In 1830, George W. Lewis was born. Little did his parents know that their new son would play an important part in Santa Ynez Valley history. In 1850, Lewis came to the Valley, but soon left for Mexico, leaving his land in the hands of a friend, William Ballard. While Lewis was in Mexico, Ballard started the Ballard Station, a stage coach stop for weary travelers. When Ballard died, Lewis returned from Mexico and started the tiny town of Ballard, named for his friend, in 1880. Ballard was the seventh town in Santa Barbara County, and for two years it was the only town in the Valley. The streets were 60 to 100 feet wide, and were named in honor of Lewis' friends and relations. Ballard featured the only public general store in the Valley for a time, which had groceries, dry goods, and medicines. Ballard also had a post office and a blacksmith. Before the post office became a part of the general store, it was nothing more than a box nailed to a tree!
One of the major features of Ballard was Ballard Schoolhouse, which was not only a school, but a gathering place for all early Valley residents, who flocked to the little schoolhouse (originally railroad yellow) for weddings, funerals, church services, dances, meetings, debates and other social activities. The new school featured white plastered walls, six big windows, a blackboard, and two anterooms (one for the boys, one for the girls). It was clearly a relief from two earlier schools, which had been held in a granary and an abandoned saloon. Today, the schoolhouse is inhabited by the next generation of Valley residents - Ballard School's kindergarten class.
Ballard today is anchored by the Ballard Inn, making the town a peaceful retreat for tourists, as well as a quiet hideaway for residents.
Content By Leah Etling