THE CENTRAL PORTION OF VENTURA
A Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura, California
by Yda Addis Storke
Published in 1891 in Chicago by the Lewis Publishing Co.
The Santa Clara Valley, above Santa Paula, is narrow and tortuous, with but a meager amount of arable land; below, it spreads out nearly level, in the approximate shape of an isosceles triangle, whose longest side extends from San Buenaventura to Point Mugu, the southernmost point of the county, about twenty-four miles; the apex of this figure is Santa Paula, distant about thirteen miles in a direct line from each of the other points. The upper Santa Clara Valley contains the Rancho Sespe, occupying its lower and central portions, parts of the San Francisco and Camulos ranchos, next to the eastern county boundary line and Government lands.
The soil south of the Santa Clara, and also the whole valley above Santa Paula, is a dark loam of the strongest kind, adapted to the cultivation of almost every vegetable, grain, fruit and flower. Extending along the channel of the Santa Clara, above Santa Paula, is a tract of sand about one mile wide and twelve miles long. The soil of the lower main valley, south of the river, varies from sandy to adobe. Grain generally succeeds in this valley without irrigation; but the climatic conditions are such that the land, with proper irrigation, regularly produces two crops each year.
Extensive asphaltum and sulphur deposits are found in this valley, and oil indications throughout it. In the upper part are numerous irrigating ditches, while there is in the Santa Clara River, four miles above Santa Paula, abundant water to irrigate all the land between the river and the ex-Mission hills, Santa Paula and the sea. In the southwestern part artesian wells furnish an ample supply of water. Good water for drinking purposes is found only in favored localities, although it is affirmed that the best of water can be found in wells of more than 100 feet deep. The Santa Clara River and its tributaries furnish abundant first-class water-power.
The range of temperature in the lower valley is small, reaching neither hot nor cold. In the upper valley the range is greater; at Santa Paula snow has been known to fall, and the thermometer has registered 108°, although such freaks are of great rarity. This part of the county has, perhaps, more than its share of windy days. Most of the towns of the county lie within this district; the county-seat is but two miles beyond its northwestern point; Santa Paula guards the entrance of the upper valley; Hueneme is the landing-place, and various other towns are found here.
THE RANCHO SAN MIGUEL
lies in the extreme western part of the Santa Clara Valley. It was a grant of 4,693.91 acres, made to Raymundo OLIVAS, July 6, 1841. Of this, 2,400 acres are now owned by Dixie W. THOMPSON, who has 1,700 acres under cultivation. The surface of the land, for the most part, has a gentle slope back from the sea, which it borders for about four miles.
THE RANCHO SANTA PAULA Y SATICOY
was originally granted to Manuel JIMENO, April 28, 1840, he taking possession that year. In 1847 JIMENO petitioned the alcalde, Pablo de la GUERRA, for judicial possession, and the neighboring laud-owners were summoned to witness his installation, and to attest the boundaries, which originally were described as follows: - From the Arroyo Mupu (now Santa Paula Creek) on the east, to the small mountain on the west, and from the small mountain (supposed to be Sulphur Mountain) on the north to Las Positas on the south." JIMENO was given possession of about 30,000 acres. The name of the rancho is partly derived from the Saticoy tribe of Indians, who made their headquarters at the springs of the name. (Saticoy is said to be the Indian term for Eureka!") The tract is about twelve miles long, extending from the San Miguel Rancho to the Sespe Rancho, with an average width of two miles between the Santa Clara River on the southeast and the lofty ex-Mission hills on the northwest. Its upper portion overlaps the river channel, including a narrow strip of the southern slope. Being one of the choicest pieces of land in the county, it was one of the earliest settled ranchos, as it is now the most thickly populated sections of the county.
One of the most important events in the history of this rancho was the enterprise of Mr. George G. BRIGGS, of Marysville, Yuba County, who conceived the idea that in the Santa Clara Valley existed such combinations of soil and climatic conditions as would constitute an ideal fruit-growing district, whence he could place his fruits on the San Francisco market some weeks in advance of all competitors. To this end he purchased of the MORE Brothers four leagues of land for $40,000, and in March, 1862, he planted 100 acres to fruit trees of various kinds to the number of several thousands, the site of this great orchard being two miles up the river from the Indian town of Saticoy. Carefully nurtured for live years, the orchard succeeded in all other respects but, failing to mature early, the project was abandoned. In 1865 the grass was as high as a man's head, over the valley, and of 25,000 trees. but a few poor stragglers remained in a few years. In 1867 Mr. BRIGGS subdivided the rancho and sold it for small farms. In this year there were upon this rancho the following settlers: - J. L. CRANE, who had come to the site of Saticoy in 1861, Dr. MILLHOUSE, in the Wheeler Canon; Colonel Wade HAMPTON, in the Canada Aliso; Messrs. MONTGOMERY, Horatio STONE, Charles MILLARD, Edward WRIGHT, Wm. GARDEN, Andrew J. NUTT, A. GRAY, E. S. WOOLLEY, Wm. McCORMICK and George M. RICHARDSON.
During the winter of 1871-'72, which was a very severe one, much of the stock perished, and the prosperity of the settlement received a severe check. At this time the present site of
was a wilderness, the only signs of human habitation being one or two old adobe houses, an ancient barn, and the traces of an irrigating ditch - relics of a mission once established there. In 1872 Messrs. BLANCHARD and BRADLEY laid out some town lots, and built a flouring-mill on the Santa Paula Creek, one-half mile above the town, whose site is on the creek, about one mile above the Santa Clara River, in the upper part of the rancho. Some half-dozen lots were sold, but a small saloon was the only building erected up to the summer of 1875. In June, of that year, the valley was more extensively laid out. In December there was a snow-storm almost unprecedented in that section.
