Thomas Bard first came to California in 1865 as the representative of Thomas A. Scott, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad and Assistant Secretary of War under President Abraham Lincoln. Scott was an extensive landholder in the fledging state, and one of his dreams was to develop the vast oil resources in this region. Bard, as Assistant Superintendent, and later Superintendent, of the California and Philadelphia Petroleum Company, began the first regulation oil drilling in California and the first efforts to develop California's oil fields. Eventually, in 1883, Bard joined the experienced Pennsylvania oilmen, Wallace Hardison and Lyman Stewart, in another California landmark oil venture. Together they built the first refinery in California, laid the first California oil pipeline, and built the Pacific Coast's first tanker ship. Finally, in 1890, nine of California's oil industry pioneers, including Thomas Bard, pooled their interestes and formed the Union Oil Company of California, the oldest petroleum company in the West. Thomas Bard was elected the first President and served from 1890 to 1894.
In 1868 Thomas Bard acquired from Thomas Scott all of his interests in the Mexican Land Grant, Rancho El Rio de Santa Clara o'la Colonia. He became the owner of 21,375.39 acres which were later divided into 40 subdivisions. Berylwood was a portion of Subdivision 87 and 89 of the Rancho, and his selection of this site as his personal residence stemmed from one of his other thriving enterprises, the construction of Hueneme Wharf and the development of Hueneme as a seaport. In the late 1860s, Bard became cognizant of a natural submarine canyon which existed along Hueneme's coastline. WIth great foresight he constructed a wharf along this canyon in 1871. As a result, Hueneme became the second largest grain shipping port on the Pacific coast between 1871 and 1895. Until the railway came to the nearby town of Oxnard in 1898, the wharf also provided the principal means for transportation to and from all of Ventura County south of the Santa Clara River.
Bard's success as a businessman, landowner, and community leader, as well as his personal intregity and leadership ability, made it natural that he should be called to public service. In 1867 Bard was elected as one of the three supervisors of Santa Barbara County. Serving in this capacity until 1872, he was influential in the formation of Ventura County from the southern sector of Santa Barbara County. Through the years Thomas Bard was always a participant, if not as a candidate himself, as an active, important supporter in local, state and national politics. Finally in 1900 he was elected by the State Legislature, following an unusual extra session and political battle, as a United States Senator from California. During his tenure of office he attained a position of respect and was conspicuous in many important legislative matters.
In addition, Bard was president of the Berylwood Investment Company, the Bank of Ventura (which he helped found in 1875), the Bank of Hueneme, the Las Posas Water Company, the Simi Land and Water Company, the Sespe Oil Company, the Torrey Canon Oil Company and the Mission Transfer Company. He served as director of the State Board of Agriculture, 1886-1887, the Graham and Loftus Oil Company, the Sacremento Valley Sugar Company, and the Potter Hotel Company. He was instrumental in the construction and establishment of several local churches and in the formation of the Pioneer Society of Ventura County.