- FARALLON ISLANDS THROUGH TIME
- FARALLON ISLANDS COLLECTORS
- FARALLON ISLANDS FLORA
- FARALLON ISLANDS FAUNA
- FARALLON ISLANDS HISTORIC PAINTINGS
- FARALLON ISLANDS HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS
- FARALLON ISLANDS STEREOVIEWS
- FARALLON ISLANDS LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS
- FARALLON ISLANDS BIRTHS
- FARALLON ISLANDS DEATHS
- FARALLON ISLANDS SHIPWRECKS
FARALLON ISLANDS [Farallones de los Frayles], named in 1775 by Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (1743 – 1794), a Spanish naval officer born in Lima, Peru. Assigned to the Pacific coast Spanish Naval Department base at San Blas, in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (present day Mexico), this navigator explored the Northwest Coast of North America as far north as present day Alaska.
The Farallon Islands are a group of ten islets in a 211-acre archipelago 27-miles due west of the Golden Gate. The are within San Francisco City Limits. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge in 1909 by Executive Order No. 1043 to protect seabirds and marine mammals. This was expanded to the other islands in 1969 when it became a National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is comprised of four groups of small islands: Southeast Farallon, North Farallons, Middle Farallon, and Noonday Rock. South Farallon Islands is the largest island at 70 acres and was added to the refuge in 1969. Congress designated all these islands except Southeast Farallon Island as the Farallon Wilderness Area in 1974. The Farallons are also designated as a State Ecological Reserve and a Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve. Southeast Farallon, 65 acres in size, is the only island that supports structures from earlier times, several of which have been maintained or renovated for refuge management purposes.
From 1812 to 1838, tens of thousands of eggs thousands of the birds, as well as seals, were killed on the Farallon Islands to supply Russians colonists in Alaska.
When control of California switched from Mexico to the United States in 1848 (California statehood occurred in 1850), it was not long before the economic potential of the islands became apparent. In the wake of the California Gold Rush, before chickens had arrived in sufficient numbers to provide eggs for the burgeoning San Francisco populace, eggs were in great demand.
In 1848 a recent immigrant to San Francisco, David "Doc" Robinson," an aspiring theater entrepreneur, sailed to the islands to collect the eggs, and despite losing half of his cargo, was able to make enough money to found a pharmacy and to form the Pacific Egg Company. With his brother in law in a rented whaling boat, Robinson returned to San Francisco with $3,000 worth of murre eggs — enough to found his Dramatic Museum theater. He set off a frenzy for egging. By 1850, a group of eggers launched the Farallon Egg Company (also known as the Pacific Egg Company, 1855-1881). They set out to acquire complete rights to all the eggs of the Farallones. The first six years of egg collecting yielded three to four million eggs. Eggs were shipped through 1892—15,000 to 25,000 per year. By 1896 egg picking had fallen to 7645 dozen.
Egg collection was a seasonal occupation, from mid-May until July. The eggs of murres were preferred over those of other species, their eggs being the largest and most common ones available. Western gull eggs were also occasionally taken, having a comparable flavor, but they were smaller than murre eggs and more fragile (an important factor given the choppy seas between the Farallon Islands and San Francisco). Individual eggers collected from certain areas. Prior to collecting the workers would progress through a colony destroying every egg they could find, thus, returning to the site on subsequent days, they could be certain the eggs they collected were fresh. Eggers had to work quickly as the murres would flush and immediately the gulls would move in to snatch the unguarded eggs.
In 1855, a light house was established on the Farallones. It was built on Southeast Farallon Island. Farallon Island Lighthouse was lit for the first time on January 1, 1856 by Head Keeper Nerva N. Wines (1825-1901) and his brother, Assistant John Woodhull Wines (1832-1907), who, respectively were paid annual salaries of $1,000 and $650. The lighthouse was the sixth lighthouse to be activated on the West Coast. Jack the mule remained on the island for eighteen years to help carry oil and supplies up to the lighthouse. These were the first in a long list of lighthouse keepers over the next almost century—until 1945.
In the early years, there were ongoing, often armed conflicts between the egg company and the lighthouse crews. Independent eggers also continued to challenge the egg company's right to control of the island's eggs. Eggers built a house and occupied a part of the island.
- “This lighthouse is situated on the highest peak of the southeast Farallon. It was built in 1855 in the busy days which followed the gold rush when clipper ships and other sailing vessels were sailing in to San Francisco in large numbers. That there was need for a light on these dangerous rocks is evident when clippers like the Golden City which sailed from New York in 1852 reported that she was detained 5 days off the Farallons in fog. Stone for the construction of the lighthouse was quarried on the island and inside this masonry was a lining of brick. The extremely sharp slopes of the island and the jagged nature of the rock were serious obstacles to construction work. The bricks used in the tower were carried up the rock in bundles of four and five on the backs of men. After the completion of the tower a mule was kept on the island for years to carry supplies between the various parts of the station. At one time this mule was the oldest inhabitant. A number of years ago the gathering of birds’ eggs, which were sold on the San Francisco market, was carried on here extensively and seals were also hunted commercially. These practices were finally terminated by the Federal Government. The Farallon Light Station was equipped with a radiobeacon as well as with a powerful light and fog signal.”
In 1862-1863 the Farallon Island Egg War took place. In 1862 Italians moved into the egg collecting business and police were hirted to protect the islands. On June 4, 1863, David Batchelder and a group of 27 armed men sailed from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands in three boats to challenge the Pacific [Farallon] Egg Co. for bird eggs. One man was killed and another died of wounds a few days later. Although the resulting violence claimed two lives, it left the Egg Company in sole control of the islands' eggs. Its victory was short lived; the company sold the rights to use the islands in the late 1870s and the federal government removed all egging companies from the islands in 1881.
- May 23, 1881 [Farallon Island Logbook, National Archives]: “U.S. steamer Manzanita arrived here at 12:30 P.M. U.S. Marshal with 20 soldiers on board to arrest and take the men employed by the Egg Company off the island. 11 men in all.”
In 1878 a Victorian duplex was built on the island, and an identical one was added in 1880 to provide improved accommodations for the island’s four resident keepers and their families.
