Camarillo History

Camarillo family

 Juan and Martina Camarillo

Juan and Martina Camarillo were married in 1840 and moved to Ventura, California in 1854, becoming the fourth European family in the town. In 1876, Juan Camarillo bought the 10,000-acre (40 km2) Calleguas Rancho in eastern Ventura County from Jose Pedro Ruiz for $3,000 in gold. The Calleguas Rancho remained in the Camarillo family until the 1960s, eventually becoming the City of Camarillo -- named for the family.

Camarillo Ranch 1905

Here is Adolfo celebrating his 92nd Birthday.  This was held in a tent where the future Bank of A Levy would be on Ventura Blvd.  Adolfo is the short man with glasses and next to him is his daughter, Carmen.  The speaker is his friend Leo Carrillo who played Poncho on the Cisco Kid TV series. Leo Carrillo beach was named after Leo.  

Adolfo Camarillo, his daughter, Carmen and Franciso Camarillo

 Legal battles for control of the Rancho

Juan Camarillo died in 1880, and Martina Camarillo in 1898. In 1891, Martina had deeded the Rancho to her sons, Adolfo and Juan. Following her death, the Camarillo daughters (who were bequeathed $5 each in the will) challenged the deeds and the will. The Los Angeles Times reported that it promised to be "the greatest legal battle yet fought" in the courts of Ventura County, as the family members fought over property then valued at "a million dollars or more." While the initial suit was settled within a few months the sisters filed a new legal action in 1905, alleging that the brothers had deceived their mother and that Juan had confessed his fraud to his sister and paid her $8500. It was also alleged that Adolfo had forced Juan to leave the country upon threats of exposure of his "private acts" that would cause disgrace and scandal. The Los Angeles Times followed the "spicy" case closely, noting that its charges and counter-charges "would furnish material for a sure-enough 'season's best seller.' At the trial, a letter was introduced purporting to be signed by Martina Camarillo instructing Adolfo to destroy the will leaving everything to himself and his brother. Juan testified that his sister sought to blackmail him by threatening to send him to prison for "an infamous crime," and a grandson testified that he saw Adolfo "mysteriously place a paper in Mrs. Camarillo's tin box within a few minutes after her death." Adolfo Camarillo

Eventually, Adolfo Z. Camarillo (1864-1958) came to control the Rancho and turned it into "the largest bean ranch in the world." Camarillo employed 700 workers on his ranch, and his production was so great that the Los Angeles Times reported in 1909 that, "through the enormous output of his ranch, [Camarillo] is, in a measure, able to set the price which the public must pay for beans." Adolfo Camarillo became one of the wealthiest landowners in the county, and in 1911 he was elected chairman of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. He also served as a member of the State Board of Agriculture.

Architecture and use as the center of ranch operations

In 1892, after receiving title to the Rancho from his mother in 1891, Adolfo Camarillo hired architects Herman Anlauf and Franklin Ward to build a 6,000-square-foot (560 m2) Queen-Anne style Victorian house. The house has two turets, a large veranda and sprawling lawns. Adolfo also planted many varieties of trees, including eucalyptus trees, around the house. The Camarillo Ranch House, as it is now known, became the center of the sprawling Rancho Calleguas for the next 70 years. From the ranch house, Adolfo oversaw the Rancho's production of lima beans, walnuts, and citrus. The house also became known for the barbecues, rodeos and fiestas held by Adolfo. Adolfo lived in the three-story Victorian mansion until shortly before his death from pneumonia in December 1958

 Camarillo Ranch's white Arabian stallions

From the 1920s through the 1960s, the Camarillo Ranch House was most widely known for the white Arabian parade stallions bred by Adolfo. Adolfo rode one of his white Arabians each year in the Fiesta of Santa Barbara dressed in colorful Spanish costume. Even after Adolfo died in 1958, the family continued to carry on the tradition of breeding the white Arabians and riding them in area parades. Adolfo's original sire, Sultan, was a pure white, part Arabian and Morgan stallion. Sultan reportedly produced "snow white, pink skinned foals" no matter the color of the mares with whom he was mated. In 1967, the Camarillos were still breeding the white horses on the remaining 117 acres (0.47 km2) owned by the family, and the Los Angeles Times published a feature story on the Camarillo horses. At that time, there were about a dozen Camarillo white Arabians remaining, and the Times wrote: "The Camarillo horses love a parade. Any spectator who has ever watched one dance down the street -- a brightly costumed member of the Camarillo family astride a heavily ornamented silver saddle -- can attest to the predilection."Since the 1920s, the Camarillo horses have appeared in numerous parades and at the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1941. In 1950, the Camarillo horses led the Rose Parade and have been in many Rose Parades since.

