Chinese on the California Channel Islands

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September 9, 1872
September 23, 1872

CHINESE on the Channel Islands developed an abalone fishing industry in the mid 19th century. Chinese who were brought to the United States as cheap labor to help build the railroads and to work the mines, began to develop the abalone industry in Monterey, California in 1853.

Soon after, as squatters, they built camps on the offshore islands where they would fish from skiffs, prying the mollusks from the rocks of shallow waters in great quantity. Using a long pole with a wedge on one end, they would knock an abalone off a rock and then draw it up with a boat hook. Onshore, after removing the meat from the shell, the abalone was pounded and then boiled in a large kettle for a short time, after which they were placed on racks in the sun to dry. When the meat was thoroughly dry, it was packed in sacks for shipment to San Francisco where it was sold both to China as well as to the large Chinese community in San Francisco. The meat was considered a great luxury and was consumed primarily by the more affluent Chinese. As the industry developed, Chinese merchant/labor contractors using junks working out of Santa Barbara, controlled the Chinese fishery.

According to Helen Caire: “In the 1860s, before the Santa Cruz Island Company purchased Santa Cruz Island, the Chinese were fishing at Forney’s, Prisoners’, Scorpion, and China harbors.” [1993:139]. The industrious Chinese were successful harvesters and, by 1879, had annual catches in excess of four million pounds in California.

Animus towards Chinese labor had been growing since the end of the Civil War, particularly in the western territories and California. On May 6, 1882 the Forty-Seventh Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), signed by President Chester A. Arthur, forbidding Chinese immigration except for those who were diplomats, academics, ministers or merchants. The initial exclusion law was the first immigration legislation to restrict a group based solely on race and significantly contributed to the racially based immigration policy of the United States in the twentieth century. At the time of the 1882 law’s passage, immigration was regulated by the Department of the Treasury. In 1904 the Immigration Service was moved to the new Department of Commerce and Labor. During much of the exclusion era, special Chinese Inspectors and interpreters were employed to issue certificates of residence to qualified immigrants and initiate the deportation of Chinese laborers who were universally excluded after the passage of the act. On occasion an inspector would travel to the Channel Islands to conduct interviews with Chinese working at abalone camps. There was ongoing suspicion that the islands were used as stations in smuggling illegal Chinese immigrants. The act was repealed in 1943 as a result of the United States’ wartime alliance with China.

Chinese merchants operating in Santa Barbara’s Chinatown on Canon Perdido Street included the Sing Chung Company, Sun Lung and Company, and You Kee. The Chinese abalone industry peaked on Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and San Clemente islands from 1892 to 1895. In 1900, however, county ordinances were passed that made it illegal to gather abalones from less than twenty feet of water. The regulations completely halted their commercial abalone operations. In 1909 as the result of a Chinese boycott of abalones from Japan, the price for American-caught abalone soared more than 100 per cent. As the shallow water abalone populations were depleted, Japanese divers moved in and took over the industry. Today archaeological excavations have revealed opium tins and Chinese porcelain pieces, often in association with abalone shells, from former camp areas. Seven of the eight California Channel Islands have “Chinese” places names, including Chinese Harbor, China Camp, Chinese Point, and China Canyon. Many references speculate such names originated from days when Yankee clippers landed Chinese on the islands awaiting a chance to smuggle them over to the mainland. Chinese named in the Channel Islands pursuits include:

A. Que, arrested and fined for possession of undersized abalones in 1905;
Ah Charlie, Chinese fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1870 census;
Ah Fong, known to have harvested abalones on San Miguel Island in 1909;
Ah Gin and Lee Duc had been fishing together at San Clemente Island for months, 1892;
Ah Hoy, arrested on San Miguel Island and fined for possession of undersized abalones in 1905;
Ah Jim, fined for possession of undersized abalones in 1901 and 1905;
Ah King [Ton King], arrested on San Miguel Island and fined for possession of undersized abalones in 1905;
(reported to have died on San Nicolas Island in 1900, but was probably Tie Kee)
Ah Lie, killed in a fire on Santa Catalina Island in 1883;
Ah Lynn, agent for Chinese laborers on Canon Perdido St., 1872;
Ah Ming, Chinese cook on Santa Rosa Island who witnessed the murder of Ah You in 1884; still cook in 1893
(see Shearing Time on Santa Rosa Island in Overland Monthly)
Ah Poy [Soon Poy], contracted with the Santa Cruz Island Company for permission to harvest abalones; PHOTO
Ah You, who was murdered on Santa Rosa Island in 1884;
Auk Ah, 34, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Chin Kin Yung [C. L. Jung], arrested and fined for possession of undersized abalones in 1905;
Chow, 37, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Guhn Ah, 39, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Hop Lee, captain of the junk Ung Wa in 1878, 1879;
Lee Duc and Ah Gin had been fishing together at San Clemente Island for months, 1892;
Lung Kow, a representative of the Six Companies of San Francisco, died on San Nicolas Island in 1899;
Ma Ging, 41, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Mahn Jim, 25, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Mahn Joe, 48, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Sing Chung [Sun Chung Sing, Chinese merchant company in the Elizalde adobe at 45 East Canon Perdido St., fl. 1880s; S. corner Canon Perdido and Anacapa streets [1886 Santa Barbara Directory]; Sing Chung & Co., general merchandise;
Sho Wau, 35, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Sing Ah, 32, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Sing Hing, by 1895 “the oldest and most influential Chinese merchant” for nearly 30 years;
Sing Hop, Chinese abalone merchant in 1885; Chinese merchant. S. corner S. corner Canon Perdido and Anacapa streets [1886 Santa Barbara Directory];
Sohn Waung, 23, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Sun Lung and Company, Chinese abalone merchant fl. 1890s; PHOTO OF SOON POY, OWNER Linda B.
Sunn We, 24, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Tie Kee, reportedly died on San Nicolas Island in 1900, his remains were recovered in November 1904;
Tie Kim, 30, single, fisherman drowned on San Nicolas Island March 28, 1879; [typo on death index list?]
Tom Quok, agent for Chinese and Japanese laborers, 1872;
Tong, Captain of the junk Chow Lee, 1891;
Ung Lee, 52, married, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Ung Wa, a laundry man with a namesake Chinese schooner;
Wau Ah, 19, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
Wo Chung, fireworks permit, Chinese New Year, 1888; captain of the junk 'Chow Lee, 1896
Yahn Vam, 24, single, fisherman in Santa Barbara in the 1880 census;
You Kee, Chinese merchant, Canon Perdido St. between State and Anacapa streets [1886 Santa Barbara Directory]; at 27 East Canon Perdido Street, fl. 1900s