On September 20, 1880, a predictable steam siren commenced service on the island. The siren was converted from steam to oil in 1907, and in 1918 an air diaphone replaced the steam siren. Much to the dismay of the island’s residents, the boisterous fog signal was typically in operation around 1,000 hours a year, or roughly eleven percent of the time.
Arguments with the lighthouse crews never subsided, and in 1881 U.S. Marshals were called in to evict the egg company for good. When they first started harvesting eggs, they were taking over 900,000 per year; twenty years later that had dropped to 300,000. Independent egging continued into the 1890s, but harvesters were only taking around 150,000 eggs per season.
Also in 1881, the ship Franconia wrecked on South Farallon Island where today the namesake place name commemorates the event.
The plight of the murres, whose population was only about one fifth what it had been fifty years earlier, came to the attention of Leverett M. Lewis. Lewis was a scientist with the California Academy of Sciences and he began a campaign to stop egging. He was successful in convincing the Lighthouse Board to ban the practice in 1896, and for the last hundred years the murres have been living undisturbed. Despite careful protections their population has yet to recover.
In 1901 an outbreak of diphtheria occurred on the island. The lighthouse keepers flew distress flags and other signal flags asking for medical assistance, but none of the passing ships saw the flags. The son of one of the keepers died. Later that same year, Diphtheria hit the island again, claiming the life of yet another child; this time it was four-year old Harold J. Cain, son of lighthouse keeper Cyrus Cain. Sadly, the disease struck the island again in 1915, claiming yet another child, Virgil Williams, son of the third assistant keeper. But none of this deterred the government or the lighthouse keepers from having families live on this remote island.
From 1902 to 1913, the former U.S. Weather Bureau maintained a weather station on the southeast island, which was connected with the mainland by cable. The results of the meteorological study were later published in a book on California's climate.
In 1907 the annual Full Crew Farallones Race began as a tradition the year after the San Francisco earthquake. The race is sanctioned by the Offshore Yacht Racing Association in Alameda and sponsored by the San Francisco Yacht Club.
In 1939, the United States Coast Guard took over the lighthouse when the United States Lighthouse Service merged with it. The tradition of having families live on the island continued. The Coast Guard maintained a presence until 1972.
By 1942, there were more than twenty buildings on South Farallon, and a town of nearly 100 people, referred to by its inhabitants as Farallon City. The supply boat arrived weekly, and for a brief period the inhabitants made their own newspsper, Farallon Foghorn. After the war the population thinned.
In 1950, census taker Helen Mabbott traveled to Farallon Island where she made $2.31 for counting the island's thirty residents - seven cents a head and seven cents for each of the island's three dwellings.
In 1953 there were ten Coast Guardsmen living on the island–five with wives, two of whom had small children. The island had one television set that was shared by everyone in what was called the Barracks TV room, where they also showed films on a movie projector. Amazingly, TV reception on the island was excellent and the picture came in sharp and clear. By the mid 1960s, however, the Coast Guard no longer allowed families to live on the island and keepers' families were removed in 1865.
In 1969 the islands were designated a National Wildlife Refuge and Point Reyes Bird Observatory was contracted by the government to repair environmental damage.
In 1972, automation and modernization caught up to the Farallon Island Light Station, and a Coast Guard presence on island was no longer required. The lighthouse lantern room and the Fresnel lens had been removed, and an automated aero beacon was placed on the tower. The lens is on display in the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park visitor center on Hyde Street.
- 1938. The Farallon Islands Millions Have Wondered About Them; Few Have Visited Them in California History Nugget, Vol. VI, Number 2, November 1938 pp. 50-58
- 1856. [Hutchings, J. M.] The Farallon Islands in Hutchings' California Magazine, Vol. 1, August 1856 pp. 49-57.
- 1862. Gruber, Ferdinand Die Farallones—Inseln und deren Naturprodukte in California Chronik, 13. Juli 1862, 20. Juli 1862, 27. Juli 1862.
- 1874. Nordhoff, Charles The Farallon Islands in Harper's New Monthly Magazine Vol. xlviii, April, 1874, pp. 617-625.
- 1875. [Scammon, Charles M.] Beacons at the Golden Gate in The Overland Monthly, Vol. 15, July, 1875, pp. 54-57.
- 1885. Townsend, Chas. H. The Occurence of the Catbird on the Farallon Islands in The Auk, Vol. II, April, 1885, pp. 215-216.
- 1888. Bryant, Walter E. Birds and Eggs from the Farallon Islands in Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci., 2nd series Vol I, Jan. 19, 1888, pp. 25-50.
- 1892. Blankenship, W. A. and C. A. Keeler On the Natural History of the Farallon Islands in Zoe 3:144-165
- 2001. Carter, H.R., U.W. Wilson, R.W. Lowe, M.S. Rodway, D.A. Manuwal, J.E. Takekawa, and J.L. Yee. Population trends of the Common Murre (Uria aalge californica). Pages 33-132 In: D.A. Manuwal, H.R. Carter, T.S. Zimmerman, and D.L. Orthmeyer (eds.). Biology and conservation of the Common Murre in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Volume 1: Natural history and population trends. U.S. Geological Survey, Information and Technology Report USGS/BRD/ITR-2000-0012, Washington, D.C.
FARALLON ISLANDS THROUGH TIME
January 27, 1850 [DAC]: “The county of San Francisco is bounded as follows:...The rock islands called Farallones, are included in the jurisdiction of this county. The seat of justice shall be at the city of San Francisco.”
June 5, 1850 [DAC]: “Steamboat excursion. The steamer Gold Hunter. Captain Charles J. Brenham, will make an excursion to the Farallones Island (about fifteen miles from the entrance of San Francisco Harbor) next Sunday morning, leaving Clark's Point at 9 o'clock, and the Islands at 5 o'clock, p.m. Arrangements will be made for landing the passengers on the Island. Tickets for the excursion $20, to be obtained at our office. Only a limited number will be issued. Simmons, Hutchinson & Co., Clay Street wharf.”
