The development of Ventura County is largely attributed to the Borchard family, who were responsible for the first commercial crop on the Oxnard plain in the 1800s.

Christian Borchard, 1816-1903, arrived in the Oxnard area in 1867.

The family’s impact on the area began in 1867, when Christian Borchard and his son, John Edward “Ed” Borchard, planted the first commercial crop of 30 acres of wheat and 30 acres of barley.

Within a decade, their crops grew to nearly 40,000 acres of barley and 15,000 acres of corn.

“Like many immigrant families, the many branches of the Borchards came to Ventura County with little money, not speaking the language and working for each other in order to create a better life for the families,” said Jeff Maulhardt of Camarillo, a descendant of the Borchards who is organizing a picnic in their honor on Aug. 5.

The many branches of the family were part of the earliest farmers who worked hard and gave back to the community, Maulhardt said. But their journey didn’t come without challenges.

For instance, Christian Borchard and his young family suffered the hardships of traveling across the harsh plains and treacherous mountains to try his hand in the gold fields — only to shift his efforts to make a living anyway he could.

“This included bringing supplies out to the miners, running a boarding house, then after investing in land in San Joaquin Valley, only to lose to the historic floods of 1866, which led to his search for farmland in Southern California,” Maulhardt said.

In other challenges, “Johannes Borchard, nephew of Christian Borchard, left Germany in 1871 with his wife and two sons, only to bury his 6-year-old in New York, and bury his 9-month-old once he reached California,” Maulhardt noted.  

Today, the Borchards are credited with numerous local efforts, including the development of several schools, churches and a hospital in Ventura County. For instance, the Borchards and their descendants, including the Friedrich family, gave land and money to establish Santa Clara High School, St. Anthony School and Guadalupe Church and School. 

Other branches of families that connect to the Borchards include Ayala, Connelly, Daily, Donlon, Friedrich, Kaufman, Kelley, Kohler, Lagomarsino, Maulhardt, McGonigle, McLoughlin, Olsen, Pfeiler, Riemann, Saviers, Scholle, Vacca and Wucherpfennig.

On Aug. 5, a Borchard reunion celebrating the family’s 150 years in Ventura County will take place at Oxnard Historic Farm Park from noon to 5 p.m.

The reunion will feature special activities and offerings, including Borchard Beer brewed locally by Poseidon Brewery, barbecue by Chef Ernie Borjas, apple strudel and pretzels from Jeanette’s Edelweiss restaurant, and corn on the cob grown at Oxnard Historic Farm Park.

There will also be a performance about the Caspar Borchard family by the docents from Stagecoach Inn, as well as a book signing by Maulhardt, author of several books, including Legendary Locals of Oxnard, The First Farmers of the Oxnard Plain, and Oxnard Sugar Beets Ventura County’s Lost Cash Crop. Joining Maulhardt will be another Borchard descendant, Anne Schroeder, who will be signing her book, Branches on the Conejo.

Early Agriculture

Many of the early farmers leased their land before they had enough money to purchase it, according to Maulhardt’s book, Oxnard Sugar Beets Ventura County’s Lost Cash Crop.

Johannes “John” Borchard, 1836-1922, among first to arrive in the Oxnard area in 1871.

This was the case for Jacob and Gottfried Maulhardt and Johannes Borchard. The Maulhardt brothers traveled from Germany in 1867 to escape the Prussian Wars and joined Christian Borchard in California. When Borchard was flooded out of his Contra Costa land in 1866, the group traveled to the unfarmed land of what would become known as the Oxnard Plain.

They leased 1,200 acres from Juan Camarillo, a wealthy landowner and philanthropist. And by December of 1872 — while the land was still part of the soon-to-be-partitioned Santa Barbara County — the three immigrants had paid $12,310, or $10 an acre, to Camarillo.

“These first farmers grew mostly barley and corn, with many of the larger ranches raising sheep and hogs,” Jeff Maulhardt noted. “However, wild mustard covered the cultivated land. Christian Borchard took full advantage of the invasive plant.”

The site of the wild mustard plant rising six feet in the air and covering miles of uncultivated land was an encouraging sign for the first farmers looking to plant new life. After modifying a Mayberry grain header, Christian Borchard harvested 25 tons of wild mustard plant at 2 cents a pound.

Gottfried Maulhardt came with to the Oxnard area in 1867.