Chinese on Santa Catalina Island in 1880


» abalone, Chinese Junks, Sing Chung



In the News~

June 14, 1855 [SBG]: “Departure for China. The clipper ship Arcadia, Captain Phelps, sailed from this port on Saturday last for China direct. The Arcadia has landed her cargo here and in San Pedro, and was compelled to hasten her departure on account of the loss of a portion of her crew by desertion while here. The Arcadia brought to this port a very desirable assortment of goods, which are suited to the necessities of our people, and as we understand, are for sale at reasonable rates.”


June 14, 1855 [SBG]: “Among the very many delicacies which we have in our county by no means should we forget, the fish with which our waters supply us. As every species of trade is worthy of notice in our community, we must certainly notice the possibility of furnishing with a very small amount of labor, a sufficient supply of salted fish for the use of our own population, as well as for exportation to San Francisco. The very many varieties of fish which we have in our harbor offer excellent opportunity to those who are at present idle in this city to engage in a profitable business. To those how have no other means of livelihood and who are at present living from hand to mouth, we would advise the choice of this business as a means of an honest and respectable living. Those of our citizens who may desire to try the fish of Santa Barbara, which are actually equal to those of any harbor of California, will do well to call on the present dealer in this comestible, at the Beach.”


September 30, 1856 [SDU]: “At 7:30 P.M., September 28th, below Monterey, during a thick fog, [a steamer] ran down the schooner Frances Skiddy, of 17-1/2 tons. The Captain, Hugh Robertson, was drowned. The schooner was bound to Santa Cruz Island with a cargo of provisions for the Chinese fishery, and had on board four Chinese passengers, who were all saved. One Chinaman had his shoulder broken, but is doing well. The steamer was on her usual course, with her lights burning. The crew of the schooner report that they heard the steamer for some minutes before striking, but became bewildered, and the Captain ordered the helm put down, which kept the schooner directly in the steamer’s track, without showing a light until nearly under her bows, when it was too late to prevent the catastrophe. The names of the persons saved are Captain Eastman of the sloop Marin; James Wilson, James Hardy, John Bathgate, and four Chinamen.”


February 1857 [Hutchings Illustrated Calicornia Magazine]: “Captain C. J. W Russell notes “At the present time there are no less than twelve schooners and sloops chartered by Chinamen; besides several hundred of Chinese laborers engaged in this business, as they are an important article of consumption to Chinamen in California, in addition to the vast quantities exported by them to their native land. In flavor these are said to be fully equal to the oyster, especially in soup, and could be introduced advantageously for our own use, and we would suggest to epicures here, to give this dish of ‘John’s’ a trial, for it may be possible that although we might not relish cooked rats, the abalone may be one of the greatest of delicacies to our own people…The clipper ship Arcadia, Captain Phelps, sailed from this port on Saturday last for China direct. The Arcadia has landed her cargo here and in San Pedro, and was compelled to hasten her departure on account of the loss of a portion of her crew by desertion while here. The Arcadia brought to this port a very desirable assortment of goods, which are suited to the necessities of our people, and as we understand, are for sale at reasonable rates.The clipper ship Arcadia, Captain Phelps, sailed from this port on Saturday last for China direct. The Arcadia has landed her cargo here and in San Pedro, and was compelled to hasten her departure on account of the loss of a portion of her crew by desertion while here. The Arcadia brought to this port a very desirable assortment of goods, which are suited to the necessities of our people, and as we understand, are for sale at reasonable rates. The clipper ship Arcadia, Captain Phelps, sailed from this port on Saturday last for China direct. The Arcadia has landed her cargo here and in San Pedro, and was compelled to hasten her departure on account of the loss of a portion of her crew by desertion while here. The Arcadia brought to this port a very desirable assortment of goods, which are suited to the necessities of our people, and as we understand, are for sale at reasonable rates.”


