Gorman, California, from the west side of Interstate 5, which is marked by the white truck.
Location of Gorman in Los Angeles County, California
|Country||United States of America|
|• Total||6.19169 km2 (2.390625 sq mi)|
|Time zone||Pacific (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7)|
Gorman, California, is an unincorporated community in northwestern Los Angeles County. As of 2005 it had just 15 homes and a few registered voters, but tens of thousands of motorists traveled through it daily on the Interstate 5 freeway.
Gorman is a historic rest stop in the Tejon Pass, which links Southern with Central California. It has the smallest school district in Los Angeles County, with one elementary school, whose existence has been threatened for the past 35 years. The settlement has been a site for at least four Hollywood motion pictures.
One of the Mountain Communities of the Tejon Pass, it is southeast of Frazier Park and south of Lebec. Interstate 5 runs through Gorman, and State Route 138 connects to the Interstate a few miles south.
The California poppy and other wildflowers cover the hills in springtime. In the early 1990s, the artist Christo arranged a set of umbrellas, in the form of colored cloth sheets on poles to add contrast to the summertime golden hills. Thousands of visitors flocked to Gorman from all over the world.
Mountain Communities historian Bonnie Ketterl Kane said that Gorman is “one of the oldest continuously used roadside rest stops in California,” explaining that native Americans “would have stopped there when it was the Tataviam village of Kulshra’jek.”  The route of the El Camino Viejo passed through this pass for some time before 1800.
The first white settler in the area was a man named Charles Johnson, after 1853. The account of Lt. Robert S. Williamson of the vicinity made in 1853, by his railroad survey expedition report makes no mention of any habitations on the east side of the pass, only that a good wagon road passed through it. After his death his widow, Soledad Girado ran the place which by 1855 became known as Rancho la Viuda (Widow's Station). Historian Frank F. Latta noted that the Johnsons' daughter, Isabel, was the only girl to study at the historic Escuela Normal of Los Angeles in the 1860s.
A man named Reed, took up residence next, calling it Reed's Ranch. In 1857 a woman was killed on his ranch when the great Fort Tejon Earthquake struck the area and collapsed the roof of his adobe house. Reed then built a substantial log house that in 1858 became a stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line.
The Butterfield Overland was discontinued in 1861 but was replaced by the Telegraph Stage Line, which stopped at almost all the former stations, including Gorman's, as it was known then, where the horses were changed. Six of them were used for the pull up from Bakersfield to Gorman's.
It was next bought by David W. Alexander, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, who sold the place to James Gorman Sr. in 1867 or 1868. The log "public house", which furnished food, lodgings, and liquor, soon became known as Gorman's Station. Gorman was a veteran of the Mexican-American War of 1848 and was at Fort Tejon as a civilian teamster and herder in 1854 while it was being built. In 1876, Gorman Sr. died after he was run over by his own supply wagon.
The first post office was established in December 1877 with Henry Gorman, probably James’ brother, as the postmaster. (The community today is served by a contract postal unit in the local market, but delivery is through the Lebec post office.) Gorman's widow, Johanna, continued to run the family farm and the roadside rest until she died in 1889.
|“||They pioneered country stations when they put this one in.||”|
—Lloyd Ralphs, commenting on the first gas station built on the Ridge Route, in 1923.
In 1901, Oscar Ralphs married Mary McKenzie, who, as Mary Ralphs, later served 57 years on the Gorman School Board (from 1908 to 1965) and was honored for her service by Vice President Hubert Humphrey at a National School Boards Association convention.
The road through Gorman was paved in 1919, and in 1923, the first gasoline station in California to be located away from a railroad track was established by Standard Oil. Gorman was a stop on the Ridge Route of Highway 99, where its Standard service station beckoned travelers. It was a rest stop for the Greyhound bus until 1977 and for long-distance truckers, who now use a Pilot Flying J station in Lebec.
