- Business Advocacy
Alhambra and Ramona
Gary Frueholz, Dilbeck Realtors
Alhambra has a love affair with Ramona… at least, that is with the name Ramona. Three streets, four of Alhambra’s twenty-six designated residential neighborhoods, and two schools have Ramona in their names.
How did this affinity for the name Ramona get started?
The significance of the name Ramona dates back to Don Benito Wilson and his family. Benjamin Davis Wilson (also known as Don Benito Wilson to many locals) was the land baron, second mayor of Los Angeles, founder of Wilson College which later evolved into USC, and US Army veteran who held title to large quantities of land between Riverside and the west side of what is now Los Angeles. Much of Alhambra was part of Wilson’s land holdings. Mount Wilson is named in his honor and along with the likes of Collis and Henry Huntington, he was one of the largest land owners during the 1800’s in the Los Angeles area. And his wife was named Ramona.
Ramona was a member of the influential Yorba family which held real estate in areas that we now call Yorba Linda. She and Don Benito were married in 1844 and produced two children, Maria de Jesus and John. Tragically Ramona died in 1849. Wilson would remarry to Margaret Hereford and sire three more children, one of which, Ruth, married into another real estate family by the name of Patton. That marriage produced a boy by the name of George S. Patton, who became the legendary World War II general.
Wilson’s daughter from his first marriage, Maria de Jesus, married a gold rush emigrant from Maryland named James DeBarth Shorb in 1867. Shorb became an expert in laying irrigation piping and turning marshlands into productive land used for farming and residences. James’ father-in-law was Don Benito Wilson and both men enjoyed a close personal and working relationship with each other. The men had a project in San Marino where a lake was drained and created what we now call Lacy Park.
The Shorb’s had eleven children and here’s where the story starts to develop. One of Shorb’s daughters, Edith, was attending school at a Catholic girl’s school in Oakland. Edith, not particularly fond of the great distance between herself and her family, said that she would prefer to attend school closer to home. James Shorb contacted the Sisters of the Holy Names and inquired whether the nuns would consider starting a similar school to the one in Oakland in Alhambra if he would donate the land for it.
The Catholic Sisters agreed to establish a school in Alhambra. Shorb, who had received a generous wedding gift of land from the Wilsons and was influential in the Wilson family businesses, did not suggest the school be named after his daughter Edith, but rather, after his deceased mother-in-law Ramona. This section of land is now part of Alhambra’s Ramona Tract. With this initial inspiration, Ramona Convent got its start in 1889 and its name.
Ramona Convent has developed into an impressive secondary school that provides a college preparatory education for girls grades 7 – 12. It is a past U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Soon the street which led into the school also gained the name Ramona. Alhambra’s Ramona Road now has the interesting situation that it is actually two streets. One street runs north of the San Bernardino (10) Freeway and the other Ramona Road runs on the south side. Ramona Road was originally where the 10 Freeway is, but when the San Bernardino Freeway was constructed after World War II, Ramona was pushed to each side of the new freeway.
The name Ramona also shows up in Alhambra’s 26 residential neighborhoods designated throughout the city. These neighborhoods have architectural guidelines which help home owners in their remodeling projects. Four of these have the name Ramona in them; West Ramona, East Ramona, South Ramona, and East Ramona Park. All of these neighborhoods lie either east or south of Ramona Convent.
The Wilson and Shorb families not only influenced schools (also Ramona Grammar School, 509 W. Norwood Pl.), neighborhoods, and streets with the name Ramona, but some streets near Ramona Convent are named after the four Shorb girls (Marguerita, Ethel, Edith, and Ynez).
Ramona is a popular name for women and events (i.e. the Ramona Pageant in Hemet), but Alhambra’s attraction with the name Ramona got its initial momentum from the Shorb clan to honor a deceased mother-in-law. And with the name Ramona, one is reminded of Alhambra’s rich heritage in the San Gabriel Valley from over a century ago.