Forney’s Cove, Santa Cruz Island

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Forney's Cove, Santa Cruz Island is a large anchorage on the south side of the extreme west end of the island. It was named by Commander Phillip C. Johnson, U.S. Navy, for Stehman Forney who was in charge of the topographic surveys of Santa Cruz Island conducted by the U.S. Coast Survey in 1874 and 1875. The place name appears on the June 1882 U.S. Coast Survey map Pacific Coast from Santa Monica to Point Conception, including the Santa Barbara Channel, California, J.E. Hilgard, Superintendent.

The entire group of Chumash village sites which extend for nearly two miles along the shore of Forney’s Cove was called Ch’oloshush by A. L. Kroeber. During the Caire era, an outranch, Campo Punta West was built at this location in the 1880s. Development of buildings on the flats adjacent to Forney’s Cove appears on two maps dated 1886 and 1890 entitled Campo Punta West. They show development of a ranch house, a foreman’s house, several hay barns, a well, a reservoir, a stable, corrals, and even a telephone line. This place name appears as Forney Cove on the Santa Cruz Island Sheet A topographic map. When the island was partitioned in 1925, this location was included in Tract No. 1 appointed to Helene A. Caire.

Vessels wrecked at Forney’s Cove include: Helene (1898); Joan (1974); Trilogy (1966); Englyn (1974)

In the News~

September 16, 1874 [S. Forney to Superintendent Patterson]: “On the south side of the northwest point of the island is a small cove open to the south. It is well protected from the northwest winds. Large vessels can anchor close under the point of rocks on the west side of the cove in 9 fathoms of sandy bottom. This anchorage has no name but was called by Commander P. C. Johnson, Forney's Cove.”

January 21, 1884 [SBDI]: “This is a charming little inlet the entrance, the entrance being a rival of the Golden Gate in the frowning battlements that nature has planted on either side. [There are] many seals and many strange water fowl. Some of the curious specimens of the feathered tribe are brought back to be sent to Washington, their strange forms and beautiful markings challenging the greatest admiration. A towering peak rises up from beside Forney’s Cove. Above the cove the land lies flat and an old Indian burial ground gives silent testimony of the vanished race who found Santa Cruz [Island] a peaceful home. Two Chinese camps busy in gathering abalones…”

1886/1890 [SCICo]: Development of buildings on the flats adjacent to Forney’s Cove appears on two maps dated 1886 and 1890 entitled Campo Punta West. They show development of a ranch house, a foreman’s house, several hay barns, a well, a reservoir, a stable, corrals, and even a telephone line.

December 13, 1898 [SBMP]: “The yacht Helene, built a few years ago by J. D. Axtell and owned by Edwards & Company, is a total wreck in Forney's Cove on Santa Cruz Island... We sailed from San Miguel on the 8th with a fair wind. The cargo was 4-1/2 tons of guano. Late in the day we sailed to Forney’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island and laid there... Helene drifted into the blind breakers... About a half a mile away we found a deserted house at a Chinese camp; we broke in and got something to eat: rice, flour, etc...”

December 15, 1898 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez suffered a relapse and his recovery is now considered very doubtful. The exposure to wet and cold in Forney’s Cove after the wreck of the Helene has led to a serious condition, and now pneumonia or lung fever may follow.”

August 1, 1899 [SBMP]: “The Santa Rosa leaves this morning for Forney’s Cove, Santa Cruz Island, where she goes to bring over Captain Mullett’s seals, which were caught last week. These animals will be sold to museums and zoological gardens of the east. The Southern Pacific Company has also ordered a few for its exhibit at the Paris exposition.”

August 4, 1899 [SBMP]: “Twelve tons of seals. Forty of them arrive from the islands yesterday. The largest single catch of seal that has ever been made at the Channel Islands was landed at the wharf yesterday afternoon from Forney’s Cove at the west end of Santa Cruz Island by the schooner Santa Rosa. There are 10 seals in the lot, weighing in all 12 tons. They were caught for Captain J. R. Mullett of New York, the pioneer seal and sea lion hunter who will dispose of them to several cities of the east and south, where they will be placed in parks and zoological gardens. It is probable that some of them will find their way to Paris.”

