Title: Author gathers Conejo Valley historical photos for book about ancestors
Author: Nancy Needham
Publisher: Thousand Oaks Acorn
Those who've wondered what the Conejo Valley looked like before buildings, highways or even automobiles appeared now have their answer.
The great-great-nephew of the man Borchard Road and Borchard Park are named after has put together a recently published pictorial history of the Conejo Valley.
Jeffrey Maulhardt gathered historical photos from family albums, the Thousand Oaks Library collection, the Stagecoach Inn Museum and the Conejo Valley Historical Society.
The 127-page paperback, a part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, is Maulhardt's 11th historical book. The Camarillo author is also a teacher and runs an insurance agency, but his passion is his family's history.
Maulhardt is the great-greatgrandson of Conejo Valley pioneer Johannes Borchard, the brother of road and park namesake Caspar Borchard. Each sibling owned 4,000 acres of Conejo Valley land.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Wayne Maulhardt The first people to get large chunks of Conejo Valley land-- 48,000 acres in all--got them as Spanish grantees in 1803 when the Mexican government gave grants to citizens who helped it win against Spain.
Maulhardt's Conejo Valley roots run deep as he's also related to one of those original grantees, Ignacio Rodriguez, through his great aunt Florence Obiols Maulhardt.
In 1870 the United States took over the land. Santa Barbara investors came in and purchased Conejo Valley land. Creeks flowing through land and shade from oak trees made it the perfect place for 20,000 sheep.
"They saw lush and rolling hills," Maulhardt said.
But the number of sheep dropped to 2,000 after a drought in 1876.
"They lost their shirts," he said.
That's when the Santa Barbara landowners started selling the land in smaller parcels and the Borchards came into the Conejo Valley, Maulhardt said.
His family's land included what is now Potrero Ranch and Sierra Vista Ranch, part of the Santa Monica National Park system. Its 8,000 acres ran from the what is now the 101 Freeway to Boney Mountain.
After the drought of 1876, the land stayed rural for decades for lack of water, the author said.
Another problem was the isolation due to the steep grades that cut it off from development.
"The pioneers always tried to improve the grades. There were many accidents because of the steep inclines."
Every week serious injuries occurred and lives were lost among those driving wagons up and down the grades. Recording it all was a local newspaper in Oxnard, Maulhardt said.
Archival photos of family gatherings and wagons going up the grades are in his book. In the background are landmark oak trees and silhouettes of familiar mountains.
"My favorite pictures are of family gatherings. The people didn't have a whole lot, but they put on the best they had. Everyone wore hats," Maulhardt said.
The author will have a book signing at 2 p.m. Sun., May 2, at the Stagecoach Inn Museum, 51 S. Ventu Park Road in Newbury Park.