John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, speaks with George Alger about the early history and growth of agriculture in the County.
QUEEN ANNE VICTORIAN
In late fall of 1892 the growing Camarillo family moved into a 6,000 square foot, 14-room Queen Anne Victorian on the western edge of Rancho Calleguas. Adolfo Camarillo had paid architects Herman Anlauf and Franklin Ward $10,000 to design and construct the spacious, elegant new home. It would become the stately centerpiece of family and community celebrations for generations.
One such event was the wedding reception for Rosa, Adolfo’s eldest daughter, and Alfred Petit in 1914. The occasion showcased many remodels to the Camarillo home: an inviting bench seat added to the tower bay, the removal of a door and wall that opened up the front parlor, the expansion of the ground floor master chamber and its conversion to Adolfo’s office, and the adding of a “return” or landing to the main staircase- the perfect platform for the new bride to toss her bouquet.
Today, visitors can admire these remodels as well as the carefully preserved original hardware, doors, mouldings, windows, and five fireplaces throughout the home. With six bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen with an impressive walk-in refrigerator, breakfast and dining rooms, two offices, back and front parlors, a servants’ room, a full attic, and a partial basement, there is plenty to explore. Period-appropriate furnishings, historical photos, and treasured items donated by Camarillo family descendants create a compelling snapshot of California ranch life from 1892 – 1915.
When Adolfo was about 11 years old, his father completed the most important purchase in Camarillo family history: a 10,000-acre property known as Rancho Calleguas. It had been granted by the Mexican government to Jose Pedro Ruiz, but by 1875 the last of his descendants and other buyers sold their shares to Juan Camarillo, Sr., for approximately $30,000 and 3,000 gold coins. Rancho Calleguas was an impressive sight: stretching from the top of the Conejo Grade westward to Lewis Road, it included parts of Camarillo Springs and Santa Rosa Valley.
When Juan Sr. died Rancho Calleguas passed to young Adolfo, his brother Juan Jr., and their mother Martina. As the eldest son, Adolfo took over ranch operations and successfully transitioned Rancho Calleguas from a cattle ranch into a diverse, thriving agricultural business. He was innovative and used advanced farming techniques to plant lima beans, walnuts, avocado and citrus.
Because of Adolfo’s lifelong generosity, parts of the former Rancho Calleguas are now well-known local landmarks. He granted right of way for the Pacific Railroad Company to extend tracks through Rancho Calleguas and build a station that is still used by commuters and leisure travelers today; he repeated this offer for the widening of Highway 101, the major transportation artery through Ventura County. Adolfo also donated 26 acres of the ranch to create Camarillo Grove Park, and 50 acres to build Adolfo Camarillo High School. Today, 4.49 acres encompassing the family home, Mule Barn, and stables have been preserved to represent the once-sprawling property. Locally, it is known as the Camarillo Ranch- or simply, “the Ranch.”
The Camarillo White Horses are a rare breed known for having a pure white coat and pink skin from birth. The origin of the breed can be traced back to a chance encounter in Sacramento at the 1921 California State Fair. As president of the Ventura County Fair Board, Adolfo Camarillo was attending the fair as part of his official duties. A handsome white stallion named Sultan caught his eye; an admiring Adolfo described him as “a stallion of a dream.” He purchased Sultan and bred him to Morgan mares back on the ranch, producing a line of White Horses.
Sultan and the line he founded have become celebrities over the years, showcased in major events all over California. Highlights include the opening ceremonies of the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, the inauguration of the Oakland Bay Bridge in 1936, and the 2000 Pasadena Rose Parade. They also make frequent appearances in the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade and the Camarillo Christmas Parade. The White Horses are guests of honor at Tales at the Ranch, a special community event hosted by the Foundation at the Camarillo Ranch every July and October.
In 1958 Adolfo died, and his youngest daughter Carmen continued to breed and parade the White Horses. Upon her passing the horses were sold to private owners. With only 8 horses left in Ventura County, the owners formed the Camarillo White Horse Association to preserve and improve the breed. As of 2017, there are 21 Camarillo White Horses in existence.
