The roads were out and Ventura was isolated

Once our Mission served as a rescue center.

by Richard Senate

In the months of December 1861 and January and February of 1862 a chain of rainstorms devastated Ventura County and all of southern California. It rained both day and night with one claim that it rained one hundred inches!

Some reported the hillsides and mountain changed their shape. This could be 19th Century bluster and hyperbolic language but it was historic as it ended the cattle culture of the area. Today weathermen estimate it was more like 60 inches. This is still a powerful set of storms.

So much water run off came down Main Street that it was impassible and washed a fifteen-foot channel down the center of the street. The worst night was that of February 1, 1862. Homes were lost and many, using horses, rescued people from the roofs of their homes. Half of the Ortega Adobe was washed away and never rebuilt. Many locals were cowboys and used their skills to rope people and pull them though the raging waters to safety.

That awful night, the old Mission San Buenaventura became a rescue center for the town. All were welcome that terrible night and given hot soup and a dry place to stay as waters surged around the building. One dedicated Chumash parishioner went up to the bell tower, in the height of the storm that dark night, and continuously rang the large bell so that survivors could home in on the sound to reach the safety of the Mission in the dark.

The roads were out and Ventura was isolated. In this crisis, like they always do, Venturans pulled together to help one another in this natural calamity. That night, as survivors huddled in their blankets in the old adobe and stone church, there were no Roman Catholics, Protestants or Buddhists, all were simply Venturans.

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