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GERALD, William aka Will Gerrull (c. 1870- ), Illinois-born pirate, thief and smuggler around the California Channel Islands at the turn of the century. Gerald was convicted of grand larceny and sentenced to four years in San Quentin prison, along with fellow seaman-pirate Frank Reina. They served their sentences from September 24, 1900 to September 21, 1903. Gerald was 30 when he went to prison.

  • Buxton, Michael. William Gerald, the Channel Pirate. A Smuggler of the Islands Mains'l Haul. Maritime Museum of San Diego 40(1):1829-17 Winter 2004
[original in SCIF archives]

William Gerald, aka Will Gerrull

In the News~

May 3, 1893 [SFCall]: “Cruise of the Chromo. The fishing junk has a hard time down south. San Diego, May 2. — The American junk Chromo, Captain William Jerrold [Gerald], returned today from a fishing cruise of forty-two days down the Lower California coast. The skipper reported very rough weather prevailing most of the time. The Chromo's sails were blown away and her yards broken. Two havens were entered, only to be driven out by the storm, and at one landing the anchor was lost.“

November 24, 1893 [LAH]: ”William Gerald, arrested on an indictment of the federal grand jury for landing goods from a foreign ship after night, at San Diego, pleaded not guilty, and the case was set for trial next Tuesday.”

November 29, 1893 [LAH]: ”William Gerald, who was brought here from San Diego on charge of unloading goods from a foreign vessel at an hour contrary to the time prescribed by law, was convicted yesterday in the United States district court. J. L. Paulson was the only witness sworn on behalf of the Defendant. The jury was out two hours before returning a verdict. Gerald will be sentenced at 10:30 o'clock this morning.”

December 30, 1893 [LAH]: ”William Gerald, who was convicted in the United States court of violating the law regulating the unloading of foreign ships, was discharged from custody yesterday. He has spent 30 days in jail.”

September 14, 1894 [SFChronicle]: “Too Much of One Diet. Goats' Flesh the Main Food of Island Laborers. San Diego, September 13.—The schooner Chromo, Captain Gerald, arrived from Guadalupe Island to-day, having on board eight men who have been killing and skinning goats for some months past. The Chromo's cargo consisted of 1250 goat skins. She left the island on the 3rd inst. The eight men, all Mexicans, had a hard experience before the Chromo reached them, having lived for twenty-four days on goat's meat and the fruit of the black palm. They were ravenous for a change of diet, and when the Chromo's boat reached the strand of the desert island the men jumped aboard and grabbed the flour and other provisions that were brought from the schooner. They said that fish were not easy to catch. J. M. Soto, agent for Martin Garcia, the concessionnaire of the island, started two months ago in the schooner Alcalde with provisions for the men on the island, but a terrible storm was encountered in which Soto narrowly escaped with his life. He managed to get back to this port after being blown 400 miles out of his course, and he then delegated the voyage to Captain Gerald. The returned Crusoes say that about 15,000 goats are now on the island.”

August 20, 1895 [SFCall]: “The schooner Chromo, skipper William Gerald of this port, gave the slip to officers at Ensenada in a novel manner. Gerald has had trouble with the customs officials, but thought it smoothes over. He took down a cargo of powder and was preparing to discharge it, when he learned that the papers were being prepared to arrest him and confiscate his schooner for a former infraction of the law. He went on board and found a watch had been placed on the beach to keep the schooner in sight. The night was very dark, and he lighted a lantern as usual, hanging it to the foremast. The sentinel on shore saw it burning and thought all was well. At daybreak the next morning he saw his mistake, as Gerald during the night had quietly got out a skiff and moved the lantern to a buoy near by, where he tied it to a pole at the proper height. Then he weighed anchor and stole out of the harbor. The watchman gave the alarm and a man was sent to the top of the hill with a glass, but no schooner was in sight. Gerald is expected in this port hourly with his cargo of powder.“

