by Arda M. Haenszel

[First published in the Oct-Dec 1984 edition of the "Odyssey" by the San Bernardino Historical & Pioneer Society]

The name Jumuba is no longer familiar to most local residents. But the area has been involved in every period of valley history from the prehistoric through the mission, rancho, Mormon, and post Mormon eras, all the way to the pages of today's newspapers. I should explain that Jumuba was the Indian rancheria or village at a group of three springs on the west side of Hunt's Lane, between Redlands Boulevard and the railroad tracks.

The first written mention of the rancheria was in the diary of Father Jose Sanchez, who accompanied Father Mariano Payeras, business manager for the California missions, as his secretary on an inspection tour in September 1821. They stopped for the night at the San Gabriel Mission Rancho San Bernardino headquarters, which was then at Guachama; along what later became Cottonwood Row [Today it is called Mission Road, located between Mountain View Avenue and California Street in Loma Linda]. In the morning they started west on the old trail along the Santa Ana River. Soon they came to a place where the river formed "a beautiful cove and where there were three springs". They noticed a group of native brush huts there at the rancheria, and a corral that had been built for the use of the neophytes in looking after the cattle.

Jedediah Smith in the Badlands
Jedediah Smith in the Badlands, by Harvey Dunn.
Original painting is a large canvas on display at South Dakota State College, Brookings, SD.
(Courtesy of the Jedediah Smith Society)

Five years later, trapper Jedediah Smith and his party of fifteen men, having crossed the Mojave Desert and the San Bernardino Mountains, made their way to San Gabriel Mission. However, as an American, Smith was not welcome in Mexican California. After a brief stay at the mission and unpleasant encounters with the authorities, he was ordered to leave. He was given a requisition for supplies from the San Bernardino Rancho by Father Sanchez, then at San Gabriel, and he camped at Jumuba in January 1827 while they were being assembled and while his men broke wild horses, jerked beef, and repaired their gear in preparation for departure.

After the San Bernardino mission rancho was granted to the three Lugo brothers and Diego Sepulveda in 1842, each of them chose a part of the rancho for his sphere of activity. Jumuba, the part west of Guachama and south of the Santa Ana River, was selected by Jose Maria Lugo, and he built his house near the three springs. This adobe was noted by David Seely when he camped at San Bernardino in 1850. It was also mentioned by W. A. Conn in writing a section of a brochure edited by Judge Frazee in 1876. He said, "the Lugos had about 20 acres in cultivation at Humore", through the rest of the rancho was devoted to cattle raising. Conn was one of a group who bought the rest of the San Bernardino Rancho not already sold by Lyman, Rich, and Company before they were recalled to Utah. Conn stayed at San Bernardino to develop and sell the remaining valley lands.

The name Jumuba, the Spanish phonetic rendering of the Indian name, was "adjusted" to the form Homoa, or Humore, by the English-speaking settlers.

Confirmed by the American courts, the Lugo title to the Rancho consisted of eight square leagues [A league is any of various units of distance from about 2.4 to 4.6 statute miles]. But the boundaries had not been established when the Mormons bought it. It was up to them to determine which eight square leagues would be theirs.

During the several years of uncertainty, a number of non-Mormon pioneers "squatted" on favorable land, which they hoped the Mormons would not claim. Among them was Jerome Benson, who settled at Homoa in 1856.

Fort Benson - 1856
Fort Benson - 1856
Courtesy of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society

It was natural that the Mormons would include the best land, and when official boundaries were established, Homoa was included, and Benson was ordered to move. He refused, and was joined by other Independents in the same predicament, such as F. B. Van Leuven, the Crams, John Brown, Rube Herring, and Q. S. Sparks. Benson's adobe barn was fortified with a cannon the Independents had brought from Los Angeles for earlier Fourth of July celebrations, and it was dubbed Ft. Benson. However, the fort was never attacked, and Benson remained. A suit was filed by the Mormons in 1857 and then a counter suit against them by Benson on which judgement was not given until October 1859.

