BEHN, Johann “John” & Louisa

From Islapedia


BEHN, Johann “John” (1806-1868), German immigrant who came to California by horseback in 1848. He developed a farm and sheep ranch on Santa Catalina Island in the 1850s. He and his first wife, Paula Gastelum (d. Janaury 1858), whom he married in 1849 had four children, three of whom survived:

  • J. Alexander (1851-1893)
  • Maria Nievea [Fluhr] (1852- )
  • Paula (1856-1858)
  • Louisa (1856-1935)

Daughter, Louisa, was born in 1856 in a house still standing by Johnson’s Landing near the Isthmus on Catalina. She was the first non-Spanish white child born on the Island. His second wife was Adelle Kamerer (1826-1859), whom he married in June 1859 in San Francisco. By the time Lick acquired ownership to the island in 1864, various ranchers and stock raisers had moved in and claimed squatters’ rights, believing Santa Catalina Island to be government property. Johan Behn and his Spanish wife, had a small farm and neat little house at what is now known as Johnson’s Landing. His brother-in-law, Thomas Whittley (1816-c. 1870), whose family came to Santa Catalina in the 1850s, lived with them. James Lick had most of the squatters evicted.


BEHN, Louisa (1856-1935), said to be the first white child born on Santa Catalina Island on April 20, the third child of German-born sea captain John J. “Johann” Benn (1805-1868). In 1873 Louisa married Henry W. Stoll and they had nine children: Minnie [Odemar](1875-1965); Martha [Donatelli](1877-1944); Albert Gustave (1879-1937); Frederick W. (1881-1954); Edmund Henry (1886-1958); Ella [Kaufeldt] (1888-1945); Clara J. [Craemer](1889-1968); Arthur W. (1980-1961); and Ora Paula [Ruether](1900-1965). Henry and Louisa Behn Stoll are buried with a large monument at Rosedale Cemetery.



In the News~

August 31, 1856. Having taken a few days of involuntary rest I chanced to meet Johann Behn, who owns a farm and a cattle ranch on Catalina Island, where he offers to employ me during the summer. Santa Catalina is a mountainous and very romantic island, about twenty miles in length, situated just south of San Pedro and about twenty-five miles from the mainland. Some of its mountain peaks are more than two thousand feet high, I judge, and the attractiveness would certainly be great, were not the absolute lack of fresh well water a material drawback for visitors or settlers. Rain is likewise very scarce. The necessary drinking water for man and beast is drawn from cisterns and decidedly disagreeable to the newcomer on account of its salty taste. John Behn was a well laid farm and a neat little home in a pleasant valley on the north side of the island, which reminds me of Valdivia, as it is crescent shaped and protected by the capes on either end. Small vessels are perfectly safe within its realms… Thomas Whitley, an American, brother-in-law of Behn, resides here.” [Lecouvreur, Frank From Prussia to the Golden Gate, 1906.


“H. W. STOLL, of the firm of H. W. Stoll & Co., proprietors of the Los Angeles Soda Water Works, was born in Germany, February 25, 1839. His parents emigrated to this country when he was only thirteen years of age and located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they remained twelve years, and in 1864 removed to St. Louis, Missouri. From there he went to St. Joseph, the same State, and then to Denver, Colorado, from where he drove across the plains to California, reaching Los Angeles in 1867. During the following year he established the Los Angeles Soda &Water Works. He is now the senior proprietor, has carried on the business since 1868, and is the pioneer soda manufacturer in the city. He began on a small scale and increased the capacity of his business from time to time to meet the demands of their trade. Their immense establishment contains the latest and most complete and expensive apparatus on the Pacific Coast. Besides generators, bottling machines, reservoirs, syrup tanks, flavoring extract distillery, a large force of men are constantly employed, with a capacity of turning off 3,000 to 5,000 dozen per day of sarsaparilla, soda mineral water, syrups, cordials and other temperance beverages. Mr. Stoll is a prominent member of the Board of Trade and enjoys an enviable reputation. In 1873 Mr. Stoll married Miss Louisa Behn, a native of Los Angeles. Her father, John J. Behn, was one of the earliest pioneers, coming here in the '40s. His wife was a daughter of General Castello, of Ensenada, Lower California. Mr. and Mrs. Stoll have seven children, four daughters and three sons.” [An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County, California. Chicago, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1889. Page 625.]


1903: “I am indebted to Mrs. S. A. Howland, widow of Captain Howland, for the following data relative to those days:

The cove now called Johnson's Landing was settled by John Benn [Behn], a German, and his wife. He built the present house, but this was not the first one he lived in at that place. The cove was known as John Benn's Place. His wife was Spanish. About ten years after John Benn settled in the cove, Captain and Mrs. Howland bought a squatter's right to the valley now known as Howland Valley. They bought the right of Mr. Harvey Rhoads...” [Williamson, M. Burton History of Santa Catalina Island in Historical Society of Southern California 1903, 6(1):28].


February 7, 1935 [TI/Avalon]: “Mrs. Louisa Stoll, said to be the first white child born on Santa Catalina Island, died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. It was seventy-eight years ago that Captain John Behn’s schooner drew up to Johnson’s Landing at the island. Mrs. Behn was taken off to the Behn Ranch, nearby. A few days later a daughter, Louisa, was born. Complications following pneumonia caused Mrs. Stoll’s death at her home, 1639 South Hobart Boulevard, Los Angeles. She leaves four sons, five daughters, seventeen grandchildren and four great grandchildren. The children are Mrs. Minnie Odemar, Mrs. Martha Donatelli, Mrs. G. Reuther, Albert G. Stoll, W. W. Stoll, Ed Stoll and Detective Lieutenant Arthur W. Stoll of Los Angeles, and Mrs. O. Craemer and Mrs. O. Kanfeldt of San Francisco. Funeral services were held at 2 P.M. Saturday, at the Edwards Brothers funeral chapel, 10000 Venice Boulevard. Burial was in Rosedale Cemetery.”