Ventura’s first hero

by Richard Senate

No marker graces his grave. A school rests over his burial site but the man should be remembered.  His name was Ramon “Natcho” Rodriguez. He was the owner of the Rancho Canada de San Miguel, an 8887 acre spread granted to him in 1846 by Mexican Governor Pio Pico. The ranch encompassed much of the Ventura River mouth and valley, Vineyards, orchards and cattle ranges made it a prosperous for Ramon, his wife Juana and his three sons.  He built a large two-story adobe. He hired Emideo Ortega as his Major Domo, Ranch Foreman. The future looked promising for the rancher. This was a great time for California. The discovery of gold caused men to come from all over to try their luck in the gold field.  The price of beef skyrocketed and ranch owners became wealthy.  But some of the people who came were not good people and crime flourished.

In 1849 nine British sailors jumped ship and turned to a life of crime. Why dig for gold when they could rob people and take their gold? If they resisted–simply kill them. They rode south  leaving a trail of dead in their wake. At San Miguel mission, now being used as an Inn, they robbed the place and killed all thirteen people staying at the old mission, men, women and children.  The massacre galvanized the citizens as the gang rode south towards Los Angeles. Posses were formed at ever community to stop the killers.   Ramon Rodriguez answered the call and volunteered for a posse at San Buenaventura.  They went north and near Summerland, at Ortega Hill, they engages in a long gunfight that ended in the surf. Four of the gang, including the leader were killed. Ramon was badly wounded and died as they returned him to Ventura.

He was given a funeral Mass and buried in the Mission Cemetery.  A stone marker once marked the grave of the first Ventura peace officer to fall in the line of duty.  Now the Holy Cross school was built on the site. The five surviving English gang members were given a trial in Santa Barbara and sentenced to death. Shot by firing squad on de la Guerra Street.   The sacrifice of Ramon “Natcho” Rodriguez should be remembered with a plaque or marker to this brave man. Maybe a statue should be put up to honor him and the others who still rest under the old school next to the Mission Church.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email