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Hattie King's History of Bardsdale

Fillmore Methodist c 1912.jpg

Hattie and George N. King

Mrs. George King, known as Hattie, was born Harriett Busick in El Dorado, California, the daughter of a pony express rider. She came to Bardsdale at age 12 to live with her aunt, Mrs. S. A. Guiberson. She married George King, who was property agent for Thomas Bard, in 1896. Together they had two daughters, Ona and Agnes.

Mrs. King had many interests but two were the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (when she registered to vote it was as a member of the Temperance Party while her husband was a registered Republican), and education. She financed the construction of building that was used for the first high school in Fillmore while the permanent building was completed.

This History of Bardsdale was written by Mrs. King in either 1915 or 1922:

The history of Bardsdale proper will begin with the opening of the Bardsdale tract in January, 1887, but a few words will be written as an introduction. As all histories are supposed to be true, this is no exception to the rule. The history will treat on the social, religious and economic conditions existing during the thirty-five years of Bardsdale’s life. If errors are made, they are of the head rather than the heart. The writer may make a few mistakes, so bear with her. The only authentic history of Bardsdale [was] written by Harriett Virginia Green in the first week of March, 1915, and offered for publication on Friday evening, March 5, 1915, and read for the first time [on] March6, 1915. The author of this [present] history was born in Gold Hill, Eldorado County, March 1, 1872, and in 1895 came to Ventura County and has lived in and near Bardsdale since. Though not having been a resident all the time, [she] has kept in touch with many [of] the changes.

The land on which Bardsdale tract is situated was in cultivation as early as the years 1870-1871, two years before Ventura County was cut out of Santa Barbara County. When Ventura County began with 3,500 inhabitants, its assessed valuation [was] $120,000. The principle products then were horses, cattle, sheep, wool, cheese and butter and the proceeds from these products in the year of 1873 amounted to $307,000. The first newspaper in Ventura County was the Signal, published in Ventura, 1871, by J. L. Bradley. The first election in Ventura County was on the twenty-fifth day of February, 1873. The total vote polled was 630.

In these early days of Ventura County, before Bardsdale had a name, there were trials, seen and unseen, to endure. The county was infested with thieves and outlaws, and the settlers had to watch their stock, especially their horses, night and day or they were driven away. The settlers finally had a meeting and decided upon a plan to catch these thieves. The decided each one would watch and shoot the first man they caught driving away stock. The men patiently watched their stock, while women and children bared [sic] the doors and also watched, in daytime, with loaded guns. The time came. One man was shot and killed, several wounded and the horse thieves quit coming. Then the settlers had another trial when, as they supposed they were settled on government land, they were driven off by the Spanish grant owners -- period. Many of them went away. But a few stayed and fought it out in the courts and got their land. It was proved the grant owners were claiming twice as much land as really belonged to them. The troubles over water, and troubles went on until that terrible crime was committed, the murder of Tom More, the grant owner, 1877.

After the death of Tom More, his sons, the More brothers, farmed the land that is now the Bardsdale tract. Wheat and barley were raised. The Bardsdale land was assessed in 1876 at $9.00 per acre. It was not until January, 1887, that the Bardsdale tract was opened for settlement. After the death of More, Thomas R. Bard bought the land of the More heirs, held it several years, then sold 15,000 [acres] to R. G. Surdam, who divided the land into small tracts and began to colonize. This was in January, 1887, just 35 [years] last January.[2] The only buildings now standing in the Bardsdale community that were standing when Bardsdale was opened for settlement are the houses of John Burson, the first home of the writer, the home of Mr. Lou Henry, the second home of the writer, and the two houses on the More place where Tom More was shot. One of these houses remains near and on the same place that the tragedy took place - the old home of Mr. Dunn. The other [was] the former home [of] Mr. George Wengeret, now belonging to Mr. Glen Fansler. Each of these houses has been moved. Two of them have been moved twice. The only people living in and near Bardsdale now that were here then, to the writer's knowledge, was Mrs. Ed Daurghty, the Robertson family, and Mr. Henry Balcom. The [other] families living here at the opening were the families of Frank Robertson, Ben Robertson, S. A. Guiberson, John Morrison, Kern Randolph, Chase Randolph, Sout (?) Barnes, S. C. Schnider, A. B. Asbill, Sydney Baum, Hartley Sprague, Jule Swanson, the families of William Horton and George Horton, G. W. Edwards, Mr. Whitaker, and Brice Grimes.

