Where Did The Name "Camarillo" Come From?
Jose Pedro Ruiz came to California with Father Junipero Serra during the Spanish occupation, when only twelve years old and later was granted ownership of Rancho Calleguas. His son, Jose Gabriel Ruiz, born in Santa Barbara in 1817, sold the land to Juan Camarillo in 1876. In 1834, Juan Camarillo had joined a group in the Hijar expedition from Mexico City to participate in the Mexican colonization of Alta (upper) California.
Born on May 27, 1812, son of Luis and Maria Rodriguez Camarillo, Juan was 22 years old and a tailor's apprentice when he travelled with Don Jose Maria Hijar, the appointed governor to succeed Governor Figueroa in Monterey.
Hijar found to his dismay that he was not the governor of the territory, and that the original plans to give land to the colonists had been dropped because of political misunderstandings back in Spain. The immigrants, left more or less to fend for themselves, went their separate ways. Juan decided to make the rest of the trip from San Diego over land. However, when he reached Santa Barbara, he decided to locate there, and he went into business as a tradesman.
Juan Camarillo accumulated enough money to open a merchandise store in Santa Barbara. Moving to San Buenaventura in 1857, to carry on a similar business, he and his family occupied a house at the corner of Main Street and Ventura Avenue.
Successful in business, Juan began to invest in land. The great droughts of the 1860s and 1870s were hard on the ranchos and their owners.
In 1876, Juan bought the patented title to Rancho Calleguas (usually translated as 'burial ground') from Jose Gabriel Ruiz, whose father died in 1849. To do this, Juan liquidated his assets in real estate in Santa Barbara County and some in the new Ventura County. (Ventura County was split from Santa Barbara County in 1873). Juan is reported to have sold his 17,716 acre Rancho Ojai to Thomas R. Bard of Hueneme for $17,754 following a drought which killed his cattle on that ranch. It was understood that, in 1856, he had paid $10,600 for it. Juan died in December of 1880 at age 68. He was survived by his wife, four daughters and three sons. Rancho Calleguas, for which he had paid $3,000 in gold, was willed to his widow.
Adolfo, born in Ventura on October 28, 1864, and Juan Jr., born there on April 10, 1867, were still at school, but Adolfo assumed responsibility for the operation of the ranch at age 16. After he graduated from International Business College (Woodbury College) in 1865, he took over full-time management at age 21. Juan Jr. graduated from St. Vincent College, now Loyola University, in 1887, and made his home with his mother for eleven years until her death in 1898. He was assistant manager of the mercantile store in Ventura, which was known as the "White House". Their sisters had received other properties on the father's death.
Mother Martina died in Ventura at age 72. Her will bequeathed her entire interest in Rancho Calleguas to her sons, Adolfo and Juan, Jr. During their occupancy, great strides were made in land cultivation, and their holdings became one of the most valuable in Ventura County. They were thorough businessmen, employing methods of the most modern stamp, and were always in the vanguard when it came to utilizing the latest in time-saving machinery as it became available.
In Sol Sheridan's "History of Ventura County", published in 1926, there are references in the section devoted to Adolfo of his having built a fine dairy in conjunction with Joseph Lewis. They had a valuable herd of dairy cattle. Adolfo was also a breeder of pigs, in addition to the thousands of acres he planted in beans, corn barley, alfalfa and other crops. His keen interest in all scientific improvements in farming was an enthusiasm shared by other pioneers in Pleasant Valley.
In his own careful-kept diaries, Adolfo states that when he became his mother's manager, the land was more than half brush. There were thousands of quail and rabbits; coyotes and wildcats were numerous, and deer abounded. He mentions many living springs, from which he conceived and carried out the idea of piping the water underground to turn the rancho into fertile ground. By 1886, he had cut the cattle herd down to 600 head. From barley and corn as the chief crops, he became a pioneer in the raising of lima beans, along with Joseph Lewis. From the venture followed the raising of walnut and citrus, all of which did well.
Adolfo married Isabella Menchaca of Ventura in 1888. During their courtship, on well-chaperoned rides, Adolfo liked to impress Isabella with his excellent horsemanship, and, on occasion, was known to pick a flower for her hair from a low-lying shrub while riding at full gallop.
Adolfo's love of fiestas, horses, rodeos and barbecues was great. He had a stable of a dozen pure white horses of Arabian and Morgan descent, which regularly participated in commemorative parades in California.
Following the deaths in 1936 of both his wife Isabella, and his brother Juan, Jr., Adolfo curtailed his staging of these colorful activities, but at least a semblance of them continues in the form of Camarillo Fiesta Days and the annual party of Pleasant Valley historical Society for conferring the honorary title of Don or Dona on old-time residents with living links to more carefree days.
Don Adolfo died of pneumonia December 10, 1958, and is interred in the family crypt beneath St. Mary Magdalen Church in Camarillo, alongside his parents, his wife, sisters and brothers.
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