Our History

The La Panza Ranch features a fascinating history of outlaws and rogues. One of its earliest ranch owners was Drury James, uncle of famous outlaw brothers, Frank and Jesse James. Frank and Jesse reportedly spent the winter of 1868 working as cowhands on the ranch, while avoiding capture by lawmen. Throughout the years, the Ranch was operated by various cattle partnerships and individuals. The Cowell Foundation owned La Panza Ranch for 55 years. The family’s patriarch, Henry Cowell, had extensive holdings in San Francisco as well as several ranches throughout California. In 1996, the property was sold to Robert Petersen of Petersen Publishing in Los Angeles. Bob Petersen used the ranch for hunting and entertaining his race car driver friends and other notables, including Tom Selleck. In 2003, Mike Leprino read about the La Panza Ranch in an article in the Wall Street Journal.  He saw potential in the 18,000 acres, so he and wife, Suzy, embarked on a new adventure as ranch owners and operators of the legendary La Panza Ranch. Today, the multi-generational Leprino family gathers at the ranch to enjoy ranch life and the beauty of the property. Legend has it that the ghost of Jesse James still rides in the old oak groves during a full moon!