Chinese on San Miguel Island

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In the News~

October 15, 1877 [SBDP]: “The schooner Reliance will leave port this evening for the Island of San Miguel. She takes over a number of Chinamen who are employed in the abalone fishing trade, together with their boat and utensils. The boat, which has been built up town, was hauled down to the wharf on a dray.”

June 12, 1879 [SBDP]: “Messrs. Rogers Brothers & Co. of this city have 19 men on San Miguel and Flea islands engaged in killing seal for oil... The ‘trimmings,’ which are the nose, smellers, etc., are valued by the Chinamen, and sell for from 15 to 25 cents per seal. The oil sells in San Francisco, and is worth from sixty to ninety cents per gallon. It is estimated that over 1000 seals will be killed by this party within the next two months, and ought to produce at least 5000 gallons of oil.”

May 31, 1883 [SBDP]: “…At one place Captain Larco found a colony of Chinamen engaged in gathering abalones and catching and drying rock cod and blue fish for shipment to China. They have accumulated several tons of dried fish and will soon have a load for a schooner. The most interesting portion of Captain Larco’s story was his description of an island covered with eggs. He says that a short distance from San Miguel Island, standing out lone and solitary in the Pacific Ocean, there is a rock with a surface of about three acres...”

August 7, 1883 [ODNY]: “Captain A. Larco, a California fisherman, recently made an extensive cruise along the coast… He had undertaken the contract to provision four seal-fishing stations on Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands… At one place Captain Larco found a colony of Chinamen engaged in gathering abalones and catching and drying rock cod and bluefish for shipment to China. They have accumulated several tons of dried fish and will soon have a load for a schooner…”

October 16, 1883 [SBDI]: “Captain Larco returned this morning from a trip to San Miguel Island where he carried a cargo of provisions to the Chinese fishermen there.”

October 27, 1883 [SBDI]: “Parties of Chinese fishermen were on the various Channel Islands most of the year. Messrs. Rogers and Bros. of this city sent out today for San Miguel, a party of five men for abalone, seal skins and oil. The number of abalone to be obtained by such a party is impossible to estimate. Low tide being the only time when they can be gathered and the lower the tide, the more are exposed to view.”

May 5, 1884 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly and the schooner Ocean King came in yesterday from San Miguel Island. The Ocean King takes a load of Chinese abalone gatherers to Santa Cruz Island.”

September 3, 1886 [SBDP]: “The Ocean King has gone to San Miguel Island for Chinese freight.”

April 23, 1888 [SBDI]: “The sloop Ocean King took a number of Chinamen over to San Miguel Island today. They went after abalones.”

February 25, 1891 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty arrived Monday night from San Miguel Island with a number of Chinamen and a large cargo of dried abalones and abalone shells. A party of otter hunters was left on the island. They will also try out a whale which is ashore there.”

March 3, 1891 [LAT]: “The sloop Liberty arrived Monday night from San Miguel Island with a number of Chinamen and a large cargo of dried abalones and abalone shells, says the Santa Barbara Press.”

March 13, 1891 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ruby is in from San Miguel Island. She brought back a gang of Chinamen, twelve tons of dried abalones, and four tons of abalone shells.”

June 22, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Liberty sailed for San Miguel Island yesterday. William J. Cummings, special Chinese inspector, was a passenger...”

July 1, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Liberty came in from San Miguel Island yesterday evening bringing as passengers Captain Waters, Clark P. Streator and W. T. Cummings, special Chinese inspector.”

December 21, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Liberty came in from San Miguel Island Monday night, bringing W. L. Cummings, special Chinese Inspector.”

August 10, 1894 [SBDI]: “The sloop Restless left yesterday for San Miguel Island to bring over a party of Chinese abalone fishermen.”

November 13, 1896 [SBDN]: “Schooner Restless returns to San Miguel Island today with a lot of Chinamen who go there to gather abalone shells.”

May 25, 1897 [SBMP]: “Captain Burtis’ schooner Restless left yesterday with a gang of Chinese abalone hunters for San Miguel Island. On his return he will take a band of horses for Mr. E. Elliot to San Nicolas Island.”

April 4, 1899 [SBMP]: “The sloop Restless arrived from San Miguel Island Monday morning laden with abalones and shells. This makes a total of over 45 tons of abalones and shells now stored on the wharf awaiting shipment. The Chinamen engaged in abalone fishing are rushing the work, as only a limited number of days yet remain until the season closes.”

October 4, 1900 [SBMP]: “The junk Acme arrived yesterday from San Miguel Island with a cargo of abalone shells from the Chinese fishing camps.”