The drouth of 1877-'78 gave a severe check to the growth of this place. In the fall of 1878 there was sufficient prosperity to support a Baptist Church, having a church building and a membership of thirteen, October of that year witnessing the second anniversary of the congregation's existence. By 1879 there was a membership of 250. In 1880-'81 many of the farmers turned their attention to the raising of pork, which staple was then dear, while the wheat and barley crops brought very low rates. In 1880 no less than $40,000 were realized from the sale of hogs raised in the vicinity of Santa Paula, and twice that sum in 1881. The hottest weather ever felt in the town was during September of that year, when the mercury rose to 100° in the shade for several days in succession, once rising to 108°.
Naturally the growth of Santa Paula was slow, as long as the only means of travel was by staging. But since the extension of the line of the Southern Pacific to Santa Barbara, the increase has been steady.
The following account of Santa Paula, her resources and surroundings, was written by Mr. C. J. McDIVITT, editor of the Santa Paula Chronicle:
Santa Paula is situated on the Southern Pacific Railroad, between Santa Barbara on the west and Los Angeles on the east, and on what will be the main through line of that road up the coast from Los Angeles, and the east from San Francisco. It is in the Santa Clara Valley, sixteen miles east from Ventura and the ocean, and nineteen miles from Camulos, the last station eastward in Ventura County, on the road to Los Angeles, and distant from that city sixty-five miles. It is located at the mouth of the Santa Paula Canon, near where Santa Paula Creek forms & junction with the Santa Clara River, and near the center of the county.
There are four passenger trains daily, two each way, giving the people of the valley four daily mails and easy communication either north or south. The town is located in the midst of a fine agricultural region. The land on every side is capable of the highest production of all the cereals and almost all the fruits and nuts peculiar to this coast, and all this, with the single exception of oranges and lemon, without irrigation. The town contains more than 1,000 inhabitants, with a voting population of 400. (The last census showed 1,200.)
Santa Paula is not incorporated, but her public-spirited citizens have secured many advantages to be imitated profitably by towns which boast of incorporation. Private-enterprise has placed on a large portion of the main street cement sidewalks twelve feet wide, and on many of the other streets good walks, now of asphaltum and now of boarding. “The Avenue" is a drive of at least a mile long, smooth and well-kept, with its trees on either side all its length forming arch-like perspective, and this is kept sprinkled through its full length. The other streets of the town also are well sprinkled. Santa Paula is the headquarters of the petroleum oil industry of Southern California. Here are located the HARDISON & STEWART Oil Company, the Mission Transfer Company, the Sespe Oil Company, the Torrey Canon Oil Company and several parties who are operating in a private way and disposing of their product to these companies. Here the Mission Transfer Company has erected a refinery with a capacity of 10,000 barrels of crude oil per month, which they manufacture into lubricating oils of fine quality for use on all sorts of machinery, from the locomotive to the spindle. The different brands are known to the trade under the names of engine oil, extra engine oil, car-box oil, journal and gear oil, heavy machine oil, light machine oil, valve oil, wool oil, black lubricating oil. They also manufacture several grades of naphtha; several grades of asphaltum; distillates for enriching illuminating gas, and several other products. The refinery works cover about tour acres of ground, and give employment to a number of skilled workmen. inside the inclosure there is a tankage capacity of 40,000 barrels, and a perfect network of pipes running in every direction connecting the tanks and works. The erection of the refinery was begun in the fall of 1887, and the first manufactured product was turned out in March, 1888.
The Mission Transfer Company handles the entire product of oil from all the companies, and owns and uses more than 100 miles of pipe line in Ventura County, having a pipe line connecting every well with the storage tanks at Santa Paula. This company also has a pipe line from Santa Paula to Hueneme, and another to Ventura, on the ocean, and so loads vessels at either port direct from their own tanks. There is tankage capacity of 100,000 barrels, of forty-two gallons each, all in this county, except one large tank at San Francisco. In addition, this company owns fifty four tank cars with a capacity of 5,500 gallons each.
The companies are now (September, 1889) pumping about fifty wells. The daily product is near 700 barrels, with a gradual increase, and excellent prospects for the future, as they are all the time developing new territory, have recently struck some good wells, and are now at work on several that give promise of being good ones. The oil interests give employment to 125 men, and pay out in wages not far from $10,000 monthly.
The Mission Transfer Company owned the steamer W. L. HARDISON, built by themselves expressly to carry the product of the wells up and down the coast to a market, but it was recently burned at the wharf while loading at Ventura. The company is now considering plans to replace it with a vessel of steel.
The Hardison & Stewart Oil Company has also erected at Santa Paula large boiler works and machine shops where all work connected with the oil business is done. New boilers are built and repairs made to engines, boilers and all kinds of machinery used in this or neighboring counties. The plant is a valuable one, the company having recently put in a new ten-horse-power Charter gas-engine, which uses no boiler, makes the gas to feed it while running, and requires little or attention. Work is turned out here which is not obtainable elsewhere in Southern California.
One of the largest fruit-driers in the State is located here. This was built in 1888 by an organized company, composed of farmers and fruit-growers, at a cost of $14,000. The same year the company handled more than 500 tons of apricots. When running at its full capacity of twenty-five tons per day, the drier requires 150 hands to operate it. Both hot air and steam are used for drying. In 1889 over ninety per cent. of the fruit dried was of the first quality, bringing the highest price in the market.
The "Santa Paula Water Works" supplies the town with good, pure mountain water, taken from the Santa Paula Creek several miles up the canon. The reservoir, with a capacity of about 5,000,000,000 gallons, is located 200 feet above Main street, giving a pressure of ninety-five pounds to the square inch. There is a magnificent system of mains and pipes running all over the town, and a water supply fully adequate to the needs of a city of 50,000 inhabitants. This system is owned by W. H. Bradley.
