posted on Jun, 27 2014 @ 10:43 PM
They say Grizzly bears used to rule the Sespe? Is it completely unfathomable to think maybe Grizzlies could still be in the area? Anyways, some neat
history on the area.
The California Oil Museum will be transported back to the wild days of the Santa Clara River Valley when the latest exhibit, “The Wild Sespe:
Oil, Grizzlies and Gunsmoke” debuts on Sunday, July 2. Santa Clara Valley Bank is sponsoring the opening reception for the exhibit, starting at 2
p.m. at the museum, located at 1001 E. Main St.The exhibit blends the old with the new: never before exhibited photos early in the 20th century as
well as contemporary photos of the Sespe by award-winning photographer Michael Moore - a native of Santa Paula - are highlights of the exhibit that
attest to the enduring beauty of the wilderness.So awesome is the Sespe that the Fillmore Herald noted in 1911 that “Nature has few places in the
universe possessing greater scenic beauty. . .”The rugged Sespe back country includes Sespe Creek, stretching 55 miles from high in the mountains
above Ojai to the Santa Clara River near Fillmore, passing through the Sespe wilderness part of the Las Padres National forest and the home of the
ambitious program to save the endangered California Condor.The Sespe was also the home to the Chumash who painted the most elaborate and colorful rock
art in North America: international photographer Rick Bury’s Cibachrome prints of these mysterious and magnificent paintings, hidden in the
Sespe’s remote caverns, are on exhibit for the first time in Ventura County.The Sespe’s enemy was mans’ ambitions: oil exploration, brownstone
quarrying, borax mining, timber cutting, cattle and sheep grazing and river damming plans were common in the Sespe and in the 1920s a plan by the
Fillmore Chamber of Commerce promoting a monorail system - through the mountains to Sespe Hot Springs 28 miles north of the city and on to Bakersfield
- was derailed. Such stories and schemes are told in the exhibit with photographs and maps from early in the last century.
Grizzly bears once ruled the Sespe - a towering example stands guard over the exhibit as a reminder - but like other animals there was a bounty placed
on their heads. Herman Keene was the most famous bounty hunter and his bear and mountain lion traps as well as scrapbooks and personal snapshots are
also exhibited.Feuds over the Sespe’s rich natural resources were often violent struggles and gunsmoke often wafted through the area as people
settled their scores with guns, including one gang of settlers desperate for Sespe water after years of drought. They ambushed and murdered Sespe
land-grant owner Thomas More in 1877; fourteen years later, a similar fate claimed the life of Joe Dye, who tried to monopolize the oil riches of the
Sespe. Visitors to the exhibit will also learn the fate of George Henley, who tried to block access to the Sespe’s brownstone quarries, oil fields
and river damming sites.Contemporary history is also explored in the exhibit, curated by the Sespe Group of Santa Paula.The opening reception for
“The Wild Sespe: Oil, Grizzlies and Gunsmoke” is free and open to the public although the museum requests small donations ($2 adults, $1 child).
The California Oil Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the museum at 933-0076.