GALLAGHER, Tom

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San Clemente Island, October 26, 1896: Uncle Tom Gallagher (left), a resident for 30 years, and John Robarts (right) holding Patsy and Toby sitting on a porch. Photo courtesy of Jim Robarts, Prairie du Sac, WI

GALLAGHER, Tom (c. 1828-1897), born in Ireland, he was known as the hermit of San Clemente Island. Gallagher tended sheep there most of his adult life. He was a Private in the Federal Army stationed on Santa Catalina Island during the Civil War [1864], where he continued to live until squatters were asked to leave the island under the Lick ownership.

Tom Gallagher moved to San Clemente Island in the mid-1860s, sometime between 1865-1868, and set up his new camp at what became known at Gallagher’s Landing, leaving behind the place name Gallagher’s beach on Santa Catalina Island. He was the first to raise sheep on San Clemente Island. After twenty years, the flock had increased to a reported 20,000 animals. He was reported to have shared the island with other sheep ranchers before his death. Judge Ernest Windle of Santa Catalina Island wrote that Tom Gallagher died and was buried on San Clemente Island. [1].

Tom Gallagher is listed in the 1880 census, age 52, single, sheep herder, home in 1880 Catalina Island.

A March 8, 1899 news article reports Gallagher: “finally stricken with paralysis, being found by some fishermen sitting in is chair looking out over the sea and unable to move. They took him to Los Angeles, where he died...”


» Windle, Ernest Windle’s History of Santa Catalina Island 1931, p. 102-3.



In the News~

August 1888: “... After our excitement was over and the shock of a close call had subsided, we looked towards the shore and saw a man standing in front of the cabin. We learned afterwards that his name was Gallagher. He had expected to see us land on the rocks and had come out in front of his cabin to see the crash. Some of the men went ashore [from the San Diego] to see him and find out how he came to be there. They learned that he had lived there many years. As to the cause of his being a hermit, they were not able to ascertain anything. He was a man of intelligence. The first thing he asked for was for books and magazines. But he was very reticent concerning his own life. In fact he refused to give any information touching his past. We soon learned that the island contained about twenty thousand head of sheep, which belonged to a firm in Los Angeles. That it was their custom to send a ship over once a year with men to corral and shear the sheep. That no other vessel had ever visited the island up to that time. In fact, Gallagher said that we were the first pleasure party that had he had ever seen visiting San Clemente. My brother who was a good marksman, asked Mr. Gallagher if he might go out and kill a sheep, as we were getting hungry for some fresh meat. The old man said that he, himself, had no firearms, and would enjoy a mess of mutton himself. That he would be glad to have my brother kill a sheep or two. So Arthur and Billy Sexton took their Winchesters and started out. They found the sheep as wild as deer, but picked off a couple of fat lambs and were back in a short time, each with a saddle. One of these they gave to Gallagher...” [Cheetham, Francis. San Clemente — Fifty-two Years Ago in The Quarterly: Historical Society of Southern California 22(1):33-46, March, 1940]


October 15, 1888 [LAT]: “Pasadena. The prospecting party that started for San Clemente Island yesterday week, returned this morning enthusiastic and well satisfied with the results of their trip, although insufficient time prevented as full an investigation as was desired. The party was as follows: Col. W. A. Ray, W. H. Wakeley, Sam Wakeley, H. J. and W. L. Vail, J. W. Wood, Delos Arnold, George Prosser, L. Jarvis, Frank Healy and C. E. Deschampaugh… Several broad plateaus exist, which with proper cultivation would probably prove fertile, but the only use to which the island is put at present is that of sheep-grazing, about fifteen thousand of these animals now existing there under the care of an Irishman, whose lonely residence there dates back 25 years. As this man, Tom Gallagher by name, is a Republican, it is supposed that the vote of San Clemente will be sold for Harrison and protection—to wool… No less than six perfect skeletons were found… numerous stone mortars and pestles, many broken and some entire… earrings of abalone shell, and numerous other trinkets…”