In the Sespe Canon, a few miles east of Santa Paula, are the quarries of the Sespe Brown Stone Company. This stone is used in some of the finest buildings in the State, among others the elegant new building of the San Francisco Chronicle. The quarries are extensive, there being practically no limit the supply. It is of a rich brown color, and in color and texture closely resembles the noted brown stone of Nova Scotia. It has been tried by all tests known to science, and is pronounced the finest quality found. When subjected to a white heat and dropped into water, it turns to granite instead of crumbling as other stones have done in large fires.
While the material interests of the town are being developed and business projects rapidly pushed forward, the intellectual, moral and religious advantages have not been neglected. There are four church organizations and two buildings, Presbyterian and and Methodist. The Presbyterian is the finest in the county, having been erected in 1888 at a cost of $14,000. The pastor is Mr. LOGAN. The Methodist Church, dating from 1882, is worth some $5,000. Its pastor is Mr. ASHLEY. The Baptist Congregation worships in the Methodist Church and the Universalists in Cleveland hall. Mr. ANDREWS ministers to the Universalists. There is no Baptist pastor at present. The Roman Catholics are about to build a church; the officiating priest lives at New Jerusalem. There are four well attended Sunday-schools at Santa Paula.
The town has a graded school of four departments, each with a large attendance - about 200. The public school building is a fine structure standing in the center of a large enclosed square of ground. This school contains a well-selected library. Here also is located Santa Paula Academy, opened September 16, 1889, for the second term of school. This is an elegant and commodious building, costing, with the five acres of ground upon which it stands, $17,000, all of which was contributed by the people in and around Santa Paula. While its articles of incorporation provide that a majority of its directors shall be of the Congregationalist persuasion, this school is non-sectarian in character.
The land around Santa Paula is well adapted to the growth of al1 kinds of deciduous fruits, there being no less than 800 acres of bearing walnuts, almonds, pears, peaches, prunes, figs, grapes and many varieties of other fruits, together with all the small fruits in abundance. These trees make wonderful growth in the rich soil and warm temperature of this valley. There are in the grounds of W. L. HARDISON mulberry trees of five years' growth, which measure thirty-two inches in circumference, and thirty feet in height, with twenty-five-foot spread to the limbs, and from which 300 pounds of choice fruit were gathered in one year. Apricot trees on the main place, of the same age, are twenty-nine inches in circumference, twenty-five feet high, and with a twenty-foot spread of limbs. The apricots have been cut back each year, the mulberries but once, and neither have had any irrigation. Both varieties have been bearing fruit for three years. These are by no means exceptional cases. The orchard of Mr. Nathan W. BLANCHARD, one of the best and most profitable in the State, is located here. In 1889 he sold over $15,000 worth of fruits. He has 100 acres of seedling oranges and Lisbon and Eureka lemons, which always yield the highest market prices. The lemons are picked during every month of the year. Mr. BLANCHARD has planted many more oranges lately. This is one of the largest orchards in the State, though it is not yet all in bearing.
On Mr. F. J. BECKWITH’s place, he has 100 acres sown to Lima beans, which last season yielded 2,275 pounds to the acre. Another 100 acres, planted to corn, yielded ninety bushels to the acre. These staples are not the exclusive products; all these farms have comprehensive variety of growth, including hay, grain, fruits and walnuts. Almost within the city limits, Mr. Warhan EASLEY bas a tract of forty acres, from which, last season, he realized a net income of $3,000, as follows: - 1,200 boxes pears, at fifty cents per box, $600; twenty-five tons apricots, at $20 per ton, $500; oranges, $100; walnuts, $200; peaches, $100; prunes, $100; apples, $200; pumpkins, $100; hay, thirty tons, at $10 per ton, $300; potatoes, 500 sacks, at $1.50 per sack, $750; garden truck $150; total $3,100. From this was paid $100 for harvesting, all the rest of the work being done by the owner. Besides all this, there were raised several tons of grapes, which were made into wine.
From the famous orange grove of N. W. BLANCHARD, which began to pay running expenses only three year since, the shipments from the 100 acres last season amounted to twenty-eight car-loads, the sales footing up to nearly $15,000. More profitable than his oranges is Mr. BLANCHARD'S fifteen-acre tract set to lemons, from which he harvested last season about 3,000 boxes, at an average price of $4 per box.
Mr. G. G. SEWELL, Mr. C. H. McKEVETT, Mr. H. CRUMRINE, and Mr. J.R.D. SAY are all equally successful growers of oranges, although not so extensively. This whole section is, thus far, entirely free from scale, or other insect pests. In the grounds of Mr. Hardison are to be found Washington Navel orange trees which have yielded two boxes of fruit to the tree five years from planting, and in the grounds of Mr. McKEVETT and Mr. G. G. SEWELL are trees which bore some fruit the second year from planting.
Mr. CRUMRINE has six acres of seedling oranges from which he received $2,600 last season. This, it should be remembered, on ground that was, as late as 1886, considered poor for citrus fruits.
Prunes are becoming an important feature of orchards here, and walnuts also are quite extensively planted. There are two nurseries in Santa Paula, one of which has a large general stock.
In the growth, breeding, and improvement of horses and the raising of fine cattle, this neighborhood shows commendable enterprise. There are a number of fine herds of cattle and some choice short-horns in this vicinity, the foot-hills being particularly adapted for pasture lands. There is one choice herd of Holstein cattle here hard to beat anywhere. The gentleman imported twenty-one head of cows four years ago, and has sold $11,000 worth from their increase, besides keeping good the original number.
he owners and breeders of fine stock in and around Santa Paula have the laudable ambition to make Ventura County and the Santa Clara Valley still more famous for good horses; and to this end Messrs. F. E. DAVIS, J. K. GRIES, W. L. HARDISON, and C. H. McKEVETT have organized into an association, procured a track - the Santa Paula Driving Park - and pat up training stables, at their own expense, with no other object in view than the improvement of the horses of the county. They own and keep at the track some very fine stallions, among then, Black Pilot, half-brother of Stamboul. Richwood, a Richmond stallion. Eli, and others.