January 1, 1851 [DAC]: “...It is objected to the Farallones, where, according to the recent act of Congress, a lighthouse is to be erected, that it is so far at sea that the light could be of no use in entering the harbor in foggy weather, and probably but little at any other time. There is little or no danger of vessels striking the Farallones, they being high, bold and easily avoided...”
February 21, 1851 [DAC]: “Sunday excursion. Fishing banks—Whalers Ahoy—The steamer Goliah, Capt. Thomas, will leave Cunningham's Wharf, on Sunday, 23rd inst., at 10 a.m. for the Farallones. Should the weather be fine, and as she will have experienced whalers on board, together with boats and necessary tackle, it is expected that several whales will be captured, affording all a fine opportunity of enjoying the exciting sport. Tickets $8, to be had at the office. Charles Minturn, Agent, Cunningham's Wharf.”
April 11, 1851 [DAC]: “The Ewing—The U.S. Surveying schooner Ewing, so long the object of admiration to the nautical taste of strangers as well as to our community, will leave this morning on a trip of duty to the Farallones. So much has been said and written in regard to the precise latitude or position of these islands, and as the matter of corrections on this subject is of some little importance, Lieut. Commander Moore has resolved, if possible to settle the question beyond the change of a doubt. The exact position of this group has been variably set down, and on some charts entirely erroneous.”
April 15, 1851 [DAC]: “Important to Navigators—the U.S. surveying schooner Ewing, James H. Moore, Lieut. commanding, returned last evening, from a trip to the Farallones, where she went for the purpose of ascertaining the correct position of those Islands, as we announced a few days since. Without any reference to the position as laid down in other charts, the correct latitude and longitude was ascertained to differ from seven or eight miles from that laid down even in the last charts of Lieut. McArthur. The southern Farallones is composed of a group of three, and the northern of five small islands, about a quarter of a mile apart. Soundings were taken in from one quarter to one half mile of the south-east of the southern group, in from 11 to 22 fathoms of water. The bottom was hard and rocky...”
June 17, 1851 [SDU]: “Arrival from the Farallones. A small schooner arrived here yesterday from the Farallones, bringing a cargo of fourteen hundred dozen [16,800] duck, gull, and other fowl eggs. She also brought a young sea lion, which was taken alive. The adventures represent eggs and game as very plenty out there.”
April 10, 1852 [SDU]: “U.S. Surveying Steamer Active— A very agreeable excursion was yesterday made in our bay by a party of ladies and gentlemen, guests of Lieut. Alden, of the Coast Survey, on his fine steamer Active, which has just been completed and put in readiness for surveying service on this coast. The Active was formerly known to our citizens and to the traveling public as the steamer Gold Hunter. She was purchased by the Board of Coast Survey a few weeks since, and by important alterations at the ship yard, and a thorough cleansing overhauling, fitting up anew and repainting, she has been made one of the most complete ocean steam vessels employed in the service. Yesterday was set apart for an excursion in the Active to the Farallones, in honor of her completion; and a pleasant and numerous company assembled by ten in the morning, to participate in the pleasures of the occasion. Owing to the lateness of the hour of starting, and the adverse state of the wind and tide, the trip to the famed islands of "sea lions" was deemed inexpedient...”
June 19, 1852 [DAC]: “Schooner Huntress, [Captain] Payne, from the Farallones; eggs, to master.”
July 30, 1852 [DAC]: “Schooner Huntress, [Captain] Payne, from Farallones. 35 bbls elephant [seal] oil, to master.”
May 26, 1853 [SDU]: “The bark Oriole has sailed for the Farallones to establish a lighthouse.”
June 9, 1853 [SDU]: “The revenue schooner Active has been ordered by the collector of the Port, to proceed to the Farallones, and assist the contractors for building the lighthouse in progressing with their work, which they were prevented from doing by a combination of the residents upon the islands. The Active will proceed on her mission today.”
June 10, 1853 [DAC]: “The surveying steamer Active, Lieut. Alden, sailed on the 8th inst. from port, and after stopping at the Farallones, proceeded to the wreck of the Carrier Pigeon, which lies about 7 miles north of Point Año Nuevo, bow on shore. Hew bows lay about 500 feet from the beach, and she rests amidships on a ledge of rocks, which have broken the ship's back. The tide ebbs and flows in her, and is up to her between-decks. A portion if not all of her cargo between decks may be saved if the weather holds good, which is doubtful, as there was a heavy surf when the Active left...”
June 11, 1853 [SDU]: “The Light House at the Farallones. The steamer Active, Capt. Alden, took the Collector, the ex-Collector and the deputy United States Marshall, to the Farallones on the 8th inst. On landing at the island, they were kindly received by those in possession, who informed them that they had no objections to the building of a Light House by the government; but they wished to enter their protest and to hold possession of the island if any one was to have it. They had already gathered about ten thousand dozen [120,000] of wild eggs, and the islands are still covered with millions more. They had discovered on the island, a well of water, which is of great advantage.”
June 17, 1853 [DAC]: “Eggs! Eggs!! — Wild Eggs, direct from the Farallones. These eggs are collected every day, and are warranted fresh. For sale, wholesale and retail, at the Farallone Egg Depot, 153 Front Street, next to the corner of Pacific.” [and June 29, July 2, 6, 15, 18, 22, 1853]
June 28, 1853 [DAC]: “Schr. Favorite, [Captain] Brown, from Farallones, eggs to master.”
July 6, 1853 [DAC]: “Those who went on the excursions to Benicia, ContracCosta and the Farallones, enjoyed themselves very much, the day being exceedingly agreeable on the water as well as on the land.”
July 16, 1853 [DAC]: “Grand excursion to the fishing banks and Farallones—on Sunday, July 17, from the Pacific Wharf at 9 o'clock a.m.. The old favorite, fast running and commodious steamer Senator, Samuel Seymour, Esq., commander... Tickets for the Excursion, $5, to be had on board. Meals extra. Charles Minturn, Agent. Cunningham's Wharf.”
