by Andy Ludlum, Museum Volunteer
The county’s first newspaper, The Ventura Signal, was established by John Harden Bradley and began publishing in April 1871. It had 200 readers. Bradley had done many things in his short life. He’d been a miner, surveyor, schoolteacher, justice of the peace and real estate salesman.
In 1869 Bradley worked for a Santa Barbara newspaper, drumming up new subscribers in Ventura, which was then part of Santa Barbara County. In March of 1871, Santa Barbara Press editor J. A. Johnson reported Bradley had “gone to San Buena Ventura to try to start a newspaper” but cautioned him it was “a somewhat expensive business” and it was “much easier to start a newspaper than to run it a year after the start.” (now they tell Sheldon)
A few months later, the Santa Barbara Press said it had “armed the editor and chief (Johnson) with three Henry rifles and a 32-pounder (cannon) to go to Los Angeles.” Bradley saw his chance to take a shot at the Santa Barbara paper. On November 4, 1871 he wrote, “He had no such weapons when he passed here. Don’t you mean three pint-flasks and a jug?”
Bradley’s Signal was a strong advocate of splitting Santa Barbara County in two, which happened in early 1873 with the creation of Ventura County. Bradley contracted tuberculosis and his health forced him to sell the paper in June 1873; he died later that year at the age of 31. After Bradley’s death, John Sheridan and W.E. Shepherd took over as publishers of the Signal. Shepherd and Sheridan were publishers of the Signal in November of 1875 when the Ventura County Republicans began an effort to start a rival paper.