Cannon From Fort Benson

This Spanish cannon is located in front of the Native Sons of the Golden West headquarters in the Del Rosa section of San Bernardino. It was brought from Mexico to San Diego in 1818 and helped ward off pirates who had been raiding sections of the coast. Later it was used by the Californios against the Americans in the Battle of Cahuenga during the Mexican-American war; during the 4th of July celebration between the Mormons and the non-Mormons in 1856; and by Jerome Benson during a dispute with Mormon leaders in 1857. The cannon's final use was during a feud in 1859 between the two San Bernardino physicians known as the "Gentry-Ainsworth" affair.

We all know what happened in the meantime. The San Bernardino Mormons were recalled to Utah, and by 1858 most of them had gone. Quick forced sale of their land brought the price of real estate in the valley to depressed levels, and made the litigation unnecessary. Judge Horace Rolfe noted that Benson then had his choice of much fine farmland. He may have arranged to buy the Jumuba land, because John Brown Jr. wrote that, through the courts ruled against him, Benson was later able to give a clear title.

A party of English immigrants reached San Bernardino in June 1857, among them Ambrose Hunt and George Cooley. Hunt acquired the Benson property at Homoa and proceeded to develop it as a successful farm. He and Cooley, who settled on the land immediately west, opened the Hunt-Cooley irrigation ditch from the Santa Ana River. By 1871, Hunt's taxable assets at Homoa, including the land, stock, farm implements, furniture, and other personal effects, amounted to well over $154,000.

An item in the San Bernardino GUARDIAN dated May 27, 1876, noted that "the ruins of the fort are still visible near the house and on the ranch of Ambrose Hunt, Esq." A red brick house, which stood on Hunt's Lane, is thought to have been built by Hunt in 1882, but it may well have been there earlier. The street, of course, derives its name from Ambrose, not Jefferson, Hunt. Two of the springs in the yard to the north and west of the house were still marked by tules when I visited the site in the 1950s. The third had been opened as a domestic well, as shown on a 1905 map of valley water resources.

It is apparent that the Jumuba site is one of considerable historical significance. The San Bernardino SUN on February 17, 1935 described the dedication of a monument by the Native Daughters, at which George Beattie and Jerome Kavanaugh were the speakers. Miss Clara Barton was chairman of the occasion, and descendants of Benson and Hunt were present, including Judge Henry M. Willis, Benson's grandson. The monument was placed beside Hunt's Lane just north of the old brick house.

Fort Benson Memorial Plaque

At about the time the freeway was built, the house was demolished, and the whole area was bulldozed, destroying the trees and the springs. Around 1956 or 1957 the House Grain Company bought the land, and on its western part built a grain elevator. On Hunt's Lane was built the office, with a truck scale in front.

Photograph of the Area Once Occupied by Fort Benson
Photograph taken May 2007 looking west from Hunts Lane just north of the railroad tracks.
Note grain elevator on the left and the office and truck scale to the right, just north of the railroad tracks.

The historical plaque was preserved and remounted beside the office. In 1957 the site was registered at State Historical Landmark #617.

Fort Benson Plaque
In this 2007 photograph we see the Fort Benson Plaque on the left located between the scale and the office.

A paved access road has been run through to the elevator, and an open field now lies between it and the office. That is where the house formerly stood. The only indication that this is a historic spot, other than the monument itself, is the presence of an electric pump beside Hunt's Lane, indicating that there is still water there where the Native Americans camped beside the springs.

When David Seely camped at San Bernardino in 1850, he looked out upon a vast cattle range. There were only four houses in the valley them - the one at the site of the future city of San Bernardino, which had been abandoned for years; the former Asistencia buildings them occupied by Jose del Carmen Lugo's and Vicente Lugo's adobe ranch house and associated Indian huts at Politana, between San Bernardino and Colton; and Jose Maria Lugo's adobe at Jumuba. Probably he could never have imagined the population and construction, which since then have nearly filled the entire valley of San Bernardino.