Brief History of San Buenaventura

It was on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782, that Father Serra founded the mission, San Buenaventura, which proved to be the last he established personally. The Spanish King had changed his position again, claiming that a few white settlers were of greater value than any number of Indians. Father Serra argued that the money to found the missions came from the privately collected Pious Fund. The King replied that by law he administered the Pious Fund. New missions would be churches only, without usual industries supported by Indian labor. Serra ignored the new rules at Ventura, which temporarily halted further expansion.

Even so, under the old rules, Ventura was quickly most prosperous. A reservoir and aqueduct system seven miles long supplied fields stretching to the very shore of the blue Pacific, growing, according to one record, “astounding” varieties of agricultural products.

Mission San Buenaventura Courtyard and Fountain

Of course, with secularization, those rules originally ignored were completely enforced. By 1845 all the lands and even the church itself had been confiscated, although the church and a few bits of other property were eventually returned. The sleepy village beside the mission suddenly blossomed in 1887 with the arrival of the railroad.

Now located on the main street of the city of Ventura, and hemmed in by the business community, it might be difficult to imagine that the old church was once surrounded by orchards, vineyards, and grain fields which made it a garden spot of the missions, thanks to the aqueduct. Two huge Norfolk Island pines in the garden between the church and little museum are 100 years old, reputedly planted by a sailing captain who hoped to grow a forest for use as masts. In the museum are two old wooden bells, the only ones of their type known in California.