Theodosia Burr Shepherd
Theodosia Burr Shepherd was born in Keosauqua, Iowa. She was the daughter of Augustus Hall, a lawyer who later became Chief Justice of Nebraska. She married W.E. Shepherd on September 9, 1866, and they moved to California for her health in 1873. In Ventura, Theodosia developed the California flower seed industry, starting in 1874. She began by swapping seeds through a ladies’ magazine. After a few years, she expanded her property and began growing flowers for their seeds. In 1881, she sent a package of seeds to Peter Henderson of New York, one of the nation’s leading nurserymen, who encouraged her to grow seeds and flowers in the Ventura climate.
She built a business, the Theodosia B. Shepherd Company, which annually issued a retail catalogue and two wholesale lists. She received encouragement and accolades from W. Atlee Burpee, founder of the Burpee seed company, as well as other well know horticulturists. At one point she was known throughout the United States as the “Flower Wizard of California”. Theodosia’s hope was that her daughters, and other women, would find an alternative to the drudgery of housework by becoming involved in growing flowers and selling seeds. She wrote and lectured on plant life, her hybridization work, and her success as a pioneering woman in the seed industry. She was a remarkable woman well ahead of her time. She died September 6, 1906 in Ventura, California.
Remnants of her gardens can still be seen on the grounds of the E. P. Foster Library, as well as in the parking lot behind the library. A banana plant and two strawberry trees near the first floor back entrance of the library were once part of Theodosia’s garden. A Norfolk pine grows between the upper and lower parking lot and there are a few palm trees as well.
If you would like to find out more about Ventura’s unique history, Foster Library is a good place to start.
Resident Photographer - Aleta Rodriguez