Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

What's In A Name? New Book Explains The Sweet History Behind The City Of Oxnard's Name

Oxnard was home to the world's largest sugar processing facility in the late 1800's, and early 1900's. The City of Oxnard got its name from surgar mogul Henry T. Oxnard.

It’s the largest city population-wise on the South Coast, and has been incorporated for more than a century. But ask most Oxnard residents how their city got its name, and you’ll probably get a blank stare. Do you know the answer?

Oxnard’s name is actually a clue into a forgotten part of its history. If you think of agriculture and Oxnard, strawberries are probably the first thing which come to mind. However, the area was once known for sugar beets and was home to the world’s largest sugar processing plant.

This forgotten history is the focus of a new book called “Oxnard Sugar Beets: Ventura County’s Lost Cash Crop,” by historian Jefferey Wayne Maulhardt. Enter Albert Maulhart, a farmer, and relative of the historian, who worked with Borchard to try to get a sugar mogul interested in Ventura County’s sugar beet potential. The name of that sugar mogul, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is Oxnard. Henry T. Oxnard, and his family were major players in the sugar industry on the East Coast, and South in the late 1880s’ and early 1900’s.

The Oxnard family built its massive sugar factory in Oxnard in 1898. At the time, it there was no city, with the area between what is now Ventura and Camarillo open, undeveloped space. The plant near Wooley Road spurred development of what would become the city.

It operated until the 1950’s, when competition from around the world turned the sweet success of Ventura County’s sugar industry sour, farmers moved on to other crops, and the Oxnard family moved its operations elsewhere. The main structure was torn down in 1959, but two old warehouses from the factory still exist.

Despite their key role in Oxnard’s development, the Oxnards never lived in the city.

Maulhart, who moonlights as a historian while making a living in the insurance business, has written 14 books about the Ventura County’s history. He says he’s touched on Oxnard’s sweet history in the past, but decided to write this new book to tell the forgotten story.

The author and historian will talk about his new book in a December 10th event at the “Bank of Books” bookstore in Ventura.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.