April 23, 1938 — Rübel family with their buggy at Rancho Camulos.
From left: Unknown; Mary Rübel (mom); Nathalie ("Boo") and Shirley ("Pete") in driver's seat; August Rübel (dad).
According to Nathalie Rübel Trefzger (interview 11-26-2013), the stagecoach was left behind by the Del Valle family when her parents, August and Mary Rübel,
purchased Rancho Camulos from the Del Valles in about 1924. Nathalie and Shirley (two of the Rübels' five surviving children) said they enjoyed riding around the ranch in the stagecoach
as children. They said it was sometimes pulled by horses but usually by a tractor. They also were allowed to ride horses around the ranch when they were little.
According to Triem & Stone (1996) — and to his two surviving daughters in 2013, Shirley Rübel Lorenz and Nathalie (Rübel) Trefzger —
August A. Rübel was a New Yorker born in Switzerland while his parents were traveling there. (Despite the umlauts, he didn't speak German, according to his daughters.)
He grew up on the East Coast and served with the
American Field Service during World War I, driving an ambulance in France from the fall of 1917 until 1919.
Rübel attended Harvard University and came to Ventura County in 1922,
first living in Aliso Canyon, four miles west of Saticoy, where he and his bride, the former Mary Colgate McIsaac,
purchased a 400-acre ranch.
In 1924, Rübel also purchased Rancho Camulos (pronounced kə-MOO-lōs) from the heirs of Ygnacio del Valle. The Rübels moved to the property in 1925.
In April 1925, intent on developing his Aliso Canyon ranch into one of the finest bovine breeding farms in the United States (Los Angeles Times, 4/26/1925), August Rübel paid the highest price
on record — $110,000 — for a 4-year-old Holstein bull named Prince Aaggie from the Berylwood Stock Farm at Hueneme. At the same time, he purchased the entire Berylwood
herd (179 additional head) and gave his outfit the name "Billiwhack Stock Farm." The herd's manager, J.W. Snodgrass, came along with it.
"Billiwhack" was World War I Army slang for "the place where one hangs his hat" (Oxnard Daily Courier, 4/21/1925). It's a derivation of "bailiwick." Think of it this way:
If something is not your bailiwick, it is not your thing, not your place, not something you're comfortable with. Conversely, if something is your bailiwick, or billiwhack,
it is your place; as a physical location, it's a place where you're comfortable.
Prince Aaggie was California's undefeated champion and the world's highest yearly record butter bull. Thus his death from a twisted intestine in June 1926, just one year after his purchase by Rübel,
sent shock waves throughout the livestock community and devastated his owner (Oxnard Daily Courier, 6/15/1926). Prince Aaggie was uninsured at the time of his death. Rübel
had just spent an estimated $1 million on new reinforced concrete buildings, a modern refrigeration plant, refrigerated delivery trucks, and his livestock; and he had other improvements in the works when his prize bull died (The Piru News, 8/30/1928).
He sold off the herd and shut down the dairy farm, which sat fallow for two years until 1928 when he sold the property to Ben Fratkin's Valley Dairy Co. of Los Angeles and El Monte. Fratkin reopened it and
continued to operate it under the Billiwhack name until the early 1940s.
Rübel taxidermied Prince Aaggie's head and mounted it on the southern wall of the main adobe at Rancho Camulos, where he and Mary raised five children.
The AFS ambulance service was reactivated in 1939. American volunteers drove ambulances in France, North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, Germany, India and Burma,
carrying more than 700,000 casualties by the end of World War II.
August Rübel returned to the AFS in 1942 and was killed in Tunisia on April 28, 1943,
when the ambulance he was driving hit a German land mine.
He is buried in an American military cemetery in Carthage, now a suburb of Tunis. (After the war, in 1947, AFS transitioned into a student exchange program.)
Mary Rübel married Edwin Burger in 1946, who continued as the resident manager of Rancho Camulos after Mary's death in 1968.
Subsequently the ranch has been managed by descendants of August and Mary Rübel.