“Being located on the busiest highway in California,” wrote historian Kane, “the people of Gorman knew well the need for an ambulance, as so many of the injured were brought to their homes. An ambulance service was established in 1932 with the purchase of an old Packard automobile that was converted into an emergency unit, equipped with one stretcher. The ambulance could be reached through the switchboard at the motel, and whoever was available would drive it.”
In January 2006, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected a bid by 32 of the area’s 75 property owners to give up Gorman so it could be annexed to Kern County. Reasons cited for the proposal included red tape and zoning regulations restricting development in Los Angeles County. However, Los Angeles County and opponents of the proposal did not want to lose sales and occupancy-tax revenue the county collected annually from Gorman businesses.
Government and infrastructure
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) operates the Santa Clarita Valley Station in Santa Clarita, serving Gorman. The County of Los Angeles sends a bookmobile to Gorman every Tuesday.
The Gorman Joint School District (previously the Gorman Elementary School District) operates a single elementary school.
The Gorman area is a part of the Antelope Valley Union High School District, but in 1996 just four of its 24 high school children traveled the 40 miles (64 km) to attend Quartz Hill High School in Lancaster, the closest high school in that district. The others attended nearby Frazier Mountain High School under special permits.
Seventy-four thousand people pass through Gorman daily via the Interstate 5 freeway, but residents have a choice of local roads to avoid the freeway. Peace Valley Road parallels the freeway on the west, north of the town, for travel to Frazier Park and Lebec, and Gorman Post Road on the east, south of town, is a direct route to Highway 138.
Kern Regional Transit provides bus service Thursdays and Saturdays during the summer months from Gorman to Lebec, Frazier Park, Lake of the Woods, Pinon Pines, and Pine Mountain Club. It offers a dial-a-ride service all year. Connections can be made in Frazier Park or Lebec to a scheduled service to Grapevine and Bakersfield and further connection there to Greyhound and Amtrak.
- The Mountain Enterprise newspaper, which circulates in Gorman and the surrounding area.
- California Floristic Province.
References and notes
- Daryl Kelley, “Hills Alive With Sound of Secession; new arrivals to Gorman want the area to join more growth-friendly Kern County,” Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2005, page B-1, retrieved October 11, 2008, from Times database (Document ID: 930984111)].
- Times Staff Writer. "Proposed Gorman Wildflower Preserve". Venturacountytrails.org. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Valerie Reitman, "Bid to Annex Gorman to Kern County Denied," Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2006, page B-3, retrieved October 11, 2008, from Times database (Document ID: 973071501).
- Kane, Bonnie Ketterl (March 2002). "A History of Gorman". Santa Clarita Valley in Pictures. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Frank F. Latta, El Camino Viejo a Los Angeles, The Oldest Road of the San Joaquin Valley, Bear State Books, Exeter, 2006, pp.4, 21
- United States War Department, Report: Eplorations and surveys for a railroad route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean; Routes In California to connect with the routes near the thirty fifth and thirty seccnd parallels, Explored by Lt. R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1853, Washington, 1855, p.25-26.
- Frank F. Latta, Saga of Rancho El Tejón, Santa Cruz, California: Bear State Books, 1976. p. 21)
- Southern California Earthquake Center SCEDC Fort Tejon Earthquake (1857)
- Harrison Irving Scott, The Road That United California, self-published, 2002. See the book's index for the page numbers.
- Pereira, Esther (January 25, 2008). "Gorman School District Honors Ruth Ralphs' 33 Years of Service". Mountain Enterprise. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "Santa Clarita Valley Station." Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Retrieved on January 21, 2010.
- Santa Clarita area bookmobile schedule
- Maeshiro, Karen (January 16, 1996). "Gorman Area May Pull Out Of A.V. School District.". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "Google page showing the distance between Gorman and Antelope Valley College". Maps.google.com. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
- "Average daily traffic for 2007". California Division of Highways. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "Kern Regional Transit bus routes". County Roads Department Kern. Retrieved 2008-11-11.