June 15, 1855 [SDU]: “Murre Eggs.—According to a statement in the San Francisco Chronicle, 2,820,000 eggs have been gathered at the Farallones, and brought into that city during the last six years. These eggs are laid by a sea bird called the '"murre," and gathered by the Farallones Egg Company, which has laid a pre-emption claim upon the Islands, had them surveyed by the County Surveyor, and had their claim recorded; and laid State School Warrants upon their claim. They have built a two-story house on the main island, and have built about three quarters of a mile of stone wall, to protect their garden ground from the hogs which they raise. The murres usually begin to lay their eggs on the Farallones about the 1st of May, and stop about the 4th of July. This year, however, the season began about two weeks later than usual. The murre lays only one egg, and drops it upon the bare ground. So soon as they have made a fair commencement at laying eggs on the Farallones, the Egg Company employ forty men to collect the eggs every day; a measure necessary to get them fresh, because the murre, having only one egg, begins to set immediately after laying. The eggs are brought to market twice a week by a pilot boat, chartered for that purpose. The wholesale price of the eggs in previous years was 75 cents per dozen, but it has fallen this year to 45 cents; which price the crop of this year brought to market will bring $13,500 at wholesale. At retail, they are sold at from 50 to 75 cents per dozen. The murre's eggs are not so good as hen's eggs, but are considerably better than no eggs at all. The murre is a sea bird, so clumsy in figure as to be almost helpless on land, but it has strong wings and is an excellent swimmer and diver. Its ordinary weight is about two pounds, and its length, from the tip of the bill to the end of the tail feathers is sixteen or seventeen inches. The general color of the wings, back, tail, head and neck is dark gray; the breast and abdominal, white. THe murre is plenty about the Bay of Fundy, Newfoundland and Labrador. On this coast they are numerous, in certain localities, from Panama to the Russian possessions.”
August 8, 1856 [SDU]: “Farallone Islands. Interesting sketch from Hutchings California Magazine. In the August number of this magazine, just issued, we find the following sketch of the Farallones, which is illustrated by wood cuts of very superior execution, and makes in the whole an article of considerable merit: The Farallone Islands. This is the name of a small group of rocky islands, lying in the Pacific Ocean, about twenty-seven miles west of the Golden Gate, and thirty-five miles from San Francisco. These islands have become of some importance, and of considerable interest, on account of the vast quantity of eggs that are there annually gathered, for the California market; these eggs having become an almost indispensable article of spring and summer consumption to many persons. By the courtesy of the Farallone Egg Company, through their President, Capt. Richardson, the schooner Louise, Captain Harlow, was placed at our service, for the purpose of visiting them; and, in company with a small party of friends, we were soon upon the deep green brine...Now, with the reader's permission we will leave the birds and animals—at least if we can—and take a walk up to the light house, at the top of the island, three hundred and fifty-seven feet above the sea. A good pathway has been made, so that we can ascend with ease...Now let us enter the light house, and under the guidance of Mr. Wines, the superintendent, we shall find our time well spent in looking at the best light house on the Pacific coast. Everything is bright and clean, its machinery in beautiful order, and working as regular in its movements as a chronometer. The wind blows fresh outside, and secretly you hope the light house will not blow over before you get out...”
June 14, 1858 [SDU]: “Eggs.— The sloop Dante, a very small fishing boat, arrived on Saturday morning with three hundred dozen [3,600] muir (sic) eggs, imported from the Farallones.”
November 11, 1858 [SDU]: “News came in this morning that the ship Lucas, bound in with passengers from Victoria, had been wrecked at the Farallones. The U. S. steamer Active started for the scene of the disaster, and returned at half-past 8 p.m. She reports as follows: Ship Lucas, Captain Dagget, left Victoria October 22nd, with 175 passengers and 75 tons of freight. On the first past of the voyage they had strong southwest winds; and on the 10th instant, at half-past 2 a.m., in a thick fog, wind light from northwest, struck heavily on the South Farallones. One hour after striking the ship filled with water, sunk up to the foreyard, and commenced breaking up. The passengers were landed in boats and by ropes attached to the shore. There was a heavy surf raging. All the passengers, except 22, were landed, when the sea washed overboard 15, all of whom were drowned—the balance saved themselves in the main rigging. A Kanaka attempted to swim off with a line, but could not reach the ship. They then hove a small line from the shore, which those on board succeeded in getting hold of, and were hauled ashore through the surf. Captain Daggert was the last person that left the ship. Eleven of the passengers had left in a fishing boat for this city. There were three lady passengers, all of whom were saved. The Active brought 147.
Mr. Bignell, belonging to Forest City, and others, give the following additional particulars: About half past two o'clock on Wednesday morning they heard waves breaking against what proved to be one of the Farallones Island, but the fog was so thick as to obscure the beacon light onshore. They steered off, but in a few minutes ran against the south Farallones, being a small island with very steep sides. The vessel ran close up and got hemmed in fore and aft; some concealed rocks intercepting her whenever washed off from the island by the surf. This lasted for about one hour, giving the passengers time to get on deck, and then the hold began to fill. Some leaped from the ship to the rocks, but others jumped overboard and were drowned, from not being able to make their way through the surf. About half past six o'clock the ship gave a heavy lurch and the hull disappeared under water almost instantly, causing some to go overboard, but the captain and a few others ran into the rigging, the masts continuing to stand, and were taken off by a rope as above stated. The passengers lost everything. It is not known positively how many are lost. I could not learn the names.”
November 12, 1858 [SDU]: “It will be noticed by our telegraphic column, that the ship Lucas with one undred and seventy-five passengers from Victoria, has been lost on the South Farallones, and several lives have been lost. The names of those who have met with this mournful fate were not made known at last accounts.”
November 18, 1858 [SDU]: “The Farallones Light House Keeper—Some of the San Francisco merchants raised $200 recently to reimburse the keeper of the light house at the Farallones, for stores furnished by him to the persons lately wrecked on the ship Lucas.”