GET One of the earliest surviving records of Chinese vessel ownership in Southern California is from 1861 when the Los Angeles Star reported two large Chinese vessels plying their trade along the coast and offshore islands, from Santa Barbara and beyond to the south. Linda Bentz


March 2, 1861 [LAS]:


April 20, 1861 [DAC]: “The abalone shell business is another branch of industry in which the Chinese seem to have taken the lead. Formerly these fishermen threw away the shells, and only procured the meat, which they packed nicely and sent hither for the tables of the moon-eyed epicures. These shells were gathered up by the wiser Anglo-Saxons, and shipped to this port, whence they are sent to Europe and made into a variety of fancy articles, such as enamel work for boxes, card tables, etc. The Chinamen at last saw the point, and now save the shells and all. The Senator had 216 sacks of these on board.”


August 23, 1862 [Daily Alta California]: “ SANTA BARBARA—Per Florence — Merrill Bros, 100 tons asphaltum — Chinamen, 200 sks abalones.”


October 18, 1862 [SFDEB]: “Importations. Santa Cruz Island per Ann G. Doyle — 20 bbls. tallow, 2 bales wool, 5 bales skins, 30 sacks abalones.”


September 16, 1873 [SBDMT]: “A party of gentlemen leave this morning at 8 o’clock to cross the channel in search of piscatorial sport. The good ship Star of Freedom, the gallant Chase commanding, will bear the jolly party to the scene of action. She has been well victualed with fifty cases of wine and demijohns of assorted liquors, all of which have been duly licensed by the Internal Revenue Collector, who goes along to see that it is not retailed. The fish will be brought back in a Chinese junk. The invalids are expected to be at home again tomorrow evening. We wish them luck.”


September 26, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. September 21. Chinese junk from the islands.”


November 10, 1876 [SBDP]: “Two Chinese sloops, from the islands, are unloading fish and abalones at the wharf.”


January 25, 1877 [SBDP]: “A Chinese fishing boat came in from the islands this morning with a cargo of abalones partially dried. They will be shipped to China for food. Jewhilliken! How powerful they did smell.”


February 27, 1877 [SBDP]: “A party of Chinese fishermen caught sight of what is believed to be the veritable sea serpent, out near the Coronados Island, yesterday. They were very much frightened, but describe the appearance of the monster as follows: the body was about 50 feet long; the head about ten feet, and the tail at least 100 feet. The creature was moving very rapidly southward, its head elevated about six feet from the water, and seemed to be catching fish or seals, as it constantly ducked its head in the water, which was quite calm except in the wake of the monster. When last seen, it had turned to the northward, as though to go round the island. It was of a brownish color and apparently about three feet in diameter. Captain Gus Gregory and Jack Wall have chartered the Cuyamaca to go out on an inspecting tour tomorrow, as it is believed the serpent lives in the kelp outside, where there is good feed for such creatures. They place implicit faith in the story of the Chinamen.”


June 16, 1877 [SBDP]: “The Chinese junk Sam Ac came into port from the islands today with a cargo of abalones. They will be shipped to San Francisco and thence to China.”


June 25, 1877 [SBDP]: “The U.S.C.S. steamer McArthur, Chinese fishing boat Sam Ac, yacht Albatross, and schooners Reliance and W. C. Tregen, were in the harbor this morning.”


June 26, 1877 [SBDP]: “Two Chinese fishing boats were in the harbor this morning.”


January 17, 1878 [SBDP]: “In the storm’s track. The destruction among the fishing craft was general… Among the small craft damaged and damaging, during the storm, was a Chinese junk of about three tons, which ran into and under the wharf on one side, carrying away some piling, and then, being caught by a counter-current, turned and carried away some more as it went through again…”


March 6, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Matinee left for the islands today taking a number of Chinese fishermen.”


May 17, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Chinese-owned sloop Alea with a load of abalone shells arrived in port this morning.”


July 13, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooners Alma and Surprise were in the harbor this morning. The Alma arrived from the islands yesterday with a load of abalones belonging to Chinamen.”


August 14, 1878 [SBDP]: “The time when the Chinese fishermen go to the islands to fish is approaching. Something might now be done to prevent them from destroying such vast quantities of young barracuda and other fish, as is their usual custom.”


November 13, 1878 [SBDP]: “A Chinese junk arrived yesterday and cast anchor in the channel.”


c. 1879: “I became interested in hunting seals and sea otter, and also in gathering abalone shells on the Channel Islands. For these purposes I purchased first the schooner, Surprise, and later two schooners, Keturah and N. B.. George and Jake Nidever, Manuel Cordero, Antonio Cavarillo [Cavalleri], Jose Espinosa, and Charles Brown were employed by me on these boats. Some of the seals were shipped east for exhibition purposes. Others were killed, the hides sold to be converted into leather, the oil used for various purposes, and the trimmings going to Chinamen. I had fifteen to twenty Chinamen employed in prying the abalone off the rocks at the islands. The abalone shells were shipped to Baltimore and passengers had to come ashore in lighters I had built and named them the Oil King and the Baptist Dugout…”


April 14, 1879 [SBDP]: “A Chinese fishing sloop loaded with shells and abalones arrived from the islands this morning.”


July 28, 1879 [SBDP]: “A Chinese schooner arrived from the islands this morning with a cargo of shells and abalones for the San Francisco market.”


August 3, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Star of Freedom, the U.S. Coast Survey steamer McArthur, and the sloop Wam Woo are in the harbor today.”


August 19, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Chinese fishing boat Wam Woo is the only vessel in the harbor today.”


September 8, 1879 [SBDP]: “The See Ling, a genuine Chinese junk, arrived yesterday from the Santa Barbara islands with a cargo of abalone shells.”


