The Homeplace of Original Conejo Valley Settler Nils Olsen in 1913

This historic photo and information was generously provided by Gerry Olsen, grandson of Nils Olsen, one of the original settlers in the Conejo Valley in the 1890s.

Nils Olsen was born over 150 years ago (June 16, 1859) in Norway. After a stint in the Norwegian Army, he decided in 1884 that he wanted to move to the United States. So he started saving his money. In late January 1886 he bid farewell to his family. He arrived New York on February 20, 1886 via ship...it took about 16 days to get from Bergen, Norway to New York via Liverpool, England and Ireland (cost was roughly $58).

Built in 1905, this is the home of original Conejo Valley settler Nils Olsen in 1913.

Built in 1905, this is the home of original Conejo Valley settler Nils Olsen in 1913.

Two days after arriving in New York, Nils was off to San Francisco, where he arrived nine days later.  Then later that month (March 1886) he took the train and stagecoach to Santa Barbara, where for four years he worked as a stone mason. In 1889, Nils met George Edwards, whose family owned 20,000 acres in the Conejo Valley and who was selling parcels.

In 1890, Nils and four other Norwegians, Ole Nelson, Lars Pederson, George Hanson and Ole Anderson purchased 650 acres from Edwards. Apparently the land cost about $3/acre for flatlands and $2/acre for hillsides. They settled and grew barley and wheat for the next 20 years.  This area was known as the Norwegian Colony.

Anderson sold his land to Hanson by 1900 and moved back to Norway. Nelson sold his land to Pederson in 1902. Hanson's wife (he died at age 39 in 1901) sold her land to Olsen in 1902-1903. That left just the Olsens and Pedersons.

Olsen's first home was southeast of the corner of Olsen and Moorpark roads. In 1905, he and his family moved into the new three bedroom home and barn pictured above. The photo was taken from the hill behind where the Church of the LDS on Moorpark Road currently resides. The home was located on, but of course, OLSEN Road near the corner of Olsen and Mountclef (adjacent to Cal Lutheran University).

Outdoor castle scenes of Wuthering Heights were filmed on the Olsen property in 1938. Nils passed away on December 14, 1941 at the age of 82.  In 1954, the home pictured above was torn down to make room for a more modern home.

There is so much more history to tell about these Norwegian settlers who bravely settled on the land we now reside.  Here I am stressing out about pulling weeds and mowing the lawn. These hearty Norwegians will forever be remembered in the Conejo Valley.

Views in 1957 Looking East From Lynn and Gainsborough Roads in Thousand Oaks

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Steve Dibblee provided this shot taken by his father, Walt Dibblee, from the mountain ridge at the northwest corner of what is now Lynn Road and Gainsborough Road in Thousand Oaks sometime in the year 1957, seven years before the city was incorporated. This ridge is just southwest of nearby Tarantula Hill and the shot is facing east. So how about comparing it to a few recent shots looking east from Tarantula Hill.

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I see a lot of oak trees and clouds in all of the photos but...just a wee bit more other things, like houses, roads, cars and such in the more recent pictures. :)

See more of Dibblee's photographs from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s at VenturaViews.com where you also have the option of acquiring high-resolution prints of these blasts to the past. Thanks to Steve Dibblee for sharing some of his late father's work with us here on Conejo Valley Guide and at www.facebook.com/ConejoValleyGuide.

Rare Images of Ventura County History on Display at CSUCI Beginning January 26th

Ladies in feathered hats boarding the first train from Oxnard to Hueneme; a Model T Ford clattering through a beet field and the opening ceremony for the Conejo Grade are some of the images available in a newly-digitized collection at CSU Channel Islands’ John Spoor Broome Library.

About 40 historic photos of Ventura County from the collection will be on display in the John Spoor Broome Library art gallery beginning Jan. 26 in “Ventura County: Places, Voices and Histories,” a series of photographs, penny post cards, and posters that show Ventura County over the last 100 or so years.

The opening for the exhibit will be Thursday Jan. 26 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the gallery at One University Drive in Camarillo.

Professor of Art and Broome Gallery coordinator Irina D. Costache, Ph.D., curated the show, which is organized in collaboration with CSUCI’s Head of Unique Collections Matt Cook and Professor of Chicana/o Studies Jose Alamillo, Ph.D.

The show will be organized into sections that highlight different aspects of Ventura County’s history such as cars and roads, people, places, fields and farms.