July 22, 1859 [DAC]: “The Murre (Uria Ringvin) is a gull-like bird, 17 inches long, dark brown above and white beneath, with transverse stripes of ashy-brown on its sides. Its throat is brown in summer and white in winter. It frequents the islands along the coast, and lays its eggs there on the bare ground and rocks. These eggs are about three inches and a half long, sea-green in color, with irregularly shaped dark brown spots on them. Great quantities of these eggs have are obtained every year at the Farallones, and are sold in the San Francisco market, under the name of "Farallone eggs", at about half the price of hen's eggs per dozen, and as the latter are only about half the size of the murre's eggs, the latter are, if measured by weight, seventy-five percent cheaper. Their taste, however, is rather coarse, and they are rarely or never seen on the table of a fashionable house.”
November 23, 1859 [DAC]: “Disputed claims to the Farallones. U.S. Surveyor General with the steamer Shubrick going to investigate the matter. For several years the group of island lying off the entrance to the harbor, and known as the Farallones has been claimed by different private parties. The principal of these is the Association known as the Farallones Egg Company, who have annually, during the egg season gathered the gull's eggs from the largest island, known as the South Farallon. This company had originally possession claim under the right of occupancy in early years, and this they have jealously guarded until the present time. Another set of claimants are some Italian fishermen, who were granted permission, a few years since, by Major Bache, of the U.S Topographical Engineers, to land on the island, erect huts, and in other ways to provide for their comfort while fishing in the vicinity. They subsequently located School Land and other warrants on the island, and have since laid formal to claim it. There has been, also, a Limantour [sealing] title in some way attached to it. The third claimant is the United States, who, five years since, erected a lighthouse on the highest peak and placed their keepers in possession. It appears, however, that the Department at Washington has not taken the requisite steps to have the other parties removed, and during the last few months some high handed proceedings are said to have taken place. Some of the claimants have been breaking up the Government roads lately constructed by the U.S. Coast Survey authorities, and have drawn lines and posted up notices warning the keepers not to pass them on pain of death. These, and other like acts, have at last been brought forcibly to the attention of the Light House Board at Washington, who, through the Department of the Interior, have finally sent orders to the officers of the Tewlfth Lighthouse District, and to Mr. Mandeville, the U.S. Surveyor General in this city, to make a visit of investigation to the island, but whether with the view of taking possessions or not, we have not learned. In pursuance of these orders the U.S. steamer Shubrick will proceed to the island today, and make a thorough examination of what has been done by the private parties and the relationship existing between them and the lighthouse keepers, which, we may and is not, at present, of the most amicable had... Some little fluttering has been created among the several contestants for the right to the island, by this formal Government visit. Suits have from time to time been situated between them; in there seems now to be a party which claims must eventually overshadow them all.”
November 24, 1859 [SDU]: “San Francisco, Nov. 23d. The revenue cutter W. L. Marcy went out to the Farallones this morning to examine into the question of claims there between squatters and the United States. It is alleged that the private claimants have been posting up placards threatening the Light House keepers with death if they passed beyond certain limits, and have been breaking up the Government road from the landing place to the Light House.”
November 24, 1859 [SDU]: “The revenue cutter returned this morning from her expedition to the Farallone islands. Owing to the gale no landing could be affected. She shipped several heavy seas, one of which washed away her boat.”
May 19, 1860 [SDU]: “Farallones' Egg Hinting—The business of egg hunting in the Farallone Islands has commenced, and will be continued for three or four weeks—the usual season—if the different claimants do not get "by the ears" about the eggs, and oblige Uncle Sam to put a stop to the operations of the whole of them. The egg-gatherers reap a rich harvest from the ovarious deposits on their island property. At this season of the year, the birds flock by the thousands, and may be destroyed with clubs, though such cruelty, we believe, is not generally practiced. The eggs of the muhrr (sic) are not so good as hens' eggs, but are, nevertheless, useful as ingerdients in a variety of confectionery, puddings, etc. The birds flock there in such numbers that it is difficult to avoid killing them—the female remaining on the nest until the last moment, and then, when driven from the place, flitting close about the heads of the intruders. However thoroughly the ground may be gleaned, the supply of eggs is equally abundant on the following day. The schooner Naiad returned from the islands yesterday with twenty-five boxes.”
May 24, 1860 [SDU]: “Farallones Egg War.—The Police court room was densely crowded yesterday by spectators, witnesses and other interested in the case of the Farallones Egg Company against the Italians. The defendants are charged with petit larceny in abstracting eggs claimed by the Company. Some twelve or fourteen Italians are in the docket. A jury has just been empaneled, composed mostly of leading citizens. The case, after the examination of a few witnesses, was continued until 7 o'clock in the evening, and again, after hearing of further testimony, until Monday evening next.”
May 29, 1860 [SDU]: “Thirteen more Italian fishermen, charged with stealing seagulls' eggs from the Farallones, were brought up from the islands this evening.”
June 6, 1860 [SDU]: “Five of the Italians arrested for stealing sea gull eggs on the Farallones were convicted tonight.”
May 7, 1862 [SDU]: “On Thursday a party of Italians, said to have been headed by a deputy Lighthouse keeper, on the Island, landed on the south Farallon and demanded possession of the Island. They were armed with guns, pistols and knives and said they had as good a right to the Island as anyone else, and they intended to maintain it. Stearns, the Pacific Farallon Egg Company's agent, remonstrated with them, but to no purpose, as he only had one man with him. The invaders took possession without much difficulty. The Agent returned to the city last night in a fishing boat to see what can be done in the matter.”
May 8, 1862 [SDU]: “The Revenue steamer Shubrick has gone to the Farallon Islands today, to recapture the south island from those who invaded and took it last week, and place the Agent of the Farallon Egg Company again in possession, and it is thought the war will be speedily closed.”
May 30, 1862 [California Farmer]: “...we are temporarily occupied with the Farallon egg war, the invasion of the island by a party of Italians. The contest is happily bloodless so far, nothing more serious happening than policemen getting ducked in the surf, and numerous arrests and acquittals of the invaders. The papers though do manage to murder the spelling of Farallon horribly, in their items on the subject.”
June 20, 1862 [Marysville Daily Appeal]: “Decision in the Egg Case.—Police Judge Cowles made a decision yesterday in the case of the parties charged with stealing eggs from the Farallones, sustaining the demurrer to the complaint, which demurrer alleged that the nature of the offense was not sufficiently defined. Birds' eggs, which the accused were charged with stealing, were not a subject for larceny, but muhr's (sic) eggs were, and the charge should have been for stealing "muhrs" eggs, and not "birds."
