The historic land upon which the Camarillo Ranch now sits was a part of the original Rancho Calleguas, one of the last Mexican land grants (9,998.29 acres). It was given by Governor Alvarado to Jose Pedro Ruiz in 1847. Juan Camarillo (1812-1880) obtained the rancho from the Ruiz family in 1875. Juan was a member of the Hijar-Padres Expedition to California in 1834 and he settled in Ventura in 1857. Following Juan’s death in 1880, Adolfo Camarillo, his oldest son, took over the ranch operations at the age of sixteen. During the next 78 years, Adolfo operated the Camarillo Ranch, changing the operations from mostly cattle to crops. He was a leading innovator bringing in lima beans, plus barley, corn, alfalfa, walnuts, and citrus.
Adolfo (1864-1958) married Isabel Menchaca (1861-1936) in 1888 and they moved into an adobe home on the Ranch, which was later destroyed by fire. They had seven children, with only four living into adulthood. The Camarillo Ranch House was built in 1892 by Adolfo using the services of Architects Franklin Ward and Herman Anlauf. This three-story, 14-room home was built in the Victorian Queen Anne style.
In 1890, with the help of two Chumash Indian boys, Adolfo planted two rows of eucalyptus trees. The trees arched across Highway 101 in Camarillo for many years. Some of the trees still line the north side of the freeway. Adolfo’s younger brother, Juan (1867-1935) later donated land for St. Mary Magdalen Chapel (completed in 1914) and St. John’s Seminary (completed in 1939), both prominent in Camarillo history. Juan chose not to stay at the Ranch and lived and worked in Ventura and Buenos Aires.
Adolfo has been called “The Last Spanish Don” and was a leader in numerous organizations throughout Camarillo, Ventura County, and California. He held leadership roles with the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Ventura County Fair Board, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, Bank of A. Levy, Bank of America, Peoples Lumber Company, Los Rancheros Visitadores, California State Fair Board, and California Lima Bean Growers Association. Adolfo served as a member of the Pleasant Valley School District Board of Trustees for 57 years (1894-1951). In 1950, Pope Pius XII named Adolfo a Knight of St. Gregory.
Adolfo also helped the community in other ways. He gave 50 acres of land for the first high school in Camarillo – Adolfo Camarillo High School. He also gave land for the building of the Southern Pacific Railroad through Camarillo (1904), the new Conejo Grade (Highway 101) in 1937, and the expansion of St. John’s Seminary to include St. John’s College.