What's in a Name?
No, our town is not named after the former US President and Know Nothing party member, Millard Fillmore. It is named after Jerome Fillmore, General Superintendent of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The Sespe Land and Water Company joined the Southern Pacific Company in promoting the Fillmore location rather than the Cienega location to the east of current fish hatchery. On August 1, 1888, a street map of the town of Fillmore was recorded in the Ventura County Courthouse and by 1900, according to the Rand McNally Atlas, Fillmore had a population of 150. As far as we know, Mr. Fillmore’s time in the town named after him was limited to a quick stop on the train passing through.
Joseph McNab prevailed upon the Southern Pacific RR to establish a station in what was to become Fillmore. As president of Sespe Land and Water Co. he steered development of the community. His name not only appears as McNab Ct., it also shows up on the McNab building on Sespe. He hired Wm. Mulholland to develop the Fillmore water system from the upper Sespe Creek. He moved a big home in Catalina Island to the corner of First and Saratoga. This home was later occupied by his son John and his wife Blanche from the Guiberson family. Many community events were held on the extensive grounds.
No, the founding fathers of our area were not promoting Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon. Senator Thomas Bard, 1841-1915, was a political leader in California who assisted in the organization of Ventura County and represented the state in the United States Senate from 1900 to 1905 as a Republican. He was instrumental in the construction of Port Hueneme as well as one of the founders of UNOCAL. He owned the land which was formerly part of Rancho Sespe. This land was sold to a developer who named the area Bardsdale in his honor.
Senator Bard continued to take an interest in the area. He contributed the land the Bardsdale Methodist Church was built on as well as one of the stained-glass windows in the Church. A second church in Fillmore also has ties to the Bard family. Trinity Episcopal, located at 2nd and Saratoga, was originally built in Port Hueneme by Senator Bard as a private chapel for his wife. In the 1930's the Bard heirs donated the structure to the fledgling Episcopal congregation in Fillmore. Members of the parish dismantled the building, moved the pieces by pickup truck to Fillmore and reassembled the building at its current location.
Elkins Lane and Blaine Street
Judge Caswell Carl Elkins, Sr, 1847 - 1936, came to Fillmore in 1887. He was identified with many of the leading business enterprises of the locality. He built the first store in Fillmore. He was a merchant, insurance man, and for several years, served as justice of the peace. He was president of Cienega Water Company, vice president of the Fillmore State Bank, and vice president of the Fillmore Improvement company. A citrus grower, he also grew olives and produced award winning olive oil and used the pressed dried pulp from the olives, instead of coke, as fuel in his citrus orchard smudge pots. --- from Fillmore, 1888-1988.
Judge Elkins, named his son Blaine for James Blaine, the politician. The street was named after Blaine Elkins who became a beekeeper and rancher.
George Tighe was Fillmore’s first Mayor from 1914-1919. He probably came to Fillmore in 1887 as he was the first Railroad station agent. He later (1909) owned a department store on Central Ave. where he installed the first cement sidewalk. This business later became the United Mercantile Building. He was also president of Fillmore State Bank. His home still stands on Central Ave.
He was one of the founders of the Fillmore Club - the same year his wife was one of the founders of the Ebell Club and its first president.
Richard Stephens was an early merchant; whose store still operates today as Estrella Market. He and his wife, Stella, never had children of their own but every Christmas hosted a free movie for the children of Fillmore.
Clarence Arrasmith was Fillmore’s first city manager, serving from 1918-1954. He often wrote his city reports in a very humorous style that held the attention of the reader and made the statistics interesting. He was a musician and orchestra leader in the 1920s and promoted a series of programs using local talent. If you want to understand how the city works, visit the museum, and read his reports, still timely today.
Frank Erskine (1879-1978) came to Fillmore in 1913. He was secretary and manager of Fillmore Citrus Assoc. from 1913-1929. He also directed the orchestras and bands sponsored by the Association promoting the talents of the fruit pickers and community members in a joint venture. We have his coronet in the museum. An interesting story concerning Mr. Erskine was that he felt his Mexican workers were being treated unfairly when they ended up in court. The judge told Mr. Erskine that he better watch his tongue or he would be held in contempt of court, at which point Mr. Erskine is reputed to have said, “You have no idea how much contempt I have for this court.” Before coming to Fillmore, Mr. Erskine is credited with creating the first business courses to be taught at the high school level.
Originally from San Fernando, Earl Hume was made a peace officer in 1923 and became Fillmore's first police chief in 1925 when the police department was formed. He held the post until his retirement in 1967. He was active in many local organizations including the Fillmore Club and Rotary and listed auto racing as a main hobby.
Many members of the Goodenough family have been active in Fillmore history over the years. O. J. Goodenough, 1836 - 1895, came to the area in 1883 and bought 320 acres on the Sespe Land Grant. He also worked as a carpenter on some of the first buildings in Fillmore.
Edgar Goodenough, 1868 - 1938, was a businessman and rancher. He served as a Road Overseer for the Fillmore area from 1903 to 1906 and as County Supervisor from 1926 to 1934. He had ranch between Fillmore and Piru, then purchased land at the end of A St. and back into the canyon. He had Goodenough Rd. built through Moses Fine’s ranch so he could have access. It was his influence that made possible the completion of Goodenough Road.
