When Simi Land and Water Company was formed by Thomas R. Bard and others to see to the subdivision of the area for the first time, advertisements were dispersed throughout the country. The ads reached the midwestern and the New England states, for that is where many of our early American families came from.
These ads were more than a little “fanciful,” as they showed the Simi Creek as a flowing river, with a paddlewheel steamer on it, and a man pulling out large fish. More than one buyer was lured by the promise of fishing nearby.
In Chicago, a group of investors composed mainly of doctors thought they saw marvelous opportunity to buy western lands, so they formed the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago, which was soon shortened to The Colony. Several of them headed west, with glowing descriptions and dreams of prosperity ringing in their ears. They arranged to send twelve pre-fabricated houses (pre-cut and partially assembled) to form the nucleus of the new little town, which they gave the grand name, Simiopolis. We have a copy of the prospectus which includes a map of southern California–one of the few times you will ever find Simi the center of the universe! (Copies of the prospectus are on sale in our Simi Store and visotors center for $5.00 each.)
The prospectus included ads for the company from which they must have bought their houses, along with information on railroad rates, excursion fares, etc. Simi Rancho lands were offered for $10 to $100 per acre.
All but two of the Colony Houses were located in the town site laid out by the colony. (One was on the Austin ranch near Cochran and Erringer, where the Vons market is today; the other was near the present site of Walmart and Home Depot on Cochran near Madera.) The houses probably cost only a few hundred dollars, and the company as a special inducement, paid the freight on houses ordered before October 1, 1888. The first group of colonists left Chicago on November 8, 1888 for their trip west by rail. Bessie Printz said her parents described watching the houses being loaded on railroad cars in Chicago. At this end, Frank Bither hauled them by wagon from Saticoy, the closest rail point at that time. Simi Land and Water Company had built a three-story hotel at the east end of Simi Valley (at approximately the location of the present west parking lot of the Simi Valley High School), to accommodate their prospective buyers. Some of those first arrivals stayed at the hotel and others in tents near their property. Things did not go well with the colony from the beginning as the houses were not ready and many other problems arose; some did not stay long, but some did stay on, and they helped to get our farming era off to a very sound start during those next fifteen or twenty years.
HAIGH/TALLEY COLONY HOUSE
This Colony House, located on Second and Ashland, was the first historic building brought to the historical park soon after its formation (1970).
Owners of this particular Colony House have included: Mrs. J.S. Brickett, Henry Haigh (1904-1909), Mr. A.J. Draper, Mrs. Mary Richardson, Mary and John Talley, and the Missionary Alliance Church, before the building was moved to this historical park and museum in 1970. The Talleys owned and lived in it from 1924 to 1961.
Furnishings and household items in the Colony House have come from many, many families.