Banning is a city in Riverside County, California, United States. The population was 29,603 at the 2010 census. It is situated in the San Gorgonio Pass, also known as Banning Pass. It is named for Phineas Banning, stagecoach line owner and the "Father of the Port of Los Angeles."
Banning has a western neighbor, the city of Beaumont, which shares geographic and regional features. Banning and Beaumont have been rapidly growing in size and population since the 1990s. Both cities are about 80 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and 30 miles west of Palm Springs, each connected by freeway and railroad.
The area, up to the mid-19th century, was inhabited by the Cahuilla people, though the region around Banning was originally Maringayam (Serrano), and the Cahuilla expanded into the pass only in historic times. In 1824 it became part of the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, and then the Rancho San Gorgonio. The first Anglo to settle in the area was Dr. Isaac Smith in 1853. In 1863 a smallpox epidemic further diminished the Cahuilla. The government created Indian reservations for the Cahuilla in 1877.
The first stagecoach line came through in 1862, and the railroad followed in 1876. U.S. Route 99 was built in 1923, followed by U.S. Route 60/70 in 1936, and subsequently Interstate 10. The Southern Pacific (later purchased by Union Pacific) railroad, laid down in 1881, was a major contributor to the area's growth.
Banning borders the Morongo Indian Reservation, home to the Morongo Band of Cahuilla (Mission) Indians. Relations with reservation residents have been stressed by such actions as disputes over water rights. See Dorothy Ramon's book (published 2000) "Always Believe" for a Maringayam's views on Banning and reservation life.
Prior to the name Banning, the settlement was called "Moore City". Ransom B. Moore operated a large cattle ranch and was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, settling in the area and nearby San Gorgonio mountains in the early 1860s. Moore sold his holdings and relocated to central Arizona in 1883, establishing a large cattle ranch on the site of the former Camp Reno army outpost and later served in the Arizona Territorial Legislature. The town was incorporated on February 6, 1913. Between the years 1880 and 1980, it was the largest city in year-round population between Redlands and the Colorado River.
Indian School and cemetery
The St. Boniface Indian Industrial School was opened in 1890, providing vocational education to Cahuilla, Serrano, Luiseño, Kumeyaay, and other American Indians. Bishop Francisco Mora y Borrell authorized the school and Mother Katharine Drexel provided funding to the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions for purchase of the land, construction, and operations. Over its history, about 8,000 students attended the school which was demolished in 1974. A small abandoned cemetery remains.
World War II
During World War II, Banning was the site of the 1,000 bed Banning General Hospital. It supported training at the Desert Training Center and was later used as a Naval Convalescent Hospital. The facilities were dismantled in 1948.