September 11, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner N. B. and the Chinese junks See Lee [Ling] and Wam Woo are in the harbor.”


November 15, 1879 [SBWP]: “The Surprise arrived from the islands this morning with lots of abalone, shark fins, shark oil and Chinese traps and calamities.”


December 2, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Senator took 20 tons of Chinese freight from here yesterday. Gourley says it smelled strong enough for 500 tons.”


November 23, 1880 [SBDP]: “The Chinese junk, Jog-On, arrived from the islands with fish, oil, abalones, shells &c.”


June 4, 1883 [SBMP]: “Larco arrived with his sloop yesterday from Anacapa Island with a cargo of fifty sheep and about 1200 pounds of rock cod. The latter is shipped here by Chinaman to be salted, dried and sent to China. Captain Larco took on a load of lumber and started for San Miguel.”


April 1884 [SBWI]: “...Captain Larco is a fisherman and the Ocean King has first duty as a fishing smack, but nothing comes amiss, a pleasure party to the islands, taking over a party of otter hunters and their traps, taking Chinese abalone fishers or any kind of passengers, carrying provisions to, or abalones, shells, skins, dried fish, fresh fish. In fact anything from the islands. [October 6, 1977 SBNP]


May 1, 1884 [SBDP]: “There are 200 sacks of abalones, weighing between 200 and 300 pounds to a sack, at the wharf awaiting shipment to San Francisco. The gathering, curing, shipping and eating of this delicious mollusk and important article of commerce seems to receive attention principally from the Chinese.”


November 28, 1884 [SBDP]: “A Chinese junk, a stranger at this port, arrived today from the islands.”


April 23, 1885 [SBDI]: “Twelve Chinamen left this afternoon for the islands to gather abalone shells on the Angel Dolly. She also takes out a crew of otter hunters.”


April 29, 1885 [SBDP]: “A Chinese junk lying in the harbor was today preparing to take on board a crew of Chinese abalone hunters, bound for the island.”


May 12, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Chinese junk left this morning for the islands.”


May 17, 1885 [SBDP]: “The little schooner Angel Dolly, for so long a time owned in Santa Barbara, has been playing an important role as rescuer of the crew of the Ocean King which was burned at sea on the 8th instant. She took off from the burning vessel 25 men.”


June 5, 1885 [SBDI]: “The Chinese merchants are experiencing quiet times in their branches of trade. The merchants during the past year, however, have shipped hundreds of dollars worth of abalone shells, to say nothing of the dried fish that has been shipped to San Francisco and thence forwarded to the ‘flowery kingdom.’ Sing Chung and Co. have a number of men constantly employed in hunting, fishing and gathering shells in and around the several islands that are within a few hours sail of Santa Barbara. They own their own boats, and in fact everything that pertains to the business in which they pursue. Their Chinese junks are commanded by Mongolians, who have been brought up on their own water,and can reef and furl with true American style…”


June 20, 1885 [SBDI]: “A. Larco in one haul of his seine last Tuesday caught close to 3 tons of sardines…They were disposed of to the Chinamen, who, after pickling them in brine, forward them to San Francisco, and from there they go to the Flowery Kingdom where they are held as a rare treat, and none but the rich can indulge in the luxury of eating them. He got 3-5 cents per pound for the fish, which may be considered a remarkable haul, one that had considerable money in it.”


June 22, 1885 [SBDI]: “Misconceptions as to the sailing qualities of a Chinese junk. Yesterday the reporter of this paper, in company with contractor Mix and others, visited the Chinese junk, a frail looking vessel that is moored in our harbor, having not long since arrived from the lower coast, where she has been engaged in the hunting trade. A sunburned Chinaman, wearing loose pants made out of canvas duck, hatless, unbleached cotton shirt unbuttoned down the front, greeted us upon the arrival of our boat, and in pigeon English extended our crowd a hearty welcome, and assisted us over the bulwarks of the vessel. He afterwards proved to be the captain… The boat is a veritable Chinese junk, built and manned by Chinamen, and from her mast floats the emblem of their country, which affords a striking contrast with the hull of the boat which is painted black… she smells very strong of fish. Her capacity is not great, owing to her peculiar shape, as she appears narrow and her stern runs forward in such angle that it leaves but little of the boat to rest upon the water. Her cabin is dark, dingy and uninviting. No windows nor means of ventilation of any kind except a small aperture, just large enough to permit a man’s body to pass through, and through this hole you have to pass in order to reach the cabin. Here we found a man at work netting seines and nets which they use in their business. The meshes were not quite an inch square and the work was systematically performed. The crew seemed pleased at our coming aboard, and in order to show their appreciation they treated us to brandy, cigars and fresh made tea. They carry no nautical instruments, not even a compass, and their navigation is entirely done by land marks, as they seldom go out of sight of land…”


June 25, 1885 [SBDI]: “Some of our merchants are doing a ‘land office’ business in dispensing of their old dry goods boxes to Sing Chung, who owns and controls six Chinese fishing craft… They are to be used in shipping fish to China…”


July 3, 1885 [SBDI]: “The Chinese junk is moored alongside Stearn’s Wharf this morning discharging her cargo of fish, amounting to twenty tons. They are in large tanks covered with brine in the hold of the vessel, the variety is known as the red fish. They weigh from one to twenty pounds and are the fruit of two months’ work. The junk carries six hardy Chinese seamen, and is the property of Sing Chung.”