April 16, 1863 [SDU]: “The Farallon Egg Company have sent a force of armed men to guard the islands against trespassers.”
May 15, 1863 [DAC]: “The Farallones. Some particulars relative to those rocky islets, the Farallones—collected from various sources—may interest our readers, particluarly as the present is the egg season, and as an important suit has been commenced in the Twelfth District Court involving the right to collect the eggs, etc. The Farallones de los Frayles were discovered in 1543 by Bartolome Ferello, who was a Portuguese by birth, but in the service of Spain with Cabrillo. However Sir Francis Drake, the English navigator, is the first who specially mentions them (in 1579) as "lying off the bay where he refitted his ships." The Russians founded a settlement here in 1812, for the purpose of obtaining oil and skins, and several places are yet visible where the latter were stretched out and dried. The Farallones are in the Pacific Ocean—within the legislative limits of the city and county of San Francisco. They embrace the northerly, middle and south easterly groups. The northerly cluster is made up of five rocks; the middle is a single rock; the southerly is the largest. The last is two miles in circumference. Upon it the lighthouse stands, the top of the tower of which is 300 feet above the level of the sea. This island is about 23-1/2 miles west from the Golden Gate. It is really difficult to imagine a more desolate place than these rocky islets present to view, they being a mass of jagged granite. Neither a tree nor shrub relieves the eye by contrast, or gives change to the exceeding barrenness of the landscape. Collectively, these islets may be considered as the most extensive poultry-yard in the world, for here may be found in myriads the bird described by Buffon as the "Guillamot"—the "Uria Troile" of Linnaeus—which lays its eggs upon the bare rocks. The appellation of the "Foolish Guillamot" has been given to this species by Latham, from the fact of its being with difficulty roused to flight, and often suffering itself to be caught by hand, particularly during incubation. Audubon, in his great national work, gives a charming account of the habots of this interesting species (the Murre), which is also known to the eggers and fisherman of the Northern Atlantic. Some idea may be formed of their numbers when it is known that each bird during the season lays but a single egg, and that since 1851 upwards of five million of their eggs have been sold in San Francisco market. They are of a pale green color, blotched with umber, and are much in demand in restaurants. The egg-season lasts about six weeks, from the middle of May to the end of June... The title to these islands is, most probably in the Federal Government. However, they did not escape the avaricious eye of Limantour, as they were included in his "gigantic swindle." In 1851 some fishermen laid claim to the South Farallon, and eventually a squatter pre-empted title vested in the Pacific Farallon Company, who also have acquired an absolute tax-deed (1857-'58) to the islands, "less 1,401 feet that the whole of Said Islands." On the 30th of December last, the entire number of the Islands were again sold for non-payment of taxes (1859-'60) to Abel Guy. It remains to be seen whether they will be redeemed, the time expiring on the last day of the present month.”
June 5, 1863 [SDU]: “The Farallon Egg War.—On Wednesday the revenue steamer Shubrick ran over to the South Farallones, making another reconnaissance of the island, to see if matters were conducrted pleasantly, etc. There are about twenty of the old Egg Company on the island, employed in gathering eggs, watching their interests and guarding their property against intruders. On the return, a schooner with a number of the opposition, or "war party", was seen, who undoubtedly landed on the island also.”
June 17, 1863 [SDU]: “The Italian captain of the schooner Red Jacket, who was wounded in the Farallon Island fight, died tonight in the hospital.”
July 7, 1866 [DAC]: “Mottled Eggs.—A great variety of murre eggshells, from the Farallone Islands, were presented to us yesterday, by Thomas Tasker, Lighthouse Keeper. The specimens are spotted, lined, and marked, in the most unique and grotesque style. The donor, after selecting the choicest eggs, drew off their contents, leaving the shells perfect and in a condition to last a thousand years.”
May 23, 1867 [SDU]: “The annual harvest of the Farallones has commenced, the first gathering of eggs having been received here yesterday. The eggs so far received are those of the "gulls" which are so common in our harbor. These are of an olive tint, spotted with black or brown, and are of the shape but twice the size of an ordinary duck's egg. They, with the murr's (sic) egg, are said to be very palatable, and when made in an omelet with milk, are highly esteemed by women nursing children—they producing an abundance of milk, which the hen or duck egg does not. The murrs, which lay a very large, long, pointed egg, have as yet laid very few eggs, but the supply is expected to become large within the next two weeks. The gulls will lay for about ten days longer, when their season will be over. The Egg Company make it a rule to collect or destroy every gull's egg they can find, as the birds are most destructive to the murr's eggs when the latter are laying. At this time the gulls frequent the islands in large flocks, which eddying round in the air make a combined attack upon the land. Apparently at a given signal the gulls will dart down among the murrs, and pushing them on one side seize the egg with their feet, pierce it with their bill and suck the contents. By these depredations of the gulls many thousands of murres' eggs are destroyed during the season, the gatherers being unable to protect the murrs, as the report of a gun would startle the latter and drive them from the islands.”
January 20, 1868 [DAC]: “The schooner Morning Light, Captain Stevens, from Russian River, with 50,000 feet of lumber, for H. B. Tichnor & Co., sprung a leak and was abandoned by her crew near the Farallones Islands, on Saturday evening. The crew, after taking to their boat, broke their oars and were drifting at the mercy of the waves when they were rescued by the boat belonging to the Light House , on the South Farallon, to which they were taken, and where they still remained last night. The schooner, upon being abandoned, went ashore on the North Farallon, and as there was a fresh southeaster blowing last night, it is probable that she is by this time a wreck. A pilot boat went after the crew yesterday.”
June 15, 1880, [DAC]: “Intelligence reaches us from the Farallones that egg-pickers have distributed arsenic all over the island for the purpose of poisoning the gulls. This has been done on account of the destruction by the gulls of large numbers of muhr's [sic] eggs. The remedy is apparently worse than the disease, as large numbers of rabbits, with which the island abounds, are lying dead in every direction, and the inhabitants have to exercise the greatest care themselves to keep from being poisoned.”
