Barnett, a wealthy man
originally from New York, decided to share his wealth with his
fellow citizens by building the Ramona Town Hall, which he gave to
the town. The first grammar school built in town was constructed
from brick left over from these building projects.
drug store opened in 1889 and in 1895 John C. Bargar opened the
first blacksmith shop. Bargar also built a lumber yard which he sold
to the Ransom Brothers in 1924. The Ransoms still own it today.
locally owned bank was established in 1911. It operated until 1928
when it was taken over by the Bank of America. Electricity arrived
in Ramona in 1926, the same year the first paved highway was
1925, at the instigation of the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm
Bureau, a water company was created to deliver water from Santa
Maria Creek to Ramona. A bond issue passed 93-3 to appropriate money
for the project.
1920s Ramona was the site of some of the largest turkey ranches in
the world and called itself "The Turkey Capital of the
World." In 1947 one of the turkeys from Ramona was presented to
President Harry Truman.
1930s Ramona received an interesting distinction by being awarded a
silver cup for having the best voting record in the state six times.
The voting percentages ranged from 93.3% to 98.8% during this
decade. The cup can be seen on display at the Chamber office.
connected to the San Diego Aqueduct in the 1950s and 1960s and
established a sewer system.
1967 the current high school was built on Hanson Lane, and the old
high school became first the junior high and finally the district
In the late 1960s, poised for the development that continued ever since, Ramona had a population of about 5000. Today the population is 40,000 plus.
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