December 25, 1897 [LAT/SP]: “The Wilmington Transportation power yacht La Paloma, Captain Smith, arrived from San Clemente Island this morning. She had on board the crew of the schooner Minnie [Minna], which was wrecked last week. The Minnie, a small schooner of twenty-seven tons, Captain William Gerald in command, belongs in San Diego. She left that port some three weeks ago with a crew of one seaman and a cook. On the morning of Saturday, December 18, a squall was encountered and the Minnie was overturned. Fortunately as small skiff was being towed at the stern of the vessel. The captain and the crew swam the heavy sea to the boat and with the greatest difficulty freed it from the schooner. They had scarcely got into it when the Minnie went down. She was about thirteen miles east-southeast of San Clemente Island at the time, to which the shipwrecked crew pulled their way. They reached the island in such an exhausted condition that they could not pull the skiff ashore, so they left it in the shallow water on the beach. After resting a few hours the men walked about the island until they came upon some Mexican sheepherders who fed them. They learned that they had walked fourteen miles from the east end of the island. They went from there to Gallagher’s place, a distance of seven miles, on horses that the Mexicans had lent them. They remained there for four days and as good fortune would have it, La Paloma put in to Gallagher’s landing and they were brought here in that yacht. The men were barefooted, and their feet were full of cuts and bruises from the long walk over the island. They left here today for San Diego on the steamer Alexander Duncan.”

December 26, 1897 [LAH]: “San Diego, Cal., Dec. 25.—Skipper William Gerull [Gerfald] has lost his little schooner Minna. He arrived today on the steamer Alex Duncan and reports that a week ago the Minna capsized in a squall and Gerull and his cook saved themselves by swimming to San Clemente Island. There they were cared for by sheep herders several days until they were taken to San Pedro on the Banning Bros. launch Paloma and thence to this city on the Duncan. The Minna was a tub-shaped craft of about twenty tons.”

January 1, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “Skipper Gerull [Gerald] of this city, who lost the schooner Minna a week or more ago just off San Clemente Island by being capsized, left here a day or two ago in the schooner Lura, to search the high seas for his lost Minna…”

January 1, 1898 [LAH]: “Captain William Gurrull [Gerald], whose schooner Minna was wrecked off San Clemente Island recently, left port a few days ago with the schooner Lena in the hope of finding something of value from his boat. He returned last night having in tow the sloop Ranger of San Pedro, which went adrift off St. Nicholas [San Nicolas] Island on Dec. 9, and whose crew was brought here on the British ship Roby. The Ranger was found by Gurrell about eight miles off shore drifting leisurely towards the tropics. The Ranger is a little battered, but skipper Gurrell expects several hundred dollars as a reward for his prize.”

January 1, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “The Ranger found. Skipper Gerull of this city… returned to this port last evening with the schooner Ranger which had drifted away from San Nicolas Island on December 5, leaving five men stranded there until the British ship Roby picked them up and brought them back to port…”

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.”

August 22, 1900 [SBMP]: “Late yesterday afternoon constables Hopkins and Sansome arrested William Gerald and Frank Reina on a complaint sworn by Ah Poy, who charges them with Grand Larceny. He alleges in the complaint that William Gerald, Frank Reina and John Doe stole from him 43 sacks of abalone shells and 20 sacks of abalone meat, valued at $150. The thieves stole the abalone shells and meat at the islands, and there sailed in their boat to Gaviota where they shipped the stuff to San Francisco. It is claimed that there is a clear case against the accused. On being arrested they were brought before Justice Wheaton, who, at the request of the accused’s council, set the 27th at ten o’clock. Their bail was fixed at $1000 each. Witnesses will be brought from the islands and San Francisco for the prosecution. Also wharfinger McNealy of Gaviota.”

August 22, 1900 [SBMP]: “William Gerald and Frank Reina have been arrested, charged with stealig abalones from a camp on Santa Cruz Island, They came in on a junk at 5 o'clock. Both are under $1000 bonds. At the jail Reina broke away and ran a block, but was stopped at the point of a pistol. The case against them is strong. The stolen goods were shipped from Gaviota to San Francisco in Reina's name. The men were probably implicated in previous robberies.”