November 25, 1888 [SF Chronicle]: “A Mysterious Island. Archaeological Treasures of San Clemente. A Visit of Exploration. What the explorers found—numerous remains on an extinct race. Pasadena, November 9, 1888. The expedition sent out by the Daily Star of this city to San Clemente Island, in the interest of archaeology and paleontology, was surprisingly successful...At present there are 25,000 sheep pastured here, owned by Messrs. Macey and Goodwin of Los Angeles. The guard of these sheep is a large, fat, good-natured Irishman from the "North Country," who has been the sole resident on this desolate isle for nearly twenty-seven years. The old man's face brightened when we came ashore and he first et eyes upon us, yet he says he never gets lonesome. The constant beating of the waves at the very foot of his cabin and the otherwise oppressive stillness, which would well nigh drive an ordinary mortal mad, never ruffles his spirit or alter the serene and complacent look on his face. Tom Gallagher—for such is his name—received for his services the extortionate sum of $15 per month in gold coin of the United States of America. Mr. Gallagher was of material assistance to our party in locating some of the ancient camp-grounds and burial mounds of the Indians who at one time inhabited the island...”


August 12, 1890 [Riverside Daily Press]: “...We started about 10 a.m. and plowed the blue waters in a southerly direction for six hours, till at 4 p.m. we cast anchor in Dakin's Cove where Tom Gallagher lives out his lonely life. The island is 30 miles from Catalina and 60 from Laguna. It is 21-3/4 miles long—just the same as Catalina, and from one to five miles broad. We had heard that it was a sand island, but it is nearly as hilly as Catalina, the highest point being 1960 feet...The southern shore of Clemente is the most desolate coast I have ever seen. It fairly gives me the horrors. Extensive sand slopes stretch down to the beach, which is lined with black and jagged rocks, around which the surf thunders ominously. But it is par excellence the place to find abalone shells. Here you can pry them off the rocks or pick them up empty. Chinamen had lately been along collecting abalone meat, which they cook and dry. They throw away the shells and Riverside orchardists pick them up. The rarest are the yellow ones, which must be pulled out from under with boat hooks. Marion Waite got a perfect Indian skull, McFarland a nearly complete skeleton, Dr. Way a whale's vertebra and rib, and the rest, limpets, black and white key-hole varieties. As for abalones, we all got all we could lug over the hill. Gallagher's billy goat is a character. The old man said he had been known to eat a plug of tobacco. To test it, Dr. Shugart cut off a good sized pipeful and handed it to him with a Jewfish kind of smile. Billy took it, winked once and swallowed it promptly. Having begged in vain for more he resumed his former diet of old newspapers, tin cans, etc. The old Crusoe keeps the goat to get the sheep into any corral he wants them in. The goat understands it, and marches out of one corral into another, the sheep following. They are sheared in February, 50 men coming over for the purpose. Last time they sheared 14,000 and a good many got away. There used to be twice as many, Gallagher said, but they have gradually killed all the brush and water-containing shrubs on the island, and are now decreasing. There is no spring of water on the isle, and it is a singular fact that they live from July till November without getting a single drink. In July the "tanks" or ponds dry up, and no more water till next rains...They even chew the cactus, or "tunies”, because it is filled with moisture. The poor things sometimes drink sea water, which kills them. Yet they keep fat, and on the whole seem to enjoy themselves better than some people I know. Just think of going to far Clemente for a hot chicken dinner! We had one there. The venerable occupant keeps fouls and we bought one for fifty cents, cooked it on his big range, and ate it with relish. T. B. Gallagher was born in Ireland nearly 70 years ago, he does not know his age but looks about that. He came to "Ameriky" when a lad, served ten years in the "rigular arrmy, Oh!", came to San Bernardino some time before the war, visited San Clemente 30 years ago, and has resided there for 28 years past. He is employed to remain as a guard for the sheep and property for the owners—Goodwin, Mace & Hubbell of Los Angeles. He has now with him a Mexican, Alvitre Martinez by name, who has been there since last shearing time, five months. He can't speak Spanish and Alvitre "no spikky mucho Engliss," so they must have an interesting time. I was witness to an unsuccessful attempt on Gallagher's part to make him understand a question. It was a no go. But for many, many years Old Tom has had to "go it alone", his solitude being interrupted only by the annual shearing and occasional yachting parties. When asked if he did not get lonesome, he laughed and said "Oh, I often go over to the mainland, but I soon get tired of it and come back. I needn't stay if I don't want to." He looks hale and hearty, and sticks close to his pipe, and is good for many years yet, no doubt; but some morning he won't get up any more, and the two white dogs will howl and nobody will be there to feed them. After one day and two nights on the island we bade adieu to the hospitable master of this inhospitable shore, shoved off the bouldery beach, climbed gladly up the side of the Hattie, steamed three miles to the isthmus, debarked and got more shells, bones and "trash", returned and at 1 o'clock hoisted sail and "sailed the ocean blue" till Castle Rock (dubbed Gallagher's Nose by our party) disappeared beneath the horizon and Catalina loomed loftily along the lee...”


