Morgan Hill Historical Society

Morgan Hill Historical Society


Walking Tour of Historic Downtown

2nd Saturday of the Month

Facility Rental Information and Rates


History Conversations

Every first Saturday of the month


Living History Field Trips

for Grades 3-5 in Morgan Hill Unified School District

Museum Exhibits

Special Exhibits

Morgan Hill Historical Society - Volunteer opportunities in Morgan HillWhile at VMM, you will discover Hiram and Diana’s beautiful Queen Anne/East Lake Stick style home built in1884. In 2005 a delightful 1911 Craftsman style home, built by a local orchardist in 1911, was moved to the property and is now the Morgan Hill Museum. Our Centennial History Trail winds through beautiful rose gardens and offers a reflective walk through the historical highlights of our area.
Our organization is supported by many volunteers and by a membership of localresidents who truly value history. We believe in preserving Morgan Hill’s past for future generations and educating students to celebrate our rich history in order to create a strong sense of place. Villa Mira Monte is the repository of the rich history that defines Morgan Hill as a community… Who we were, who we are and who we will become!


MORGAN HILL HISTORICAL SOCIETY VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNIESVilla Mira Monte is a showcase of magnificent rose gardens with a wide variety of over 300 rose bushes. In bloom most of the year, the roses offer spectacular color and elegance. A spectacular wisteria plant at the front of the veranda of the Morgan Hill House is over 100 years old. It is kept trimmed back today, but in the past its rambling vines covered the entire front of the veranda.
The grounds are open to the public seven days a week year round. The House and Museum are open Fridays from 12 pm to 3 pm and on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm.

Facility Rental

In this house … Our towns namesake lived; families grew; the community gathers; couples wed; and memories are shared.

Create your own history at the historic Hiram Morgan Hill House at Villa Mira Monte. This 1884 Queen Anne style country home and the beautifully landscaped grounds offer serene elegance and intimate charm in an idyllic setting for your family celebrations; weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events, business meetings and holiday parties. Villa Mira Monte offers a wide range of options that can be tailored to your needs.  The Hiram Morgan Hill house and grounds are available to rent, with the exception of the museum .

Private Event Fee Information

Note: The facility has a maximum of 75 for inside events from November through April.

The facility has a maximum of 175 from May through October.

                                    Nov~Apr       |    May~Oct

Mon~Wed                 $150/Hour     |   $150/Hour

Friday                         $750              |    $1,500

Saturday                     $750              |   $1,500

Sunday                        $700             |    $1,400


  •  Use of food prep area for caterer.


  •  Candles must be contained in votive containers or hurricanes. No open flame is allowed.


  • Nothing may be attached to the walls. Rental includes use of folding chairs and tables.


  • Certificate of insurance required


  • All fees are subject to change without notice.


  • Additional non-preapproved hours are $150 per hour.


  • Security at the event is the responsibility of the lessee.


Security Deposit

A $1,00.00 security deposit and certificate of insurance are due 30 days prior to the event date. Deposit is fully refundable within two weeks of satisfactory completion of the event.

If you have questions about any of these details, wish to see the facility or schedule an event, please call Ellie Weston the event coordinator at 408-779-8250.  You can also send us an email below.

Villa Mira Monte is owned and operated by

The Morgan Hill Historical Society

P.O. Box 1258, Morgan Hill

CA 95038 - 1258

The Morgan Hill House is unique, incorporating the best features of Queen Anne and Stick/Eastlake design. It was built in 1884-1886 by Hiram Morgan Hill for his bride, Diana Murphy Hill. The couple, along with their daughter Diane, lived in San Francisco and used the house as a country retreat for themselves and their many friends. In fact, the town acquired its name because train conductors would call out, “Morgan Hill’s” when making special stops for the Hill’s guests to disembark.

The House was sold by the Hills in 1912 and was subsequently a private home and an antique shop. In 1992 Vila Mira Monte was deeded to the Morgan Hill Historical Society with the proviso that it be rescued from dereliction and be open to the public. After six years of extensive work, it was opened in the summer of 1998.


Morgan Hill Historical Society Centennial Trail
In 2006, the Morgan Hill Historical Society, in partnership with the Morgan Hill Centennial Committee, established a spiral Centennial History Trail in a beautiful park-like setting to celebrate the City’s founding in 1906. The trail winds through over 100 events in a chronological history of our community while at the same time sets our history into perspective with national and global events. The design encourages visitors to relax in this peaceful garden setting and reminisce about our past.


Original                                                                              Renovated

Morgan Hill Historical Society - Volunteer in Morgan Hill

 Once the home of orchardist John Acton, and his family, this 1911 Craftsman style home was built at 170 Warren Avenue near Nob Hill. Eventually acquired by Chris and Ida Williams, it was donated it to the City in 1980 for use as a community museum. In 1983 the Morgan Hill Historical Society moved it to Main Street near City Hall where it was open until 2005 when it was once again moved to make way for a new library. Now located at Villa Mira Monte, it gives a sense of life Morgan Hill in the 1930’s. The Museum is a repository for archives and object collections, including artifacts, maps, photos, manuscripts, clippings and memorabilia. Special exhibits are rotated on a yearly basis.

