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The History of the Santa Barbara Horticultural Society

Although one County history refers to an “Agricultural and Horticultural Society” being formed in 1869, it is probable that the first SBCHS was organized between 1875 and 1880. A Mr. H.C Ford is credited with being one off the first organizers.

On April 12th, 1880 a meeting of citizens of Santa Barbara and vicinity was held to form a Horticultural Society. Mr. H.C. Ford was unanimously called to chair. A set of by-laws were presented for discussion and passed. The meeting was adjourned for a week to assure a larger attendance. On April 21, 1880, officers were elected and a time for an Annual Flower Festival was appointed. Mr. H.C. Ford was elected President, in which capacity he remained for twelve years (1880-1892). He died in 1894. Also elected in 1880 were the Vice President, Mr. Eels; Secretary, Mrs. N.W. Winton; and Treasurer Mr. J.W. Calkins. Committees were formed for exhibitions, semi-tropical fruits, orchard fruits, grape products, botany and acclimatization, irrigation, vegetables, plants and flowers, and insects and diseases of vegetation. Heading each committee were individuals qualified in the special fields. 

Two weeks later, on May 7th and 8th, a Floricultural and Horticultural Exhibition took place. Held at the home of Mr. Ford, it proved to be quite a success. Then, on October 28th and 29th a Horticultural Fair was held. Although fruits and vegetables were featured, flowers and rare plants were also presented.

In the following years records show that the Horticultural Society participated in fairs and exhibits in Los Angeles and Sacramento, at the New Orleans World Fair (1886), where two diplomas of merits were received, and in St. Louis in 1904. On August 19, 1887 the first charter was obtained. Therein Article 2 of the constitution defined the purpose of the Society:

“ Its object shall be to collect and disseminate information in regards to Horticulture, Pomology, Floriculture, and their allied branches; to hold exhibitions and award premiums for the best products and introductions.”

At this time, records show that Mrs. Mary A. Ashley was Treasurer. The Society held four winter meetings indoors that year, either in the G.A.R. Hall on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, or at the Liberty Hall in Summerland. The rest of the year the Society held picnic lunches and meetings at various ranches and estates from Carpinteria to Goleta. These included Spence Grove on Modoc Road; Joe Sexton’s place in Goleta; the homes of Col. Russell Heath, Col. J. Blood and Mr. T.W. Moore in Carpinteria; Kinton Stevens home in Montecito; and the Ellwood Cooper Ranch in Ellwood.

Begonia 'Blood of Christ' 
 La Huerta Historic Gardens
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