September 2, 1891 [LAH]: “The sheep men have no lease to the island. A San Diego County Surveyor enthuses over the place. Land as good as found anywhere. The climate perfect. Ex-supervisor Oscar May was seen by a Herald Examiner reporter yesterday and asked about San Clemente Island. He stated that the Wool Growers’ company in which he was interested had no claim to the island beyond that of using it as a pasture. ... Tom Gallagher has for over twenty years been the sole occupant of the land, which has been used as a free sheep pasture by the San Clemente Wool Grower’s Association. Indian mounds and relics found there make the place of historic interest.”


September 23, 1891 [LAH]: “Are they antiques? Captain Envoldsen’s find at San Clemente Island. Captain Envoldson recently made a discovery at San Clemente which has been much discussed by the residents of the island. At the east end of the island the captain found three rock houses seven or eight feet high. They were made of big slabs of rocks and were put together as if by a professional bricklayer. Tom Gallagher, the pioneer explorer of the island, never knew of the presence of these houses. It is supposed that they were constructed by Indians years ago. Near the house was found a well. It appeared to have been recently filled, consequently someone must have known about the slab houses.”


November 10, 1894 [TT]: “The hermit of San Clemente. Only inhabitant of an island sixty miles off the California coast… There is but one human being on San Clemente, the hermit herder, Tom Gallagher. Tom is a character with a history. His shaggy head and beard and curious attire give him the look of a savage, but Tom is very much of a white man in his heart, even though he has lived along with his sheep for over 20 years. Occasionally a straggling junk seeking abalone, or now and then a fisherman, stops in the cove of San Clemente, brings Tom the news and furnishes him with supplies. To loosen Tom’s tongue the explorer must have handy a chew of tobacco and a drink of whiskey. He has a favorite water tank somewhere, but he never tells its location. Whiskey is a novelty to this hermit, but it never causes him to forget himself to reveal the details of his mainland life. He was a fisherman somewhere between San Diego and Monterey Bay. He had good prospects, but one day he took it into his head to live alone on San Clemente. That is about all Tom will say of himself. There are people who claim to know of Tom’s history, and it is a romantic story, they say, with a love affair in it, of course. The woman jilted him, and he sought the island cloister. Tom lives in a comfortable hut, with a vegetable patch, chickens, a goat and his sheep. His is a regular Robinson Crusoe outfit, except that there is no man Friday to serve him. This lord of San Clemente does not want servants. He simply wants to be let alone, with only his animals and his gun for companions.” [San Francisco Chronicle.]


April 30, 1895 [LAT]: “Tom Gallagher, the hermit of San Clemente Island in the Pacific, lives almost as lonely a life as Robinson Crusoe in a hut. Now and then a fisherman calls to get water.”


