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Old-Fashioned Fun at the John Rains House

The San Bernardino County Museum will host an Old-Fashioned Family Fun Day at the historic John Rains House in Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday, March 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free.

The day will include guided tours of the 1860s house, along with family activities that reflect how families lived in California in the 1800s. Among the activities are churning butter, rug-beating, washing clothes with a washboard, dipping candles, and playing games. Cross-stitch a bookmark, make a whirly-gig, get your hands muddy making an adobe brick, or fashion a corn husk doll to take home. The family activities, led by the Museum Youth Club, are especially designed for families with children ages 3 to 13, but visitors of all ages are invited to “visit” the 1860s together.

“Experiencing some of the everyday activities that people did in California in the 1800s at a historic site is a very special way to understand the past,” said Museum Educator Nancy Kirkwood.  “It’s fun, and it’s a wonderful way to open a window to family life of the past.”

The Cucamonga area was the site of a Native American settlement before the Mission San Gabriel established the Rancho Cucamonga as a site for grazing their cattle. In 1839, the 13,000 acre rancho was granted by the Mexican governor of California to Tiburcio Tapia, a wealthy Los Angeles merchant. Tapia transferred his cattle to Cucamonga and built a fort-like adobe house on Red Hill. The Rancho extended easterly from San Antonio Creek to what is now Turner Avenue, and from today’s Eighth Street to the mountains.

The Rancho Cucamonga lay along the route of the Old Spanish Trail from Cajon Pass and the road from the Pueblo of Los Angeles and Mission San Gabriel to San Bernardino. Each followed the Mojave Trail. Cucamonga welcomed travelers including Native Americans, padres, explorers, mountain men, pack trains, wagon trains, and stage lines.

The Cucamonga Rancho was sold in 1858 to John Rains for $16,500. In 1860 Rains constructed a burned brick building on the property at a cost of about $18,000. John Rains and his wife Maria Merced moved from Chino to the new brick house with their three children in the spring of 1861. By that time, Rains (a former cattle driver) was recognized as a rich and politically influential man, generous and well-liked, who provided abundant hospitality at his strategically-located Cucamonga home.

John Rains planted 160 acres of vines in 1859. Wine and brandy made at Cucamonga gained wide popularity. An earlier small vineyard and winery is said to have been planted by Tapia in 1839, thus establishing the claim that Cucamonga has the oldest commercial winery in the state.

Rains died in November, 1862. In 1864, Maria Merced married José Carrillo and they continued to live in Cucamonga. The Rains House passed through several owners between 1871 and 1971 when it was purchased by the County of San Bernardino and became a San Bernardino County Museum Historic Site. The Rains House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site of the Tapia Adobe is recognized as California Historical Landmark #360.

            The John Rains House is at 8810 Hemlock Street in Rancho Cucamonga. To reach the site, take Vineyard Avenue north from Interstate 10. Turn right on Hemlock, just north of Foothill Boulevard.  No admission fee is charged; donations of $2 (adult) and $1 (child) will go toward the preservation and maintenance of the historic site. Special family activities on March 25 are free.  For more information call the museum education division at (909) 307-2669, ext. 271 or ext. 256, or visit





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