March 29, 1904 [SCICo National Diary 1903]: “A line of fence at Forney’s Cove was laid out March 29, 1904. It starts from the southwest corner of the old hay field, runs directly to the reservoir of Agua Santa, then up and along the mount adjacent to the middle point of the second canyon north of Christy which bears water all the year round. It then runs towards the sea.”

September 6, 1904 [SBMP]: “The launch Peerless returned last night from Forney's Cove, Santa Cruz Island, with a number of Chinese and a cargo of sea grass. The Peerless made the trip in four hours.”

June 18, 1905 [George E. Nidever to A. J. Caire, Santa Cruz Island Company]: “Dear Sir, I take the liberty to write to you to ask if you want to rent the houses at Forney’s Cove for the coming crawfish season with the privilege of keeping any body else from living in the houses while the season lasts. So please if you accede to my request let me know in what terms you will rent. I can pay part of the rent at the beginning of the season and the rest three months later. Now I close hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your very truly, George E. Nidever, 102 E. Yanonoli Street, Santa Barbara, Cal.”

May 24, 1906 [SBMP]: “The launch Irene, Captain Nidever, returned yesterday from Forney's Cove where a Japanese diving camp was moved.”

September 21, 1906 [SBI]: “The launch Irene, Frank Nidever, captain, which has been in the harbor for the past two days, will leave this afternoon for Forney’s Cove, Santa Cruz Island. Captain Nidever on Tuesday brought eighteen sacks of crawfish from the fishers at the cove. He reports that the fishing is as good as in previous years, but that the market is not strong. The prices which the first shipment brought were a disappointment to Santa Barbara fishermen. Captain Nidever says the only way he can account for the low prices which are being received in the north is that the destruction of San Francisco has brought new conditions and lessened the demand. ‘There is a new class there, a kind that don’t eat lobsters or crawfish,’ he says. ‘The market in Los Angeles is no better.’ The Leone, a gasoline launch, and a crawfisher, with Captain Swanson in command, arrived in Santa Barbara this morning from San Pedro and will leave tonight or tomorrow for the island. Captain Nidever and his partner, Ira K. Eaton, are handling the catch of four crews. The Irene will return to Santa Barbara Sunday night in time for the northbound boat.”

December of 1906, Margaret Eaton reported “all the boys who were camping at Forney’s Cove had invited [Ira Eaton] and Frank [Pepper from Santa Rosa Island] to have Christmas dinner with them. There were eighteen of them living there in a large hay barn that belonged to the owners of the island. Each set of partners had their own space in the barn and their own gasoline stove, and they all got along fine together. Hogs were roasted in the big stone oven next to the barn. Next to the barn stood two heavy manzanita posts with a cross-piece between them, from which hung a large copper dinner bell that had been used to call the ranch hands to their meals.” [Eaton 1980: 30].

February 19, 1907 [SBMP]: “…The Vishnu, Captain Merry, was also in from Santa Cruz, bringing mail from Forney’s Cove.”

May 2, 1907 [SBI]: “Captain Nidever left this morning in the launch Irene for the islands on a seal expedition. He will visit Forney Cove.”

June 4, 1907 [SBMP]: “A jolly island party... embarked Saturday afternoon on the power yacht Vishnu, bound for Lady's Harbor and Forney's Cove at the west end of Santa Cruz Island where fish was found in such great numbers the party soon tired of the sport. The Vishnu was headed for her home port of Santa Barbara where they landed at 6 P.M., declaring the whole trip the most enjoyable they have ever taken.”