Archival materials are available for research by appointment only; please call and make reservations. Museum resources cannot be removed from the premises, but photocopies may be made for a nominal charge. Please be aware that older records and some bound materials cannot be copied. For inquiries and appointments Contact Us or call (408) 408-779-5755.

Living History Field Trips for Grades 3-5 in Morgan Hill Unified School District

The Morgan Hill Historical Society, in cooperation with the Morgan Hill Unified School District, has developed “Living History” Field Trips for Grades 3-5 in the Morgan Hill area. This hands-on educational experience takes students through three stations on the historic Villa Mira Monte property in Morgan Hill.

1) At the Hiram Morgan Hill House, students will act as historians as they look for clues about the residence during their tour. They will prepare butter and sweets for a formal tea, receive an invitation to the tea, prepare calling cards, and then come calling with hats (boys) and gloves (girls) to learn the social graces of the day.

2) In the Museum, students examine artifacts and learn about Native American and settler life in Morgan Hill. In the research room, older grades use museum gloves to look at historic postcards, analyze them for clues about their writers, and create their own Morgan Hill postcard. Younger grades write their own origin story and make a tribal insignia.

3) The Centennial History Trail is an outside venue with a spiral walkway that takes students through events in Morgan Hill’s history while at the same time incorporating world history. A scavenger hunt adds to the learning experience for this history lesson. Students then draw something related to their visit on a mural of the Hiram Morgan Hill House at Villa Mira Monte, which goes back to school with them. They make toys and participate in fun activities typical in an era with no TV, computers, cell phones, iPods, and plastic toys. Lunch on the veranda and games on the lawn complete this special visit.


For more information, contact Kat Napoli:  [email protected]


Morgan Hill History

Museum Exhibits

The Morgan Hill Museum is housed in the 1911 farmhouse of orchardist John Acton and his family. Moved twice, it now resides in its permanent location and offers a unique look into our rich agricultural heritage and recounts stories of many of our residents.

The Museum is the repository of archives and object collections, including artifacts, maps, photos, manuscripts, clippings and memorabilia. Archival materials are available for research by appointment only; please call and make reservations. Museum resources cannot be removed from the premises, but photocopies may be made for a nominal charge. Please be aware that older records and some bound materials cannot be copied. For inquiries and appointments Contact Us or call (408) 408-779-5755.

Special Exhibits

The Amah Musun

The exhibit was developed in conjunction with the Amah
Mutsun Tribe, Tribal Council Chair, Val Lopez and Tribal Historian, Ed Ketchum,
and the Exhibit Committee Chais: Jennifer Tate, Margaret Rodrigues.  

The following website from the National Archives provides some insight into the
Indian Census Rolls and how the Indian names were recorded.




During the Pre-Contact time period (the time before the native groups first
encountered the Spanish), the Mutsun speaking people had 20-30 villages of 100-
400 people across the Pajaro River Basin and surrounding area. Collectively these
tribelets called themselves the Ummaaya. Each tribelet controlled one watershed
with the geographical ridges between them becoming the boundaries between

Each tribe managed the resources in its area: fish from tribes which lived by the
sea, nuts and acorns from tribes which lived where these resources grew, furs and
skins from tribes which hunted animals in their natural habitat. Territorial
boundaries were respected by all the bands. People were careful not to trespass on
one another’s territories. Some bands granted their neighbors permission to hunt
animals or gather foods and materials from their territories.
At certain times of the year, some members of each band left their village and
moved to different parts of their territories to find food and natural resources. They
set up temporary camps in their traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering spots.

First Contact

The Spanish colonization of California was accomplished by the establishment of
missions and military (presidios) outposts. The first mission was Mission San
Diego de Alcala in 1769. The Spanish sent two parties to Monterey: Portola led the
inland party, while Father Junipero Serra’s traveled by sea.
First contact between the Spanish and the Amah Mutsun occurred in October,
1769, in the area separating the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers. It was at this location
that about 500 people representing many of the tribelets had come together for the
Condor Ceremony. The Ummaaya believed that when Mars, represented by the
Condor, disappeared into the Sun during its two-year orbital cycle, the dead come
back to life. Those who wanted to talk to the dead did so at the Condor Ceremony.
We have scientific proof that in October 1769 Mars orbit took it behind the sun.
When Portola’s party arrived at this area, they encountered “hysterical” Ummaaya
women who started crying and scratching their faces upon seeing the Spanish. The
women thought the Spanish were messengers of the dead, so their “hysteria” was
actually a sign of respect. The Spanish, unable to communicate with the Ummaaya,
shot arrows into the ground to show they were not going to fight and gave them
trinkets for friendship. The women left the site, returning a short while later with
tamales for the Spanish, who were hungry. Meanwhile, the rest of the Ummaaya
burnt the ceremony site before fleeing, so the intruders wouldn’t contaminate the


Rather than friendship, the Spanish captured the Ummaaya, destroyed their
villages and holy places, and forcibly converted them to Christianity. They brought
in Spanish artisans to teach the Ummaaya how to build, so the latter became slave
labor for the construction of the missions, ranchos, adobe houses, and other
structures, including their own homes. The Ummaaya of the present day Morgan
Hill and Gilroy area were taken to four different missions. The numbers of
baptisms were recorded at each mission where they were given a Christian name
and required to stay within control of the Spaniards at all times. Because of disease
and genocide the indigenous peoples population decreased by about 40%.