August 25, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “The robbery of the Chinese abalone fishers on Santa Cruz Island seems to have been partially cleared up by the arrest of Frank Reina and William Gerald, who have been navigating the Channel Waters in an old junk called the Acme. The two men were arrested on a complaint sworn by Ah Poy, who alleges that he lost about thirty sacks of dried abalones at their hands a few weeks ago and that they shipped their booty from the Gaviota wharf to San Francisco. When captured aboard their junk, Reina submitted peacefully, but Gerald showed fight and had to be overpowered. Both men were taken ashore by officers Hopkins and Sansome and being unable to give $1000 bond were sent to jail. When near the jail door Reina broke away from Constable Hopkins and tried to escape. Glancing over his shoulder he saw Hopkins draw his gun and he halted immediately, saying he know the officer’s reputation. The detention of these men may furnish some explanation to the thefts of abalones and provisions from Santa Cruz Island which caused the death by starvation of a Chinese fisherman and brought his fellows near death’s door.”

August 28, 1900 [SBMP]: “Abalone thieves put no defense and were bound over. S. E. Crow is their attorney. The preliminary examination of William Gerald and Frank Reina were held before Justice Wheaton yesterday on the charge of Grand Larceny. They were both held to answer to the superior court on the same charge. Gerald and Reina were arrested on Wednesday on a warrant, sworn to by Ah Poy, charging them with stealing 40 sacks of abalone shells and 20 sacks of abalone meat. In the examination yesterday, it was learned that Gerald and Reina were engaged with their boat to take P. E. L. Hillyer and a party to the islands on a cruise. After leaving the party on the island, the defendants left for a short trip, agreeing to be back at a staged time. When they returned somewhat later than the agreed time, they stated that they were becalmed and could not get back. Wharfinger McNealy of Gaviota testified that during that identical time the defendants came to Gaviota, and from there shipped about 60 sacks of abalones to San Francisco. The defendants, represented by S. E. Crow, Esq. put up no defense, and were held to answer to the Superior Court by Justice Wheaton.”

August 28, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “Reina and Gerald, charged with stealing abalones from the Chinese fishermen on Santa Cruz Island, came up before Justice Wheaton this morning for examination. The men were held to answer the charge in the Superior Court. Their bonds were left at $1000 each.”

September 1, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “Ex-Deputy Sheriff Chris Brown of San Diego is in the city. He confirms the report that two of the abalone thieves incarcerated here served six months in the San Diego County jail for smuggling Chinese into the country.”

September 5, 1900 [SBWP]: “William Gerald and Frank Reina, the abalone thieves, were before Judge Day in Superior Court to enter a plea to the charge.”

September 7, 1900 [SBMP]: “Frank Reina, the man arrested for stealing abalones from Santa Rosa Island, was arraigned in the Superior Court yesterday. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in San Quentin. William Gerald, his accomplice, pleaded not guilty.”

September 7, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “Frank Reina and Gerald, the alleged Channel pirates accused of robbing Chinese abalone fishermen, were arraigned in the Superior Court this morning. Reina pleaded guilty and sentenced to four years insane Quentin. Gerald will stand trial.”

September 8, 1900 [SBMP]: “The case of the People vs. William Gerald, the channel pirate, was set for trial September 27th in the Superior Court.”

September 9, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “The trial of the case of the People vs. William Gerald, the channel pirate, who stole abalones from Santa Rosa Island Chinese, is set for the 27th inst.”

September 19, 1900 [SBMP]: “The county jail authorities yesterday morning found evidence of an attempted jail break. A loose brick in the wall raised the suspicion. The officials at once suspected the channel pirates, Frank Reina and William Gerald, who has just been convicted of the crime.”