July 8, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Angel Dolly this morning sailed for the islands with a number of Chinese laborers. From there the vessel will proceed up the coast on an otter hunting cruise, returning to this port about October 1st.”


July 21, 1885 [SBDI]: “Two Chinese junks are in the harbor. One of them is discharging a cargo of abalones which brings $7 per ton in San Francisco.”


July 23, 1885 [SBDI]: “Another Chinese junk arrived with fish from the islands.”


August 27, 1885 [SBDI]: “A Chinese junk arrived from the islands yesterday afternoon with a cargo of oil and sharks, measuring from two to five feet in length. This species of fish, when thoroughly dried and cured, is considered by the Chinese as very palatable, and in the Flowery Kingdom they bring a handsome price.”


August 29, 1885 [SBDP]: “A new Santa Barbara industry is the drying of abalone meat for shipment to San Francisco and export to China where it is regarded as a delicacy by the natives. Sing Chung and Sing Hop, Chinese merchants engaged in the trade, have sent for exhibition several specimens of the dried meat, as well as a number of handsomely polished abalone shells.”


October 12, 1885 [SBDP]: “The vessels in port this morning were the Star of Freedom, Ocean King, Rosita, Pirate and a Chinese junk.”


October 31, 1885 [SBDI]: “The Chinese junks have set sail for their fishing grounds.”


November 11, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Chinese junk Sun Lee arrived from the islands yesterday with a cargo of fish for the fish curing nuisance on the beach.”


November 19, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Chinaman on the junk was rescued by Larco, the fisherman.”


August 16, 1886 [SBDP]: “A Chinese junk arrived in port last night from off the Mexican coast, bringing nine tons of fish for the Santa Barbara fish curing establishment.”


October 2, 1886 [SBDP]: “The crafts in port this forenoon were the Angel Dolly, Alice, Ocean King and a Chinese junk.”


November 17, 1886 [SBDP]: “A Chinese junk, laden with abalones, came into port yesterday from the islands.”


August 4, 1887 [SBDI]: “A Chinese sealing party left this morning for the islands.”


August 28, 1887 [SBDI]: “Protect the fish. Considerable interest is manifested in the efforts of the State Board of Fish Commissioners to suppress the destruction of immature fish in the bays of the Northern Coast. Chinese fishermen are said to use nets of illegal size with very small meshes…”


July 11, 1888 [SBMP]: “A Chinese junk which has been in the harbor several days left yesterday morning on a fishing cruise.”


August 16, 1888 [SBMP]: “The sloop Ocean King has gone to the islands after a number of Chinamen who have been there getting abalones.”


October 27, 1888 [SBMP]: “The sloop Brisk will leave for the islands this morning with a crew of Chinese abalone hunters.”


August 23, 1890 [SBMP]: “The schooner Santa Rosa sailed for Anacapa Island yesterday to bring back a party of Chinamen who have been there gathering abalones.”


May 17, 1891 [SBMP]: “The schooner Santa Rosa leaves today for the islands with a gang of Chinamen to collect abalone shells for Captain G. F. Ellis.”


August 8, 1891 [SBMP]: “A Chinese junk left port yesterday for the islands to gather abalones and shell.”


September 18, 1891 [VSFP]: “Recent developments indicate that the gang of opium smugglers, known to be strung on the Pacific Coast, has found a new field of operations along the shores of the Santa Barbara Channel, and, all things considered, the wonder is that the field was not found long ago. Possibly, indeed it was… those islands themselves, several of them deserted rocks inhabited only during a part of the year by Chinese fishermen, and honey-combed with wave-worn caves, afford a thousand hiding places for the drug. There are secure anchorages that revenue vessels never think to visit… Nobody is on watch there…”


November 6, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “The old China junk boat that has been off shore here for some time was brought ashore yesterday for the winter.”


December 21, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “A Chinese junk anchored off the wharf broke loose from its moorings Saturday night and drifted seaward. There was no one aboard the junk. It was the property of Sing Chung & Co. of this city.”


December 22, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “The Chinese junk which broke from its moorings and drifted out into the channel Saturday night, went ashore down on Dixey Thompson’s ranch below Ventura.”


July 7, 1892 [CDT]: “Attempt to smuggle Chinamen. British Columbian schooner, the Eliza Edwards, is hovering off the California coast with a cargo of Chinese immigrants which it is trying to land on United States soil… The attempt to land coolies is likely to be made, it is thought, near Santa Barbara…”


December 2, 1892 [SBMP]: “The government agent for registering Chinese of this place has not been able to secure any names up to date. This registration is a formality that John Chinamen can’t exactly ‘savey.’”


May 22, 1894 [SBDI]: “The Abalone Trade. Anyone who has ever tasted abalone soup when it was fixed ‘just right,’ has never forgotten how good it was, and often longs for another chance. But the abalone consumed by the local trade is insignificant compared to the vast quantity shipped annually to San Francisco and the Chinese, and they prepare it in various ways, making it almost as edible as the rat when properly cooked. Unlike the rat, however, abalone can be eaten raw, and anyone stranded on an isle of the Santa Barbara group need not suffer for lack of food. There the abalone abounds, and its favorite lurking place is around the edges where the water comes up and cools them off. There is no time that parties of Chinamen are not on some places on the islands, gathering these shellfish from the rocks, and schooner load after sloop load are landed at the wharf every year. The shell forms a valuable commodity, also, being used extensively for mother-of-pearl inlaid work, and also for buttons. The price of shells is low at present, owing to dull times and the decreasing demand for buttons. But abalone itself is always in demand, so much so that there is a fear of the race becoming extinct. The legislature should include the abalone in the fish and game laws, and pass an amendment that only the old tough ones should be picked for a few years, until a generation or two can gain a foothold.”


