There were no roads here when Ayers arrived

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.]

12 Replies to “There were no roads here when Ayers arrived”

  1. Was the old Tico adobe that the Ayers family moved to briefly the same as the one at 315 W Ojai Avenue. An 1898 history I found online of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties mentioned them moving into an adobe “1/2 mile from the center of town” which is about where 315 W Ojai Avenue is…..been curious for awhile. Also the big mansion at corner of Lomita and Mesa in Meiner’s Oaks is interesting. When was it built and who built it?

  2. Julie,

    I’ll have to take a drive to 315 W. Ojai Avenue and see what’s there before I can answer your question. How did you come up with that address?

    The “big mansion at the corner of Lomita and Mesa in Meiner’s Oaks” is known as the “Baird Mansion”. Go to, then type “Baird Mansion” into the search-bar. You should get “John Roine and the Acacia Mansion”. It’s a story about the Baird Mansion. Yes, the Baird Mansion and the Acacia Mansion are one in the same.

    — T. Drew Mashburn

  3. Julie Moore,

    I was in Ojai today, so I looked for 315 W. Ojai Avenue. I was unable to locate that address. If it ever existed, I believe it would have been located where Libbey Park (formerly: Civic Center Park) is now located. I’ve lived in the Ojai Valley for 68 years. I don’t recall ever hearing of an adobe that once stood in that area. On, enter “Sharp & Savvy: Fernando Tico” into the search-bar. That article mentions some of Tico’s residences.

    — T. Drew Mashburn

  4. my moms maiden name was Ayers her mom Edith Ayers was Robert Ayers granddaughter my mom and grandmother both passed but i still live in ojai valley

  5. Mark,

    Wow! How cool to be related to the Ayers family. What’s your last name?

    Do you have any Ayers family heirlooms? If so, please consider donating them to the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

    Thank you for commenting,
    T. Drew Mashburn
    (OVM volunteer)

  6. Tonya,

    I don’t know the address of the Frank Ayers home, but if you drive from Ojai Avenue up Park Road to Grand Avenue, you can see it from the “STOP” sign at the intersection of Park Rd. & Grand Ave. While sitting at the “STOP” sign on Park Road, look at a slight angle to the right. You’ll see the home across Grand Avenue.
    — T. Drew Mashburn (OVM volunteer)

  7. I’m the GG granddaughter of Robert Ayers. They were the first family to come to the valley. The Ayers house was built by Frank Ayers Sr. He bought the plans from sears& roebuck catalog. It sets at 922 grand ave. When the house was built the round tower that is on the side of the house now was not there. It was added a lot later.

  8. It was great fun reading the messages from the “Ayers” family. Robert Ayers is my great great grandfather. Genealogy has been a hobby for over 40 years. Ayers cousins should not forget Robert’s father William. William survived a dreadful ship wreck on his trip to America. He was the father of Robert and three other children with his first wife and the father of twelve with his second wife. The 12 helped with the hotel that he built on Main Street, Ventura. A very interesting family. Karen Ayers Connel

  9. I used to mow the lawns at the ayers house when i was 12 in 1975. There was a cool headstone out back. I dont remember what it said but i was told that nowbody was burried there. I used to work with Bob gooden and his wife was an ayers too. She was super nice to me. Thank you all for the memories.

  10. Robert ayers was my gg grand father. Sandra lasby is my first cousin. Bob gooden my uncle. My grand father frank ayers sold the last ayers property in 1964. Bought ranches in Siskiyou county calif. There is 4 ayers descendants living in north cali today.

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