To learn more about this historic breed and living legacy of Adolfo Camarillo, please visit the official website of the Camarillo White Horse Association atCamarilloWhiteHorses.org.
Anyone driving along Highway 101 between Camarillo and the Conejo Grade has seen the line of Eucalyptus trees planted by Adolfo Camarillo in 1890. Visitors to the Camarillo Ranch can also marvel at four giant Australian natives that have grown to achieve historical significance and local landmark status since being planted by Adolfo in 1892.
The Norfolk Island, or Star Pine, was discovered on an island off the coast of Australia by Captain Cook on his second voyage. There are two Norfolk Island Pines on the Ranch: in the east garden, and in the center of the lawn. At 110 feet tall, the former is recognized as the tallest in California.
The Bunya Bunya tree species is nicknamed the “Widow Maker,” since it produces large seedpods weighing 15 – 20 pounds which drop from the tree. The specimen directly in front of the Camarillo Ranch House is also listed as the largest of its kind in the state.
The Moreton Bay Fig located at the southeastern end of the property is considered one of the largest in California, surpassed by one in Santa Barbara. This tree was favored for large houses and parks during the late 1800s. Today, its massive roots are a popular playground for young visitors and photo opportunity for wedding parties.
Few people know how the City of Oxnard got its name.
Oxnard’s founder, Henry T. Oxnard, intended to name the city after a Greek word for “sugar.” Finally, frustrated with trying to communicate his desires to the state bureaucrats, he gave up and named the city after his family.
Let’s take a brief look at the history of this bustling, beach town on California’s central coast.
The earliest inhabitants of the Oxnard areas were the Chumash Indians, who lived in round, thatched houses and were known for their well constructed plank canoes and fine basket work.
After a number of Spanish explorations, Jose de Galvez, utilizing powers bestowed upon him by King Charles III, appointed Father Junipero Serra to head missions in Alta California. Mission San Buenaventura was the halfway point between the San Diego and Monterey missions and was established in 1782. Pueblo life and sprawling ranchos began to spring up around the site of the mission, and California families exerted their influence until the State of California was added to the Union in 1850. In the mid nineteenth century, immigrants began to pour in from the east coast and Europe.
The major industry, agriculture, produced great crops of barley and lima beans. Achille and Henry Levy opened an agricultural brokerage business in 1882, and finally a bank, which encouraged and assisted farmers. Then, in 1897, ranchers Albert Maulhardt and Johannes Borchard believed sugar beets would be a profitable crop for the area and invited Henry Oxnard to construct a local factory to process the harvests. Oxnard and his three brothers operated the American Beet Sugar factory in Chino, California, while Albert Maulhardt planted sugar beets for shipment to the plant. The factory was so successful in its yield of processed sugar beets that the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a spur right to the factory site so the processed beets could be shipped out. Encouraged by Maulhard’ts success and a pledge of 18,000 acres of sugar beets from local farmers, the Oxnard brothers built a factory in the heart of the rich fields of what was then, in 1898, Rancho Colonia.
A town quickly sprang up near the factory. Almost overnight businesses and residences appeared around the town square, called the “Plaza,” and schools and churches emerged almost as rapidly. The City of Oxnard was incorporated in 1903, taking its name from the Oxnard brothers who had founded the sugar beet factory.
The factory attracted many Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican workers to Oxnard and the sugar beet industry brought diversification to agriculture. Major crops then included beans, beets, and barley, and businesses in town consisted of general merchandise, restaurants, laundries, saloons, and banks. Oxnard built its first public library, a classically styled, Andrew Carnegie gift, on the north-west corner of the plaza in 1907. The building stands today as a county historical landmark and is the only remaining structure from the early days of the plaza.
Agriculture has remained the major industry, but Oxnard has witnessed a steady population increase beginning in the 1940s. The establishment of military bases at Port Hueneme and Point Mugu during World War II, and the rise of electronic, aerospace, and other manufacturing industries have contributed to the growth of the city and surrounding areas. Oxnard is now the largest city in Ventura County, but remains a rich agricultural region to this day.