Let’s Talk Clovis: 1919 Balfe Ranch, part II

Actor Victor McLaglen (center) and his work crew. (Courtesy of Clovis Museum)

Movie star Victor McLaglen (1886-1959) purchased the Balfe Ranch in 1939.  The sale price was in excess of $250,000. Buildings included: a Spanish style seven room house, five guest houses, ranch office, museum, five stables, farm equipment shed, blacksmith shop, bunkhouse for employees and a foreman’s cottage. The private air strip was still operating.

Harry Balfe (1860-1942) and his wife moved to La Jolla after the sale. He died there of a heart ailment at age 82.

Victor immediately became a well loved resident of Clovis. He was born in Tunbridge Wells (near London, England) on December 11, 1886. He was not a scholar like his father who became Bishop of Clermont, South Africa. He was wildly adventurous and extroverted.

The 6-foot-3-inch Victor (220 pounds) employed his talents as a soldier, farmer, artist, wrestler, boxer, policeman, marshal, seaman, hunter, rancher, pilot and motorcyclist. He appeared in over 150 films during his forty years of acting.

As a boxer, Victor would offer $15 to anyone who could stay in the ring with him for three minutes. To emphasize his strength, he would invite men to break rocks on his chest.

In 1935, Victor starred as Gyppo in “The Informer” (directed by John Ford) and received the coveted Best Actor Academy Award. Other nominees for the award were: Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone.

In 191,8 Victor married Enid Lamont of London, England after he returned as a decorated hero of WW I. They raised two children Andrew and Sheila.

Enid was an enthusiastic horsewoman and she loved the Balfe ranch. She would exhibit outstanding jumpers and hunters at western horse shows. She died in 1942. That year, Victor sold his string of thoroughbreds at their Clovis ranch but vowed to retain Enid’s stock for the remainder of their lives. The well known stallion “War” son of “Man O’ War” was raised on their ranch.

Their son Andrew V. McLaglen (6-foot-6-inches tall) would become a famous film director.  He would direct his father in “The Abductors” just prior to Victor’s death on November 7, 1959 at age 74. 

Victor was a visible fun-loving character in Clovis. He was the Grand Marshal of the Clovis Horse Show and Festival in 1941. In 1950, he sold the historic ranch to west side farmer William Bizieff.

John Indart purchased the ranch in 1953.  John (French Basque descendent) arrived in this area as a sheep herder. He recalled attending the sale of horses at the Balfe ranch in 1928. He was awed by the large acreage and beauty of the ranch, never dreaming he would someday own that land.

His son Tim and his wife Andrea and their four boys were charged with restoring the historic ranch to its original grandeur. It has remained their labor of love and dedication over the years. The acreage now bears the name “Indart Ranch”. The Indarts raise sheep and grow oranges, almonds and cherries.

A picture of the stately Victorian master bedroom was published by The Bee in 1976.  The caption describes the original 385 prism chandelier that graces the bedroom. The massive living room (12 foot ceiling) has Philippine hardwood trim, double French doors and an exquisite chandelier of Steuben glass and brass wall sconces.

The October 12, 2007 Clovis Independent article quotes Tim Indart: “Just being here is special. Just the history of this place. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know I’ve been able to keep this farm in the family and scratch a living out here.”

The 1919 Balfe ranch is a part of our rich heritage.

Ron Camacho
Ron Camacho was born and raised in Clovis. He attended Clovis High School and graduated from CSU Fresno in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and Journalism. Before joining the Roundup, Ron wrote for Pollstar Magazine and the Sanger Herald. He has a deep appreciation for the arts and is a lover of music, cinema and storytelling. When he’s not busy looking for his next story, Ron enjoys taking weekend expeditions to the beach or mountains to practice landscape photography.