August 21, 1893 [SBDI]: “The Chinamen at the wharf have all they can do to guard their abalones from raids by the small boys.”


1892-1895 U.S. Commission of Fish & Fisheries Report: “The Chinese have a monopoly in the abalone fishery, and in preparing, eating, and marketing of the dried abalones. The meat and shells are handled by a Chinese merchant at Santa Barbara and by him forwarded to other Chinese at San Francisco, where, having supplied any local demand for dried abalone from the islands of Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel and San Clemente.”


November 13, 1895 [LAT/SB]: “A southeaster has been prevailing all afternoon, accompanied with dust. This is the storm that was brewing yesterday, and caused the capsizing of the Chinese junk, Chromo, which was on the way to the Hollister estate at Gaviota with a load of lumber. At the time of the accident there was one man on deck and two below asleep. Fortunately they escaped drowning…”


March 11, 1896 [SBDI]: “The Chinese abalone gatherers who arrived yesterday by steamer, sold the product of their labors at once to Charles Stetson of San Francisco. Mr. Stetson immediately shipped three hundred sacks of shells weighing 100 pounds each, and 40 sacks of the meat weighing 300 pounds each to that city, while he has still remaining on the dock 40 sacks additional of the meat. No wonder that abalones are becoming scarce.”


June 6, 1896 [LAT/SP]: “The Chinese junk Chow Lee sailed into port Wednesday, after being out seventy-nine days. She had a cargo of abalone meats, abalone shells and dried squids, all of which smelled to heaven with odors unspeakable. The Mongolian navigators objected to opening the hatch at the request of the customhouse men, but when they did so a search of the craft revealed no contraband goods.”


September 9, 1896 [LAT/SP]: “The Chinese junk Chow Lee sailed into the inner harbor again today after a cruise among the Santa Barbara Islands. Instead of a cargo of abalone shells and meats as usual, she was loaded with a mess of fish in a more or less advanced condition of decomposition. The awkward craft was boarded by Deputy Customs Collector Bell, who had a nauseating job of it making investigation…”


March 11, 1897 [SBMP]: “The wharf house is full of abalone shells. They were brought over from the Channel Islands by the Sun Lung & Co., Chinese abalone hunters and are consigned to the San Francisco division of the company by today’s steamer. There are 420 sacks of shells, averaging over 100 pounds per sack. The dried meat from them, amounting to thirteen tons, was sent up on the steamer Tuesday.”


December 8, 1897 [LAT/SP]: “The junk Chow Lee, with its heathen crew, sailed into port from the island today with its usual cargo of abalones and a ton or so of fish which were once dead, but are getting alive again.”


February 13, 1898 [LAT]: “Use of the abalone… Quite a considerable business is carried on by Chinese in abalone shells and meat on the Islands of the Santa Barbara Channel. In the abalones pearls are sometimes found…”


May 31, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “Will Gerrull, well-known as a skipper of vessels of the guano fleet, was arrested this evening on a charge of smuggling Chinese into the United States. Francisco Reyes, who is accused of a like offense, was also taken into custody at the same time. Chinese Inspector Putnam of Los Angeles has been anxious to obtain the arrests of these men for the past two months.”


October 4, 1899 [SBMP]: “ GET


February 26, 1899 [LAT]: “Abalones. The big shellfish known as the abalone is valuable not only for the shell, but also for the meat, which is highly prized by the Chinese, although Americans are apt to find it rather tough and indigestible. A good many people make their living on this coast by gathering abalones…The Chinese are the purchasers of the abalone meat, and the shells are shipped to Europe where they are fashioned into buttons and various novelties. The raw shells are said to be worth about $40 per ton delivered at European ports, while the Mongolians pay 3 or 4 cents per pound for the meat.”


April 15, 1899 [SBMP]: “The Chinamen who own the abalone shells which have been stored on the wharf for several weeks, are shipping them out of the country before the ordinance prohibiting the shipment of abalones out of the country goes into effect.”


February 25, 1901 [SBDI]: “Legislators imbibe wisdom from local experts. Sunday’s junket of Fish and Game committee expected to open way to many reforms. The fisheries of Santa Barbara channel will be the subject of a thoughtful report to the state legislature… through gaining personal knowledge of the situation, advise and legislate with understanding of the preservation of abalone and crawfish in the channel… The inroads that are made in the heathen Chinese into the abalone beds and the slaughter of baby crawfish by San Pedro pirates will be treated…”


July 22, 1901 [SBDI]: “Colice Vasquez came over from the island this morning with a load of seaweed for local Chinamen. The Chinese use the prepared seaweed in their food.”


July 30, 1901 [SBMP]: “The schooner Restless sailed last evening with a load of Chinese and white men to fish for abalones on the island.”


July 30, 1901 [SBDI]: “The schooner Restless left this morning for the islands with a number of Chinamen who will engage in abalone fishing.”


August 1, 1901 [SBWP]: “The schooner Restless sailed last evening with a load of Chinese and white men to fish for abalones on the Islands.”


