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the animated red Cookhous logo with fork & spoon in abstract outline, it says Established 1870 andd Cookhouse Food Hall at Vail HQ


a cowboy riding a horse hard with a lasso chasing a steer with other cows in background

It was the hub of the wheel, the center of the enterprise, the heart of the operation. From here, cowboys rose to see the pink of dawn and rested while a scarlet dusk painted the sky. It was home. Strong coffee, beef, potatoes and pie sat on the long table. It was where they worked and where their labors were rewarded at the end of the day – the headquarters site.

It is forty years later, and no developer has managed to erase the reminders of ranch life as it used to be. Some newcomers happened along and challenged the plan for demolition. They are learning from the old-timers and hope to teach those to come. ​


On some days you can hear a docent speak: Fred Black would sit here on the bench after he cleaned up from the day’s work. He would smoke a cigarette and stroke his dog, and wait for the dinner bell to ring. The overhang on the old Wolf Store came down closer to the ground, and benches sat beneath. Older cowboys sat there instead of mixing with the young ones who entertained themselves with jesting and boxing before dinner.


We want to learn how it used to be, and depict the scene for young folks to carry on.

A long time ago, if you had asked the location of the old Vail Ranch headquarters, sometimes referred to as the “Home Ranch,” you would have been told it was just west of center of the Pauba Valley, just north of the Temecula River, and about three and a half miles southeast of the center of the town of Temecula. But nowadays it is between Kohl's department store and Famous Brand Shoes in the Redhawk Shopping Center at the corner of Redhawk Parkway and Highway 79 South. ​


Native Americans hunted small game and gathered edible vegetation in the Pauba Valley until Europeans entered in late 1797. By 1818, the valley was considered an extension of the Mission San Luis Rey. The entire Temecula area produced grain and provided grazing land for mission sheep and cattle.


​By the end of the 1830's, when the missionaries returned to Spain and the missions were closing, Indians returned to the Temecula area and chose to settle in the Pauba Valley because of its abundance of water. Utilizing skills they learned at the mission, they built a pond and planted orchards and fields. Pablo Apis built his large adobe on the south side of the Temecula River on the Little Temecula Rancho, a land grant he received from the Mexican governor. Other Indians built homes just west of the Apis adobe.

a ranchhand in a cowboy hat with his hand on the mane of dark horse in front of the old Cookhouse at Vail HQ
A vintage landscape plan drawing of the old Vail Ranch with hills and groves in the background

A cluster of eight adobes sat just across the river from Apis’ home, with a cemetery not far away. A pear orchard and another adobe sat near the cemetery, with a few other adobes scattered around the valley.


During the Gold Rush, newcomers entered the valley on the Southern Emigrant Trail, which passed from Warner Springs through Pauba Valley to San Diego.


An 1859 map shows seven adobe houses, a pond, a field, and the Road to Yuma, which is the same as the Southern Emigrant Trail Magee built a structure at the south side of the river crossing along the road, a building designated as the first Temecula post office in 1859, where Louis Rouen served as postmaster. This post office closed in 1862. ​


In July of 1870 the Temecula post office was reestablished in the Wolf Store, which was built about two years before. An 1873 map shows the Wolf Store and yard, with ruins of seven adobe houses. The Indians had a difficult time proving their ownership of the land and were forcefully evicted in 1875 to less valuable land along the Pechanga Creek. Wolf’s Store, his house, a barn a stable, and what looks like a schoolhouse appear in an 1883 drawing. The barn and stable are east of the Wolf Store. An 1891 drawing shows a barn to the west of the Wolf Store, with a schoolhouse structure moved and attached to the main house. A 1902 photo shows the addition of a water tank house and a windmill.

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