Camarillo To Celebrate Restoration Of Historical Barn

The Camarillo Ranch Foundation and city of Camarillo on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 will celebrate the recently completed restoration of a 1905 barn at the Adolfo Camarillo Ranch property.

A ribbon cutting will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at the ranch, 201 Camarillo Ranch Road. The official grand opening, featuring a barn dance, barbecue and hay rides, will be held Aug. 7.

“This is the original barn, and on the outside it looks just as it did in 1905,” said Bill Little, a Camarillo Ranch Foundation board member and former city manager of Camarillo. “But our concern was always safety and seismic reconstruction.”

Little spearheaded the barn’s restoration while serving as foundation board president in 2003. The exterior is the same but several interior changes were made.

“We put electricity in, of course, and new restrooms,” Little said. A concrete floor, catering kitchen and storage room were added as well. “We’ll use it for events, dinners, presentations and the like,” he said.

An audio-visual system also is in the works, featuring a drop-down screen, LCD projector and monitors mounted in the interior walls.

Little indicated that until now, the barn was generally useful only when the weather was fair. “Now we can do things year-round,” he said.

The barn was moved to its current location behind the ranch house in 1998. “Before that, it was about a quarter of a mile away, down by Calleguas Creek,” Little said.

The barn originally housed Adolfo Camarillo’s working horses and mules. The famous Camarillo White horses were housed in a separate stable that was previously moved and restored in 2001 and now serves as the Ranch Foundation’s headquarters.

The city owns the ranch site and footed the majority of the nearly $850,000 cost to fully restore and refurbish the barn. The foundation provided about $50,000.

“The city had for some time been looking for ways to improve the structure,” City Manager Jerry Bankston said. “We knew that at the very least, the barn would need to be retrofitted for seismic upgrades and the like.”

The City Council looked favorably on the project because it helps restore Camarillo’s past. “We’re very happy with the outcome,” Bankston said.

“The idea was really to keep it very much as it looked in 1905,” said Michael Faulconer, the project’s lead architect who works for Firmitas Architecture and Planning in Ventura. “We picked out light fixtures and other items that looked as they might have when the original structure was built and put those in and then brought the whole facility up to code.”

 Sale and subdivision of the Rancho

In 1963, the family put the vast ranch property up for sale. An initial sale of 5,500 acres (22 km2) in 1963 fell through, but the ranch was eventually sold off and its vast ranch lands developed into the housing tracts and commercial and industrial centers of modern Camarillo.The Camarillo family retained about 100 acres (0.40 km2), including the old ranch house. Recent use of the Ranch house

In 1998, the Camarillo Planning Commission approved a zoning change to allow an industrial park to be built around the Camarillo Ranch House, but conditioned the approval on the developer's donating the ranch house, barn and 4.4 acres (18,000 m2) to the city. The city then renovated the house and opened it to the public in 2001 as a museum and site for receptions and other functions. The house is operated by the nonprofit Camarillo Ranch Foundation. The renovation cost $1.5 million and was also made possible by volunteers who donated 10,000 hours to the effort.

Camarillo Ranch House is a popular location not only for weddings and receptions but also for filming. One location manager noted that the house has the appearance of a rural setting "almost anywhere in the United States -- from Bakersfield to Nebraska."[

Carmen Camarillo Jones

I believe it was 1965 when Dave Dodson and I would ride our dirt bikes to the High School.  We were all of 15 years old and of course we didn't have any kind of license to operate our motorcycles.  We stopped our motorcycles on the Camarillo Ranch property and prepared to push then across the street and up into the parking lot. The police stopped us as we crossed from the Camarillo Ranch into the driveway of Cam High.  They asked us for our licenses and of course being the smart alecks that we were said we didn't need a license as we weren't riding them on the streets.  The cops then said we were trespassing and next time would write us a ticket.

