Click to download original scan.
Did nothing else occur, the experiences of the past few days would amply repay me for my return visit to Southern California. It is a real joy to go back where you were thirty-five years ago, find the same warmhearted friends and receive the same welcoming smile and grasp of the hand.
I was in Santa Paula and remarked that I should like to visit the Camulos rancho and note the changes since my last sojourn there. I was informed that the ranch had been closed to visitors and the general public excluded from its sacred precincts. I remarked that I was private and not a member of the general public, and that if anybody kept me off the Camulos he would have to do it with a shotgun or a bulldog. So I was soon on my way.
Arriving at the entrance to the rancho, where a new bungalow of the Moorish style of architecture is being erected, there stood a sign warning trespassers to keep off. However, the carpenter told me there had been a distinct change of attitude; that Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Cram and Mr. and Mrs. Ulpiano F. del Valle had taken up their permanent residence at the old and charming ranch house and that friends and tourists were received with courtesy and given an opportunity to see the most interesting place in all of Southern California.
Great House Party Lasts Five Days
Mr. and Mrs. Cram were at home, and as I had known the lady years ago when she was little Ysabel del Valle, I was in luck. In the long ago I was so impressed with the charm and grace of Ysabel that I bestowed her name upon one of my daughters.
On the 2nd of March, 1886, Ulpiano del Vale became of age and I was so fortunate as to be a guest at a house party celebrating the arrival of his majority. There were fifty-six present at the party and it lasted five days. All of the del Valle family proper, including Reginaldo, Joventino and wife, Mrs. Josefa Forster, Ulpiano, Ysabel, Ygnacio and Senora, the head of the house, as well as Misses Susie and Nena and Master Jim del Valle, Joventino's children, and Don Juan Forster, Richard Egan, T.E. Rowan, Jose G. Estudillo, Pedro Dornaleche, Miss "Picheon" Abadie, now Mrs. A.F. Harmer of Santa Barbara, and dozens of others were among the merry-makers.
It was an occasion of great joy. We had dinners under a grape-arbor, which extended from the house to the Santa Clara river. Everything served was a product of the ranch, except the tea, coffee and sugar, and when I picture that board, groaning beneath its load of home-grown beef, mutton, pork, chickens, ducks, peacock, vegetables of all descriptions, flagons of the finest wines, aged brandy and everything to delight the heart and stomach of man, I regret that my present appetite is not as strong as it was then.
Original Ranch Had Many Thousand Acres
Don Ygnacio del Valle secured the Camulos Rancho in 1861. It extended across the Los Angeles County line and comprised many thousands of acres. Not only were cattle and horses raised in great numbers, but upon this ranch fruit was first produced in this section with great success. Oranges, grapes and olives were the leaders, as they are today, with walnuts, apricots and beans following closely. The size of the ranch has been reduced to about 2,000 acres and is in the possession of a corporation composed of four of the original heirs. It is very productive and conducted at great profit. I trust that never another acre may go to outside ownership.
Of course, everybody who has read Helen Hunt Jackson's charming book knows that Camulos was the real home of "Ramona." In many regards her description is letter-perfect and visitors recognize it at first glance. The person who reads "Ramona" wants to see Camulos, and those who see Camulos want to read the book.
The house, a typical California adobe, with walls four feet thick, is just the same as when I first saw it. The trees and everything else show the advance of the years, but not the house. It has a main building more than 200 feet long and two wings of 125 feet, enclosing on three sides a most beautiful patio, with fountain, flowers, shrubs and evergreens. The Crams and del Valles have divided the house with an imaginary line and, believe me, each would have plenty of room if their families ran into dozens. Of course, all modern improvements, such as light, heat, water, etc., have been added, but not in a way to destroy the ancient charm of the place.
Money Could Not Buy This Beautiful Home
I have a number of friends who have spent sums running into the millions on mansions in which to imagine they are at home. But I am free to say that if I owned old Camulos I wouldn't trade it for eleven of those alleged homes. Knowing the del Valle family as I do, I don't believe there is money enough in Southern California to buy this place. Mrs. Cram was born, christened and married here. Her charming young daughter, Senorita Ysabel, was born and christened here, and I hope I may be among those present at her wedding here.
There is a chapel on the place, at which many padres of early days held services. There is here a calesa, or carriage, of the olden days that is priceless. Some vandal tore down the old oil mill, but otherwise everything is just as it was in the days still unforgotten.
Now here is a little incident which I consider of great interest: When the guests were leaving after Ulpiano's birthday party they were laden with gifts by the hosts. I was presented with a bottle of grape brandy made on the place in 1862. My bag was so full of fruits and other gifts that I had no room for the bottle, so I slipped down to a point near the river and buried it. Years passed and the bottle was forgotten. On this visit the memory was revived. I took a spade and uncovered my treasure, aged fifty-eight years.
I wired to Washington City and got permission to transport the precious fluid to Riverside and deposit it among the sacred relics at Frank Miller's Inn. It is now there, secure from the vandal touch of the prohibition enforcement guy.
May the Lord be good to me and allow me to impose upon my Camulos friends many times while I sojourn in Southern California. It is one place I love and where I have blessed rest and contentment.