July 2, 1901 [LAT]: “Two schooners arrived this evening from San Miguel Island, bringing a tale of loss of life and privations on San Miguel. The boats are the Ellen and the Santa Cruz, small schooners from San Diego. The Santa Cruz had been at San Miguel Island about two weeks. She was under command of Captain Andy Krutzen, who was accompanied by Phil Anderson and Severin Phillipsen, all Norwegian sealers. Who had formed a little company to seal on the island on shares. On the afternoon of July 3, the three men attempted to go ashore in a cove on the west end of the island where the sea is always treacherous. They were approaching the shores, when a blind breaker struck the boat and overturned it without a moment’s warning. Phillipsen and Krutzen went down struggling in the foaming waters. Anderson managed to cling to the bottom of the boat and drifted several miles, at last going ashore in a little cove near Pinnacle Rock. Weak and exhausted, he was a prisoner on the beach, for the bluff at that point is almost inaccessible. For two days he was alone on the beach with nothing to eat but raw abalones. On the third day he plucked up strength, and from sheer desperation climbed the cliff to the land above. It is a mystery how he managed to get up. He then got to a camp of Chinamen, and in a short time the Ellen, Captain Curl, hove in sight and dropped anchor in the cove where the Santa Cruz was at anchor. Anderson hailed them from the beach and they went ashore and took him to his boat. The Ellen is also a sealing schooner. Anderson is pretty much used up. He will get a seaman here and return to San Diego as soon as possible. He and his men had taken only about two hundred seals when the accident occurred. Aboard the schooner with Anderson are a fox terrier and bull pup, the property of the two drowned men.”

May 16, 1903 [SBMP]: “The clear sky yesterday and the blustery weather last night are accounted for by the high wind that has prevailed for the past few days, dispelling the fog along the coast. Captain Ogenio Larco returned from the islands last night after a perilous trip in the Isabelle. He left here a few days ago to take Mr. Vail to Santa Rosa Island, which he succeeded in doing, butowing to the high wind was compelled to lay two days at anchor waiting for the storm at sea to subside. He says it was without any question the roughest weather he has encountered in fifteen years experience on the channel. The Edith, which left here for San Miguel Island, was driven to shelter on the lee side of Santa Rosa Island, unable to make her destination. She lost a 33-foot boat belonging to some Chinamen which she had in tow and which is now adrift somewhere on the high seas. A freight schooner caught in the gale had her sails split and torn away and left almost helpless, but succeeded inmaking port. The Isabelle came over last night, leaving the Edith at anchor, the captain preferring to wait for calmer weather.”

August 27, 1904 [SBMP]: “The yacht Peerless returned from San Miguel Island with a cargo of abalones and shells, the product of Chinese fishermen.”

April 22, 1905 [SBMP]: “The fishing sloop Peerless left for the islands yesterday with a number of fishermen and a load of supplies, for the purpose of establishing abalone camps on Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands. Besides gathering abalone shells, meat and pearls, they will also collect sea grass, which commands a good price in Chinese markets.”

August 22, 1905 [LAT/SB]: “Abels is making a general raid of all abalone camps on the Channel Islands, and is causing the wholesale arrest of Chinese abalone fishermen for having in their possession the shells of abalones that are under the required size of twelve inches in circumference. Ah Poy and Ah Jim were brought in by him on Sunday, and will plead before Justice Wheaton tomorrow. Jung A. Que and Ton King have also been arrested on the same charge. Each of them was fined $25, and they have been released. Mr. Abels leaves today for San Miguel Island in search of others who are disobeying the game laws.”

August 26, 1905 [SBMP]: “Two more members of the Ah family yesterday paid fines at Justice Wheaton’s court for having undersized abalones in their possession. They were Ah Hoy and Ah King. Each paid $25, pleading guilty to the charges preferred by patrolman H. J. Ables. They were arrested on San Miguel Island as told in yesterday’s press. The Chinamen have announced that they will abandon abalone fishing as the fines imposed with a tiresome regularity since the patrol arrangement of the state fish commission went into effect, are eating into the profits of the business.”

September 5, 1908 [SBI]: “Chamber of Commerce favors protection for sea lion and abalone… such protection was brought before the directors of the Chamber of Commerce by George W. McComber… McComber said he had heard that sea lions were being ruthlessly slaughtered. As for abalone he said it had been brought to his attention that Chinamen were gathering the shells irrespective of size. He quoted Captain W. C. Waters to the effect that no abalone would be left on San Miguel if the present rate of destruction continued four years more…”

September 8, 1908 [LAH]: “Santa Barbara, September 7… Captain William G. Waters, owner of San Miguel Island, one of the islands of the Santa Barbara group, is authority for the statement that if the ruthless slaughter of seals and the gathering of abalone shells by Chinese shall continue for four years more on the same scale as has prevailed in the past, both of these amphibian denizens will be exterminated. Professor Rowley of Stanford University, who recently visited the islands, is another champion of special legislation to protect the abalone and the seals...”

March 19, 1909 [SBMP]: “With Captain Colice Vasquez, half-owner of the schooner Gussie M at the wheel, the vessel arrived in this harbor yesterday from San Miguel Island, after a tempestuous voyage that tried the seamanship and patience of even this rugged veteran of the briny. The schooner brought in Captain William G. Waters and his sheepshearers, but the stormy weather prevented loading several tons of abalone meat and a number of tons of abalone shells, to say nothing of Ah Fong, the Chinese abalone fisher and his men. He will return for them at a later date. As the result of the Chinese boycott of abalones from Japan, the price for the American-caught abalone has soared more than 100 per cent. Captain McGuire shipped more than 56,000 pounds of abalone shells recently to New York.”