June 30, 1895 [LAT/SCat]: “To San Clemente… Four hours from Avalon sufficed to bring us to Gallagher’s Harbor where we dropped anchor… On shore we see a long, low, whitewashed building, the abode of Gallagher, and on the porch Gallagher himself, and his fox terrier, Patsy… We embarked for a trip to shore and a call upon Gallagher, old Tom Gallagher, as he is familiarly known among the fishermen and sheepherders who frequent the island. Gallagher sees us coming and forthwith prepares for company by placing chairs on the porch and welcomes our approach cordially… Gallagher is a character and well-worth an hour’s conversation. ‘Whin did I come here?’ he answers as the inquisitor begins. ‘Lord, I don’t know.’ After a prolonged meditation he announces: ‘Was on the island of Catalina when the war broke out, whin was that?’ (Gallagher is a typical Irishman.) The needful date is supplied by the inquisitor, and then Gallagher, with occasional hints, proceeds to tell us how he was an old soldier in the Indian War at Fort Laramie, figured in the Mormon War in Utah under General Johnston, ‘only they declared pace before iver we got there,’ he adds sententiously. After that, Gallagher drifted out to the Pacific Coast, and somewhere about ’61 (Gallagher is rather uncertain as to dates) landed on Catalina Island, and from there came to San Clemente, where he has lived ever since… Gallagher has quite an establishment, including a library of books—cheap, paper-covered editions mostly, but including some good, solid literature and many up-to-date novels… A row of eight crisp, brown loaves testified to Gallagher’s culinary skill… We inspected Gallagher’s flock of chickens, put Patsy through his clever tricks, examined with curiosity the Robinson Crusoe chair, covered with skins, which adorns the porch…”


August 2, 1895 [LAT/SCat]: “Gallagher, the seer of San Clemente Island, spent last night at Avalon en route to Los Angeles on his annual visit to the city.”


1896: “Tom Gallagher and Peter Jensen live with the sheep, and Gallagher has an unbroken record of thirty-one years here. Chinese fisherman cast their nets and hunt abalone; and an occasional boat brings supplies to the two inhabitants.” (Earle, Homer P. The Santa Barbara Islands in Land of Sunshine 5(6):227-230, 1896.


September 13, 1896 [SF Chronicle]: “San Clemente, the southernmost of the Santa Barbara chain of islands. It has been devoted to sheep pasturing for thirty years and is settled by a small community. San Clemente Island, which constitutes the southernmost of the Santa Barbara archipelago, is not a popular watering place. It probably never will be, for in summer it has all the characteristics of a desert, and no hotel man, however enterprising he may be, will think it worth his while to invite them over the broad reach on an unsteady sea to the questionable delights of a desert island. During the past summer I [HARRY B. TORREY] formed one of a party of four from the University of California, and spent several weeks in scientific exploration upon the island, and we have some reason to remember a necessary dearth of modern conveniences for human comfort. There are a few mortals who gloat over Clemente's security from an invasion by society. First among these are the sheep-owners, whose policy has ever been to discourage all attempts of others to profit as they have profited by the free use of the land, for the island has not yet been opened by the Government for settlement. Thirty years ago three Los Angeles men—Macy, Goodwin and Crawford—took advantage of its favorable character as a sheep range to stock it with a small flock. An investment of only a few dollars has since yielded enormous profits, and the original flock has multiplied to about 15,000 sheep, and, in addition, the island now pastures 1000 head of cattle. To the occupants the island has been a virtual int, and with a jealous eye every acre of its seventy-two sections is guarded against further settlement, those now in possession may become the sole purchasers if possible. The others who are pleased with Clemente's undesirable character for a genial rendezvous are those who think it is enough in itself without the pleasures and excitement of social life. Curiously enough, these are not all mere visitors, whose aim is to get away for a period from civilization. The one man who would be most thoroughly chagrined at the appearance of a crowd of summer boarders is a man who never leaves the island from one year's end to the other. In fact, for months at a time he is the only inhabitant, a condition which has given him the appellation of "The Hermit of San Clemente." His real name is Gallagher—Tom Gallagher—and he is old enough to be the original of the remark, "Let her go, Gallagher!" Tom Gallagher knows more about Clemente than you can always get him to tell, for the "old man" is not always communicative. During the Civil War he was a private in the Federal Army, and was stationed for a portion of his term of enlistment at the military post which then existed on Santa Catalina. One little valley on Catalina Island is named for him. At the end of the war he came to Clemente and has since made it his home. In that time he has been associated in one or another capacity with the sheep=owners, and his duties have made him familiar with every foot of the island. At one time there were two sheep companies on the island. Gallagher was then at a point called Middle Ranch, or Halfway House, from its central position; and from that place he ranged across the island, which is here less than four miles wide, keeping sheep of one company, which fed on the eastern half of the island, separate from the flock which grazed on the western half. At that time there were about 25,000 sheep on the island. Water was then more plentiful than it is now and grass was more abundant. Now there are about 15,000 sheep there. The grass during the dry season is thin and dry, and water is very scarce. When Gallagher first landed at Wilson's Cove—or Gallagher's, as it is now called—he had to wade through grass a foot high, which grew down to the water's edge. The whole neighborhood was fertile and green. About Gallagher's now the earth produces little more than scrubby cactus and a stunted chaparral. It is dry, dusty, rocky; and a strong wind prevails from 10 o'clock in the morning until midnight nearly every day. This wind is singularly local, and due to local causes, for in other parts of the island—even the most unprotected parts, such as the crests of the hills—hardly a breath of air is stirring.... For two nights we stopped with Mr. and Mrs. Jensen, who attend to the pumping for the sheep and cattle. They are a most agreeable and hospitable couple, and, with Gallagher, constitute the regular inhabitants of the island, though they leave when the rains begin, as their work is then over...”


