A Tale of Two Trees

Everyone present had the opportunity to grab a shovel and be a part of history.   Which Staci Brown and the writer did but Staci thought that she was going to a dance.

by Jennifer Tipton

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Ventura are the two trees standing together on top of the hillside, they can be seen throughout most of our town and are a beacon to Ventura.

There are many different stories about the actual history of two trees, with actual not necessarily being factual. For instance, I had always heard that there were originally 5 trees planted by an unknown gentleman, one tree for each of his five daughters, fun story but not true…

Some say the trees were planted as a beacon for sea going ships and that on certain sailing charts you can still see the trees on the hill marking Ventura, interesting and kind of romantic, but again, don’t know if this is true…

Truth be told, in 1898 just 32 years after Ventura city limits were incorporated, a horticulturist by the name of Joseph Sexton planted in fact 13 Blue Gum Eucalyptus saplings atop the hill simply for the beauty and to mark the western boundary between his land and that of the Lloyd Ranch (no, he did not have thirteen daughters and I don’t believe he was a sailor.)

Joseph Sexton was noted in history books for his work with walnuts, avocados and the introduction of pampas grass, he hired his neighbor Owen Marron to do the planting and caretaking of the sapling trees which were not even native to California but originate from Australia. Owen Marron was joined by many volunteers to maintain the trees, one of whom was E.P. Foster.

In those days, caring for the trees was quite challenging because the water had to be hauled by horseback or burro up the steep hillside, but the 13 trees survived for five years until 1903 when sadly a wildfire burned 8 to the ground.

In 1940, shortly after WWII with 5 trees remaining, a group of Halloween pranksters cut 3 down (not so funny.)

In 1956, these were replanted and 5 trees once again stood together until 1958 when vandals hit again and chopped one down leaving 4.

In 1961 one of the 3 fell and died, leaving one of the original trees planted in 1898 and one replacement from the 1950’s.

In 1966, the Ventura Junior Women’s Club made it their project to bring back the 5 trees but unfortunately failed.

In 2005, all of Ventura watched as flames swept across the hillside and over the ridgeline toward our beloved two trees, thankfully, but they were not harmed.

A fun fact is that one year Ventura High School moved an entire classroom of desks to the hillside where two trees stand, as a senior prank, oh these jokesters, at least it wasn’t malicious!

Today, the eastern most tree is thought to be one of the original 13 trees and where in their native Australian climate Blue Gum trees can live 400-500 years, here in California their life expectancy is only 100-200 years. The eastern most tree has indeed been reported to be “deader than a doornail.”

On Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day) Rancho San Buenaventura Conservation Trust which protects the hillsides along with Richard Atmore who has worked the land owned by Lloyd Properties since 1979 and Baron Bros. Nursery who provided a new sapling to replace the eastern most tree, did just that.

Many folks in town said they saw a lot of activity up there and wondered what was going on! The event shuttled nearly one hundred up the steep hillside on a one-way road and about 40 participants chose to hike, although the event was supposed to be private and by invitation only, they turned no one away. Beautifully coordinated by Richard Atmore and his lovely wife Bonnie Atmore, they served wine and hors d’oeuvres at the top of the hill while our very own and very talented Shawn Jones played acoustic guitar.

After saying a prayer for the young tree, it was placed gently between the two remaining and everyone present had the opportunity to be a part by lining up to grab a shovel and be a part of the history taking place.

The future plan is to open the area up to the public and share the history, tell the tale of Two Trees – the beacon on the hill.

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