California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts:
Camp Rancho del Jurupa
by Colonel Herbert M. Hart, USMC (retired)
Executive Director, Council on America's Military Past

With California safe in the folds of the Union, the Army became responsible for the safety of the new citizens. Settlers, gold rush vagabonds, miners, speculators, gamblers, and rough and ready pioneers were more than the primitive California Indian could take.

The reaction to the white man's ways was violent. When reports of "outrages" reached Washington, D.C., California's Congressmen urged that more troops be sent to their state.

Troops came in 1851 and 1852 and established posts along the northern and eastern frontiers of the state. On September 17, 1852, Company H of the 2nd Infantry moved into the grist mill owned by Louis Rubidoux near what is now Riverside.

Under Captain Charles S. Lovell, the troops found that the adobe grist mill provided a ready-made headquarters and barracks for what became known as Camp Rancho del Jurupa. The name, after the ranch served by the mill, was a Spanish version of the Indian word for water.

Ranger Horace Bell had frequent contacts with the Jurupa troopers. He described them with more sarcasm than seriousness in his Reminiscences of a Ranger.

Bell termed Lovell "a sedate, methodical, sober kind of officer, who seemed perfectly content to sit in his elegant quarters, issue orders to his little army of a dozen or so well-fed, clean-shaved, white cotton-gloved, nicely dressed, lazy, fat fellows, who were seemingly happy and content on their $8 per month, while even a Digger Indian would naturally expect to earn even more than that sum in a day in the mines. They all, from Captain to Corporal, seemed resigned to a life of well-fed indolence."

Although the exaggerations in Bell's description are obvious, they probably are indicative of the general feeling of the early California settler. The maintenance of discipline was greeted by the unruly pioneer with derision. Bell accused Lovell of exacting "the utmost military punctilio" and ruling "the military roost at Jurupa with all the rigor of a martinet."

Lovell bad little opportunity to distinguish himself during the 1852-54 career of Jurupa, but his name reappears frequently in subsequent endeavors in the West before he won a brigadier's brevet for heroism at the Civil War's Antitem battle.

Bell remembered one Jurupa patrol conducted jointly with a Mormon company and a Ranger detachment. The soldiers were "mounted on wagon mules," Bell wrote, but these soon gave out in the pursuit of a bandit band. It was not long before the troopers returned to the post; the volunteers continued fruitlessly for several more days.

Lovell's main concern at Jurupa was not bandits and Indians, according to Bell, but a lieutenant who was "utterly incorrigible . . . so hard a nut that even Lovell couldn't crack him." He supplemented his Army jacket, the only regulation uniform item that he wore, with Mexican leggings, spurs, sash, hat, horse, and other trappings. "Also inordinately fond of Mexican women," said Bell of the officer, 11 wine and women didn't begin to express the festive character of this gay son of Mars."

Finally Lovell called upon the District Commander for disciplinary help. This plan backfired. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John Bankhead Magruder, the dashing "Prince John" of later Confederate fame, was sent to investigate. Bell records that Magruder stayed with the unruly lieutenant but that they "made the night melodious with their roysterings." The investigation was dropped.

 
ROBIDOUX GRIST MILL SITE
In 1846 the first grist mill in the region was built nearby by Louis Robidoux, owner of this section of Rancho Jurupa. The mill provided flour, a popular but scarce commodity, for settlers and American troops. The mill was washed away by a flood in 1862

Adobes of the Rubidoux Grist Mill, and equally of Camp Rancho del Jurupa, supposedly are in wall to right of the above marker. Mill Stone is believed to have been used in Army period.

TO GET THERE: The site of the Rubidoux Grist Mill and Camp Rancho de Jurupa is located in the community of Rubidoux at 5540 Molina Way.

This page was reprinted with permission from Pioneer Forts of the Far West, published in 1965


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