Banning Cultural Alliance Puts Phineas Back in Banning
By Beverly Rashidd
For the Record Gazette
The Banning Cultural Alliance is bringing Phineas Banning back to Banning. According to Alliance Board member and former history teacher, Mike Rose, “It is about time Phineas got recognized for his presence and contributions to our area.”
As the city of Banning moves forward with its preparations for the upcoming Centennial year in 2013, Rose says The Alliance thinks it most appropriate that Phineas have a place of recognition in that celebration. “Banning residents know little about our town’s history and this may account for a lack of general interest and pride in our community,” says Rose.
At this coming (December, 2012) Phineas Festival, the Alliance will unveil a bronze bust of Phineas Banning. The bust, a gift to the citizens of Banning by the Alliance, will be placed on display at City Hall, making it the first permanent piece of “public art” in the City.
The public is invited to make contributions to this historic undertaking. Donors making a substantial investment in the historical launch of this life size bronze bust will receive a limited edition relief of Phineas portrayed with a “mud wagon”, similar to those he drove and one being restored by the Gilman Ranch Hands for our local Wagon Museum.
Though much has been written about Phineas, his pursuits, and the amount of time he spent in Banning and the San Gorgonio Pass Area, not much is known by Banning residents.
Phineas is well known for his daring stagecoach driving, his often voiced abolitionist leanings, his building of the Port of Los Angeles, the first southern California railroad (the San Pedro and Los Angeles), and his purchase of Catalina Island. But Banning also was quite familiar with our (little) town. His wagon trains went through here several times and he often drove. When he lost his railroad to the Southern Pacific, they made him an officer in the company. They probably named our first train station for him because he had sheep pens on the railroad right of way here.
Later, his friend Wellwood Murray, manager of the local flume, and for whom Wellwood Street in Beaumont and Murray Street in Banning were named, recommended that the town be called Banning. Rumor persists that it was because the new Baptist church received $2000 from him. Murray’s daughter later said that no “gift” was offered for the naming. It was simply an honor to a friend.
Phineas Banning was well known and well liked all over southern California. He was a model nineteenth century capitalist, A California State Senator, driller of the first oil well and a Captain in an early Los Angeles police force.
Executive Director, Carol Newkirk, says, “This bronze bust of Phineas Banning is a first for Banning. The Alliance continues its efforts of raising the bar for art and culture in our City through this high quality art project with its historical perspective. Contributing to this work of art is a part of The Banning Cultural Alliance’s ongoing commitment to involving the entire community in creating a Banning we can all love and enjoy.”
Those interested in participating in the Phineas Bust Project can call The Alliance headquarters for more information.
Photo courtesy of Mike Rose