August 14, 1901 [LAT]: “Discoveries have just been made, says a Santa Barbara special to the Chronicle, which are believed to establish conclusively that wholesale smuggling of Chinese from British Columbia into the United States through Santa Barbara has been carried on. The revenue officials were notified several weeks ago, and for three weeks the revenue cutter McCulloch has been cruising in the waters of Santa Barbara in search of evidence. The smuggling scheme is outlined as follows: Lumber-laden vessels leave Puget Sound for Southern California points, and, after getting well out to sea, run over to Vancouver, B. C. and pick up Chinese who are ostensibly shipped as part of the crew. Some of these vessels put in at San Pedro, Port Harford and some other ports, with crews twice as large as necessary. When sailing for the north the crews consist almost exclusively of white sailors. Another method adopted is the landing of Chinese on one of the islands in the channel, and they are then brought to Santa Barbara as abalone fishermen. Just what discoveries have been made by the officers of the revenue cutter are not known, but it is believed they have been in possession of important information by the local officers…”


November 18, 1901 [LAT/SB]: “A Chinese merchant named Ah Jim was before Justice of the Peace Wheaton yesterday afternoon on a charge of having been vending abalones under the size required by law. He was found guilty, and was instructed to appear next Saturday for sentence. It is intended to make this a test case, and the matter will be heard by Judge Day on habeas corpus proceedings. Under a recent ruling by Judge Day, the abalone was declared not to be a fish, and the State fish law could, therefore, not be made to apply to it.”


December 6, 1901 [LAT/SB]: “Judge Day of the Superior Court is to decide whether or not an abalone is a fish. A Chinaman, Ah Jim, is under sentence of $20, or the alternative, for catching and having in his possession abalones of less size than allowed by State fish law. The defendant seeks release on the ground that an abalone cannot properly be classed a fish, and that therefore, the law does not apply to that species of game. The hearing of the case, under habeas corpus proceedings, came up yesterday, at the conclusion of which the court took the question under advisement. The decision will be of importance, as the crawfish, also, is included in the objection.”


December 8, 1901 [LAT/SB]: “Judge Day of the Superior Court rendered a decision in the habeas corpus proceedings of Ah Jim, convicted of taking abalones under size prescribed by law. The decision sustained the lower court. The question involved was the validity of the Penal Code referring to the protection of fish. The petitioners held that abalones are not fish, and cited Section 26 of Article IV as the basis of their contention. Judge Day denied the writ and remanded the prisoner to custody. The ruling on abalones affects crawfish as well.”


April 26, 1902 [LAT]: “…Chinese are systematically smuggled in over the Canadian and Mexican borders, and from the Santa Barbara islands in the guise of fishermen, through the collusion of bribed officials…”


April 5, 1903 [LAT]: “A big howl is going up because of the order just issued by the Treasury Department at Washington, declaring Santa Barbara no longer a subport of entry, which it has been for several years. The order, which just went into effect, includes the retirement of Arthur C. Greenwell, who has held the position of collector for the past four years… it would be no difficult task for vessels from British Columbia or Mexican ports to land upon one of the Channel Islands Chinese, who could easily make their way to the mainland unobserved, unless official vigilance were exercised.”


October 7, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “The Board of Supervisors this afternoon passed an ordinance imposing a license tax of $400 a year on all abalone fishermen engaged on the islands in the Santa Barbara Channel. The tax will practically prohibit further operations. Within the past few months, hordes of Chinese and Japanese have been gathering abalones, drying the meat for export to Oriental countries, where it is a popular article of food, and disposing of the shells to button and curio factories. The business has been carried on so extensively that it is now necessary for the fishermen to work among the rocks beneath the surface of the water, clothed in diving suits, and abalones, which formerly were very plentiful, have been nearly exterminated.”


February 15, 1904 [LAT/SA]: “Chinese fishermen from San Pedro have been taking more than a ton a day of abalones from the rocks on the Laguna Beach. They are all shipped to San Pedro for export.”


February 19, 1904 [LAT/SA]: “The Supervisors have passed an ordinance making it a misdemeanor for any person to catch in one day more than twenty-five pounds of abalones or to have more in his possession—either abalones or shells. The ordinance is to go into effect March 3. The passage of the measure is rendered necessary by the depredations of Chinese fishermen at Laguna, where they have caught and carried off abalones by the ton, taking them both for the meat and shells, and threatening to exterminate than in that locality.”


July 29, 1904 [VFP]: “During the past week government officers have been in Ventura secretly at work in an attempt to capture parties who are suspected of smuggling Chinese into the country. Reports are persistent that Chinese are being landed on the Channel Islands, and then landed from small boats on the mainland between Ventura and Santa Barbara. The reports were the cause of the cruise of the Revenue Cutter Manning in the Channel Islands recently.”


