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LINKED WITH THE LAND BORCHARD FAMILY'S DESCENDANTS PAY A VISIT TO DYNASTY'S ROOTS.

Byline: Amy Raisin Staff Writer

Ida Fay Borchard Mahan remembers well her family's farm, the last parcel of land overlooking what is now the Conejo Grade, not far from the road that today bears her grandfather's name.

Hers was an easy childhood, spent pitting apricots and playing tag around the chicken coop, and it was only after she married that she understood what it meant to be from one of the most prominent families of the region.

``We weren't really aware of that as children. But we soon found out after we got married and the museums would want our history,'' said Mahan, 80, the daughter of Casper Borchard Jr. and the granddaughter of Conejo Valley pioneer Caspar Borchard Sr.

``Then we began to wonder if we were pretty important in the valley.''

Mahan is among 200 Borchard descendents who gathered Saturday for a potluck picnic and reunion at the community center in Newbury Park that bears the family name - one of the many landmarks and street signs that are testaments to the importance of one of the area's founding families.

Last together in 1990, the various branches of the the family pored over old photos, caught up on news and gossip and shared stories about the past.

Rita Edsall, another of Caspar's granddaughters, used to live across the street from what is now the Reino Road community center, and reflected on how the area has grown.

``You can't stop progress, but it's kind of sad,'' Edsall said. ``I never imagined as a girl that it would look like this.''

Don Maulhardt, a great-, great-, great-grandson of Caspar, Sr., said that the family history can seem far removed, growing up on one of the Oxnard farms established by his ancestors gives him a awarness of his roots.

``Living out on the ranch, with a barn, is part of a living history for me because I see some of the same buildings that my relatives lived in,'' said Maulhardt, 26, adding that the small plot he farms today pales in comparison to the seemingly endless fields farmed by his family more than a century ago.

Caspar and Johannes Borchard were German immigrants who settled in the region in the 1870s, following an uncle who established a cattle ranch in Northern California.

In all, the brothers purchased about 8,000 acres - Caspar securing nearly 4,000 acres, mostly south of what is now the Ventura Freeway, from the Conejo Grade to about Ventu Park Road. Johannes settled in the El Rio area of Oxnard, and owned parcels in the Conejo Valley, as well.

Johannes and his wife, Elizabeth, raised three daughters on the Oxnard Plain, while Caspar and Theresa had eight children, five of them boys.

Once grown, four of Caspar's sons moved to Orange County, where they farmed and raised families of their own.

The brothers' children and descendents Borchard continued the farming tradition, although only about 20 percent of the estimated 800 relatives living today still are farmers, said family historian Mary Olsen Rydberg, a great-granddaughter of Caspar Sr.

Rydberg added that younger generations have become doctors, veterinarians, architects, even rodeo cowboys. Stephen Borchard, great-grandson of Caspar Sr., is the mayor of Woodland, a town of about 40,000 in Northern California, and distant relative Joe Borchard is a standout athlete at Stanford University.

No matter what the younger generations achieve, however, historians are unwavering about the impact the Borchard brothers and their families had on the region that hundreds of thousands of suburbanites today call home.

``They were a marvelous founding family,'' said Miriam Sprankling, curator of history at the Stagecoach Inn Museum in Newbury Park, which details the families and farms of the area. ``They were religious, moral people who had a great impact on the region, particularly at the west end of the (Conejo) valley.''

With the closest grade school in what is now Westlake Village, Caspar Sr. was instrumental in establishing Timber School in 1889, a quaint schoolhouse on the western end of the valley. A reproduction of the old school stands outside the Stagecoach Inn.

Carolyn Piers, 17, a fifth-generation Borchard, came from Northern California for Saturday's reunion and visited the schoolhouse before the festivities began.

``I went into the school and my mom told me that my grandmother and great-grandmother went to the school,'' Piers said. ``My mom told me that my great-grandmother (Teresa) rode her horse to school everyday. It brought a sense of history.''

Today, locals enjoy Borchard Park and the Borchard Community Center and travel Borchard Road, all markers that memorialize the family that helped settle the region.

Edsall, Caspar's granddaughter, remembers a childhood of dove hunting with her brothers and plane spotting in Sycamore Canyon as a young woman during World War II. And although she was only 10 when her grandfather died, she remembers his commitment to the land.

``He loved to farm and he planted wherever he found a vacant spot. I remember corn growing along what is now Borchard Road,'' said Edsall, 79, whose mother, Teresa, was the youngest of Caspar's children.

Edsall, from the third generation of the Conejo Valley Borchards, recalled that her brothers worked hard on the family farm, milking cows and tending to the acres of apricot and walnut orchards.

The fourth generation also grew up among family farms, like Rydberg, an Oxnard resident who keeps a detailed family history. This year, she was responsible for rounding up the nearly 200 descendents who attended Saturday's Borchard family reunion.

``We're a close-knit family,'' said Rydberg, 67. ``We just had lots of relatives and lots of parties and barbecues and lots of fun.

``When I look back on our history, we have a great heritage. We come from strong, honest, hard-working stock.''

CAPTION(S):

7 photos

Photo: (1 -- color)

Rita Edsall, granddaughter of pioneer Caspar Borchard Sr., recalls his commitment to the Newbury Park land he farmed with his sons.

(2 -- color) That's Rita Edsall at 20, left, and as an infant, right, with her 6-year-old sister, Margaret.

(3) Farming was the Borchard's life. From left, about 1913, are Caspar Borchard Sr., Casper Jr., seated on the grain harvester, and Bea Sherer with Milton Caspter, 2.

(4) Caspar Borchard Sr. is seated with his wife, Theresa, on his right, and their eight children in this formal family portrait, taken in 1893.

(5) Farming pioneer Johannes Borchard and his wife, Elizabeth, are pictured with their three daughters in this photo, taken sometime in the 1880s.

(6) Caspar Borchard Sr.'s eight children: seated, from left, Casper Jr., Teresa, Antone and Rosa; and standing, Frank, Leo, Mary and Charles.

(7 -- color) Maryann Borchard Traylor greets family during the Borchard family picnic in Newbury Park on Saturday.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 9, 2000
Words:1126
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