Cherry Valley, Santa Catalina Island

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Cherry Valley Mine entrance, Santa Catalina Island


Cherry Valley, Santa Catalina Island is shown on a map in The Islander on August 1, 1916. It is named for the native cherry trees, Prunus ilicfolia, which grow there.

“The seat of an early mining excitement, where the hillsides are honeycombed with tunnels. From 1862 to 1964 the Island was swarming with prospectors for precious metals. The seat of the excitement seems to have been at Cherry Valley. Every foot of ground from the sea to the summit of the hills—was filed on as mining claims. Recently extensive deposits of lead and silver ores have been located here.” [May 28, 1936: TI/Avalon.]

CHERRY VALLEY: “A beautifully wooded valley running straight up, through a luxuriant cherry grove, into the hills. The mouth is a fine and rich bottom ending at a narrow, pebbly beach. This encloses a small salina which is the habitat of many interesting species. The pebble beach is richly clothed with Pterostegia drymarioides.” [Millspaugh & Nuttall Flora of Santa Catalina Island (1923)].

In 1901 it was noted there is a “little cemetery in Cherry Valley, in the vicinity of the Isthmus camping ground.”

There are several historic burials reported in Cherry valley:

  • Mrs. Birdie Chester (1901)
  • unidentified miner (1863)
  • unidentified miner (1863)



In the News~

August 4, 1901 [LAT]: “Laid to Rest at Midnight. Last Act in Catalina's Weird Tragedy. Dead Bride Came Here from Seattle. Fatality due to an overdose of morphine—woman of accomplishments. Avalon, August 3.— The concluding chapter in the tragic death of Mrs. Chester occurred last night with the holding of an inquest by a jury impaneled by William Allen, Justice of the peace, and the burial of the body under the most weird and romantic circumstances. Frank Cochran, who was at the head of the searching party that found the body, came down to report the finding about 5:30 last evening, and taking Justice Allen, Dr. J.J. Peckham and a few others, immediately returned to the Isthmus, where the inquest was held, the coroner's jury consisting of A. R. Holbrook, C. A. Wilson, John Friedes, Guy McCord, O. L. Sundelius and W. A. Jacquer. Widower's Story. Carl Chester, the husband of the deceased, was the first Carl Chester, the husband of the deceased, was the first witness called. He testified that he and his late wife were residents of Seattle, Wash., and had come to Avalon June 5 last, and to the Isthmus July 5. He said: "Tuesday, July 30 we went over the bluff (at the head of Cherry Valley) and down one of the cañyons. We thought we would bathe our feet, and did so at about 4 o'clock. Then my wife hurt herself by falling, and we sat down until she got better, and then going further on sat down under the shade of a tree. Then I went down to the beach and found that I could not get out that way. When I returned she was partly conscious, and by her side I found a paper containing morphine, and I suppose she had taken some of it to quiet the pain. "After I found she could not get over it, I took the balance of the morphine, which was about enough to cover a 5-cent piece. It made me sick, and I vomited and waited and I wanted to go with her. She died about 8 o'clock on Wednesday night July 31, 1901. Her maiden name was Birdie Williams. I knew she had the morphine with her on the trip. I only know of her taking morphine once before, and that occurred in Seattle before coming here." What Others Saw. Frank Cochran testified that together with Mr. Wilson, Mr. Cohn and Mr. Toland, he found the deceased in a canyon about three miles from the Isthmus. She was in a reclining position, had a towel over her face and a parasol by her side. The canyon where the body was found is very rough on both sides. There were no marks to be seen on her when he found her. J.J. Peckham, M.D., testified that he examined the body and found no external evidence of injury or condition to cause death. The body was in an advanced stage of decomposition. Overdose of Morphine. The jury's verdict is: "We, the jury, find the deceased came to her death by taking an overdose of morphine. Cause, unknown." Sad Midnight Burial. At the conclusion of the inquest the body was put aboard a launch and taken to Cherry Valley for internment. Here, high up on a hillside overlooking the broad Pacific, rest the remains of two miners, who gave up their lives during the mining boom of 1863. No more impressive scene can be imagined than the burial of this unfortunate young woman. She was accomplished and beautiful in life, had been a school teacher and impressed every one with her genial disposition. Suddenly cut off in her young womanhood, here, at midnight, on a lonely island of the Pacific, the moonlight falling softly overhead and being reflected in every ripple at their feet, a group of strangers performed the last sad rites to her memory. As the coffin was lowered, Justice Allen, in a few choice words, spoke of the mysteries of life, the phenomenon we call death, and referred to the stranger and the strangeness and weirdness of the situation which had called them together so feelingly that there was not a dry eye in the company. Couple's Last Walk. Chester and his wife left the Isthmus for a walk on Tuesday just after noon, instead of Wednesday, as was stated yesterday. That they did not suffer more severely than they did from want of food and water and exposure is only explained by the fact that both were addicted to the use of morphine, of which they had a supply with them.”