July 26, 1905 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Merry of the auxiliary yacht Vishnu, was getting his craft ready for a fishing party when she was boarded by three men. ‘Your boat is under our orders,’ said one of them. ‘No she isn’t,’ replied the captain. ‘I am just waiting for a party of fishermen. I can take you out tomorrow.’ ‘No you won’t. You will take us out right now, and stay as long as we desire,’ and the speaker displayed a badge on his coat that showed him to be a government official of the Immigration Department, and added that if the boat did not sail under his orders at once, the captain would be prosecuted. That was early last Saturday morning, and nothing was seen of the Vishnu or her crew until yesterday afternoon, when they sailed into port after having sailed and searched over 400 miles, night and day. Every nook and corner of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa islands were explored, every boat was overtaken and examined carefully and island fishermen were carefully questioned. Captain Merry’s unwelcome crew were Emil Engelike, John Canfield and T. J. Johnson of San Diego, all officers of the Federal Government on a warm trail after a Chinese smuggler…”


December 17, 1908 [SBMP]: “Fishing for crawfish will be absolutely prohibited for a term of years, and the Japanese and Chinese abalone industry will be broken up, no abalones allowed to be taken from their native element until they have had time to replenish their numerical strength. Such are the prognostications of Senator-elect L. H. Roseberry...”


September 21, 1910 [LAT/SB]: “That the Santa Barbara Channel Islands are the base of operations of a daring opium-smuggling gang is the conviction of the special agents of the Treasury Department who have for some time realized that opium was being brought into the United States from Mexico in large quantities. Detectives in the employ of the government were sent to Santa Barbara recently, who, disguised as fishermen, obtained evidence, which may lead to uncovering of the smuggling ring. The revenue cutter McCulloch has just returned from a cruise about the islands and is ready to proceed to sea at an hour’s notice whenever the agents of the Treasury Department on the lower coast wire Captain Daniel of the approach of a vessel from Mexico for which they are waiting. The first intimation that the ring had succeeded in finding a way to bring opium into the country, came a few weeks ago when the price of the drug took a sudden fall in Chinatown. In one night the price, which had been more than $400 a pound, fell from twenty to thirty-three and one third percent, and previous information in the hands of the government seemed to make it certain that it was from Mexico that the drug was brought into the country. Canada had closed her ports to importations of opium, but records of exportations from China to Mexico showed an enormous quantity of the drug being shipped to that country.”


August 13, 1911 [LAT/SB]: “On a still hunt for smuggled Chinese the revenue cutter McCullough put in here late last evening and this morning got under way again, the objectiv point being nooks and crannies along the coast and the Channel Islands… A number of parties of Chinese have been known to come to the Channel Islands, being brought there by larger vessels and being transported to the mainland under cover of darkness in launches…”


August 27, 1911 [SBMP]: “Both north and south of Santa Barbara, the authorities are enforcing the laws regulating the taking of abalone. Recently two Chinamen were arrested in San Luis Obispo County for having undersized abalone in their possession...”


November 11, 1911 [LAT]: “San Pedro, Nov. 10—Conclusive proof that contraband Chinese are being smuggled into Los Angeles county, along the sheer and rocky coast between San Pedro and Redondo Beach was unearthed today by George H. Sweet, United States Immigration Inspector. Several days ago, Ed Lindskow, a lobster fisherman, found a discarded Chinese suit of clothing on the beach near Point Vicente, about twelve miles up the coast from Point Firmin, and turned it over to the inspector. Inspector Sweet drove to Point Vicente, but made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the beach, the bluff being too precipitous. Today he chartered a launch and made the trip up the coast to the rendezvous of the Chinese smugglers. In a cave near Point Vicente, which he was able to reach only by a skiff or row boat, under a towering cliff, the inspector located a cave in a wild tangle of underbrush and wild holly, which had been apparently used for a considerable time as a cache for concealing the wily orientals. The cave was not visible either from the land side or by passing steamers. In the cave, four complete Chinese suits were found, which had apparently been changed for American clothing. Scattered around were wrappings from packages bearing Chinese writing, covers from packages of Mexican cigarettes, a blanket and various articles which had been used for cooking. The retreat had been used for a considerable time as a regular camp, as numerous fires had been built, the charred embers still being in evidence. Inspector Sweet's theory is that the contraband Chinese are brought up from Mexico and taken to some cave on one of the Channel Islands until a favorable opportunity arrives to transport them to the mainland in small launches. The cave at Point Vicente afforded the smugglers a safe retreat until such time as the Chinese could be conducted inland. Early last July a strange launch, having high speed appeared on a foggy night off Point Vicente and gave mysterious signals to another launch bound from Redondo Beach to San Pedro. Evidently the wrong launch was signaled, for the occurrence was reported to the immigration authorities. An investigation was made at the time but the Coast rendezvous of the smugglers remained a mystery until unearthed by Inspector Sweet this morning.”

January 18, 1914 [LAT]: “The official dragnet of Immigration Inspector Connell, in operation under cover for two weeks, brought a large collection of alleged Chinese smugglers to book yesterday. As a consequence, the smart-looking launch, Calypso, well-known at Long Beach where it was in the Catalina Island trade last summer, and Fred Fox, Maurice Pittinger and David Main are in the hands of the law…”


January 20, 1914 [LAT]: “Immigration inspector O. F. Miller, with Inspectors Kuykendall and Jack, kept watch on a launch off the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara, looking for the Calypso, with its human cargo of smuggled Chinese…”


January 12, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “Antonio Feliz, who some years ago was known as one of the most active Chinese smugglers on the Pacific Coast, has at last been declared dead officially. Yesterday in the United States district court, Assistant District Attorney Archibald moved that the indictments against Ethel Hall, wife of Ed Hall, formerly of San Pedro, and Feliz be dismissed, and it was so ordered. Mrs. Hall died some months ago and it was reported Feliz passed away in Mexico, where he went after his release from the county jail. His demise has recently been confirmed and the chapter involving him in the smuggling game has been closed.”