September 19, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “The trial of Gerald, who was arrested with Reina on the charge of abalone stealing, is on in the Superior Court. As Reina, who pleaded guilty and is now in San Quentin, was captain of the Acme, in which the abalones were brought over from Santa Cruz Island, Gerald is making the plea that he was simply in the employ of Reina, and was bound to do his bidding aboard ship. The prosecution will endeavor to establish the fact that the two men were in partnership.”

September 20, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “The jury in the case of the People vs. Gerald, the abalone thief, was out but a few minutes last evening, when a verdict finding him guilty was rendered. He will be sentenced tomorrow.”

September 21, 1900 [SBMP]: “William Gerald who was convicted of the crime of grand larceny, was sentenced yesterday to serve four years in San Quentin. His attorney moved to grant the prisoner a new trial, but the motion was overruled.”

September 21, 1900 [LAT/SB]: “Gerald, the channel thief, was sentenced this morning to four years in San Quentin penitentiary.”

September 5, 1906 [LAH]: “William Gerald, an alleged smuggler, is in the county jail awaiting examination in the United States court for illegally bringing Chinese into this country. Gerald was arrested at San Diego by United States Immigration Officer Emil Engelcke. The daring smuggler was in a furious storm off the coast of Mexico and his little vessel was partially disabled and towed into San Diego harbor. Upon his arrival he and his Chinese passengers were at once arrested and brought to this city.”

October 6, 1900 [SBMP]: “Gerald known in Bakersfield. William Gerald was convicted Thursday of the crime of grand larceny and was sentenced to serve four years in San Quentin. His attorney moved to grant the prisoner a new trial, but his motion was overruled. Mr. Gerald was at one time located in Bakersfield, and those who know him will not be surprised, further than that he received but four years.”

March 14, 1907 [SFCall]: “Gerald is denied bail — Los Angeles March 13. William Gerald, who was sentenced yesterday to four years in San Quentin [again!] and to a fine of $4000 for having smuggled Chinese into California from Mexico, applied to Justice Olin Wellborn in the United States Court today, to be allowed the privilege of giving bail pending a decision on his appeal taken to the Court of Appeals. His request was denied.”

March 23, 1907 [SN]: “Los Angeles — The longest sentence ever imposed by a United States court in a smuggling case fell to William Gerald. He was convicted by a jury of bringing eight Chinese into this country and Judge Wellborn sentenced him to four years at hard labor in San Quentin and fined him $4000.”

July 11, 1912 [LAT]: “In the arrest tonight of Ah Chuck and Lee Gip Sam, Immigration Inspectors Adolph R. Nielsen and Ralph Conklin of the southern Federal district with headquarters in Los Angeles, believe they have in custody the agents who were to dispose of the ten contraband Chinese seized on San Clemente Island as they were preparing to start northward on the launch Starlight. The arrest was made after the inspectors had caused the Chinese to believe that the inspectors were engaged in the smuggling affair and had been instructed by Ah Chuck with a letter to the coolies held aboard the vessel. William Gerald and Harry Lloyd, arrested at San Clemente Island, have been formally accused of conspiracy to smuggle Chinese as have Ah Chuck and Lee Gip Sam. Further arrests are promised by the immigration officials.”

July 13, 1912 [SFCall]: “Ernest Gobbi, Confidant of Conspirators, played into government's hands. How Wing Tok and Lee Gip Nam, charges with conspiring to land 20 contraband Chinese who were captured in the launch Three C's off the southern coast of California by Immigration Inspectors R. L Conklin and A. R. Nielsen, were caught in their own trap... All these men were in the ring except William Gerald, who had sailed from San Diego to Ensenada on his own account...”

September 7, 1912 [LAT]: “Grand jury has smuggling case. Violation of immigration laws is charged. The Federal grand jury heard a half-dozen witnesses yesterday afternoon in the case of Billy Gerald and Harold Lloyd, charged with bringing aliens into the country… If Gerald and Lloyd are indicted, there will be twenty-two counts in the instrument, for that is the number of contraband Chinese captured by Inspector Miller and his assistants on the island of San Clemente, where it is alleged they were landed by Gerald and Lloyd…”