There were no roads here when Ayers arrived

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Posted by Drew Mashburn on October 13, 2016

The following article was printed in the Ojai Valley News on Oct. 8, 1969; Page D-6.  It is reprinted here with their permission. We have made several minor adjustments to update the article.

There were no roads here when Ayers arrived by Ed Wenig

Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers

It is hard to visualize Robert Ayers, his wife, and their seven children making their way into the roadless Ojai Valley of 1868, over a hundred [and fifty] years ago, as the first American family to settle in the valley.

After staying a short time in the old Tico adobe, Robert Ayers bought a ranch in the Upper Ojai. At that time the Upper Valley was the more desirable of the two valleys on account of the level, rich land, with abundant water flowing through it.

Four years later in 1872 Ayers bought a 400 acre ranch in the Lower Valley which extended north to the mountains from what is now Soule Park Golf course. Then in 1887 he sold this property and bought the 7,000-acre Casitas Ranch on which he raised some of the finest race horses in the county.

Ayers had come to California in 1850. After two years of gold mining, in which he had been exceedingly successful, he brought his family to California from the east, and settled in Sonoma County, not far from Petaluma. Here he farmed, built and operated the Washoe Hotel, and acted as postmaster of Stony Point.

The Ayers family were truly pioneers when they arrived in the Ojai Valley in 1868. There was no town of Nordhoff and no grade road from Ventura. Ventura County did not exist as a political unit, but was part of Santa Barbara County.

Six years later in 1874, we find the names of Mrs. and Robert Ayers and their daughter, Agnes, on the guest list of the promotional ball sponsored by R. G. Surdam and A. W. Blumberg to arouse interest in the establishment of a town which was later to be named Nordhoff [now Ojai].

Robert Ayers organized the first Ojai Grange in 1875, as a part of the national organization of farmers which had been started eight years before as the “Patrons of Husbandry”, and whose national membership numbered some 750,000 members. Soon some 20 prominent Ojai Valley farmers belonged to the local Grange. Robert Ayers provided the organization with a building in which they could store flour, potatoes, coffee, sugar, and soap that had been shipped from San Francisco.

Ayers served as county supervisor from 1885 to 1889, during which time he planned and constructed part of the first grade road from Ventura to Ojai.

Although Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ayers and their family of seven children have long since passed away, there are many descendants. Among the Ayers’ grandchildren who live[d] in the Ojai Valley are Frank and Kenneth Ayers, and Mrs. William Suytar. [Today there are no descendants of the Ayers living in the valley.]

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