In the way of business enterprises Santa Panic has: - the First National Bank (successor to the Bank of Santa Paula). with a capital stock of $75,000.
The president is C. H. McKEVETT; vice-president, G. H. BONEBRAKE; cashier, J. R. HAUGH; the Petrolia Hotel, which cost $15,000, opened about January 1, 1889; six general merchandise stores; one grocery; two cigar and news-stands; two hardware stores, of which one has a full line of oil supplies not to be found elsewhere in the State; the Ventura Lumber Company, which has seven yards in the county, unloading at Ventura the lumber received from the north, and carrying on a very heavy business; one planing- mill, conducted by the same company; one fruit-drier of twenty tons' daily capacity; two drug stores; one weekly newspaper, the Chronicle; two hotels; three restaurants; one shoe store and one cobbler shop; one men', furnishing shop; two milliners; two real estate offices; two practicing physicians; one dentist; one furniture store; two livery stables; one bakery; two butcher shops; three barbers; one harness shop, and two blacksmiths.
In common with other portions of Ventura County, Santa Paula enjoys a very even temperature from one season to another, with more, bright, clear, sunshiny days than is usual so near the coast For the greater part of the year the breeze is landward, coming up the valley without interruption, cooling the air in summer and warming it in winter; and with no extremes of heat or cold, the town is a delightful place of residence, both for the health-seeker and the man of business.
Saticoy is situated at the lower end of the old Santa Paula y Saticoy Rancho, on the Santa Clara River, about eight miles east of San Buenaventura, nine miles north of Hueneme Wharf, and eight miles southwest of Santa Paula. Here are the famous Saticoy Springs, with their many bloody traditions of the Indian tribes, by whom the springs were discovered; the word Saticoy is said to mean in the dialect of the Indians who settled here the same as the word "Eureka.” Until the last twenty years, the chieftainess, POMPOSA, and a number of the tribe, were still living at these springs, and the early settlers tell how, even after their advent, here were wont to gather annually the remnants of the various tribes of Southern California.
It is declared that at each of these gatherings a human sacrifice was made, one of those assembled being put to death by poisoning. To this effect, there were made as many cakes as there were guests at the feast, one of the cakes containing the fatal potion. None knew which cake held the poison, so that the sacrifice was entirely at hazard.
In November, 1861, J. L. CRANE settled upon the site of the village, and others came in at about the same time. These early settlers were men of sterling qualities, who made the most of their surroundings. A school was opened as early as 1868. In this year came hither Mr. W. de F. RICHARDS, another of the pioneer settlers.
While quite a thick settlement was in existence, and a postoffice had been for some years established, the building up of the town proper dates mainly from the advent of the railway. The town with its adjacent farms covers about eight miles square of territory, within which extent are some of the most prolific farms and fruit orchards of Southern California. Being well watered, and having soil of exceptional strength and fertility, this famous valley produces crops of extreme richness and value. Corn, beans, flax-seed, canary seed, hops, castor beans, sugar beets, hay, etc., are among the fruits of the soil, and the product is not infrequently 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of beans, or 2,000 to 6,000 pounds of corn, per acre. From the farm of M. E. ISHAM, who has 80 acres in fruit -consisting of 500 walnut, 600 apple, 3,000 apricot, 100 lemon, 300 lime, 500 peach, and 100 pear trees - were produced last mason, 10,000 cans of fruit, and about 3,000 glasses of jelly, which respectively brought $2.25 and $1.50 per dozen in Ventura„ without casing. This, besides a great deal of green fruit sold, and about 100 barrels of cider vinegar. On the 180-acre farm of James Evans, another old settler, were raised in 1878 as much as 4,400 pounds of shelled corn to the acre, this average being reached again in 1884.
In 1882 Mr. EVANS raised 2,200 pounds of flaxseed to the acre. His barley hay in 1889 gave three tons to the acre. These are by no means exceptional holdings. As indexing the products of this district, a few statistics gathered from the shipping desk at the Southern Mill and Warehouse Company will be interesting: barley, 2,676,123 pounds; Lima beans, 2,109,090; small beans, 756,243; corn, 308,750; walnuts, 10,000; honey, 78,463; apricots, 145,726; miscellaneous, 300,000. Total shipments, actual weight, 6,380,395 pounds.
In addition to above there were in October, 1889, in warehouse, of barley, 2,089,090 pounds; wheat, 453,010; honey, 54,853; small beans, 136,839; making a grand total of 9,114,187 pounds of farm products, which at a low estimate must have distributed not far from $200,000 among the farmers of this prosperous community during the past year.
Saticoy contains over fifty houses, a beautiful new church building. a $15,000 schoolhouse, three hotels, one of which cost $10,000, two dry-goods stores, three grocery stores, one drugstore, a town hall, a warehouse 50 x 300 feet, etc. Good water is obtainable here in wells ten to seventy feet deep.
Eastward, and across the river from the lower portion of the Santa Paula y Saticoy, is the Rancho Santa Clara del Norte, which comprises 13,988,91 acres, granted to Juan SANCHEZ, May 6, 1837, and to him confirmed. This rancho lies six miles east of the county seat, and borders three miles of the Santa Clara River. It is watered by the Santa Clara ditch, and by good artesian wells. Three-fourths of this land is tillable, the grazing land supports 6,000 head of sheep.
One vineyard on this rancho, about twenty years old, produces 10,000 gallons of excellent wine annually, selling at 50 cents per gallon. In one orchard of 500 trees, there are representatives of every variety of fruit grown in this county. Large quantities of flax are grown here.
situated near the northern boundary of La Colonia Rancho, is some two miles from Montalvo, and half way between Ventura and Hueneme. Its chief attraction is the magnificent surrounding country. The location of the town is favorable, and it will doubtless become a good town with transportation facilities and the dividing-up of the Colonia and Santa Clara del Norte ranchos, with the attendant settling of more people. In the vicinity of this town are some very fine farms, which yield prolifically. This town has tow large, well-filled general merchandise stores, a church and various other business institutions.