The Rübel family continues to own the ranch. In fact, only two families — the Del Valles and the Rübels — have owned Rancho Camulos since 1839, when it was granted by Gov. Juan B. Alvarado
to Mexican Lt. Antonio del Valle as part of the Rancho San Francisco.
Today it makes a lovely setting for a wedding. The historic buildings are operated by the 501c3 nonprofit Rancho Camulos Museum, and they're open for tours on weekend afternoons.
Rancho Camulos is located located just 10 miles west of Interstate 5 on scenic Highway 126. For more information visit RanchoCamulos.org.
And fear not: Prince Aaggie's head is no longer on display.
The Del Valle Buggy.
The Del Valle Buggy at Rancho Camulos was manufactured about 1850 by Miller & Stevens of 368 Broadway (below Canal Street) in New York City. It made the trip around Cape Horn when it was ordered by the family of Ygnacio del Valle, who had inherited the 48,000-acre Rancho San Francisco (western Santa Clarita Valley) and built their main, extant adobe home on the westernmost section in 1853. The buggy remained behind in 1924 when the remainder of the Del Valle ranch — Rancho Camulos — was sold to August Rubel, whose daughters have said they remember riding around in it on the property.
Turn up the clock to 2008. Rancho Camulos Museum docents Ralph Rees, a retired schoolteacher, and his wife Pat, both of Fillmore, undertook to restore the buggy after seeing it on display at a museum event. Shirley Rubel Lorenz gifted the buggy to the nonprofit museum (paperwork on file), and the work began.
According to a report by docent Marie Wren, who chaired the buggy restoration committee, volunteer Jack Schleimer provided a flatbed trailer and transported the buggy to the Rees home on Foothill Drive in Fillmore in March 2008.
Ralph and Pat Rees donated more than 600 hours of labor on the buggy, while their daughter, Wendy, researched its manufacture. John Morgan, a professional carriage restorer in Oak View (Ojai Valley), provided guidance and sold the antique carriage lamps and other authentic and period-appropriate items used in the project. Patterson Hardware of Fillmore donated small hardware items; several pieces of antique window glass were purchased, and others were donated by Fillmore Building Supply out of salvage from a house that had been demolished years earlier.
Ralph and Pat shopped for suitable fabric for the interior of the coach but determined that a professional upholstery job was required. Wren solicited donations from museum board members, docents, friends and Del Valle family members in 2009. Quality Upholstery of Ventura submitted the lowest qualifying bid ($5,777) and installed the upholstery (headliner, cushions, etc.) at their shop.
Museum volunteers got a peek at the work in progress when the buggy was taken to Logsdon's Restaurant at the Santa Paula Airport for a 2009 holiday party hosted by board member Mary Schwabauer. Then it was returned to the Rees home for the finishing touches.
"Most of the wood in the undercarriage has been replaced," Wren writes. "Several pieces were very intricate, but Ralph was able to reproduce them by hand. New leather straps were made. When it appeared the project was complete, Ralph decided the axles and wheels needed additional attention. The carriage was taken to Michl Tool [Works] in Santa Paula for the work for an additional cost of $955."
Ralph attached a brass plaque near the original manufacturer's plate on the rumble seat, while Pat reconfigured a new pickup truck cover into a carriage dust cover.
Perhaps just like when it was new, on Jan. 13, 2010, the fully restored buggy was put on display on a showroom floor — not on Broadway, but at the William L. Morris Chevrolet dealership in Fillmore.
It remained there for a month before being returned to storage at Rancho Camulos. Today it's brought out for viewing at special museum events.
Rancho Camulos Docent Council
Del Valle Buggy Restoration Project 2009
Restoration Work Performed by Ralph and Pat Rees
Rancho Camulos Museum Board
Rancho Camulos Museum Docent Council
Friends of the Museum
Museum Board Members
Shirley Rubel Lorenz
Del Valle Family
Karen and Mark Roswell
Hillary Weireter and Gary Giessman
Frank and Susan Janda
Juan and Carolyn Forster
Docents and Friends of the Museum
Jeri and Jack Schleimer
Martha and Dick Richardson
Maria & Dave Christopher
Fillmore Lions Club
Bob and Diana Cox
Parts donated by:
Fillmore Building Supply