September 17, 1896 [SanDU]: “Gallagher, who has seen seventy-five years, sat in his straight-backed goatskin-seated rocking chair, a goatskin cap on the back of his venerable head, and his body tilting eagerly forward…”


September 24, 1896 [San Diego Union]: “On San Clemente Island a scientists tells of his visit to the rock. Old Tom Gallagher, the Hermit—15,000 Sheep there—Peculiarities of the Island—It is Rising Out of the Sea—Former Indian Occupation. San Clemente Island, which constitutes the southernmost of the Santa Barbara archipelago, is not a popular watering place, writes Harry B. Torrey in the San Francisco Chronicle. It probably never will be, for in summer it has all the characteristics of a desert, and no hotel man, however enterprising he may be, will think it worth his while to invite them over the broad reach of an unsteady sea to the questionable delights of a desert island... The only man who would be most thoroughly chagrined at the appearance of a crowd of summer boarders is a man who never leaves the island from one year's end to the other. In fact, for months at a time he is its only inhabitant, a condition which has given him the appellation of "The Hermit of San Clemente." His real name is Gallagher—Tom Gallagher— and he is old enough to be the original of the remark "Let her go, Gallagher!" Tom Gallagher knows more about Clemente than you can always get him to tell, for the "old man" is not always communicative. During the Civil War he was a private in the federal army, and was stationed for a portion of his term of enlistment at the military post which then existed on Santa Catalina. One little valley on Catalina Island is named after him. At the close of the war he came to Clemente and has since made it his home. At that time he has been associated in one or another capacity with the sheep owners, and his duties have made him familiar with every foot of the island. At one time there were two sheep companies on the island. Gallagher was then stationed at a point called Middle Ranch, or Halfway house from its central position; and from that place he ranged across the island, which is here less than four miles wide, keeping the sheep of one company, which fed on the eastern half of the island, separate from the flock which grazed on the western half. At that time there were about 25,000 sheep on the island. Water was then more plentiful than it is now, and grass was more abundant. Now there are about 15,000 sheep there. The grass during the dry season is thin and dry, and water is very scarce. When Gallagher first landed at Wilson's Cove—or "Gallagher's," as it is now called—he had to wade through grass a foot high, which grew down to the water's edge. The whole neighborhood was fertile and green. About Gallagher's now the earth produces little more than scrubby cactus and a stunted chaparral. It is dry, dusty, rocky, and a strong wind prevails from 10 o'clock in the morning until midnight nearly every day... Gallagher is supplied with rain water from tanks which are filled during the rainy season. There are only two natural springs on the island, and the supply from both is small... Gallagher has also remarked another interesting change which has taken place during his residence on Clemente. Since he took up his residence on the island its shoreline around Wilson's Cove has materially changed, the land having risen considerably under the influence of the thrust in the earth's crust, which is steadily forcing San Clemente upward. Gallagher's unscientific way of expressing this geological change is that "the sea has fallen five or six feet."... There are not so many wild animals on Clemente. There are no snakes of any kind. There are two species of field mice, the same red-gray fox which lives on Catalina, the same wild goats, two species of lizards, the bald-headed eagle and one species of fish hawk. There is also an abundance of crows, and herons are considerably seen standing patiently awaiting their prey on the masses of kelp surrounding the island... For two nights we stopped with Mr. and Mrs. Jensen, who attend to the pumping for the sheep and cattle. They are a most agreeable and hospitable couple, and, with Gallagher, constitute the regular inhabitants of the island, through they leave when the rains begin, as their work is over then. The next day we reached Gallagher's again. Gallagher, who has seen seventy winters, sat in his straight-backed goat-skin cap on the back of his venerable head, and his body tilted eagerly forward, poring patiently over some article on the British banking system or other topic with which he would seem to have no immediate interest, carefully muttering his words and stumbling over long words and many-ciphered numbers. Without Tom Gallagher Clemente would not have been Clemente to me.”


