Timeline of Conejo Valley
The first contact between Europeans and the Chumash people took place when Gaspar de Portola and his expedition of 60 soldiers camped in what is now the Conejo Valley on their return journey from the Monterey and San Francisco areas.
Juan Batista de Anza and his party of 240 colonists camped in the Conejo Valley on their way north to settle Alta California.
The Spanish government began granting land to men who had performed a service for the crown, or served faithfully in the army. A ranchero was required to build a storehouse and pasture 200 cattle on acreage. The Conejo Valley was given its name by the Spanish.
Rancho EI Conejo was granted by the Spanish to Ignacio Rodriguez and Jose Polanco (grazing or use rights only, not ownership rights). Rancho EI Conejo was one of only two land grants in what became Ventura County. The other was Rancho Simi.
Polanco abandoned his claim and in 1822 his half of Rancho EI Conejo was granted to Jose de la Guerra. De la Guerra became one of the richest men in California.
Extensive flooding was followed by the first recorded drought in the Conejo, when many cattle died from lack of feed and water. Short of cash and burdened by usurious interest rates, many rancheros sold their property rights.
De la Guerra's half of Rancho EI Conejo was sold to John Edwards and Howard W. Mills of Santa Barbara.
Edwards and Mills acquired most of the remaining original rancho lands, with smaller portions sold to other land speculators, Egbert Starr Newbury and C.E. Huse.
Egbert Starr Newbury purchased 2,259 acres of Rancho EI Conejo land, including the site of today's Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Egbert and his wife Frances (Fannie) built a home there in 1875, and established the Conejo Valley's first post office.
James Hammell acquired land on Rancho EI Conejo and built the Grand Union Hotel (eventually known as the Stage. Coach Inn) as a rest stop for stagecoach passengers and a gathering place for others in the valley.
Another drought, with scarcely six inches of rainfall in 30 months, devastated the Conejo Valley, and ranchers experienced extreme losses. The Newburys' land was foreclosed and they moved back to the midwest in 1877. James Hammell was forced to sell his business and about 1,000 acres of land to Mr. J.B. Redfield at a sheriff's sale in 1878.
In 1876, Richard Orville Hunt purchased 950 acres east of the Conejo Hotel (formerly the Grand Union Hotel) from John Edwards. Richard and Mary Jane named their Conejo ranch "The Saito" (Saito Creek ran through it).
Andrew Russell purchased the 6,000 acre Triunfo Ranch (now Westlake Village) for $15,000, or about $2.50 an acre, from Howard Mills. Mills had fallen behind on his mortgage payments and the bank was foreclosing on his property.
Cecil Arthur Entwistle Haigh, an Englishman, purchased the Conejo Hotel and approximately 1,000 acres of the original Hammell land for $6,500. Cecil married his cousin Cicelie in 1892.
The Newbury's ranch, named Newbury Park by Fannie, was sold to Thomas Gormley in 1882 for $12,000. In 1887, the Newbury Park ranch was sold to Greenbury Crowley for $25,000. The Crowley family built a successful ranch on the land.
Richard and Mary Jane Hunt moved to their Saito Ranch in 1888 with their three youngest children: Loren, Albert and Fred.
Edwards sold 10,000 acres of what is now central Thousand Oaks to Edwin and Harold Janss for $10 an acre. The land, today the site of The Oaks shopping center, was used as a farm and to raise thoroughbred race horses.
The Crowleys built a five-bedroom home for newlyweds Frank and Mae Casey Crowley, on the Crowley Ranch. You can visit the Crowley House at 2522 Pleasant Way in Thousand Oaks.
Much of the Crowley ranch was sold to what would become the Conejo Valley's first land developers. The Crowley house functioned as the real estate office. Carloads of prospective buyers were brought from downtown Los Angeles, shown lots among huge oak trees, and given dinner in the Crowley House dining room before making the return trip.
Louis Goebel purchased the former Newbury/Crowley land for $50. Louis and his wife Kathleen lived in the Crowley House. Louis opened Goebel's Lion Farm, where he trained lions and rented them to movie studios. In 1929 Goebel's Lion Farm became Goebel's Wild Animal Farm theme park.
Louis and Kathleen sold Goebel's Wild Anima/ Farm in 1946, and it was renamed World Jungle Compound. It was sold again in 1956 and renamed Jungleland; the Goebel's purchased it back in 1961. In 1969 Jungle/and closed and the animals were sold at auction.
The Janss family began selling their Conejo Valley ranchland for development.
Daniel K. Ludwig's American-Hawaiian Steamship Company bought the 12,000 acre Triunfo Ranch for $32 million· and began developing the planned community of Westlake Village. De la Guerra's adobe was eventually submerged in Westlake Lake.
The Conejo Valley became the fastest growing community in 14 Southern California counties.
The Stage Coach Inn, formerly the Grand Union Hotel, was given to the Conejo Valley Historical Society (CVHS) by Allen Hays, a grandson of Cecil and Cicelie Haigh. CVHS deeded it to Conejo Recreation and Parks District with the understanding that it would be used as a museum. The building was moved to the site of today's Stagecoach Inn Museum Complex in 1965.
The last of the Saito Ranch was sold for development.
The Stagecoach Inn Museum building was completely destroyed in a fire and reconstructed through.
The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza was constructed on land occupied by the Chumash, Spanish explorers and settlers, Fannie and Egbert Newbury, the Crowley ranching family, and the lions, animals of Jungleland.