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Ballard Marker

Ballard Station
Ballard Station, c. 1860

Ballard School
Ballard School

History of Ballard

Ballard was founded in 1881, the first town in the Santa Ynez Valley. In the early 1860's, George W. Lewis, a New Yorker, homesteaded 800 acres where today stand the towns of Ballard and Los Olivos. Lewis spent considerable time in Mexico, taking care of holdings he had there so he left his Valley property in the hands of a dear friend, William N. Ballard, who, at the time, was superintendent of the Concord stagecoach line which ran between San Francisco and Yuma, Arizona.

With no stagecoach stop between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, Ballard decided to build one, on property he owned located between what are now the towns Ballard and Los Olivos. Ballard's Station, an adobe structure, was erected. Lovingly restored, it still stands today and is a private residence.

When Ballard became ill and died rather suddenly, George Lewis returned from Mexico, and in 1881 founded the town of Ballard, named after his old friend. The town flourished in its early days as it had the only general store, post office and blacksmith shop in the Valley. The first public schoolhouse in the Valley was built in Ballard, and was the scene of many happy early-day social gatherings. Now known as the “Little Red Schoolhouse,” it is a county historical landmark, and is still in regular use as an elementary school.

By 1889, Ballard had approximately 30 homes, 10 businesses, and 140 residents. But within a year, there were only 30 people in six families still in town. Some folks had moved to the now larger towns of Santa Ynez or Los Olivos, while some had left the Valley.

Today a number of people live in the quiet streets of Ballard. The center of town boasts a very fine bed and breakfast inn and restaurant. The serene Oakhill cemetery, opened in 1882 on a ridge just east of Ballard, is still in use today.


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