Ventura County Then & Now

Ventura Cnty - Ventura PierAlthough it had been the site of a California Mission since 1782, the area that split away from Santa Barbara County to become Ventura County on January 1, 1873 was mostly isolated by unique geological characteristics when California was awarded statehood in 1850. It did, however, boast the town of San Buenaventura that had grown up around the mission and 16 ranchos awarded by Spanish and Mexican governments, among these Rancho Simi,  Rancho Ojai, Rancho El Conejo (Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village), Rancho Las Posas, today’s  Camarillo; and Rancho Santa Clara del Norte, where Oxnard now stands. Oil had been known in the region since before the arrival of the Europeans, as the native Chumash people used tar from natural seeps as a sealant and waterproofing for baskets and canoes—and the severe droughts of the 1860s brought eastern capitalists who, enticed by reports of favorable petroleum deposits, purchased large sections of land when rancho owners were forced to sell as their livestock herds dwindled.  However, none of the early attempts to harvest petroleum products were financially successful, and the oil speculators eventually changed from oil to land development. The Southern Pacific Railroad came through the city of San Buenaventura in 1887, at which time, for convenience, the longer name was shortened to Ventura.  Today Ventura County boasts a broad economic base of leading industrial companies  centered around bio-medicine, technology, manufacturing, professional services, and wholesale distribution.  Abundant agriculture—a multi-billion dollar industry that includes fruits and nuts, vegetables and field crops, as well as livestock and poultry, contributes to a pastoral ambience between urban centers.  At the northern end of the county, the Los Padres National Forest comprises 46% of the region’s land mass. Of the Channel Islands first explored by Juan Cabrillo in 1542, only the Anacapa and Nicolas islands are part of Ventura County; the rest are under the jurisdiction of Santa Barbara County. As of the 2010 census, the population was 823,318. Ventura is the county seat.