For over 200 years, families from all over the world have moved here and ultimately played a significant role in the history of agriculture in Ventura County. From 1800 until the 1920s, farming and ranching attracted more settlers to Ventura County than any other industry.
Five generations of ranching – the Cummings family
One such family is the Cummings – five generations carrying on the ranching tradition to this day. At the young age of just 18, John F. Cummings was on the move west. He first settled in the Maryville, California area for a while and then, in the early 1870s, he sold his property in Marysville and headed south to Santa Paula. He purchased 150 acres that would later become the northwest corner of Cummings and Telegraph Roads. Land in Santa Paula fetched about ten to twenty dollars per acre at that time, which was considered a good price. The property was planted in walnuts and the most popular crop of the day: lima beans. As the agricultural trends progressed, soon came oranges, lemons and avocados, which is what the ranch still produces to this day.
The family tree grows
OK, get ready as we zip through the five generations of the Cummings ranchers.
At the age of 45, John Franklin Cummings married Miss Georgia Sweeney, 20 years his junior. They had nine children. Their eldest son, W.W. (Walter Wallace) Cummings, born in 1888, would later marry Miss Lula Mae Sewell, take over the ranch, and help to carry on their agricultural heritage until his passing.
Moving into the 1900s, W.W. and Lula Mae had four children, the youngest of which, and the only male, was born in 1925 and named R.W. (Richard Wallace) Cummings. After graduating from Santa Paula High School, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he was trained as a pilot and served as a pilot instructor during World War II. After the war, R.W. Cummings returned to Santa Paula, married Joanne Mueller and took over the family ranch, raising livestock and growing citrus and avocados. He passed away in 1999.
Steve Cummings, born in 1954 and the oldest of R.W.’s three children, now runs the ranch with as much passion and care as his father before him, heading up the Cummings Family Trust. Steve and his wife Debra have three children. And, assuming one or more of their kids choose to continue in the family business, five generations of Cummings farmers will have served Ventura County.
A few Fun Facts about the Cummings family
The Moreton Bay Fig Tree, just west of Cummings and Telegraph Roads in Santa Paula, was planted by John F. Cummings. He maintained a water trough by the tree for travelers along Telegraph had a place to stop water and rest their horses.
The beautiful blue barn on the property was originally on the Telegraph Road end of the property. W.W. Cummings loved the barn but wanted it moved so had it dismantled and moved it to this site it sits today.
“Chinaman Jim,” hired by John Cummings when he started farming in Santa Paula, stayed with the family until his passing in the late 1920s.