Mexican Rancho Period (1834-1848)

After Mexico won independence from Spain, the Mexican population increased.
The government abolished the Mission system. Most Native Americans were not
allowed to leave and their ancestral territories were given away to settlers in the
form of land grants. The priests sent the neophytes to the ranchos to serve as
laborers. That meant that the Native Americans became slaves of a new master, the
Dons of the rancheros. Native plants were removed, changing the natural landscape
to increase grazing for the cattle. Disease such as smallpox and diphtheria killed
half the remaining Native American population.

Early American Period (1848-1900)

Initially the soldiers of the American conquerors of 1846 treated the Amah with
respect and dignity. However, the beginning of the Gold Rush caused a surge of
immigration leading to the enslavement, loss of homes and land grants held by the
Native peoples. The Federal government attempted to establish reservations for the
Native Americans, signing treaties between their representatives and 18 different
tribes. However, they were never ratified, but rather were classified secret and
sealed in a vault in Washington DC. The state of California, under Governor Peter
Burnett, signed an extermination order, offering bounties for Native scalps. The
Amah escaped into the hills avoiding the “whites.” Their children were raised to
deny their heritage and claim they were Mexican, losing their customs and
suffering historic trauma. In the late1800s there was a movement to give Indians
land grants, however a dishonest agent had these lands in his control within a year
of receipt.

Ascension Era

Re-emergence of the Amah Mutsun tribe was due to the tribal leadership of
Ascencion Solarsano de Cervantes. She was the last keeper of the oral history, both
culturally and linguistically, as she was the last fluent speaker of Mutsun. Her first
language was Mutsun. Both of her parents spoke Mutsun at home. Early in her life
she suffered a near death experience giving her powers to heal. Her home in Gilroy
became a meeting place for news and tribal lore, sharing, job finding, and nursing
of the sick and dying. She shared her knowledge with J. P. Harrington, a renowned
Smithsonian ethnologist who wrote what is known as the San Juan Report. It is
considered the second most extensive documentation of any one tribe’s cultural
and linguistic history at the Smithsonian.

The Matsun Today

Up to the 1930s the Federal Indian Agency visited the tribe several times. The tribe
was then known as the San Juan Band. The tribal members under the leadership of
Ascencion’s daughter, Maria Mondragon, were enrolled as “Indian” on 1928-30
period Census Rolls. However, a report in the 1930s* by “first name” “last name”
said they were well taken care of by the Catholic Church so the tribe people
received no land. Thus recognition of the tribe stopped. In 1947 litigation was
begun to pursue federal compensation for 1850 treaty promises as part of a
Monterey Bay Indian alliance.

The tribe has a constitutional government and has asked the Federal Government
to restore its federal recognition. Currently, it is the second tribe on the list for
consideration. Without federal recognition, tribal members can’t receive Bureau of
Indian Affairs assistance, protect their ancestral burial sites, or participate inprograms to help their people rise out of poverty.

Collaboration between the Amah Mutsun Tribe and various government entities
centers around traditional tribal values, tribal language, land conservation, and
respect for Mother Earth. The National Park Service has awarded the Amah
Mutsun Tribe the Hartzog Award for two innovative habitat restoration research
projects. The tribe and its leaders are actively participating in many meaningful
projects within their community and reaching out to other communities.


The exhibit was developed in conjunction with the Amah
Mutsun Tribe, Tribal Council Chair, Val Lopez and Tribal Historian, Ed Ketchum,
and the Exhibit Committee Chais: Jennifer Tate, Margaret Rodrigues.  

The following website from the National Archives provides some insight into the
Indian Census Rolls and how the Indian names were recorded.



Books & Things

Interested in learning more about our local history and those who shaped our community into what it is today?  Stop in and check out the books and DVDs at the Museum Book Shop.  Profits support the operation and maintenance of Villa Mira Monte.


- Children’s Discovery Book About Morgan Hill, published by Cindy Miller, 2010

- Hiram Morgan, Beth Wyman, 1983, published by Beth Wyman.  Autographed

- Enchantress, Sorceress, Madwoman: The True Story of Sarah Althea Hill, Adventures of Old San Francisco, by Robin C. Johnson.  2015

- Images if America: Morgan Hill, 2005, U.R. Sharma

- Views of Morgan Hill, 2010, Ian Sanders

- More Views of Morgan Hill, 2013, Ian Sanders & Michael Brookman

- Mineral Springs of Santa Clara County, 2013, Ian Sanders


Forgotten Journey – The Stephens – Townsend – Murphy Saga, 2001.  John Krizek, Executive Producer.

Stories of the Past,  Founders Dinner. Morgan Hill Historical Society, Produced by 152 West Productions. 2014 and 2015