Margaret Ely Davidson will present an evening with Sarah Eliot Blanchard

April 07, 2010
100th anniversary of the Santa Paula Dean Hobbs Blanchard Memorial Library
Santa Paula News

As a part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Santa Paula Dean Hobbs Blanchard Memorial Library, history re-enactor Margaret Ely Davidson will present an evening with Sarah Eliot Blanchard, the oldest daughter of Nathan Weston and Ann Elizabeth Hobbs Blanchard. Mr. and Mrs. Blanchard gave the library to Santa Paula in 1910.

Sarah was born in 1868 in Dutch Flat, Placer County, which was in the gold rush country. She lived until 1963, dying in Santa Paula where she had lived since age 4. She was the only immediate family member living when the mystery of what had happened to her older brother Dean Hobbs Blanchard, for whom the library was named, finally was solved.

Mrs. Ely Davidson knew Miss Blanchard casually, having spent the first 11 years of her live on Palm Avenue in the last house on the left before the Blanchard orchard, now the southwest corner of Palm and Santa Paula Street. “Aunt Sarah,” as she was known, would be driven up and down Palm Avenue on her way to anywhere; and mothers would warn their children to “watch out” for her car, as it was the only car that would drive through Palm Avenue when it ended at the Blanchard gate, the entrance to Aunt Sarah’s home El Naranjal.

Ely Davidson’s father, the late Arnold Ely, was a long-time high school teacher and counselor in Santa Paula, and Ely Davidson went from kindergarten through high school in Santa Paula. She was privileged to have been elected to the Santa Paula City Council in 1990, and served as mayor of Santa Paula from 1992-1993.

She is a chronic amateur historian, but only recently turned her attention to local history. While serving as a docent at the California Oil Museum, she became interested in the life of Olive Mann Isbell, for whom the Santa Paula middle school is named.

She has also portrayed Helen Hunt Jackson, both at Rancho Camulos for the general public and at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the descendents of the del Valle family, holders of the original land grant for Camulos. Jackson was an early Mission Indian rights activist who penned the novel “Ramona,” using Rancho Camulos as the model for Ramona’s home.

Ely Davidson has enjoyed getting to know the early history of the Blanchard family, which begins in the state of Maine and continues to the California goldfields. The Blanchard family came to the area as only the second residents of where Santa Paula would one day be. Nathan Weston Blanchard named the city and surveyed the early streets and lots.

Their story is one of hard work, sorrow, loss and success. It is also the story of Santa Paula and other early pioneer ranchers and settlers in Ventura County.

Sarah Eliot Blanchard will tell their true story at the Library on Tuesday, April 27 at 7 p.m. Come and hear the story of a real family, the family who founded Santa Paula and gave us our library.

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