Clark Company’s history began in the Ojai Valley in the late 19th Century when two young brothers opened a Livery Stable. Michael Hugh Clark and two brothers fled the Irish famine, arriving in the United States in 1858. By 1878, all three settled in the Ojai Valley.
Michael’s oldest son and youngest son were young, daring teamsters who had a way with horses. By age 16, oldest son Thomas earned a reputation as a skilled “whipster”, driving the stage and tally-ho through flooding waters of the Ventura River and racing the tides of the Pacific Ocean on the Ventura to Santa Barbara run. Michael named his youngest son Robert Emmett Clark, after the Irish patriot in honor of the home he could never return to. In 1895, Thomas and Robert (“Bob”) established their livery stable.
Tom, the eldest, was elected to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 1904, a position he held for thirty two years. At the same time, he maintained his passion for horses, racing, and taking risks. He broke the world record for four-abreast chariot racing in 1926 with the help of brother Bob who, along with their friends, hitched the unbroken horses to the harness. Tom established chariot races at the Ventura County Fair which would become renowned for their excitement and danger.
Bob Clark drove stage along with his brother, Tom. In 1906, though, marriage and a new family directed him to a safer and more stable career. He became one of the first forest rangers in the state of California, stationed in the Castaic region. While stationed there, Bob settled the long-running and violent Jenkins-Chormicle feud which, over its history, produced at least twenty-two casualties. Bob remained involved in his first love of ranching and cattle, but in 1922, he was called on to run for Ventura County Sheriff, a position he held until he was appointed U.S. Marshall in 1933 by President Roosevelt. That same year, Bob, with Adolfo Camarillo, founded the Adolfo Camp of Rancheros Visitadores, a sixty mile trail ride from Mission Santa Barbara to Mission Santa Inez, in the tradition of the early California rancheros and vaqueros. Rancheros Visitadores is thriving today, with four generations of Clarks being members and continuous participants.
William “Bill” Petitit Clark was Bob’s oldest son. Bill followed his father’s footsteps, sharing Bob’s love of horses, cattle, and ranching. Bill was a U.S. Forest Ranger as a young adult and a Ventura County Deputy Sheriff. In 1937, Bill left his law enforcement career to manage Rancho Chismahoo in Ventura County , then, in 1945 moved his family to Tehama County to manage the Battle Creek Ranch. In 1947, Bill returned to Ventura County to serve as Chief of Police in Oxnard. On completing that assignment, Bill then managed the 38,000 acre Rancho Guadalasca and the Loop Ranch in Tehachapi, California.
In 1958, Bill joined forces with his son, William Patrick Clark, a young attorney, to found Clark Land and Cattle Company in Oxnard. Bill, Sr.’s success in ranch real estate sales enabled him to purchase his own ranch in Camarillo, California. During this time, Bill Sr. served on the Ventura County Fair Board, establishing the junior livestock auction. In honor of his service, the Ventura County Fair dedicated the William P. Clark Pavilion in 1972.. Like his father, Bill Sr. was devoted to Rancheros Visitadores, having been on the ride since its beginning. Among his many services to the ride, Bill Sr. was Trail Boss for many years, making sure the trails the riders took were safe for both horse and rider. Rancheros Visitadores paid Bill the ultimate honor by appointing him el Presidente in 1974.
William Patrick’s nineteen year career in government is the fruition of the ambitions of his forebears; he served Governor Ronald Reagan, first, on a task force reorganizing the Executive Branch of the California government; next, as Cabinet Secretary. In January of 1969, Bill was appointed to the Superior Court, then in 1971, to the Court of Appeal, and finally, in 1973, to the California Supreme Court. With Ronald Reagan’s election to the Presidency of the United States, he again called on his old friend. In the meantime, Bill had purchased his 1,000-acre ranch in Paso Robles and had no wish to again leave it. But duty—and Ronald Reagan—called, so Bill and his wife Joan moved to Washington, D.C. where Bill served as Deputy Secretary of State (2/24/1981); National Security Advisor (1/18/1982); and Secretary of the Interior (10/13/1983) before retiring from formal government service January 1, 1985.
William Patrick’s son, Pete Clark, has followed in the footsteps of his ancestors, sharing their love of the land, working with cattle and horses, and honoring a call to public service. While his father was absent in Washington, Pete took care of the family ranches. After majoring in Agricultural Business Management from 1975 to 1979 at California Polytechnic University, Pete received his State of California Real Estate License and joined his grandfather at Clark Land and Cattle Company. Pete presently serves as Corporate President and Real Estate Broker for Clark Company.