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Goleta History- Who's Ellwood?
updated: Apr 05, 2014, 2:00 PM

By Tom Modugno of Goleta Surfing

Most Goleta folks know of an area called Ellwood. It's used in conversations and directions, it even shows up on maps, but do you know why is it called that?

According to this map, there's an Ellwood Oil Field, an Ellwood Canyon, and Ellwood sits proudly at 86 feet above sea level.

There's an Ellwood Station Road, Ellwood Beach Drive, and of course, Ellwood School. So who the heck is Ellwood?!

Here he is. Ellwood Cooper. Born in Pennsylvania in 1829, he moved to Goleta in 1870. He bought 2,000 acres from the Den family at $22 an acre. He was very enthusiastic about his new home, writing to relatives on the East coast, "This is the Italy of America, the paradise of the western world, the climatic perfection of this globe!" He was thrilled about the rich soil and had big plans for his new ranch, which became dubbed, "Ellwood Ranch." He planted 400 acres of trees, including 7,000 olive trees, 4,000 Japanese persimmons, 3,000 almond trees, 1,000 other assorted fruit trees and 12,500 walnut trees making him the largest walnut grower in California for several years. Ellwood also had a herd of 150 Jersey cattle from which he supplied butter to Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

But olive trees were his first priority. He was convinced Goleta olive oil could compete with Italian oil. He built the largest olive mill in the United States and brought world wide publicity to his ranch.

But despite all the attention and Cooper's notoriety as America's "olive oil king," the business was a failure. He just could not compete with the much cheaper oil from Sicily. In fact, his most lucrative crop were Japanese persimmons, growing quietly two miles up the canyon.

But "Ellwood" was still a very popular tourist attraction, bringing celebrities and world leaders out on the "splendid" 14 mile road from Santa Barbara to see the ranch and gardens. His children served as tour guides and led the visitors through the working ranch that ran "from the low water mark of the Pacific Ocean back to the highest elevation of the sloping hills." Pictured here is his daughter Fannie in the tourist favorite, "House Garden," four acres that held about 1,000 types of plants and cared for entirely by Mrs. Cooper.

Read the full article at GoletaHistory.com


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