June 23, 1907 [George E. Nidever to A. J. Caire, Santa Cruz Island Company]: “Dear Sir, I received your letter just now and in reply I say that I am no partner to Mr. Eaton and never was. I pay him to haul my fish to Santa Barbara and that is all we had to do with about the rent of the island. All I know is that Eaton told me that he rents the island for the crawfish season and that he was going to charge $5 to every camp, but if he ever got anything from anybody I don’t know. All I know is that I pay my share so that is all I can say. If you rent the houses [at Forney’s] I will pay as I told you in the other letter. I hope you are not going to charge too big rent. I will close hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your very truly, George E. Nidever, 102 E. Yanonoli Street, Santa Barbara, Cal.”

October 26, 1907 [SBMP]: “Ira Eaton arrived Thursday in the launch Irene from Forney's Cove, Santa Cruz Island, bringing 25 sacks of crawfish.”

April 10, 1908 [SBMP]: “Gruesome tale from Santa Cruz Island… The power launch Petrel, with a police sergeant and several friends on board, came to anchor 100 yards off an unfrequented portion of [Santa Cruz] island and, lowering their skiff, the sergeant and a companion rowed towards the surf. The waves rolled high... the skiff was upset and the occupants caught in the swirl of the surf which would throw them headlong upon the shore... The captain of the Petrel, seeing the plight of his passengers, jumped overboard and swam gallantly to their rescue. Being more skilled at surf work he succeeded in gaining a footing and in dragging one half-drowned occupant of the skiff above the danger line. The captain then turned his attention to the sergeant, but realized the hopelessness of his efforts, for the surf was playing football with the body. Meanwhile the Petrel had steamed to Forney’s Cove for help, and secured the assistance of ‘Big Jerry’ Shively and Ed Foley, who in their own skiff set out for the scene of the accident…”

December 27, 1910 [SBMP]: “Building house. The Caires are building another ranch house on their big island property, Santa Cruz. THis is located near the west end of the island, above Forney's Cove.”

July 29, 1911 [SBMP]: “To Islands Today. The Gussie M, Captain Rosaline cruise to Santa Cruz Island with Mr. and Mrs. L. F. Ruiz and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Greenwell, who will camp at that place for a couple of weeks. Returning, the Gussie M will bring a cargo of abalone meat and shells from the Chinese camp at Forney's cove on the south side of the island. Vasquez also hopes to secure three seals for eastern shipment.”

August 3, 1911 [SBMP]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez of the Gussie M, returning yesterday from Santa Cruz Island, reported that he stood off Forney’s Cove on the south side of the island for two days awaiting moderation in the weather so that he might land, and then gave up the idea. A cargo of abalone meat and shells is awaiting shipment from that harbor where a party of Chinese fishermen is encamped. He will return to Forney’s today hoping for better luck. A heavy swell has been running since the northwest blow of Sunday night.”

August 5, 1911 [SBMP]: “The power boat Gussie M, returning yesterday from Forney’s Cove on the south side of Santa Cruz Island, bringing the Chinese abalone fishermen who have been camped there for some months. The boat brought a cargo of between four and five tons of abalone shells and a quantity of seaweed of which the Chinese are so fond.”

March 14, 1915 [SBMP]: “After Irish Moss. Captain Ira K. Eaton left for Forney's Cove, Santa Cruz Island yesterday morning with a crew of Chinamen who will make camp there for the purpose of gathering Irish moss, which they will export to China, where this sea product is regarded a great food delicacy.”

In 19??, exploratory oil wells were drilled at Forney’s Cove, but they were dry.

February 15, 1974 the 29.3-foot wood-hulled fishing vessel, Joan, foundered on the rocks at Forney's Cove. All three crew survived.

May 24, 1906 [SBMP]: “The launch Irene, Captain Nidever, returned yesterday from Forney's Cove where a Japanese diving camp was established.”

January 16, 1966 [The Anchor]: “When wind gusts of 30 to 50 knots hit the southern California coast, surface craft of the 11th Guard District rendered assistance to six grounded vessels, three disabled sailboats, and three capsized vessels… A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter played a prominent role in one of the cases by evacuating the five-man crew of the vessel Trilogy that had gone aground and broken up on Santa Cruz Island [at Forney’s Cove.]”