HONEST BEN » JOURNEY, Ben

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JOURNEY, Benjamin (“Old Ben”, “Honest Ben”, Jorney, Journay, Journeay) (1850-1938), New Brunswick, Canadian born fisherman who lived on Santa Cruz Island at several different camps through the years. At the time of the 1923 drowning deaths of Frank Nidever, Big Jerry Shively and Isaac Newton, Journey was living at China Harbor with another fisherman, “Old John.” [SBNP 7/24/l977].

Pier Gherini wrote [1966]: “Then there was Ben Journeay [sic], a tall, lean French Canadian. Ben was born in 1850. I will never forget an incident in the summer of 1936. Ben rowed his skiff out to a cruiser that had dropped anchor. I suspect that Ben might have brought a few lobsters with him. At any rate, Ben was enjoying liquid refreshments and the company aboard the yacht when it lifted anchor. When they were over halfway up the island going west, Ben suddenly discovered that the yacht was heading back for Santa Barbara. He took off and rowed 11 or more miles in a stiff breeze at the age of 86! Ben loved the island and seldom ever left it.”

Helen Caire [1993] recalled: “Honest Ben was at Dick’s Harbor for many years, a tall, lean, white-haired New Englander with a white handlebar mustache. He had gained his sobriquet because of his rigorous honesty. In general, the craw fishermen were tanned or sunburnt, but Honest Ben was pale; yet his pallor belied his strength. Always clean, he usually wore a shirt turned ecru, baggy gray trousers, and a black hat like an old-fashioned veterinarian’s. On his occasional trips to Prisoners’ Harbor and probably everywhere else, he was always accompanied by his black cat, a plump, unremarkable tom except that his forelegs were only an inch long, giving him something of a miniature kangaroo stance.” [1993].



In the News~

The Santa Barbara News Press April 3, 1938 reported that the schooner Santa Cruz summoned Coast Guard help for lobster fisherman Ben Journey, who was found in his “lonely shack on Santa Cruz Island, where he was lying unconscious.” Crew members of a Coast Guard patrol boat “took Journey through the surf on an improvised stretcher and brought him to Santa Barbara” where he was taken to St. Francis Hospital suffering from pneumonia and gangrene of the left hand and foot. There he died at age 88. At the time of his death, he was a widower. Journey is buried in Goleta Cemetery.


1960s: An undated news item from the 1960s reports: “Some of you have anchored at Dick's Harbor and noted a small shack at the base of the cliff there. It was once inhabited by a hard-boiled old lobster fisherman, Ben Journay, who having served in the Crimean War, was afraid of neither man, beast nor devil.”


On one occasion, when ashore here to sell his lobsters and get paid off, he entered into an argument with Piano [Ulpiano] and Chico Larco, the brothers who originally started commercial fishing and retailing in this city. The argument grew more heated as the men’s' tempers arose, and Old Ben ended up by grabbing a huge, sharp fish knife and starting after the brothers. Chico flew out of one door and Piano out the other. Old Ben, not being as agile as they, threw the knife aside and departed, muttering all the way back to his skiff on the beach. Some time after, this old timer and landmark of Santa Cruz, received an infected knee and, being isolated, besides being somewhat careless about his well-being, it developed into gangrene and the local fishermen, discovering his plight, brought him here to the hospital where he died.”


April 4, 1938 [SBNP]: “Hurried trip fails to save isle resident. Ben Journey’s lonely life on Santa Cruz Island ended by death, despite rescuers. Ben Journey’s lonely life as a lobster fisherman on Santa Cruz Island is over. The old man, believed to have been 86 years of age, died in a local hospital late Saturday after being brought here for treatment by a Coast Guard patrol boat from his shack at Dick’s harbor, on the island. He was found unconscious in the shack, suffering from pneumonia and an advanced gangrene of the arm and leg. A wireless message sent by the freight boat Santa Cruz summoned the Coast Guard craft which carried ‘Old Ben’ across the channel after a Coast Guard plane from San Diego was unable to land in the heavy breakers. Well-known to local fishermen and members of boating parties to the islands, Journey was known to have led his lonesome existence on the island for at least thirty years, sometimes coming to the mainland for a few months at a time, but in the main keeping to his shack all the year around. No surviving relatives are known.”