June 11, 1897 [LAT/P]: “Messrs. H. D. Gaylord, Joseph Grinnell, J. R. Britton and Horace Gaylord of the Pasadena Academy of Sciences expedition to the Santa Barbara islands, returned late last night, bringing back many interesting and valuable relics. They have been gone thirty days and their finds were so valuable that another expedition will be sent out within a few days... A hermit was found living on San Clemente. Otherwise the islands are uninhabited.”


August 31, 1897 [SD Evening Tribune]: “Death of a Hermit. The death of Tom Gallagher, the hermit of San Clemente Island, removed a character well known to many people here and along this coast. Gallagher's desire for isolation caused him to avoid men by residing for many years on the lonely island, surrounded by his sheep and goats. He saw no men except when compelled to do so when securing supplies. Gallagher, so the story goes, was led to isolate himself earlier in life because of a cruel disappointment in a love affair. In a ranch hut, surrounded by unpromising conditions, the patient man lived in seclusion supplying most of his modest wants by hunting, fishing and gardening, and the secret of his early romance goes to the grave with him.”


September 19, 1897 [DMN]: “…San Clemente is owned by the government, and is twenty miles further out to sea [than Santa Catalina Island.] Its sole resident is old Tom Gallagher, who has lived there ever since the war—nearly forty years. ‘Old Gallagher,’ as he is called, is an interesting character. He does not know the year of his birth, but judging from his snowy hair and beard, it must have been somewhere in the first quarter of the present century. Gallagher tends the herds of sheep which roam over the island and which are owned by a Los Angeles company. Frequently he sees no human being for five months at a time…”


