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Warner's Ranch
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Warner's Ranch is located in California
Nearest city: Warner Springs, California
Coordinates: 33°14′19″N 116°39′3″W / 33.23861°N 116.65083°W / 33.23861; -116.65083Coordinates: 33°14′19″N 116°39′3″W / 33.23861°N 116.65083°W / 33.23861; -116.65083
Built/Founded: 1849
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL: January 20, 1961[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000228

Warner's Ranch near Warner Springs, California, was notable as a way station for large numbers of emigrants on the Southern Trail from 1849 to 1861, as it was a stop on both the Gila River Trail and the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line (1859-1861). It also was operated as a pioneering cattle ranch.

The property, with two adobe buildings from 1849 and 1857, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. There is evidence that travelers stayed at the original 1849 ranch house.[2][3] Now operated as a hot springs resort, the ranch is located 4 miles south of Warner Springs.

Oak Grove Butterfield Stage Station, about 20 miles to the northwest, is the only surviving station building from the stage line. It is also a National Historic Landmark.



This area had long been inhabited by the Cupeño American Indians, who first encountered Europeans when Spanish missionaries arrived in the area. The Cupeño were forced into the colonial mission system and over time lost control of their land, although under Mexican law they were supposed to receive rights to land which they tilled and settled. They continued to live and work in the area, however.

In 1830 an American-born citizen called John Trumbull Warner left Connecticut and headed to California, passing through this valley. He worked as a fur trader and merchant in Los Angeles. By 1844, he had become a naturalized Mexican citizen and changed his name to Juan Jose Warner. He received a Mexican land grant of roughly 45,000 acres for the valley (as this area was controlled by Mexico), after the previous owner gave up the ranch.[3] Warner established a successful cattle ranch.

More importantly, from 1849-1861, Warner operated part of the ranch to serve travelers on the Gila River Emigrant Trail (part of the Southern Trail). He opened the only trading post between New Mexico and Los Angeles on a wagon road developed after the Mexican–American War.[3] Thousands of emigrants began flowing to California. This trail later was used by the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line, from 1857-1861.[4]

When California became part of the United States, new obligations for taxes were applied to the Cupeño. Many of them worked on the Warner ranch, which had a negative reputation for severe treatment of Indians. In 1851, at the beginning of the Garra Uprising, a revolt by the local Cupeño tribe under Antonio Garra, Warner was attacked at his ranch. He sent his family to Los Angeles. Some of the ranch buildings were burned, but Warner continued to operate it, until his grant was challenged by a former claimant.[3] [5]

Warner's Ranch was a stop on the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line in 1857 and the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line between 1858 and 1860. It was linked to San Diego by the San Diego - Fort Yuma mail route via the road through Santa Isabel to San Diego. Travelers rested here along their journey, after the trip through the desert.

During the American Civil War, Union troops established Camp Wright on the grounds of Warner's Ranch on October 18, 1861. The installation was designed to protect California from attack along the route of the emigrant travel route between Arizona and California. Due to difficulties caused by frequent high winds on the exposed position, the location of the fort was moved by Major Edwin A. Rigg, 1st California Infantry on November 23, 1861, to Oak Grove Butterfield Stage Station some 20 miles to the north, also in San Diego County.[6]

The ranch passed through several hands, until in 1880, John G. Downey, former governor of California, became sole owner of Warner's Ranch. He started legal efforts in 1892 to evict the Cupeño. They challenged his actions under provisions of Mexican and United States law, but lost their case in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1901. The court ruled they were correct in their assessment of rights to the land, but had waited too long to press their claim.[7] The case was followed closely by many citizens who had sympathy for the Cupeño. They tried to purchase their own land but were unable to raise sufficient funds. The local tribe was relocated to Pala Indian Reservation on May 12, 1903.[8] [9]

The first advertising for the hot springs was in 1894.[4] Gradually a resort was developed, called Warner Hot Springs, which became popular in the 1950s.[10]

The remaining area of the ranch was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. The property of 221 acres holds the remnants of the 1849 adobe ranch house and 1857 barn, both constructed during Warner's tenure. They have been stabilized.[2]


The historic portion includes an adobe ranch and barn which are severely deteriorated.

The resort remains open and popular.[11]


External links



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