Chinese on Santa Rosa Island

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March 27, 1873 [Santa Barbara Index]: “Correspondence On Board Schooner Falmouth March 22, 1873... We took passage on the good schooner Falmouth for the island of Santa Rosa. Our embarkment was exceedingly novel and pleasant; the horses drew us on the beach then getting into a cart, the oxen took us through the surf to the lighter, and the lighter took us to the schooner. We have five cabin passengers, no, five in the daytime, but only three at night; those in the steerage move around so fast we couldn’t count them. We have a bright little Spanish boy on board; who, when we speak to him answers in mostly musical accents, nearly sings his replies and who is the play thing of all on board. Then there is John Chinaman, who looks like a resurrected mummy, and who has been sent as Minister Plenipotentiary to the kingdom of Santa Rosa to negotiate for the bones of a dead Celestial reposing there. Ignorant and degraded with the superstitions of a thousand years clinging to him, we wonder what is the true attitude for free enlightened America to take toward these people! Here is a problem for Christianity to solve. [The rest is mostly description of the trip over water. This is an on-going correspondence] signed Seyon.

November 11, 1878 [SBDP]: “Trespassers on Santa Rosa Island. Constable Phillips and Deputy marshal Donnellan arrested nine white men and Chinamen, one day last week, for trespassing, burning grass, shooting and other crimes committed on Santa Rosa Island, on complaint of the More brothers. The officers came over from the island last night, and brought three of the men and four Chinamen under arrest. The Chinamen have been discharged from arrest, and a civil suit entered against them, which they will probably settle. The white men have secured a lawyer and will test the matter in Justice Smith’s court tomorrow.”

May 9, 1884 [SBDI]: “A party of 15 Chinamen were shipped in two parties this morning for the islands of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa by the schooner Santa Rosa. They are abalone fishermen and have with them a complete outfit for a long stay on the islands. They use long flat-bottom boats, like the sharpie of the New England coast, save that it is steered by a clumsy Oriental-looking sweep tied to the stern instead of the ordinary oar or rudder.”

January 9, 1889 [SBDI]: “A civil suit of a Chinaman against T. R. More for wages due, was in progress before Judge Rose this morning.”

May 10, 1889 [SBMP]: “Contrary to expectations no news was brought from Santa Rosa Island yesterday in regard to the rumored fight between sheep herders. A schooner was expected during the day, but had not arrived last night. It was said on the streets that a fishing boat from Santa Cruz Island brought the news from Santa Rosa that the trouble was a race war between Mexican, Italian and Chinese herders. News may be expected today.”

June 14, 1891 [SBMP]: “Lost Overboard. The sloop Liberty arrived last evening from San Miguel Island, and brought word of an accident which occurred on the outward trip. The sloop left Santa Barbara one June 3rd, with Captain and Miss Waters, Miss Brownsill and Miss Guild, who expected to spend some time on the island. The first two days out the wind was so light that the boat only worked as far up as El Capitan, where all went ashore. On Friday night, June 5th, they got an offshore wind and crossed the channel. The wind got stronger and stronger, and the sea was very rough. When they had almost reached the island, a sudden puff struck the sloop, and a big sea at the time swept over her, and one of the crew, an Indian named Augustine Iburria [Ybarra] was swept overboard. The sloop had lost headway and it was impossible to bring her about. An oar was thrown to the man which he caught, but that was the last seen of him, and he was in all probability drowned, although there is a bare possibility that he may have drifted down to the west end of Santa Rosa Island. The sloop had her mainsail split and was obliged to find shelter on the south side of Santa Rosa. They did not get to San Miguel until Saturday night. As the west point of Santa Rosa was passed some one was seen onshore waving a coat, but it was impossible to land, and it is believed that he was one of several Chinamen who live on that point.”

October 19, 1892 [SBMP]: “The schooner Santa Rosa left for Santa Rosa Island with a crew of Chinamen who have been engaged in securing a cargo of abalone shells. Mr. John T. Moore will return on the boat.”

July 26, 1892 [SBMP]: “The Santa Rosa sailed yesterday for Chinamen and shells.”

April 2, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Santa Rosa came in from Santa Rosa Island yesterday morning bringing a load of abalone shells and a number of sacks of dried abalones. They have been gathered on the island in the past four months by a camp of Chinamen located there for that purpose.”

May 26, 1893 [SBMP]: “The schooner Santa Rosa brought Mr. Moore [sic] over from Santa Rosa Island yesterday and will return taking two Chinamen over to look for abalones.”

May 27, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Santa Rosa came over from Santa Rosa Island and will return with a load of Chinamen who go over to gather abalones there.”

October 18, 1893 [SBDI]: “The schooner Santa Rosa, Captain Thompson, is in with 321 sacks of abalone shells, 69 sacks of abalone, and five sacks of seaweed from the Chinese camp on Santa Rosa Island. The abalone and the seaweed are for shipment to China, where they are cooked and served in oriental style and considered great delicacies.”

January 11, 1894 [SBMP]: “The schooner Santa Rosa, has gone to the island with a crew of Chinamen to gather in a supply of abalone. They are not intended for the amphibia.”