August 4, 1901 [LAH]: “Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. Aug. 3 — 'Came to her death by an overdose of morphine; cause unknown', was the verdict of the coroner's jury in the case of Mrs. C. Chester, whose body was found in a canyon on the west side of the island yesterday afternoon. The inquest was held at the Isthmus last evening, and immediately after the finding of the jury the woman's remains were interred in the little cemetery in Cherry Valley, in the vicinity of the Isthmus camping ground. C. Chester, the woman's husband, was the only witness. Though he tried to conceal the fact, it appeared from his testimony that Mrs. Chester always carried morphine and that she became addicted to the use of the drug, as has been stated, in taking it for heart and stomach affections. The couple started out Tuesday afternoon for a walk over the hills. She slipped, he stated, and gave herself a strain and swallowed the powder to alleviate the pain. When she began to feel relieved she sent him to the beach to see if they could get out of the canyon, and when he returned he found she had taken an overdose and was dying. She begged him not to leave her and he did not try to go for help. Chester confessed that he also used the drug and took a dose after his wife died. Had she left a sufficient amount, he said, he would have taken enough to kill himself. He started back to the Isthmus and wandered over the hills, alternately walking and resting until he was found Thursday evening. Frank Cochran and the first party of men who went to Avalon, found the body, carried it from the canyon to the boat and took it around to the Isthmus. The woman died about 8 o'clock Wednesday evening. The couple came from Seattle to Los Angeles, where they remained about two weeks before coming to Catalina. They were laboring people, and had no means aside from their combined earnings. The jurors were C. A. Wilson, foreman, A. R. Hollerook, John Frates, W. A. Jacquer, G. R. McLeord and Olaf Sundillins.”


August 17, 1903 [LAH]: “Reports that a serious fire was raging on the island above the isthmus reached Avalon yesterday and caused considerable anxiety as that portion of the island contains the largest flocks of sheep. The fire proved to have been in Cherry Valley and was probably started by campers on shore. A force of men from Avalon and others from Empire and the isthmus were hurried to the scene and the fire was extinguished without serious damage having been done. Superintendent Stanton who was at the isthmus, acted as fire marshal.”


March 12, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Cherry Valley—The seat of an early mining excitement, where the hillsides are honeycombed with tunnels. From 1862 to 1864 the island was swarming with prospectors for precious metals. The seat of excitement seems to have been at Cherry Valley. Every foot of ground from the sea to the summit of the hills — and even running out under the hills — was filed as mining claims, and the mines were stocked to the amount of many millions of dollars.”


July 18, 1935 [TI/Avalon]: “Points of Interest—The seat of an early mining excitement, where the hillsides are honeycombed with tunnels. From 1862 to 1864 the island was swarming with prospectors, for precious metals. The seat of the excitement seems to have been at Cherry Valley. Every foot of ground from the sea to the summit of the hills was filed on as mining claims. Recently extensive deposits of lead and silver ores have been located here.”