After school I asked Dave to go with me to the Camarillo House to ask permission to ride across their property.  Dave agreed and we went to the front door and knocked.  Carmen Camarillo Jones opened the door and I explained what had happened and asked for permission to cross her property. Carmen was very generous and said yes and couldn't have been nicer.  Carmen then asked us to wait a moment as she got a pen and paper and wrote that we had permission to be on her property.  Wow how cool was that! The next day we got stopped again and we whipped out our free pass and we never had a problem again.  I wish that I still had that piece of paper from Carmen.

                  PARISH HISTORY

Finally, after sprinkling the carved block one last time with Holy Water, he turned to Carmen, youngest daughter of Adolfo Camarillo. The youngster handed him the box containing the family history and other memorabilia. The priest placed it within the foundation. Workmen then moved the heavy cornerstone into its final place. It was July 1, 1913. St. Mary Magdalen had been officially established.

The spectators slowly disbanded. Climbing into black convertible touring cars, they drove down the dusty hill and rough road to celebrate this event at the nearby Camarillo Victorian mansion with its multi-cupolaed red rooftops thrusting above the surrounding lush green grove of trees. It marked the fulfillment of a dream for Juan E. Camarillo and his brother, Adolfo.

For several years the brothers had planned to build a more permanent structure to replace the overcrowded one-room wooden family chapel atop the hill along El Camino Real. Across Ventura Boulevard from the chapel stood a drug store with a high wooden billboard-like front that now stands vacant -- the former Southern Pacific railroad depot that had given Camarillo its name. A few blocks westward near the middle of what is now Arneil Road, was the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church that was built in 1890. A new hilltop church of ample proportions would set the tone of the growing city for decades to come and serve as a fitting tribute to God, the city, and the first family.

One day while Juan was traveling near his father's birthplace of Mexico City, a mission-style church caught his eye. He commissioned architect Albert C. Martin to design the Camarillo church along the same lines. Juan built the church in honor of his father, Don Juan Camarillo, and his mother, Martina Hernandez. It was named for Juan and Adolfo's oldest sister, Magdalena.

The chapel design included an east wing, a family crypt, and a picturesque foundation.

The east courtyard foundation, which was modeled after one at the Santa Barbara mission, quickly became a popular bird bath and favorite gathering place for many of the parishioners after Sunday Mass. To celebrate Mass, a priest drove over from Oxnard each Sunday and for feast days and special ceremonies.

The crypt beneath the southwest corner of the building was unfortunately used all to soon by the Camarillo family and now contains the remains of many of its members.  There once was a drop door in front of the white marble main altar to lower the casket down into the crypt but the mechanism was unreliable. Consequently, it was sealed over the caskets were carried around the chapel and down the stairs.

On July 4, 1914, the magnificent chapel was dedicated by the Bishop at an impressive ceremony attended by most of the townspeople coming in flag-draped cars. From it's hill top position, the chapel's belfry tower, looking like a multi-tiered wedding cake, was the dominate landmark in Pleasant Valley. It was from this tower, that the bell tolled thrice daily calling the faithful to the Angelus.

Juan spared no expense in furnishing the new family chapel. The doors, floors, and pews were of warm, handsome oak which highlighted the white marble wainscotting along the walls, and softened the cold, hard atmosphere of the stone.  Flanking the main altar were white marble bust-size statues of the Sacred Heart, Blessed Mother, and St. Mary Magdalen holding a vial of precious ointment -- all mounted on black marble pedestals. A full size statue of the Little Flower stood nearby.

The most notable chapel fixtures were its magnificent 13 stained glass windows.  These azure, crimson, green, and gold windows tell a double story -- one of the life of Christ, the other of a world at war.

While on a trip to Europe, Juan Camarillo selected the windows in Munich, Germany. The year was 1913 and the early rumbles of the continent gathering its strength for conflict were growing with each passing day. Somewhere between the studios of glass-blower F. X. Zettler of Munich and the church on a hilltop in faraway Camarillo, the stained glass windows were lost. Zettler's name can be seen at the bottom of the windows depicting the Holy Family (east side) and Christ with the children (west side). Despite the best efforts of the Camarillo family through consuls and ambassadors, the windows appeared lost forever. Mrs. Carmen Camarillo Jones recalled that her uncle Juan feared they were at the bottom of the sea. One day a letter arrived from a German official. This official in Munich had been noticing several large crates staked outside a building with Juan's name on them. He had written Juan several letters and finally one got through at the end of Word War 1. Much to the joy and relief of everyone, the lost windows had been found. However, it was a painfully slow and long trek to Los Angeles, and then on to Camarillo, before they were finally installed in the thick brick and plastered chapel walls in 1919.

