Today is Dr. Cephas Little Bard’s birthday! He was born this day 177 years ago and is the reason the Museum of Ventura County exists. The Museum first opened in 1913 in the newly built Ventura County Courthouse (now Ventura City Hall). Soon known as the Pioneer Museum, its collections of artifacts and curios were the legacy of Dr. Cephas Bard, a Pennsylvania doctor who came to Ventura after the Civil War. A compassionate man with wide-ranging interests, Dr. Bard accepted historical objects in lieu of cash payment for his services.
Dr. Cephas Little Bard was born in Chambersburgh, Franklin County, Pa. on April 7, 1843. Being a doctor seems to have been the Bard family business. Nearly all of his maternal ancestors were doctors and on his paternal side he had relatives who were founders of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York. He completed a course of “classical studies” at the Chambersburgh Academy before becoming a student doctor in the office of Dr. A. H. Senseny.
During the Civil War, he enlisted as a private in Company A, 126th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. With that regiment he participated in the second battle of Bull Run and those of Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. After his term of service had expired he attended lectures at the Jefferson Medical College and then was appointed assistant surgeon of the Pennsylvania volunteers and again went to the front. He remained with his regiment until the surrender of Lee. In regards to his ancestors, it is of note that Dr. Samuel Bard, a paternal relative, was General Washington’s physician and that Colonel Robert Parker, Dr. Bard’s maternal great-grandfather, was a colonel under Washington and from him received special recognition for gallant services.
After the war, Dr. Bard returned to his old home, where he practiced medicine until 1865, at which time he moved west to join his brother Thomas Bard. He was the first American physician to practice in what is now Ventura County. When the county was established in the early 1870s, they held their first election and Dr. Bard, having been nominated for coroner on both tickets, was, of course, unanimously elected. In the next general election he was re-elected. Dr. Bard served terms aggregating to twenty years as County Physician and Surgeon. He was president of the Ventura County Pioneer Society from the time it was organized and also served as president of the Ventura County Medical Society. He was the County Health Officer and an active participant in the California State Medical Society and was president of the state medical association.
Dr. Bard was a prominent member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, of the Knights Templar and other fraternal orders. He had an exceedingly large medical practice, to which he was devoted. His carriage and his pet white horse “Kit” could be seen going night and day on his errands ofmercy.
Dr. Bard was instrumental in the development of medical practice and infrastructure in Ventura County. On January 1, 1902, the Elizabeth Bard Memorial Hospital was opened to the public. Dr. Bard and his brother, Senator Thomas R. Bard, erected this institution as a memorial to their mother. The building is now known as the Elizabeth Bard Memorial Building and is located at 121 N. Fir Street, on the corner of Fir and Poli Streets.
Dr. Bard passed away on Sunday April 20, 1902. He’d had a surgery the Thursday before and did not recover. It was noted in his obituary that he was thought of as “a valuable citizen and one beloved by everyone. He was known to every person in this section and all regarded him as a personal friend.” Many parents in Ventura County named their children for the doctor, using either Cephas, Little, or Bard as given names.
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