In 1870, he produced 5,710 sacks that weight 265 tons — reaping him a profit of $1,075.

“This bumped him into the top 10 producers listed in the Products of Industry in Ventura County,” Jeff Maulhardt said.

The founding of Oxnard

Johannes “John” Borchard was one of the first farmers to arrive in 1871, according to Maulhardt’s book, Legendary Locals of Oxnard.

After many years of hard work and sacrifice, he was in position to become one of the first major benefactors of the community.

Johannes was born in Desingerode, Germany, and grew up in the neighboring village of Werxhausen. He immigrated to America in 1871 with his wife, Elizabeth, two young sons and little money. Tragically, both sons died along the family’s 3,000-mile trip to the west coast.

Johannes was also involved in philanthropic endeavors. In 1912, for instance, a need arose for a new hospital on the Oxnard plain, and he donated the land as well as $20,000. He also sponsored families from Germany, paying for their trips from Europe and giving them jobs when they arrived in Ventura County.

When Johannes passed away in 1922, the Oxnard Daily News noted that one of his favorite hobbies was to “help people get on their feet.”

Another large contribution to agriculture in the area was when Ed Borchard planted a variety of sugar beets that led to his partnership with Albert F. Maulhardt, and the development of the sugar factory, completed in 1898. The factory led to the development of the city of Oxnard to addressing the needs of the sugar factory workers, between 300 and 500 workers. Fundamental to the establishment of the sugar factory was the financial investment by the Oxnard brothers, led by Henry Oxnard.

The Borchards were also instrumental in the development of the early church, schools and hospital. Christian Borchard was on the building committee for the original Santa Clara Chapel in 1877, and Ed Borchard was on the 1904 building committee for the brick Santa Clara Church on E Street.

“Many of the Borchard descendants, including the Friedrich family, have given generous donations to the hospital to help it grow to its present site,” Maulhardt said.

Borchard Reunion — 150 years in Ventura County

From left to right: Johannes “John” Borchard, Theresa Borchard Maulhardt, John Borchard, Annie Borchard Friedrich, Cecelia Friedrich, Joseph F. Friedrich and Elizabeth Friedrich. Mid-1910s.

The reunion on Aug. 5 will celebrate the many efforts of the Borchard family — which continue to make a lasting impact on Ventura County.

Fittingly, the reunion will take place at Oxnard Historic Farm Park, which was approved by the

Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board as Landmark No. 165 in 2004.

“We will be offering a barley brew, a Borchard beer for the occasion, and crafted in the same 1870s style by local brewers at Poseidon Brewing Company,” Maulhardt said.

Oxnard Historic Farm Park is overseen by the nonprofit Oxnard Historic Farm Park Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of the two oldest structures on the Oxnard Plain and creating a home for Oxnard history.

“Our goal is to create a place where people can learn about the history of the area as well as share stories and pictures,” said Maulhardt. “Oxnard needs a home to document its past and connect the many groups of people who have come here and have contributed.”   

In future efforts, “We also plan to publish our own set of biographical histories of the people and businesses of the Oxnard Plain,” Maulhardt noted. “We want to tell an ongoing story.”

During the Borchard reunion, guests can tour the museum in the main house, which is being restored to its original 1870s construction. The property also features a Courtyard of Memories,” consisting of 5,000 engraved bricks from sponsors, as well as an 1870s winery that was originally used to store the wine for the Santa Clara Chapel.

The sugar factory, to process sugar beets grown by the Borchards and their family, was completed by 1899.

“The original 1870s (main house) can be viewed; however, one of the purposes of the reunion is to raise awareness and funds to restore it — this will be our next project,” said Maulhardt. “The winery is also in a state of disrepair right now, but it can still be viewed as it stands as a 140-year-old brick building.”

Oxnard Historic Farm Park also has a small vineyard and orchard, antique implements and a display barn for tractors and thresher machines. Guests can view a John Borchard spring carriage from the 1880s too.

“It’s important to keep this history alive because the many branches of the Borchard family were part of the earliest farmers who worked hard and gave back to the community,” said Maulhardt. “Hard work and cooperation were keys for their survival and success — they had a strong work ethic, strong beliefs and strong backs.”

Admission to the Borchard reunion is free; tickets for the barbecue are $20. For more information, visit www.oxnardfarmpark.org; or contact Maulhardt at 844-9877 or jeffmohart@aol.com.