Montalvo is a station five miles east of Ventura, on the Southern Pacific Railroad. It is the nearest railroad station for New Jerusalem and for Hueneme, being about two miles from the former and seven from the latter. At this place is one of the Southern Mill and Warehouse Company's large warehouses. Montalvo, although not having the appearance of much of a place, is, nevertheless, quite an important little one, being situated, as it is, on the railroad, at a point where all the travel from the Simi, Las Posas and the southern portion of the county crosses to Ventura. The town was laid out about two years ago. Water was piped to all parts of the tract, being first pumped from a well to a large reservoir on a hill back of the town. Two store buildings have been erected, something like a dozen houses, and one of the finest school-houses in the county, coasting $6,000.
The development of Montalvo has been somewhat retarded by the ownership by one man, a Santa Barbara capitalist, of 2,300 acres of land, lying upon the road to Montalvo and the ocean. This tract, if subdivided, would make beautiful home lots, and so induce immigration. This is a great region for beans and fruit.
Mr. BARNETT has a place of only thirty acres, from which he reaps a large harvest of fruits, mostly apricots. When the trees were nine years old the twenty-five acres of apricots produced fifty tons of fruit. The owner of this valuable property has recently erected a fruit dryer with one of Thomas PILKINGTON’s furnaces.
The celebrated Alhambra Grove of sixty-six acres is owned by Judge S. R. THORPE from Louisiana. This is one of the first apricot orchards in the county and produces as rich fruit as any seen. In 1889 the crop amounted to two tons of green fruit to the acre; in 1888 it was four tons. This place is equipped with all necessary appliances for carrying on an extensive business. It is an interesting sight to see the fruit as it is prepared and cured in the improved evaporator.
A field of 250 acres of beans is worked by W. S. SEWELL, a native of Iowa. He says his beans average 1,400 pounds to the acre and his corn seventy-five bushels.
In this same neighborhood Charles G. FINNEY, Esq., a retired lawyer from New York, has an interesting place of 110 acres covered with fruit of all kinds. He has 500 bearing pear trees. The fruit he sells dry in cans and green; he has also thirty acres in walnuts in profitable bearing, also 1,000 White Smyrna figs which, not proving what he expected, he feeds to hogs, and finds them exceedingly profitable for this purpose. He says that the same amount of ground in corn will not make one-fifth the pork these figs will. Why not raise figs to feed hogs on? He has 5,000 apricots, 120 prunes and other fruits, which do well. When Mr. FINNEY came here, fifteen years ago, there was but little, if any, orchards between his place and Santa Paula. BRIGGS of Marysville had been here before him and tried to raise fruit and failed, and when Mr. FINNEY started in, everybody said he would fail, but he kept steadily on and succeeded, as his place most emphatically proves.
THE MORE MURDER
The murder of Thomas Wallace MORE was a cause celebre, not only in Ventura County, but also throughout the State, and it was undoubtedly the most notable criminal case in the annals of the county. The victim was one of four brothers, who had made extensive purchases of the old landed estates of the Spanish-American families, acquiring in this manner the Santa Rosa Island, the Patera, a portion of the Hill estate, the Santa Paula y Saticoy, the Lompoc and Purisima Vieja, and the Sespe. They at one time owned a tract thirty-two miles long on the Santa Clara River. The murder in question was the result of land difficulties over the Sespe possessions.
In November, 1829. Don Carlos CARRILLO received from the Mexican government a grant of the Sespe tract, the extent of which is not known, some arguments indicating that it comprised only 8,880 acres, or two leagues, while other accounts are to the effect that there were six leagues granted, this last being the territory upon which CARRILLO was installed by the local government. In 1884 T. Wallace MORE purchased CARRILLO's grant, supposing that he was buying six leagues, as he paid full value for that quantity, and he prosecuted the title to the land, using the name of CARRILLO as one of the parties in interest. The Land Commissioners, too, on April 18, 1853, had confirmed there grant title to "six leagues and no more."
The United States, as the adverse party, appealed the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. When the plat (diseno) was brought into court, it for the first time was remarked that the numbers of the grant had been manipulated, and it was therefore asserted than by the erasure of the figures, six had been substituted for two, thus fraudulently increasing the grant. The impression of the old settlers in the section was that the original grant had been made for six leagues. The smaller quantity, however, was that confirmed to MORE by the court, a patent being issued March 14, 1872. In 1875 MORE endeavored to purchase the other four leagues, under sections 7 and 8 codes of 1866. The settlers on the land alleged that the claim had been settled in full; that they had for years been settled upon the land, and had pre-emption claims antedating this law; and they appealed to the law of March 3, 1861. section 13, which declares that all lands, the claims to which have been finally rejected by the Commissioners in manner herein provided, or which shall finally be declared invalid by the District or Supreme Court, and of all lands, the claims to which have not been presented by said Commissioners within two years after the date of this act, shall be deemed, held and considered as part of the domain of the United States. Mr. MORE's attorney had made application for permission to purchase, to the Register of the Land Office; and, on that officer refusing the permission, the petition was lodged with the Commissioners at Washington, where it was pending at the time of the murder.
During several years preceding the murder, MORE often had difficulties with the settlers who, to the number of sixty, had established themselves upon the land he claimed. Among them was one Joseph BARTLETT, and him MORE had dispossessed by the sheriff, while the matter was in dispute, his squatter's cabin being torn down and then burned. The place was afterward reoccupied, and the tenant then was poisoned, accidentally or otherwise. Of this affair an account was published in the San Francisco Bulletin, couched in such terms that MORE sued the Bulletin Company for $100,000 damage for libel. The case was tried in Santa Barbara, where the popular animus was very strong against MORE at that time, so that, although the jury found a verdict for him, they gave him only nominal damages, fixed at $150, thus practically sustaining the Bulletin, although the evidence showed charge of poisoning to be unfounded, and the casualty owing to the universal free use in the district of poison for coyotes, squirrels and other vermin.