Historic “voices” in the show will be in the form of a video of Ventura County’s “braceros,” a term to describe Mexican laborers who worked in the fields on a seasonal basis. 

Cook said it took staff and student volunteers several years to digitize all 1500 images in the collection, much of which was housed at the E.P. Foster Library in Ventura.

Limited parking is available on campus with the purchase of a $6 daily permit; follow signs to the parking permit dispensers. Free parking is available at the Camarillo Metrolink Station/Lewis Road with bus service to and from the campus. Riders should board the CSUCI Vista Bus to the campus; the cash-only fare is $1.25 each way. Buses arrive and depart from the Camarillo Metrolink Station every 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. For exact times, check the schedule at www.goventura.org.

About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CSUCI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CSUCI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more by visiting CSUCI’s Social Media.

Aerial View of Central Thousand Oaks, Including Tarantula Hill, in 1957

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Walt Dibblee opened his commercial studio in Ventura in 1949 and as Ventura County grew, the demand for aerial photography expanded. Walt bought a plane, learned to fly and for the next three decades photographed the cities of Ventura County from above.

The 1957 aerial shot above took place on a foggy day and captured Tarantula Hill on the right and what is now Conejo Community Park and the prominent Conejo Valley Botanic Garden hill in the foreground.

While we don't have an aerial shot of this scene from today, here's a look from the Los Robles Trail.

More recent view of Tarantula Hill from the Los Robles Trail East; The Oaks Mall in the foreground.

More recent view of Tarantula Hill from the Los Robles Trail East; The Oaks Mall in the foreground.

Walt's son Steve continues the tradition today with over 30 years of professional experience. Steve has shared some of Walt's work from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s at VenturaViews.com.

See other scenes from the smaller hill near Lynn Road and Gainsborough Road southwest of Tarantula Hill looking east and looking west.

National Park Service Announces 2014 "Spirit of the Mountains" Photo Contest

"Corazon del Matador" People's Choice Best Photo 2013 (Photo Courtesy of Jazan Kozma)Amateur photographers from all walks of life are encouraged to submit their favorite snaps for the National Park Service’s popular Spirit of the Mountains contest.

Entries may be submitted in person at the Santa Monica Mountains Interagency Visitor Center, 26876 Mulholland Highway, Calabasas, from Saturday, September 20th until Saturday, October 11th.

“As in past years, anyone can participate in the contest by submitting a matted print,” said National Park Service ranger and contest coordinator Sheila Braden.

A highlight of the contest is critiquing by professional judges of all winning entries, to be held at the photo exhibition opening at 2 p.m. on November 2nd. All entries will be on display November 2-23 at the visitor center, located on the grounds of King Gillette Ranch.

First, second and third-place ribbons will be awarded. Categories throughout the Santa Monica Mountains and adjacent venues include plants, animals, scenics, People in Parklands and the 2014 challenge: Variations on Light. The overall winner will receive the Best of Show award.

Winning photos may also be published in “Outdoors,” a popular quarterly publication of events and programs with a circulation of 70,000.

Entry forms and instructions are available daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the visitor center (26876 Mulholland Hwy) or online at www.nps.gov/samo/photocontest.htm. Submissions are limited to two photos per amateur photographer. For further information, call 805-370-2301.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country. encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park Service, it comprises a seamless network of local, state and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological biversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/samo.

Impressions of the Conejo Valley Presentation by Photographer Ed Lawrence

The Thousand Oaks Library Special Collections contain some amazing items, including one of the largest American Radio Archives in the world, a Local History Collection containing thousands of books, pamphlets, maps, photos and other items, and a 300 volume Book Arts Collection. Learn more about the Special Collections at www.tol.lib.ca.us/Specoll/index.html.

The Local History Collection contains well over 100,000 photographs from Ed Lawrence, The News Chronicle and professional photographers Frank Knight, Herb Noseworthy and Scott Harrison.

The Ed Lawrence Collection chronicles the growth of Thousand Oaks with over 15,000 images of the Conejo Valley through more recent times. Through a partnership between the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation, the City of Thousand Oaks, Conejo Recreation and Park District, and California Lutheran University, the Lawrence Collection is now permanently part of the Thousand Oaks Library archives.

In the 50 minute video below, Lawrence takes us through a journey of the history of Thousand Oaks in "Impressions of the Conejo Valley."

To see more of Ed Lawrence's photos, visit edlawrencephoto.com. You can actually purchase high quality prints of some of his best photos there.