Rancho Camulos Museum has won a grant from the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation to archive a treasure trove of documents left behind by August Rübel, a Harvard-educated farmer who purchased the ranch in 1924.
The grant will aid museum volunteers and Rübel’s descendants – who still own the ranch – in organizing and preserving papers that shed “new light on the unique business and lifestyle of running a complex and industrious Southern California ranch in the early twentieth century,” according to a Camulos Museum publication.
Rancho Camulos is located 10 miles west of Interstate 5 along Highway 126. It’s the proverbial “Home of Ramona,” inasmuch as author Helen Hunt Jackson is believed to have based her influential 1884 “Ramona” novel on her visits there, when the ranch was owned by the Del Valle family. Four decades later the Del Valles sold to Rübel.
Wood-Claeyssens is based in Santa Barbara and funds arts and humanities projects. Its history is somewhat similar to that of Camulos; it’s a family foundation run by the heirs of Green B. Taylor, a cattleman who in the 1870s purchased another old Mexican land-grant rancho that stretched from Ventura to the Rincon.
The Rübel papers consist of personal and business correspondence dating to the 1920s, which had been stored in a bunkhouse at Camulos.
The grant will be used to process the papers, write a history of the Rübel family’s ownership, and publish a booklet for local schools, museums and libraries. The booklet is to be written by Camulos historian Ellen Knowles, who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from USC.
The grant will also pay for the creation of a digital archive “for scholars interested in Southern California agricultural history,” said museum manager Susan Falck.
“Already, the musty files of August Rübel are yielding impressive and sometimes fascinating finds,” the museum publication states. Among them are “a map noting the California oil wells in which Rübel owned a financial stake, and which over the years generated substantial revenues for his family.”
Rübel created a small museum inside the Del Valles’ winery building for artifacts he found on the property. The Del Valles had established one of the first wineries in Los Angeles County.
“Rübel took pride in preserving and at times promoting the historical legacy of the property he acquired in 1924,” the publication states, “as evidenced by a letter sent by a New Jersey woman in 1929. Addressed to ‘Ramona,’ the letter inquired after the well-being of the fictitious heroine and her children.”
The son of Swiss immigrants, Rübel died in North Africa in 1943 when the ambulance he was driving hit a German land mine. His widow, Mary, died in 1968. Their daughter, Shirley Rübel Lorenz, is president of the museum board.
Rancho Camulos Museum is a 501c3 nonproft organization. Museum tours are offered Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For information call 805-521-1501 or visit RanchoCamulos.org.