For hundreds of years, Shoshonean Indians (Gabrielinos, Fernandenos, and Serranos) have been visiting the San Gabriel Mountain high country.  Living in Seasonal camps near plentiful springs, they found the land rich in game and useful plants.  The first Europeans to venture  into the mountains came for many of the same reasons.  During the 1860’s and early 1870’s the infamous bandit and horse thief Tiburcio Vasquez frequented the area.  He found the areas relatively open and flat meadows to be an ideal place to hide his stolen herds.  Even if a posse was able to trace his band this far into the mountains, the surrounding region provided a natural fortress of rocks and caves.  Sometime before his capture in 1874, one of the Vasquez men was said to have killed a bear with a knife, earning his nickname “Chillia” or “Hot Stuff”. From this story comes the name of the region today, Chilao.

In 1888, an adventurous man visited Chilao by the name of Louie Newcomb, a master trailblazer and cabin builder.  Louie built his first cabin about a quarter mile Northeast of the present day Newcomb’s Ranch.  From this small, but cozy cabin, a steady stream of hunters, hikers and friends visited Louie.  A frequent guest and friend of Newcomb’s was William “Sturde’s” Sturtevant.  A plan was hatched between the two to create a toll trail and charge users 25 cents.  Louie spent years developing a trail from Sturde’s Camp in the Upper Santa Anita Canyon leading into Chilao high country and beyond.  The toll trail never really worked, as there was no way to patrol and collect fees from the many miles of trail.  Louie soon found an alternatve occupation as one of the first Forest Rangers in the newly created “San Gabriel Timber Reserve”.  Louie served in this for 13 years, building many cabins and trails still used today.  Eventually Newcomb settled down, got married and bought a home in Sierra Madre.  He sold most of his land to his cousin Lynn Newcomb Sr. in 1929, leaving the high country for good in 1940 feeling that the newly created Angeles Crest Highway “ruined the place”.

Newcomb’s Ranch Inn was built in 1939; the Ranch has changed many times over the last several decades, serving as a restaurant, brothel, hotel, general store and gas station.  Much of the original two story structure was destroyed from a fire in 1976.  The building was rebuilt and opened as a restaurant for many years by Lynn Newcomb Jr.  Today, Newcomb’s Ranch is owned by Frederick H. Rundall, a lover of nature with a passion for the mountains.