During the years which followed, MORE was endeavoring to perfect his title to the land, whilst the settlers, remaining in possession, had formed themselves into a league for mutual defense and assistance. It is commonly asserted, although it has been disputed, that the death of MORE had been decreed by this league, as a precautionary measure. The fact remains that he was commanded to abandon his proceedings to secure the land, in letters of incendiary and menacing character.
During the unusually dry winter of 1876-'77, MORE, while in company with his son-in-law, C. A. STORKE, engaged in inspecting the cutting of a ditch to convey water upon his land, was attacked by F. A. SPRAGUE, armed first with a shot-gun and then with a pistol, with which he twice attempted to shoot MORE, being prevented by STORKE and MORE, who turned the shots into the air. For this assault SPRAGUE was arrested but was discharged by the magistrate. The attack was not made upon SPRAGUE's land, the ditch in question tapped the Sespe River below SPRAGUE's land, and the tract he held by MORE fourteen years before SPRAGUE settled upon and claimed it.
Such was the condition of affairs on the night of March 23-24, 1877, when MORE slept at one of his rancho houses, where there were, besides himself, a hired hand named FERGUSON, a Mexican named OLIVAS, and Jim TOT, a Chinese cook. At about 12:30 the barn, distant from the house 200 feet, was fired, and MORE, FERGUSON and OLIVAS, being aroused by the Chinese cook, rushed forth, to endeavor to save the contents of the barn, consisting of twelve work horses, their harness, about 2,000 sacks of wheat, some barley, and several tons of hay. These men were joined by one RAMIREZ, an employee who had slept outside that night, and all were engaged in trying to save the property, when MORE, carrying out a load of harness, was fired upon by two masked men, guarding the gate of the corral, or barnyard, who shot him in the thigh near the groin; at this, the employees of MORE scattered toward shelter, and MORE also ran toward cover, but fell, and was overtaken by three masked men, who then riddled his body and head with bullets, of which three entered his head, and several his body. A number of these shots, after he had fallen, and after he had entreated his assailant not to kill him, were fired at such short range that his features were almost obliterated by powder and smoke. After this dastardly deed, the murderers turned at the cry of their leader, " Come on boys!" and deliberately left the scene.
This murder excited the greatest horror throughout the State. While the sympathies of the people were with the settlers, the cowardly and brutal nature of the murder inspired great abhorrence.
The coroner's jury found that "deceased came to his death on the morning of March 24, 1877, by gunshot wounds inflicted by diverse persons upon the head and body of said deceased, by parties unknown to the jury; and that the jury further find and declare the said crime to be a case of wilful murder."
Shortly after the murder, a meeting of the settlers upon the Smile was held at the house of F. A. SPRAGUE, being convened on the evening of March 28, to give expression to public sentiment in regard to the lately committed crime of murder and arson. At this meeting, N. H. HICKERSON being chairman and F. A. SPRAGUE secretary, resolutions were passed condemning the action in question, and tendering sympathy and offers of assistance and co-operation m detecting and bringing to justice the offenders.
Early in 1878, one Austin BROWN, one of the Sespe settlers, had some dispute with J. T. CURLEE, in consequence of which Brown sought an interview with the administrator of MORE's estate, and made a statement that F. A. SPRAGUE and J. S. CHURCHILL had conspired to kill MORE, giving details as to parties involved, time set, etc., this statement being given in confidence, as not to be divulged to the public until Brown could remove from the settlement to a safe plac„ as he feared for his life, having been threatened by MORE's murderers, in event of his disclosing the secret. In consequence of this movement, Brown sold his place, and removed to the county-seat, where he was considered safe. These and other newly-developed circumstances led to the arrest of F. A. SPRAGUE, J. S. CHURCHILL, J. T. CURLEE, Jesse M. JONES, Ivory D. LORD, Charles McCART, H. COOK and J. A. SWANSON, one warrant dated March 28, 1878. These parties were brought before R. C. CARLTON, examining magistrate, April 1.
About this time, it was learned that new evidence had been obtained. N. H. HICKERSON, being ill and in expectation of death, and being informed of Brown's statement and the arrest of the assassins, came forward to make a statement of a secret weighing upon his soul, to the effect that he had been the recipient of SPRAGUE's confession of his planning and execution of the murder of T. Wallace MORE.
As yet the stories of HICKERSON and Brown had not been made public. The detectives and prosecutors who had the matter in hand brought about an interview with Jesse M. JONES, one of the parties implicated. This was a young man, only twenty-three years old, and it was considered that he was a tool rather than an active agent in the affair, and that, under assurance of protection and ultimate pardon, he might be induced to turn State's evidence. Although JONES had no knowledge of the revelations of HICKERSON and Brown, with whom he therefore could not have been in collusion, he told a story of the murder, substantially the same as that related by HICKERSON, save that JONES declared that W. HUNT was present at the murder, but not Jule SWANSON.
