The Founding of Camulos

The present 1,800 acre Camulos Ranch, established by Ygnacio del Valle in
1853, was carved out of the 48,612 acre Rancho San Francisco, granted in
1839 to Ygnacio's father Antonio del Valle, majordomo and administrator of
Mission San Fernando. Camulos was located at the western boundary of the
rancho and was originally a Tataviam Indian village known as Kamulus. The
San Fernando Mission used the area as early as 1804 for raising small animals
and crops grown by the Indians, who numbered 416 when visited by Inspector
General of the Missions in 1839.

Antonio del Valle and his family lived at the eastern edge of the ranch near
Castaic in the former San Fernando Mission granary adobe building. After
Antonio's death in 1841, the land was divided among his second wife and the
children from his two marriages. Ygnacio received the western portion of the
ranch known as Camulos and built a corral and stocked it with cattle in 1842.
He bought back some of the Rancho San Francisco acreage from the other del
Valle heirs and also acquired
Rancho Temescal, north of Piru. Ygnacio's first
wife died in childbirth in 1842. He was married a second time to Ysabel Varela
of Los Angeles, who was only 15. They settled in Los Angeles near the Olvera
Street plaza. The following year he built the first four rooms of what became
the main adobe at Camulos, which was at first occupied by Ygnacio's
majordomo (foreman).

Ygnacio and Ysabel lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade, during which
time Ygnacio held a number of elected positions. Between 1853 and 1861, five
children were born to them. After the birth of their fifth child, Josefa, in 1861,
the family moved permanently to Camulos and added three new rooms and a
basement to the original adobe. Many of the Kamulus Indians continued to live
and work at the ranch and helped to make the adobe blocks used in the
construction. Some of these Indians are buried in the del Valle family cemetery.
Between 1862 and 1870, seven more children were born at Camulos. Of twelve
children total, only five lived to adulthood.

The drought of the 1860s took its toll on del Valle cattle and crops, forcing the
del Valles to sell most of the Rancho San Francisco in 1865. However, Camulos
continued to evolve into a diverse agricultural operation. By the time of
Ygnacio's death in 1880, the ranch had grown from a few hundred head
of-cattle in the 1840s to a thriving, virtually self-contained ranch. It consisted of
approximately 1290 acres of citrus, vineyards, almonds, grain and vegetables,
and supported close to 200 residents. In addition to the del Valles, large
numbers of Mexicans and Indians were employed on the ranch. The single four
room adobe, built in 1853, grew into a twenty room adobe surrounded by
numerous other buildings, including a brick winery, chapel, barn and workers'
housing. The isolation of the Santa Clara Valley was broken with the arrival of
the stagecoach in 1874 and the railroad in 1887.

Throughout its long history Rancho Camulos has had a diverse and rich
agricultural history. The first oranges grown and shipped commercially from
what is now Ventura County were from the Camulos Ranch in 1876. In
addition, the rancho produced annual crops of citrus, almonds, walnuts,
apricots, peaches, wheat, corn and barley. Grapevines were also cultivated at
Camulos for the production of wine and brandy. It was the wine grape that
brought the first real commercial success for the del Valle family in the 19th
century. Camulos wines and brandies enjoyed a good reputation throughout
Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. During the 1860s, ninety acres of wine grapes
were planted, a brick winery built, and a license obtained for brandy distilling.
The federal industrial census for 1870 records the Camulos Ranch winery as
the largest of the four vintners in the San Buenaventura Township of Santa
Barbara County, with 45 tons of grapes resulting in 6,000 gallons of wine and
800 gallons of brandy.

In 1908 the ranch was incorporated as the del Valle Company by Ulpiano and
his remaining brothers and sisters for the purpose of raising crops and
livestock, acquiring water rights, and developing oil resources. Eventually,
friction within the family and the death of several family members forced the
sale of the ranch in 1924 to the August Rübel family. At the time of the sale,
writer
Charles Lummis, a close family friend of the del Valles, appealed to the
State of California to purchase Camulos as a historic park. Lummis had long
been an active preservationist. He founded the Landmarks Club, which
contributed substantially to preserving the missions. His magazine
Out West,
more than any other publication, promoted the heritage of Southern California.
When the sale to the Rübel was inevitable, Lummis wrote:

It has been forty years since I first visited Camulos. Since that time, it has been
like my own home, and its people like my own. The old folks were like parents
to me. The romance, the traditions, the customs of CamuIos are all familiar and
all dear to me - not merely because they are Camulos, but because that was
the Last Stand of the patriarchal life of Spanish California, which has been so
beautiful to the world for more than a century. [
Smith, Wallace E., This Land
Was Ours: the del Valles & Camulos. Ventura: Ventura County Historical
Society, 1977, pg. 242.]

The Los Angeles Times echoed Lummis' sentiment when they wrote:

An era in the history of California closed yesterday. The del Valles of Camulos
bade farewell to the homestead where they have lived in successive
generations since Antonio del Valle. It was the passing of the old regime. They
are said to be the last of the old Spanish families who held in unbroken
succession to the ancestral acres.
[Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1924.]
Rancho Camulos Museum
A Non-Profit California Corporation

We are a 501(c)3 organization.  
Donations made to Rancho Camulos
Museum
are tax-deductible.

For further information
about Rancho Camulos
write to:

Rancho Camulos Museum
P O Box 308
Piru CA 93040

or call
805-521-1501
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Rancho Camulos Museum
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There is no spot in Ventura County, with the exception of
Mission San Buenaventura, that has the historic interest and
glamour that Rancho Camulos possess.
Ramona and Alessandro have their niche in fiction's Hall of
Fame, but the story of Camulos must ever remain the story of
the family that lived its history, the
del Valles, and the Rubels
who cherished their legacy.
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