Who built the stagecoach remains a mystery. At a recent gathering of county officials and park volunteers, Kibby read a narrative from "Hungry for History," a Pass history book that included an account about the creation of the Stagecoach Wagon Museum in 1962, written by the late Lucile Boyer Wade. Guy Wood, a retired caretaker for the Whitewater Ranch, collected and traded the wagons, some of which ended up in the museum. Wood and Boyer Wade's first husband, Harry Boyer, found a stagecoach beneath a walnut tree near El Monte, she wrote, referring to the wagon that has been restored. Community fundraisers helped buy some of Wood's collection for the museum and he donated other pieces. That collection stored in a covered barn in Banning's Repplier Park eventually was acquired by the county for its Gilman Ranch Historic Ranch and Wagon Museum, which opened in 1991. Once a working ranch, it spans almost 130 acres on the north side of town. A replica of the original 1883 Gilman house, which was lost to a 1977 fire, is on the site.
"When we did the restoration work we were curious, too," said Doug Hansen, president of the South Dakota restoration company. "We looked for markings on it that might offer some insight to its origin. That eliminated some potential builders, like the Abbott Downing Co., which made coaches in New Hampshire, and the Henderson company in Stockton. "It looks like it came, not from a large production factory, but more like it was built by perhaps a custom or a local-type shop," Hansen said. "It has unique fittings and custom hand-forged parts that suggest the work was not done in a high-production shop." Hansen said they also learned the coach had been repurposed. It was likely a parade vehicle at one time and had some old painted military insignias on it and more modern upholstery. The restoration goal was not to make it look like it came off a showroom floor, but to give it a historical appearance. "This is what it likely looked like during its use on the California trails," he said. "You can tell it was roughed up a bit."
The mud wagon, or passenger wagon, was used in the back country. "It has a lower center of gravity, (is a) more simply constructed vehicle and, being that they were used in the back roads, when they came into town they were covered in mud," Hansen said. Although Phineas Banning, for whom the city was named, had business in Wilmington and operated a stage coach line that passed through Banning en route to Yuma, Ariz., there is no documentation connecting the coach to him. The restored mud wagon is kept inside the museum, and will be brought out again for the Stagecoach Days parade in Banning in September, Kibby said.