June 27, 1881 [NYT]: “A New York ship wrecked. San Francisco, June 26.—The ship Franconia has gone ashore on South Farallon Island, near the entrance to this harbor, and will prove a total loss. A dense fog prevented the island from being seen. The Franconia is from New York, with a cargo of general merchandise. The crew are safe on the island, and are saving what they can from the wreck. Several tugs went out to render aid, but could do nothing, and have returned.”
June 16, 1887 [DAC]: “Eggs and seals. It is stated that the local United States officials who have charge of the reservation at Farallone Islands have been busily engaged for the past few days evicting the egg gatherers and sealers. This work becomes necessary every two or three years, and, although invariably successful is always attended with petty resistance and delays. It has transpired that when the Lighthouse Inspector ordered the poachers off they refused to go, and they are there still. What course the Government officials may take in the matter remains to be seen.”
November 5, 1890 [DAC]: “Memorandum per Willie R. Hume—saw the wreck of a two-masted schooner on the North Farallone Rocks.”
November 27, 1892, [LAH]: “Farallon Light Station, California, broken into spray, which the wind drives in cataracts over the crest of the little mountain. The keeper of this station goes into winter quarters about Dec. 1, and is in great luck if he gets to see a fresh newspaper more than three times before spring. This picturesque rock has a tragic history. If the lighthouse upon it had been finished a month before it was, a sad wreck might have been averted by the friendly aid of its rays. Just before the lighthouse was completed the English bark Lupata was driven ashore not a mile away. The bark came so near the rock that the creaking of its ropes and blocks and the voices of the officers could be distinctly heard by the workmen, though not a sign of the ship could be seen. Every one of the twenty persons on board was lost.”
August 9, 1896, [SFCall]: “Strange diet of Farallon Island rabbits. Students of natural history are continually finding some strange habit developed or partly developed in the animals of California. The reason for this is that there is such a variety of climate and conditions within a comparatively small area that the creatures simply adapt themselves to the locality in which they happen to be. In no other part of the world can one get such changes of temperature with so little change in location altitude as can be found between this city and San Jose or Stockton. Nor can such radically different islands be found so close to the mainland as the Farallones are when compared to the coast of California. Such being the case it is but natural that the creatures living there should be radically different from the rest of their tribe in other parts of the world. But even so, it is hard to conceive of rabbits eating raw fish. And yet that is what they do on the Farallones. They have been seen in the act, and should one be inclined to doubt the word of the men who make the statement there is no denying the fact that there is nothing else for them to eat. It is also known that rabbits are big eaters and if they were deprived of food they would soon cease to exist. To count all of the rabbits on the Farallones would be an endless task and certainly require at least six figures to express the number [100,000]. They are there by the thousands and all seem healthy. Even in the rainy season the islands are almost devoid of vegetation, and such as it is does not seem calculated to make good eating even for rabbits. The pants are very few and slow of growth. They are also lacking in nourishment, being of lichen and moss varieties. Certainly, even when the islands are in their greenest there is not enough to sustain one-tenth of the rabbits that live there. The statements of the light keepers and egg pickers are that the rabbits live on the myriads of dead fish that are washed ashore every day. They will eat any kind, although they seem to prefer shellfish to all others. At any hour of the day the rabbits can be seen along the shore hunting the rocks for food. When the rabbits are eating the fish they look very much as they do when they are eating cabbage, and nibble it in the same way. They do not seem to be the least particular as to the condition of the fish they are eating and will make a meal off one that has lain on the rocks a week just as soon as form one that has just been washed ashore. It is interesting to know that the rabbits that live on the Farallones have contracted their present mode of living within the last thirty years , as they are the descendants of tame rabbits that were brought there by the first lighthouse keepers. They are not as pretty as their ancestors. In fact, they have become very lean and haggard looking and have much the appearance of a half-starved coyote. But the fact that they have adapted themselves to their new conditions is only another example to show that there is some foundation for the Darwinian theory. However, it might be well to state that tame rabbits that are raised with chickens have been known to eat scraps of meat and other refuse from the kitchen. A strange thing about the Farallon rabbits that eat shellfish is that they seem to be struck by some sort of plague about once a year. At such times they will die by hundreds, and on one occasion the island was nearly depopulated. The sickness always comes after the rainly season, when the green feed is at its best. Possibly mixing the decayed fish and green food may be the cause of the trouble.”
September 20, 1896, [SFCall]: “The strangest school district. A few weeks ago a little, modest petition... drifted in before the Board of School Directors. In brief, its message was, "Send us a school teacher for our little children, and we will pay the salary and furnish board." ...There are eight rosy little children on the South Farallon and two older ones. They are there because their parents are earning a living for themselves and their families in the Government service maintaining the light and the siren. It was in their behalf that their parents have asked for a teacher. Ten children are all the pupils there are in this strangest "school district" in all the earth. They have one room fitted up for school purposes in which there are little desks, benches and blackboards and a supply of schoolbooks, a globe, which represents the round earth of which they occupy so small a portion, and that time-honored institution, the teacher's desk. From the window of the schoolroom and hard by is the engine house and siren house, one furnishing the voice which comes from the other, punctuating the wash of the waters and the voices of the children and their teacher — when they have one. During a certain season of about three months' duration hundreds of thousands of sea birds, in great flights, circle about the schoolhouse, with their discordant cries, and settle upon the barren rocks, where they make their nests. As the children study their thoughts are led to wander by the occasional sight of a passing ocean steamer laden with many passengers who seem to be free to come and go, and the steamer and its freedom stimulates their imagination before and after it sinks into oblivion below the far horizon line where the sky and ocean meet. As they bend to take over their tasks they know that there will be no parades, processions, circuses, theaters, concerts or crowds to divert them later in the day. They occupy a world of their own, educational and workaday, into which outsiders very seldom intrude. Weeks may pass without a daily newspaper coming to them. Tugboats visit them seldom, if ever. There are about four great days in the year when excitement runs high among the little school children. Once every quarter the United States Government, through the lighthouse tending-steamer, comes plowing its way proudly to the island. Then there is a holiday, for the children come in contact with the wonders of that outer world in a faint way...”
