Benjamin Wells Dudley fought in the Civil War for the north and helped find and capture Jefferson Davis. He came to San Buenaventura and bought 40 acres in 1875 and then left and came back and bought another 160 acres in 1877.
He raised livestock and grew wheat and barley, but eventually settled on lima beans, which did well in the cool coastal climate. He was involved in community affairs. He was Justice of the Peace and held court in the Dudley House on issues involving thievery of livestock and trespassing.
He was president of the Anti-Saloon League and was nicknamed "Daddy of High License" because of his successful effort to raise the annual saloon license fees from $64 to $600. He was Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and officiated at the opening of the first bridge over the Santa Clara River in 1898.
Carrie Louise Smith, a Southern Belle, visited her aunt and uncle Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Mills in San Buenaventura. She met and married Benjamin Dudley. Carrie was old-fashioned about a lot of things. She bought one of the first Model A's sold in San Buenaventura. No one taught her how to drive and she promptly backed it into a ditch.
Dudley Family members liked music, books, and cats. Oscar "Dooley" Dudley, Benjamin's son, played the alto sax. Miriam Knox Dudley, his wife, played the double bass fiddle in her family band. She was so short that she had to stand on a soapbox to play it.
Miriam loved to play pranks. When she hosted her Wednesday Afternoon Club of the Mound meeting, she put a mousetrap and phony mouse under the settee to frighten the ladies.
Children loved to play in the Dudley attic with trunks of old clothes, hats, and toys. When they were ready to go up, Miriam would hurry ahead of them and start the rocker up there moving. Then when the children saw the rocker moving, Miriam would say, "The ghost just left."
Leavitt Dudley, Miriam and Oscar's son, was an artist. His artwork includes the Rancho Maps of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, sketches and models for Ventura County Fair, set designs for Paramount Studios, and illustrations for books and magazines.
Johanna Dudley Overby, Miriam and Oscar's daughter, was a writer and avid reader. She got her library card in 1926 and was always a big supporter of the library and Friends of the Library.
Miriam Knox Dudley told many family stories. When she saw the picture taken of the Ventura Train Depot at Senator Bard's Reception she said, "There's that bus cart my husband and his friends dumped in the ocean on Halloween eve." Later we heard the same story from John Mitchell who was one of the friends.
Miriam also told the story of the flask filled with castor oil for anyone who went AWOL during the Civil War.
Found in the Dudley House during the restoration were square nails, parts of dolls, a chess piece, a poker chip, piece of patchwork quilt, and a ruler with Mary Dudley's name written on it by her. The collection is part of a restored Dudley Family Shadow Box.