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. 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 curing olives, storing milk, and housing carriages. Also nearby are the ruins of the Jose Pope Adobe, which was the first structure built in the San Gorgonio Pass when Jose Pope constructed it to use as a bunkhouse for cattlemen. When James Marshall Gilman purchased the property in 1869, he acquired the adobe, which subsequently became his home/general store/stagecoach. Later, he built a larger wood ranch house, a rebuilt version of which stands on the property today. Inside the Victorian style ranch house, visitors will find family photographs and various items owned by the Gilman family.
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, navel 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.