Los Banos and the greater Westside has a colorful and unique history. We are fortunate that this history was documented and archived by such a brilliant and dedicated historian, Ralph Milliken.
Milliken came to the Westside in 1910 after graduating from Stanford University. He was recruited by Miller & Lux as an accountant and, after a brief stint with the company in Firebaugh, transferred to the Canal Farm Ranch in Los Banos and married a local Los Banos teacher, Lucy Beth Wilson.
Ralph Milliken realized early that his passion wasn’t in accounting but in Miller & Lux and in Westside history. He began oral interviews with some of the old-timers in the 1920s through the 1950s.
He took thorough notes and transmitted those through 2,500 type-written pages of meticulous first-hand accounts of the European settlement of the region.
He also captured the romantic Californio era of the region with his book “The California Dons,” with accounts of the Pacheco family and the Westside relationship with San Juan Bautista Mission.
Milliken’s work included collaboration with renowned historian Frank Latta of Gustine, recognizing and paying tribute to the Native Americans that resided in the area for thousands of years prior to the European settlers.
Milliken’s numerous manuscripts, publications, archives and collections serve as the foundation of our documented history and became museum-worthy in 1954 when the County of Merced, led by Supervisor Emory O’Banion, partnered with the City of Los Banos to build a small museum in the new Pacheco Park. It was the Los Banos Museum until 1968 when the museum building was expanded and named the Milliken Museum.
After Mr. Milliken’s death in 1970, we have had numerous dedicated volunteers to expand and oversee the town’s archives. The Kuhn family, Marshall Jose, Alvie Souza, Charles Sawyer, June Errecca, Wayne Pimintel, David Dieckmann and too many others to mention.
All of these volunteers, with the support of the City of Los Banos and Merced County, have all contributed countless hours to preserve and build upon Milliken’s legacy and we thank them for a job well done.
It is a rare luxury for a community to have such quality documentation and preservation of its history, and we owe that legacy to Ralph Milliken. Such a legacy enables us to tell the fascinating story of Los Banos and the Greater Westside. Thank you, Mr. Milliken.
We at the Milliken Museum (905 Pacheco Blvd., just south of Lofton Stadium) welcome visitors. Admission is free. Our hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Our phone number is 209.826.5505.
And we welcome all to join the Milliken Museum Society, a nonprofit group that supports the museum.