Five Trees

"Lost on a high and windy hill..." Just words of a fantasy song? In Ventura, the fantasy becomes reality.

Ventura is embraced by a necklace of sweetly sloping hills. Among them, one hill is crowned by two trees, making it unique from its fellows who are draped in tawny, barren velvet.

As the trees grew, many tales have grown with them. A newcomer to the city may hear how they were planted as a beacon for seagoing ships, to aid them in making their Ventura landfall. A plausible story, it is an idea that would have been of great benefit to the lusty, boom-town days of Ventura.

In your mind's eye turn back to the 1900's. Envision ships, anchored snugly in the harbor at Port Hueneme. There is ant-like activity abroad ships and shore, as cargoes are discharged and embarked. Seeds and tools for Ventura's rich farm land, lumber for the expanding city, and oil drilling equipment for an infant industry are all landed on the waiting shore. Their places aboard the ships are taken up by out-going sacks of walnuts, dried apricots, lima beans, and by barrels of oil, the black gold that would eventually become the life-blood of the world. On some sailing charts today, it is possible to find the Hill of the Trees, marking the Ventura landfall. But that is not the reason they were planted.

There is another fable, closer to the truth about "Five Trees." Picture a patriarch of the young city, filled with a zeal to let the world know that this is Ventura, the one and only. Imagine him climbing a hill, shovel on shoulder, young saplings in hand, and a dream firmly planted in his heart. Could that be the actuality behind the twin eucalyptus trees that stand guardian over Ventura today?

In fact, a man named Joseph Sexton, a horticulturist noted in local history books for his work with walnuts, avocados, and the introduction of pampas grass, is responsible for one of Ventura's most unusual landmarks. In 1898, Mr. Sexton, then owner of the land that lies just off Foothill Rd., hired a neighbor, Owen Marron, to plant thirteen Big Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees for him. His reason for this unusual undertaking? Just because it would be nice.

Marron planted the thirteen saplings and then spent many hours hauling water to the trees, by horseback and burro, to insure their survival. And survive they did for the first five years. Then a raging fire, typical of California's brasada (brush country) destroyed all but five of the trees. And that is how "Five Trees" got its name. Now you may be wondering how there came to be only two trees on that hill?

It was shortly after WWII that some Halloween pranksters decided to cut down the trees that had been sentinels above Ventura for over half a century. Citizens rallied. They replaced the three trees that had fallen victims of the vandals' saws. Again, fun-seeking dunces struck, leaving only one of the original trees and one of the new standing. In 1966, the Ventura Junior Women's Club took it upon themselves to plant trees on the hill, so that "Five Trees" would once again be shaded by graceful eucalyptus trees to the number of five. An ambitious project, it must have failed in some unknown way.

A trip to the summit one crystalline, November day revealed just six things. There was a large California holly bush just below the crest of the hill, a depression that might have been the cradle of a young sapling, one charred stump burnt close to the ground, and two glorious trees towering forty and fifty feet into the air. The sixth item to be found on that "high and windy hill"... An exciting panorama that encompasses the City of Poinsettias, which displays the blue-jeweled California coast...a vista that stimulates and pleases even the most jaded of eyes.