The late Mrs. Rosa Camarillo Petit remembered the heavy white paper windows that were used in the chapel until the real ones could be found, as she was married during that time -- November 11, 1914 -- the first wedding to be performed in the new chapel. The Petit family also held the first baptism when their first child, Ynex, was born. Tragically, they likewise claimed the first funeral in the chapel when their 19 month old baby daughter died in 1917.

The Adolfo and Isabel Camarillo family consisted of six girls and one boy while Juan Camarillo remained a bachelor. The Camarillo children were Frank, Isabel, Minerva, Rosa, Carmen, Ave Marie, and Martina.

During the past 76 years, the rugged hilltop chapel has withstood the ravages of earthquakes, fire, and time.  Mrs. Gloria Petit Longo recalls the effects of a smoke damaged interior resulting from a fire. It occurred a few days before her wedding and the ceremony was held under paint scaffolding.

In 1940, four years after the death of Juan Camarillo, the family chapel of St. Mary Magdalen was given to the Los Angeles Archdiocese to use as a parish church. Just the previous year, one hundred acres of Rancho Calleguas that had been bequeathed to Adolfo and Juan by their father, was deeded to the same Archdiocese for the purpose of building a Seminary. The first buildings for the St. John's Major Seminary were completed in 1939.

The present rectory at St. Mary Magdalen was built in 1948. Adjacent to the rectory, Adolfo turned the first shovel of dirt on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, 1954, to break ground for the St. Mary Magdalen grade school. The first class was admitted on September 14, 1954 with the dedication during the Marion Year occurring on November 6, 1954. Soon afterwards the building which had originally been the caretaker's house, and then the first rectory, was again to undergo changes. This time it was to be renovated and expanded to accommodate the Sisters who were teaching and running the new school.

Several years after Adolfo Camarillo's death at the age of 94 in December 1958, Mrs. Carmen Camarillo Jones donated the family mansion and several acres of land to the Augustinian Order of priests for use as a residence and house of prayer and studies for Catholic priests, nuns, and seminarians.

As the years passed and the city grew, St. Mary Magdalen's capacity of 350 people became insufficient to handle the needs of the parish despite the addition of extra masses. While a building drive was organized by the pastor, Monsignor Dennis J. Falvey, to construct a larger church, stop gap measures were taken by permitting parishioners the choice of attending two masses each Sunday at the beautiful St. John's Seminary chapel.

A six acre site was acquired at the corner of Las Posas Road and Crestview Avenue for a new parish church; and the architectural firm of Carmichael and Kemp, Alhambra, California was commissioned to design the new building. Cardinal Timothy Manning, Archbishop of Los Angeles delivered the main address from an improvised truck trailer platform, then turned the first spade of dirt for the ground-breaking on December 29, 1974. Unfortunately, Msgr. Falvey had passed away a short time earlier and was unable to see his labors reach fruition.

The new St. Mary Magdalen church, which seats nearly 850 people, was opened for the celebration of the Mass on Christmas Day 1975 with Midnight Mass offered by the new pastor, Monsignor John C. Hughes. The formal dedication occurred on June 27, 1976.

The new church reflects California's mission heritage with a white stucco exterior, red tile roofing, outdoor patio surrounded by lush gardens and a series of arches, colorful stained glass windows, and an interior of warm brown, beige and gold earth tones. The inside is composed mainly of a handsome lattice work of exposed wooden beams, paneling, a dark walnut alter, and pews with towering hand carved sanctuary. The Stations of the Cross were crafted by artisans in Italy. The composition, mainly wood and stucco, will alleviate dangers from nearby earthquake faults. It is a church that is large enough to accommodate the needs of a growing, vibrant parish and one which will serve as a continuing tribute to the proud traditions initiated by the Camarillo family.