July 12, 1899 [SDU]: “The egg gatherers relieved. San Francisco, July 11.—Frank Martin and Joe Costa, two egg gatherers who were left on the bleak rocks of North Farallone Islands six weeks ago, and were believed to be perishing from thirst, were relieved today by the tug Vigilant, which carried a supply of water and food to them. The men refused to be brought back to the city on the tug, as they expected a sloop to call for them in a few days, and they did not want to lose the profit from the thousands of eggs they had collected.”
December 10, 1912 [SFCall]: “An increased appropriation is asked for completing of a federal building at Santa Barbara and for the purchase of ground and the erection of a building at San Luis Obispo. An appropriation of $100,000 for the construction of a lighthouse on North Farallone Island is assured by reason of the favorable report obtained from the committee today by Representative Kahn.”
March 18, 1948 [The Chronicle]: “32 miles off the Golden Gate people are living on the Farallones — A part of S. F. in the Pacific. Few San Franciscans ever get a chance to visit an unusual bit of San Franciscana—the rugged Farallon islands 32 miles off the Golden Gate. The islands, despite being a part of the city and county of San Francisco, are virtually isolated. The 32 Coast Guard men and one woman who live there get food, water and mail once a week by cutter. The largest of the Farallones, called Main Top, has 100 acres of area and a 220-foot peak of rock where the Coast Guardsmen man a 130-foot lighthouse. It is the only inhabited island of the group. The second largest island is a few hundred yards northwest of the Main Top, ans is called Sugar Loaf, because it is nothing more than a huge round rock. The other "islands" are scattered rocks much smaller than the Sugar Loaf. The islands constitute the only dangerous obstacle outside the Golden gate, and that's why the Coast Guard took them over. Proof of their danger is the hulk of the Henry Bergh, a Liberty ship which crashed into the Main Top in May, 1944. She is gradually being pounded to bits on the rocks. Main Top has no pier and no beach. Passengers and food are transferred from ship to island by a huge derrick anchored on an outcropping of rock. During the war, the island's personnel ranged from between 50 and 60 men who were commanded by an officer. Now Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Anthony is in charge. His wife is the only woman there. Mrs. Anthony and the chief have a neat little white cottage with a red roof and a picket fence. It is one of the island's two dozen buildings. The men, most of whom are technicians, operate the Main Top's radar station, radio direction finder and light house. THey also make weather reports for the mainland. The men live on the Main Top three weeks and then get liberty in the San Francisco area for a week. Island recreation is provided by a tennis court, a volley ball court and ping pong and billiard equipment. There is also an excellent library. There is little vegetation on the big island, and what there is is gobbled up by rabbits which have abounded there since a pair of Belgian hares were given liberty on the Main Top many years ago. Main top has one tree, said to have been planted by Russian furriers who went to the Farallones around 1800 to kill seals. The Farallones have no natural source of water other than rain. A distilling machine makes it fit for human consumption. However, rain water is not enough to take care of the island's needs, so occasionally a cutter brings a supply from San Francisco.”
March 29, 1950 [The News]: “Farallon residents listed—All 19 of 'Em. Official population expected to increase by one before tabulation is completed. The Bureau of Census has already made its official nose count for the 17th decennial census in the farthest corner of the City and County of San Francisco—Los Farallones, 25 nautical miles west of Mile Rock. THe official results will be available early in 1951—but The News, which accompanied the official enumerator, Helen Mabbott, to the Farallon Light Station yesterday, is able to tell you unofficially there are nine men, five women and five children resident on the island. One woman and her child are presently in San Francisco — she's having another baby. Miss Mabbott, who is administrative assistant to John F. McClosky, census supervisor for the Fourth Congressional District, was transported to the rocky Southeast Farallon, along with a dozen press and radio representatives, by Coast Guard cutter. There was a moderate ground swell outside the Golden Gate which, together with a steady northwest wind, gave the 83-foot cutter considerable pitch and roll. Miss Mabbott, a former Spar, was seasick, along with an Associated Press photographer and a reporter from The Chronicle. The landing facilities are unusual: Miss Mabbott climbed into a dinghy from the cutter; then the dinghy was lifted onto the island by a boom. While clutching a rail on the open deck of the cutter, Miss Mabbott had gotten well-wet by the spray; while clambering from the cutter into the dinghy she scraped her shin and ruined a pair of hose; while climbing a rocky trail to the lighthouse atop the island she ruined her shoes; while wearing a dirty blue life-jacket on the journey from cutter to shore she got her white fleece coat filthy. Miss Mabbott's official compensation for this hourney—figured by a complex system based on 7 cents for each dwelling place, and extra 7 centses here and there—amounted to $2.42. It took ten hours to complete. Of course this time could have been cut down if Miss Mabbott hadn't gone through everything six times for the cameraman. Nevertheless, it is clear she didn't make any money on the deal. She was met at the landing by Chief Bos'n Mate Raymond L. Newton, the officer in charge of the Farallon Light. He gave her permission to take a census and pointed out the seven buildings used for living quarters. The census was a real one, and the press was not allowed to listen in as she asked the married women and the single men the list of 20 questions on the census form. In addition, each fifth person was asked the additional 20 questions on the special list. This is the list that contains the controversial questions about income. There is no rule against the press taking its own census, however, and here's what The News found out:
- Chief Newton is married, but his wife hasn't arrived from the east yet. The single men are:
- Thomas A. Riley, 18;
- Earl F. Sampson, 22, and
- Arnold L. Yerger, 18.
The married men are:
- Clyde K. Cross, 21, (Katherine, 21; son, Gary Lee, 2);
- Ivan L. Sharp, 23, (Helen 19; son Ivan Jr. 2);
- Robert L. Taylor, 19, (Donna, 19; daughter Bonnie Lee, six months);
- Louis J. Branson, 23, (Alice, 21; daughter Agnes Louise, 18 months);
- Eugene E. Daniels, 25, (Betty Jane, 19, daughter Colleen, 19 months) and another on the way.