In most cases these families were large. Hence the Willow Grove School, the only school on this side of the river, was a large one. A few years before Bardsdale was ever known, the Robertson brothers built for the Willow Grove district the Willow Grove school house. It was considered the finest building in the country, and from the first it was the center of social and religious life. The first use it [was] put to was a skating rink. The boys put the floor in first and built the rest slowly so there would be long period of skating. Then the young people thought that it would be commodious as a hall for dancing, and some very swell affairs, I tell you, were given there. But after, all, vacations didn't last always, and the seats were put in, never to be moved.

Hattie King's History of Bardsdale

Willow Grove School

The Grimes, Guiberson, and Edwards families felt the need of a Sunday School and started one in the school house. Mr. Grimes was the first superintendent [supt] and Mrs. Guiberson, the second. This Sunday School as a union Sunday School, and all denominations assisted. Very soon the need of a church was felt, and the congregation invited Mr. Brown, a Southern Methodist local preacher, to come over from Sespe and preach every other Sunday. Mr. Brown preached for awhile. A little church was organized, and occasionally Rev. Allen, a very excellent man of ability, would come from LA and preach for the people. Things went on until the people kept a regular minister. The ministers that held services at the Willow Grove school house were Rev. Brown, Rev. Allen, Rev. Oaker Cothenes, Rev. J. H. Sherard, and Albert Joy. While Bardsdale was being settled, the people worshipped at Willow Grove. It took some little time to establish a school and a church on a place which had scarcely an inhabitant. The people in those days thought nothing of going to attend church or meeting of any kind, so Scienega, Fillmore and Sespe people all came to Willow Grove to church.

The first and second year of Bardsdale's life, things was [sic] lively. Mr. R. G. Surdam did everything in his power to advertise the place, and when the railroad was finished through the valley he bought a large bus that would seat 18 persons comfortably and hired a driver and met each train. For awhile, he had the local [train] to Santa Barbara stop two hours in the morning, when he would take as many as his bus would hold on the drive, first to Mr. G. W. Edward's, where the only orange orchard was located, inviting them to partake of all the oranges they could eat, then to the Bardsdale town site [where] with the assistance of his map [he] would point out the principle business houses, churches and school house. He also had a collection of news which passed away the time in showing the tourists. If anyone wanted to stay over and investigate, all arrangements were made with an entertaining housewife to entertain them. Strange to say, many people came and the place was settled quickly. But there were many changes. Some came only staying a few months, others a year or two, and going nearer the city. For some time the Bardsdale bus met the train, and it was the delight of the young people of the county to take that ride as well as the tourists. The bus was around Bardsdale for a number of years, and the young people often took party rides in it.

Mr. R. G. Surdam was a very kind-hearted and liberal man. He gave away nearly all he made and all the children and young people were his friends. The first Christmas after Bardsdale was open, the Christmas tree and exercises were held in the Willow Grove school house, and Mr. Surdam gave everyone present a nice Christmas gift. It was estimated that he spent $500 on Xmas presents. The boys he gave drums and horns, and the young men pocket knives, the little girls dolls, the big girls scrap book and autograph albums, and the ladies woolen dresses. Everyone, of course, had a joyous Christmas. Mr. Surdam loaded the tree with candy and everything good and acted as Santa Claus. So after that, the children called him Santa, and it pleased him. There was nothing too good for the children, and as long as he had money he used it freely.

One of the first projects Surdam entered into was the development, or the bringing of water, onto the tract for irrigation. The water was taken out of the river above Mr. G. W. Edwards' and brought through wooden flumes and ditch, totaling about ten miles and said to have cost $8,000. [The] first crop raised after Bardsdale town site was laid out was potatoes, yielding, it was said, 75 -150 sacks per acre. Corn was also raised and [it] yielded surprisingly. There was an abundance of water, and everyone was thrifty and prosperous. One of the first new buildings was the home of Grandma Robertson (now the resident of [the] Robertson sisters). Later the church and school were combined. The now German church, also the German parsonage, the home of Mr. Klages (now the home of Dare), later the Robertson home (now the Walker home) -- on and on, the houses were build.