September 26, 1897 [LAH]: “Lost boy on a desert island. Story of the terrible experiences of a venturesome lad. Probably every boy who has read the tale of Robinson Crusoe has wished that he might have a similar experience. There was just such a boy out on the Pacific Coast. His name was Kenneth Powell, and he lived in Los Angeles, Cal. Now he hasn't the slightest desire to imitate Crusoe, and thereby hangs a tale. Lying off the coast of Southern California are two islands — Santa Catalina and San Clemente. The former, which lies twenty miles off the mainland, belongs to the Banning Company, and is a popular summer resort. The latter is owned by the Government, and is twenty miles farther out to sea; its sole resident is old Tom Gallagher, who has lived there ever since the war — nearly forty years. “Old Gallagher,” as he is called, is an interesting character. He does not know the year of his birth, but, judging from his snowy hair and beard, it must have been somewhere in the first quarter of the present century. Gallagher tends the herds of sheep which roam over the island and which are owned by a Los Angeles company. Frequently he sees no human being for five months at a time. Well, Kenneth had once visited San Clemente with his father, and ever after he was possessed with a desire to imitate old Gallagher, and live in a rude, white-washed cabin alone on an island. Every summer Kenneth went to Catalina Island with his parents to spend his vacation. While the coast of the island is beautiful and attractive, with its numerous canyons opening out upon the sea, making covers where a multitude of campers pitch their tents, the interior is wild and rocky. Eagles build their nests on the beetling cliffs, wild goats infest the mountains, and timid quail dart through the sage brush. Springs of water are scarce, and known only to old guides who have frequented the trails for years. Great beds of cactus abound, and these, with the wild sage, form the only vegetation. The topography of the island is such that, once bewildered, the stranger finds himself in a perfect labyrinth, and it is well nigh impossible to find one's way back to the trails without the aid of a compass. Kenneth had once enjoyed a trip across the island, a distance of some ten or twelve miles, in company with his father and a party of gentlemen under the guidance of Mexican Joe. They rode burros, and it was great sport. About midway across the island is a stretch of level country of two miles or more, known as Middle Ranch. Here is a pretty stream of fresh mountain water, with tall willow trees drooping over it and nearby is an old, deserted cabin, once inhabited by sheep herders. Kenneth had never forgotten the delights of this trip, and it had been the dream of his life to repeat it — alone and dwell in that old cabin like Robinson Crusoe, shooting quails and goats and living on cactus fruit and shell fish. So one day he slipped quietly away from Avalon, where his parents were stopping, and started up the trail...” [He is lost on Santa Catalina Island]


March 8, 1899 [SDU]: “Hermits of the Pacific. ...Sixty or more miles to the south [of San Nicolas Island] is the Island of San Clemente, about twenty-two miles in length, where lived an Irishman up to the present year. His name was Gallagher, Gallagher of San Clemente, and he too, was at war with all the world, thought it is but fair to say that once a year he left his island home and repaired to Los Angeles, where he diligently spent his money, then returned to live alone for another year. Gallagher preferred his own society and that of his sheep and dog. He never was afraid of their overreaching him, he once said. He lived on San Clemente, fifty miles off the coast, for twenty years, and was finally stricken with paralysis, being found by some fishermen sitting in is chair looking out over the sea and unable to move. They took him to Los Angeles, where he died...


September 14, 1899 [SF Call]: “Will colonize on San Clemente Island. Party organized to take up land. Pasadena, Sept. 13.—San Clemente, a desert island so called, which lies in the Pacific in the Santa Barbara Channel group, is to be colonized, if the plans of Mr. Bolton and forty odd families of this neighborhood he has interested do not fall through...For thirty or forty years sheep have wandered about the island. Tom Gallagher, who died recently, watched these sheep for over twenty years. The sheep lived off the brush...”


1910: “The San Clemente Channel is a rough place at times, yet Gallagher crossed it with a skiff with a flour-sack sail, and the last time I saw him he came sailing into Avalon Bay with his poor skiff, a goat, four or five hens and a dog. These he boarded out until he made up his mind to return, which he did at night, rowing the skiff the [twenty] miles.” (Holder, Charles F. The Channel Islands of California, 1910).


August 19, 1931 [TI/Avalon]: “Tom Gallagher lived for many years at Gallagher’s beach as a squatter. When squatters were asked to leave the island, Tom Gallagher moved to San Clemente where he took up his camping quarters. That beach was also named after him. He died and was buried on San Clemente Island.”


October 1942 [USNIP]: “…The early settlers of the island were several. Mr. Gallagher was the first white man to live on the island…” » Flynn, S. E. The History of San Clemente Island in U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings 68(476):1417-1426 October 1942.


Gallagher's Cove, San Clemente Island is another name for Wilson's Cove. The 1940 U.S. census lists the resident at Gallagher's Cove as Wilbur D. Palmer (62).