History of our District
The Simi Cemetery is the first recorded cemetery in the Simi Valley, having been established in 1890 by Clementine Parantau on land she purchased from the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago (Simi Cemetery Map, 4890). Clementine Parantau was one of the first members of the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago to arrive in the Simi Valley in 1888-1889. During the Southern California boom years of 1887-1888, the Simi Land and Water Company advertised land for sale in the Chicago newspapers. A group of eight Chicago doctors formed a corporation to purchase land and established what they called a Mutual Benefit Colony (Cameron, 1963). Their promotional literature referred to the area as Simiopolis, “The Garden of Southern California,” and stressed the potential for profits to be made from agriculture and the variety of crops that could be grown in the Valley. In addition, the literature eloquently described the climatic advantages of the Simi Valley and predicted that within a few short years it would be “The most sought after ad desirable spot for invalids” to be found in the State of California (California Mutual Benefit Colony of California, 1888).
It may have been the inducement of a healthful climate that attracted Clementine Parantau and her Chicago family to join the approximately ten other families who came to the Valley during the late 1880s. A member of the Parantau family, Richard A. Parantau, died of consumption in March of 1893. Clementine Parantau died at the age of seventy-nine and was buried in the cemetery in September of 1898 (Ventura Free Press, 03/13/93; 09/09/98). Parantau’s daughter, also named Clementine, took charge of the Simi cemetery and sold lots as needed to the pioneer families.
Due to the remoteness of Simi at the time, the Company had pre-fabricated houses sent by rail to Saticoy and then by wagon to Simi. To encourage colonists, the first twelve houses ordered by October 1, 1888, were shipped without charge. In January 1889, a subdivision map was recorded and 36 ranch size lots were laid out on each side of the Arroyo Simi along an 8 ½ mile by 2 ½ mile stretch of land. A townsite adjacent to the subdivision was also planned by the company (Cameron, 1958). The townsite was never officially recorded by the Company although colonists actually resided on the land. The townsite was not officially recorded until 1892 by the Simi Land and Water Company.
Colonists purchased shares in the company and drew for their parcels. Many had more than one lot that was not contiguous, and several landowners never even came to Simi. Like so many real estate schemes promoted during this period, it quickly went bust. The lack of physical improvements, railroad access or good roads combined with several wet winters induced several of the colonists to return to the Mid-west.
By 1891, the Simi Land and Water Company began foreclosure on the land because of lack of payments. On August 6, 1891, the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago agreed to quitclaim their interest in the lands to the Simi Land and Water Company. The colonists who remained were given credit for their investment and were allowed to keep their houses (Cameron, 1963). Mrs. Parantau officially recorded her previously owned land and paid the Simi Land and Water Company &468 for Lot 29 on July 3, 1893 (Grant Deeds, 1893). The Simi Cemetery was not officially surveyed and recorded with the County of Ventura until 1896.
In 1892 the Simi Land and Water Company Officially recorded the townsite of Simi Adjacent to the Colony subdivision. A few of the colonist’s houses were located in the townsite and a few remained on the adjacent ranch sites. A church building, school and post office were built in the new town of Simi. The Parantau family also owned lots in the townsite. Mrs. Clementine Parantau had two daughters, Clementine and Lillian, and a son Richard. Richard A. Parantau served a short term as Justice of the Peach and Postmaster before his death in 1893. The two daughters taught school in Chicago but returned to Simi during the summers and introduced culture to the community in the form of musical programs. The family was also among the founding members of the Methodist Church (Cameron, 1963).
The Simi Cemetery continued as a private cemetery until the County of Ventura purchased the land in 1946, established a Cemetery District, and appointed trustees to supervise the operation. The Pioneer Section of the Simi Cemetery contains the original burial plots of pioneer Simi residents both colony residents and others that settled in Simi between the 1870s and 1890s. Both Anglo and Hispanic graves are intermingled. Some of the pioneers purchased lots containing room for 12 burials.
The Pioneer Section of the Simi Cemetery is significant as the first recorded cemetery in the Simi Valley. It is also important as the only extant feature on the lands of the original California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago subdivision of 1889. The small group of colonists that settled in Simi was joined by other families that formed the nucleus of the small town, the first organized settlement in the Simi Valley. The Parantau family took a small acting role in the development of the fledgling community. The Pioneer Section of the Simi Cemetery is directly related to the settlement of the community