The first school was opened in the German church, and Miss Fuller was teacher. The first regular minister was G. T. Alexander, and he was a man who did things. He came to the church with excitement and zeal and got the young people all interested and things were going fine. He established a singing school, as he was a fine musician, and got acquainted with and married Miss Fuller at the end of the term. {He] acted in a way unbecoming a minister, and was invited to depart to parts unknown at the close of his first pastorate. The Willow Grove church had gone down because of the unfaithfulness of its pastor, and the Christian people were at a loss to know what to do. Then a man from Texas by the name of Miller was sent. He didn't stay long enough to find out who he was. He was fond of horses and engaged all the horses he could to break and flew in a rage at the animals and said things that didn't sound well and he left suddenly and without saying adieu. About this time, David C. Cook bought the Piru tract, and when he came out he brought with an old-time friend, Rev. McNiff, a splendid man, but [who] was in very poor health. Rev. McNiff was pastor for some time, and [he] finally moved to Sespe and built the Methodist [ME] church. The Rev. John Pittinger preached at both places. He also was brought out by David C. Cook, and his brother William preached at Piru at the same time.

The early colonists were about equally divided between German and English speaking people. Germans from the first maintained their church. The two denominations, of course, held their meetings at different times in the same building. Sunday school was held twice a day, and the church building was occupied most all the day Sunday.

In the Spring of 1889, Mr. Surdam, with the help [from the] residents, got up a May day picnic and barbecue. The picnic was held a little to the left of Will Wileman's place, or on the Grandma Robertson place, under a beautiful live oak grove. There were 1,500 people in attendance, and it was estimated that a thousand came from other parts of the county. A special excursion was run from Ventura. All the teams in the county were engaged to bring the people from Fillmore. The car of state led the procession and the small boys and men followed behind on foot. In the car of state all the young girls in the county rode dressed in white dresses in blue and white trimmings. The May queen, Miss Zuliek A. Guiberson, seated on her throne. The whole exercise of dancing around the maypole and the crowning of the queen was gone through with by the young maidens. Santa Paula and Bardsdale were to furnish the program jointly. Mr. S. A. Guiberson, then the singing school teacher, was to train the singers of Bardsdale. R. G. Surdam was anxious that Bardsdale should not be outdone and did everything possibly to help in the program. Bardsdale's quartet sang their very best. Santa Paula had a quartet and they did their best. When Bardsdale took part, all this end of the county cheered and clapped. Likewise, when Santa Paula took part, the people did the same. There was great enthusiasm in those days. When the meat was done, Ari Hoper went through the crowd and called out in [a] tone loud enough to be heard a mile, "the meat is now ready." This man, in his younger days, was preacher, but the people never wanted him to preach excepting at camp meetings as they could not stand the noise. This picnic was a great success, and it cost R. G. Surdam, a thousand dollar [sic] or more besides what he gave the people.

​About this time, or a little after, the first [and] last band that Bardsdale ever had was organized. It was called the Bardsdale string band. Its instruments were the bass drum, tenor drum, coronet, and jawbone. The members of this band were the four Chadsey brothers, recent arrivals of Bardsdale. This band made a great deal of fun for the young people and was always present at home gatherings. The band was especially noted for its noise. They were active at serenades, and very often serenades when one would least suspect. As is very often the case, one of our pretty girls fell in love with one of the band boys. It was mutual, however, for they had planned to be married on Xmas night after the exercises. Because of the tender age of the young lady, the parents did not approve of her marriage. So they planned it in secret. One of the girl's brothers thought he would stop [the] proceedings. So on Xmas as the program was going on, the young man walked in the school with a gun and demanded his sister, the first act having just finished. The band boy and sister could not be found. They went to the minister, were married, and the minister hitched his buggy and took them to Santa Paula, where they remained over night. They returned to Bardsdale, bought them a tract, and settled down. I mention this because it was rather startling circumstance for an [sic] Xmas eve.[3]

​About this time, the Burson family came and took Mr. Guiberson's ranch and part of his name, but none of his girls. After this family came, others came with families of young people, and there was a great deal of social life as well as great prosperity. One of the Burson boys did not have land enough so he married an Aker. Another wanted to go into the fowl business, so married a Fowler. Two others go mixed up in pronouncing the name "Baldeschwieler" and since have never shown a desire to tangle. Another brother is still courting.

Looking north across Bardsdale towards Fillmore

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