Earl Goodenough, 1884 - 1934, was a successful businessman owning a clothing store in Fillmore at 328 Central where CVS is now located. He was also active in many civic organizations and was a member of the first board of trustees for the city of Fillmore.
Squire and Ella Tietsort came to Fillmore in 1877 and acquired 167 acres in the Foothill Drive area of town. He planted mission grapes, olives, and tropical plants. When Mr. Tietsort knew he was dying, he made an agreement with R. A. Fremlin to pay all his debts and allow his granddaughter to remain in the family home, and in return, he would give him all his 167 acres.
Three for the price of one! John Galvin was the longest serving city attorney in the state, serving from 1914 – 1966. He came to Fillmore in 1911, being the first attorney in the city. Mary Galvin was a much beloved kindergarten teacher from 1942-1966. Warren Galvin was the first Fire Chief in 1916.
Wm H. Price was a local rancher and treasurer of the Fillmore Citrus Assoc. He built his home at 431 Saratoga St and married his second wife, Carrie King, sister of George N. King
Lester A. Price was President of Fillmore Citrus Association and Southside Improvement Company. He also served as a Director of Sunkist Growers and Ventura County Citrus Exchange. Besides being mayor of Fillmore, he served on the County Board of Supervisors and was chairman for many years. His home is still located at 458 Fillmore Street. William and Lester Price remain the only father-son to have served as mayors of Fillmore. Additionally, Willliam's grandson and Lester's nephew, William Dewey served as Mayor.
The William Burson Family
Wm. Shiells arrived in Ventura County in 1884. He and his brother, Jim took up farming on what is now Guiberson Rd. In 1911 oil was discovered on Shiells property. This family donated the property which became Shiells Park. He served on the County Board of Supervisors from the 4th District.
The Arundell Family
Many of the Arundell family have figured prominently in Fillmore's history. The first to move to the area were William Arundell and his son, Thomas (Tommy) who came to Ventura county in 1874 from Iowa. In 1879, Tommy hauled some beehives up Pole Creek, northeast of Fillmore. The following year, he harvested six tons of honey from his hives. This success led him to acquiring all the Pole Creek property he could, eventually accumulating over 1200 acres and having up to 700 stands of bees. He built an adobe on the property where he and his wife, Inez Kellogg Arundell, raised seven children. Besides bees, Tommy became interested on the possibility of oil on his property. It was not until about 20 years after his death (1938) that any oil was produced on his property.
Tommy's grandson, Art Jr., is remembered as Fillmore's long serving librarian. A graduate of Princeton, he was known for his wide-ranging knowledge on many subjects and contributed much information to the Fillmore Historical Museum. Art died in 1991.
Ira, Lawrence and John Hinckley
Three generations of Hinckleys made their mark on Fillmore. Dr. John P. Hinckley was Fillmore’s first physician and a founding board member of the Fillmore Citrus Association. Dr. Ira Hinckley was a pharmacist and dentist. The third generation, Lawrence was an artist who with his wife, Mildred, operated the Artists’ Barn.
Children of Kate and Willis Burson
The Ed Bursons came to Fillmore in 1886 and purchased 187 acres on both sides of Guiberson. Oil was discovered on their land. Willis Burson, a son, married Kate Baldeschweiler (later changed to Balden). The Burson family donated the museum’s 1890 music box.
Bryce Grimes Lumber
Brice Grimes and John Grimes both were early Fillmore businessmen. Brice had a lumber company and John a real estate business.
George Nelson King was a past president of the Fillmore Citrus Fruit Association and with his wife, Hattie Virginia, leading spirits in the establishment of the Fillmore Unified School District.
Mrs. King was active in temperance and missionary work. In 1922 she was elected president of the Ventura County Women's Christian Temperance Union and served for four years. George built a Spanish revival style home in Bardsdale which still stands.
Rev. John Guiberson and his family came to California in 1850 via covered wagon from Ohio originally settling in Northern California. In 1869 he and his family moved to the Santa Clara Valley settling on part of what had been Rancho Sespe. He operated the Buena Vista Ranch in Bardsdale, east of Chambersburg Road and preached at the Methodist church in Cienega (approximately two miles east of Fillmore) until his death in 1880.
Candelaria Valenzuela was one of the most well known Chumash Indians to have lived near Fillmore. A member of the Sespe Tribe of Chumash Indians, she was born in about 1840 on Lord’s Creek, 5 miles west of Fillmore on what was to eventually be known as Rancho Sespe. She was a well known basket maker. In the early 1900s she was interviewed by George Henley and John P. Harrington representing the Smithsonian Institution who were studying Chumash culture and language.
They interviewed her about her language, legends, songs and customs. She, along with her friends, Petra Pico and Maria Marta, were Master Basket Makers . She told Henley and Dr. Bizzel that she had taught several young American girls the art of Ventureño basket making. According to information in the Native American Basketry of Southern California several of her baskets are in the Ventura County Historical Museum.
On Thursday afternoon – 18 March 1915 - she died of burns when the oil stove she attempted to start with kerosene exploded and caught her clothes on fire and burned her so badly she never recovered. She had been working on the Peirano Ranch on the Santa Ana Creek, now under Casitas Lake, and died at the home of Henry Leyva.