August 15, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Santa Rosa arrived from Santa Rosa Island this morning and unloaded 130 sacks of abalones and 100 sacks of shells at the wharf. This is the result of about three months’ work of a number of Chinese abalone fishermen.”

August 16, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Santa Rosa tied up at the wharf this morning to unload one hundred and thirty sacks of shells from Santa Rosa Island.”

June 23, 1895 [LAT]: “C. E. Sherman has made his report to Judge Coffey of the condition of affairs on Santa Rosa Island in the Santa Barbara channel. The island belongs to the estate of A. P. More, and is in charge of administrator John F. More, who is also one of the heirs. Sherman was appointed by the court to inspect the island and the personal property thereon. He reports that he was treated shamefully by the administrator. The administrator tried to prevent him from getting on the island, but after he reached it he was badly treated. He was given a dirty bed in the Chinese quarter, but preferred to sleep in the open air...”

May 9, 1896 [SBDI]: “A party of fifteen Chinamen were shipped in two parties this morning for the islands of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, by the schooners bearing the same names. They are abalone fishermen and have with them a complete outfit for a long stay on the islands. They use long flat bottom boats, like the sharpie of the New England coast, save that it is steered by a clumsy oriental-looking sweep tied to the stern instead of the ordinary oar or rudder.”

November 4, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Thompson returned to port with his schooner, Santa Rosa last night, having failed to land his Chinamen on the islands on account of rough seas. The Chinamen went over to gather abalones.”

June 13, 1897 [SFCall]: “Dr. Gustav Eisen, curator of the department of biology of the Academy of Sciences, has just returned from an exploration trip to Santa Rosa Island and reports that he is highly gratified with what he saw and found there… Santa Rosa Island is about the only place on the coast where abalones can still be obtained. They are still plentiful, although a few years ago the Chinese found out about it and the work of exterminating them is progressing as fast as possible. Last year they secured fifteen tons and expect much more this year…”

April 29, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “A boat was capsized recently at Santa Rosa Island containing five Chinamen, who had gone to hunt abalones. They reached the shore after a hard struggle with the breakers and losing their provisions for a whole season, and everything else but the clothes they had on.”

December 21, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Santa Rosa will sail tomorrow morning for Santa Rosa Island taking with her seven or eight sheep shearers and a Chinese cook...”

July 27, 1900 [SBDI]: “A Chinese junk [Acme] that has been anchored in the channel for the past few days, left for Santa Rosa Island this morning, and will return in short time with a cargo of sheep for Sherman & Ealand.”

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.”

September 2, 1908 [SBI]: “Abalone shells are disappearing from the shores of Santa Cruz Island because fishermen gather them for bait, paying no attention to size, and disregarding state law. On Santa Rosa Island the shells are becoming scarcer, although Chinamen who gather them for market are said to obey the law and take only shells, which are twelve inches or more in circumference. Twelve tons of shells, filling 50 gunny sacks, were brought from Santa Rosa Island this week by four Chinamen and sold for $12 per ton… G. M. McGuire who probably handles more abalone shells than any other man on the Pacific coast, buying from Chinamen and shipping to San Francisco and other cities, is authority for the statement that fishermen are responsible for the disappearance of abalones…”

September 4, 1908 [LAH]: “San Pedro. The steamer Santa Rosa Island sailed into port today with 450 sacks of abalones on board, which have been gathered on Santa Rosa Island during the past six or eight months by a bunch of Chinamen who have been living there and make a business of catching and drying them. They are a most valuable article and are considered a choice delicacy by the Orientals. The cargo is valued at the rate of $10 per sack, or $4500 for the entire lot. In addition to this are the shells, which are also very valuable, as there is always a big demand for them at the curio stores.”

October 4, 1911 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez, in his Gussie M, will call at the Chinese abalone camps on the north side of Santa Rosa Island to bring over 300 sacks of abalone meat and shells. One of the camps will also break up, as fishing has been slow on account of the wind.”

November 19, 1911 [SBMP]: “Captain B. G. Crist of the power boat Comet just missed sending his vessel to the bottom of the channel last week, while attempting to cross with a load of abalone shells and meat from Santa Rosa Island. While loading the hold, unknown to Crist, one of the Chinamen of the abalone party opened two of the portholes for ventilation. In the heavy sea outside, water poured through the openings, and as the hold was full of sacked shells, it was impossible to close the apertures. The first Crist knew of the calamity was when one of his engines went dead—drowned out. Speedy investigation revealed the cause, the hold and engine room being half full of water. They were then about two miles from shore, and Crist headed his boat for the nearest island cove, meanwhile throwing overboard about two tons of shells in the effort to keep the boat afloat. The Comet came finally to a safe anchorage, and the cargo was removed. Crist came over yesterday with the last of the shells, leaving, however, a number of sacks scattered about the bottom of the channel.” [also LAT November 20, 1911]

December 10, 1912 [SBI]: “A party of Chinese left for Santa Rosa Island today to establish an abalone camp there.”