On the preliminary examination, H. COOK and J. A. SWANSON were discharged, and during the hearing, Charles McCORT and W. H. HUNT were arrested as accomplices in the murder. In the following June, the grand jury was organized, and it returned a true bill against F. A. SPRAGUE, John CURLEE, Jesse M. JONES, J. S. CHURCHILL, Charles McCart, W. H. HUNT, and I. D. Lord. The lawyers for the prosecution were: J. G. HOWARD and Frank GANAHL, of Los Angeles, L. C. GRANGER (acting district attorney), W. T. WILLIAMS, B. F. WILLIAMS, and N. BLACKSTOCK of Ventura. The counsel for the defense were: J. D. FAY, Creed HAYMOND, and W. ALLEN, from abroad; and J. D. HINES, J. M. BROOKS and N. C. BLEDSOE, local lawyers. Eugene FAWCET presided over the court. The prisoners demanded separate trials, thus entailing heavy unnecessary expense upon the county. Dickerson died prior to the trial, but his affidavit was introduced as evidence. The testimony was complete, not a link being wanting, and it appeared that even the discrepancies of testimony as to the different parties engaged, arose from the fact that the disguises were donned before they came together, so that only two or three knew all the persons present. In the case of SPRAGUE, the jury rendered a verdict of murder in the first degree. CURLEE was next tried, and found guilty, with punishment fixed at imprisonment for life. The jury Lord's case disagreed. These three trials had exhausted the material for a jury. On August 5, 1878, the death sentence upon SPRAGUE was pronounced by Judge FAWCETT. The court now adjourned for the term, as the three trials had extended the July session into near the middle of August. Jesse M. JONES, the State's witness, had been discharged from the indictment for more than a month, being maintained by the county as an indigent witness in a criminal case. He was under pressure of poverty and denied access to his wife, by her father, on account of his betrayal of his confederates. At this juncture, full of discomfort for the present, and of dread of a forbidding future, he was approached by emissaries of counsel for the defense, conducted to the presence of those attorneys, and there seduced and suborned into retracting his former statements, and made affidavit that his former testimony was given under compulsion and fears for his own safety. Upon this recantation the other accused were dismissed, it being impossible to convict them without JONES testimony, and even great efforts were made to have the sentence against SPRAGUE quashed. This not being done, the death sentence was was commuted to imprisonment for life. JONES, having scoffed at and defied the power of the law, was absolutely beyond its vengeance, owing to the provisions of the penal code making absolute and unconditional the discharge of an accomplice, that he may become witness for the people; and the improved and comfortable financial conditions with which he was thereafter surrounded, proved what inducements had secured his perjury. SPRAGUE spent ten years in the penitentiary, was then pardoned out by Governor STONEMAN, and now lives in Ventura County. CURLEE, having been granted by the Supreme Court a new trial, was dismissed like the others, after JONES' defection, and now lives in San Diego County, as does HUNT. CHURCHILL, after acquittal, went to Oregon, where he probably died, being consumptive. JONES lives in San Bernardino County, and scattered are the rest whose dastardly deed has left a black blot upon the fair fame of Ventura County. While the settlers believed that they were on Government land, and resolved to defend their rights thereto, inspired by the God-given love of home, there is no doubt that MORE also believed that he was right, being firm in the conviction that he had bought six leagues in his Sespe purchase. As to the rights of possession, the present writer does not assume to judge, but only to condemn, as ever, the cowardice and unfairness of the methods employed against one man by many. The commission gave the disputed land to MORE's heirs, the Secretary of the Interior, Carl SCHURZ, reversed this decision; and although two succeeding commissions have pronounced in favor of the heirs the land is held by the settlers.
The Sespe Rancho adjoins the Santa Paula y Saticoy on the northeast, extending eight miles up the Santa Clara, and embracing most of the arable land in the valley on both sides of the river within those limits - an extent of two leagues, or some 8,880.01 acres. This land encloses but does not include a tract of Government land. The title to the rancho is by United States patent.
The story of this rancho is remarkable, involving, in the struggles made for its possession, episodes of trespass. misdemeanor, fraud, arson, attempted homicide and murder.
The rancho was used many years mainly for pasturage for stock, although it possessed such remarkable advantages of soil, water and climate as to render it an uncommonly desirable territory for the production of vegetables, cereals, grapes, citrus and most varieties of deciduous fruits. The upper portion of this rancho contains the noted oil wells. The elevation of this tract is some 2,000 feet above sea level.
Among the earliest settlers here were living, in 1861, the MORE brothers, W. H. NORWAY and Captain William MORRIS. Their nearest American neighbors, for at least a part of the year, were at San Buenaventura. The first crop of grain was sowed in the winter of 1860-61, the MORE brothers putting in about 200 acres of wheat. It was harvested by W. S. CHAFFEE and W. NORWAY, Alexander CAMERON being the contractor. The grain was cut with a reaper and threshed out by horses.
In 1876 this rancho, then owned by T. Wallace MORE, was assessed at $9 per acre whereupon he entered suit to have a portion of the taxes refunded. It was maintained that the land could be sold for twice that sum within twenty-four hours.
In March, 1877, took place the murder of T. Wallace MORE, the owner of the rancho, a full account of this crime being given elsewhere.
This rancho is becoming settled rapidly, many people being attracted thither by the rare advantages of soil and climate. While there are no large towns on this territory, not a few villages and centers of population are found here.
La Cienega (Spanish for a marsh) is the name of a post office which was established in 1875, up the valley some fourteen miles from Santa Paula, and twenty-one miles from Newhall. Near La Cienega is the Buckhorn Ranch," Mr. B. F. WARRING's famous place, whose owner settled here in 1869, upon 160 acres, to which, after ten years' litigation, be obtained a United States patent. Lying on the old stage road, and midway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, this in time came to be a regular eating-place and relay stage station, widely and favorably known to the pilgrim gnild. It took its name from the great antlers hung over the gate, trophies from many a proud buck brought down by the gun of the ranchero. This is a sheltered Opel. free from frosts, well-watered and blessed with a mini soil. In the neighborhood are many farms where grow plentifully grain, vegetable, and fruits.
This is a small town, started by the Sespe Land and Water Company, just after the advent of the railway. It lies in a charming situation, and in the midst of a fruitful county, full of profitable farms. About 200 people take their mail from this office. The settlement nucleus has a Presbyterian church, a school-house, two hotels, several stores, a lumber-yard, a blacksmith-shop, etc. Near this was started at about the same time another little town called Sespe, but a church is about the only claim to importance to be seen here.
In January, 1887, R. G. SURDAM, one of the founders of Nordhoff, bought of Thos. R. BARD, of Hueneme, 1,500 acres of the old Sespe grant, and soon thereafter founded the now thriving little town of Bardsdale. It is in a beautiful valley, appropriately termed a "dale," the ground lying between mountains and sloping gently from the range to the river. Bardsdale is a little south of Fillmore, on the Southern Pacific Railway, fifty-six miles from Los Angeles. It is the only town in the Santa Clara Valley south of the Santa Clara river. The land here is of a superior quality of soil, and its sheltered position insures a delightful climate. There is an abundant supply of waters for domestic and irrigation purposes, brought from the Santa Clara River, through strong wooden flumes, constructed at a cost of some $8,000. Thus irrigation can be applied to hundreds of acres, planted to barley, potatoes, etc., there being at least ten miles of these flumes. As an exponent of the productiveness of the soil, it may be said that potatoes yield easily 75 to 150 sacks per acre, which rarely sell for less than 75 cents to $1.25 per sack. On one farm of about 100 acres, the owners, beginning with a crop of sixty bushels of corn per acre, have every year increased the yield until it has reached an average yield of ninety bushels per acre; in other words, there have harvested from this held during the last twelve years not far from 90,000 bushels of corn, grown without irrigation or fertilizer.
AN EARTHLY PARADISE
Three or four years ago Mr. David C. COOK, the Chicago publisher of Sunday-school literature, came into Ventura County and purchased that portion of the Temescal or Old Camulos Rancho which extends up the Piru Canon. Since then he has added considerable to it, bringing it up to nearly 14,000 acres and calling it the Piru. This ranch is located on the Fire Creek, including the mouth of the stream and a small portion of the Santa Clara Valley. As most of the ranch was mountainous it was formerly thought to be only suitable for grazing purposes, but Mr. COOK has already demonstrated that it is valuable for something else. He has planted out and has growing 400 acres of oranges, 300 acres of apricots. 180 acres of figs, 200 acres English walnuts, 130 acres of olives, 80 acres of grapes, 30 acres of chestnuts, 20 acres of almonds, 10 acres of pomegranates and 10 acres of Japanese persimmons. He has in his nursery 150,000 citrus trees ready for planting this fall, and 3, 500 fig trees.
He has laid out eight miles of avenues and has ten acres devoted to ornamental shrubs and trees. The latter embraces trees, shrubs and plants from about every northern and semi-tropical clime, and in great variety. All this has been done so noiselessly that not half the people of Ventura County are aware of its having been accomplished. A fine stream of water traverses the entire length of the rancho, and is entirely utilized for irrigating purposes, which is useful in starting citrus and other trees, and also is helpful when some kinds are fruiting. Mr. COOK's experiments only indicate the possibilities of this wonderful soil and climate.
As an illustration of what has already been said of this county's productive soil, and adaptability to fruit raising, one has only to make a trip to the little town of Piru City, which was laid out and dedicated in March, 1888. It is located on the Ventura division of the Southern Pacific Railroad, thirty miles southeast of San Buena Ventura at the junction of the Piru and Santa Clara rivers; contains about twenty buildings including Methodist Episcopal Church with a membership of fifteen; one general merchandise store, meat market, paint-shop and depot. They also have telegraph, express and post offices, and their population is now about 100.
On the line of the railway, forty-seven miles northwest of Los Angeles, and in the extreme eastern portion of Ventura bounty is that fertile 2,000-acre tract known as the Camulos. This was once a part of the great San Francisco Rancho, belonging to Los Angeles County. This portion of the original grant was established as placed in Ventura when the boundary lines were settled between this county and Santa Barbara. The San Francisco Rancho was granted in 1841 to Antonio del VALLE, and upon his death passed to his son, Ygnacio del VALLE, who held it intact until 1866 when he sold all but 1,500 acres to a Philadelphia company. When he acquired the property, in 1861, Ygnacio del VALLE removed his family to reside on the Camulos, somewhat improved already. From that time improvements here have been constantly in progress, but the picturesque and romantic features of the rancho have been preserved. Don Ygnacio died in 1880, leaving a widow and five children. The present owners have added 500 acres to the original reservation, and the whole has been improved until it is now one of the most productive and profitable properties in Ventura County. This rancho is divided about equally into farming and grazing land. The pastures raise horses, horned cattle, sheep and hogs. All farming on the Camulos is carried on with irrigation, and the whole Santa Clara River could be diverted into the great ditches running across the rancho. Here are grown excellent crops of wheat, in quality very superior, also bountiful crops of barley, rye, oats, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, melons, and all kinds of vegetables, harvested from the same land year after year with no indication of exhausting the soil.
The vineyard here is of 50,000 vines, which for many years have yielded 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of wine per year. From an orange grove of 2,000 trees, 1,200 hoses of fruit were shipped last season. The returns are handsome from 500 walnut trees, as also from the oil and pickled olives from a fine grove of 1,000 olive trees. Almost every kind of fruit grown in the United States is raised here.
This rancho was the scene of Mrs. Helen HUNT JACKSON's novel of Ramona," and the del VALLE family have suffered not a little from the inconvenient notoriety thus given their property, and the consequent invasion of inquisitive and often intrusive and unmannerly visitors to the site. In the immediate vicinity of this rancho there is a large settlement of Spanish-Californian farmers, who employ the most improved implements and methods, and raise good crops of corn, beans and barley. The next great estate is the
RANCHO SAN FRANCISCO,
containing about 11,500 acres of grazing, and 3,000 acres of tillable land, which is divided into nearly equal portions by the Santa Clara River, and of which about 13,000 acres belong in Ventura, and the rest in Los Angeles county. This rancho was granted January 22, 1839, to Antonio del VALLE, and confirmed to Jacoba FELIX and others, then containing only some 10,000 acres. It now belongs mostly to the estate of H. M. NEWHALL, the well-known auctioneer of San Francisco.
Save at Newhall in Los Angeles County, few houses appear on this rancho, whose rough mountains and coarse wild sage-brush and weeds appear like worthless waste land. Yet these very brush-lands are admirable bee pastures. Here, too, are oil interests not yet developed.