ISLA CEDROS: DEATHS

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DATE FATALITY CIRCUMSTANCES SOURCE
19th CENTURY DEATHS
1819 John Brown Sinclair drowned from the Harriet; buried on the island
1819 Justin Finch of the Shakspeare buried on the island
1862 E. B. Tompkins murdered with his mining party



In the News~

October 1846: “On the 22nd we passed San Geronimo Island, finding the channel between it and the mainland five miles broad, and on the 25th anchored under the east coast of Cedros or Cerros Island. This island presents extraordinary features, looking as if some deluge had swept the low lands, leaving them smooth and level as a newly made road. "Cerros" is certainly the most appropriate appellation for the place; it is a mass of hills piled on hills; and although here and there groves of cedars are met with, yet they are hardly in sufficient numbers to give a name to the island. Wild goats are abundant.* The extreme dryness of the atmosphere is remarkable. We found two graves of the year 1819; one of John Brown Sinclair, who was drowned when belonging to the Harriet, the other of Justin Finch, of the Shakspeare, both London ships. The head-boards were of slight deal, yet the wood was undecayed, and the inscriptions were quite legible...” [Seemann, Berthold. Narrative of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Herald during the Years 1845-51 Under the Command of Captain Henry Kellett London: Reeve and Co. (1853) Vol. 1.]


March 18, 1862 [SDU]: “The steamer Panama, from Mazatlan, brings an account of the murder of E. B. Tompkins, late of the firm of Walker & Tompkins, of San Francisco. He was killed at Cerros Island, San Sebastian Bay, Lower California, where he went in December last on a prospecting tour with J. S. Beatty, L. Kelly and a Chileno. On the morning of February 5th last the Chileno murdered Tompkins and wounded Beatty badly. The Chileno was shot. Tompkins leaves a wife, mother and other relatives in Santa Clara County. He was a brother-in-law to William M. Lent.”


March 19, 1862 [MDA]: “The Murder on Cedros Island.—The Bulletin gives the full and dreadful particulars of the late murder on Cerros Island, noted in our dispatch of the 17th, when E. B. Tompkins, formerly of San Francisco, was killed by one Don Juan, a Chilean. The account says:

On the 25th of December, 1861, an expedition sailed from this port, sent by Lent, Sherwood & Co., for Cerros Island, for the purpose of exploring in search of copper and other minerals. The party consisted of Lawrence Kelley, Elisha B. Tompkins, (brother-in-law of W. M. Lent,) John S. Beatty, an old man, some 62 years of age, and commonly called Don Juan. They sailed on the schooner Wild Pigeon, on last Christmas Day, and without anything remarkable occurring, arrived at Cerros Island on the 6th of January. Cerros Island is situated on the coast of Lower California, in latitude 28 deg., about 320 miles south of San Diego and 40 miles from the mainland. It is about 30 miles long and 15 broad. The party immediately formed their camp, prospected through the mountains, and pursued their daily avocations without the occurrences of anything peculiar, until the night of the 4th and 5th of February. The whole party of four occupied the same tent. Concerning the speculations as to what instigated the Chilean to the deed, the same paper says: As to the motives which actuated Don Juan in attempting to massacre a whole party, no one can certainly say. He had been befriended by Mr. Lent and the members of the expedition; during the entire time they were together, no quarrel or hard feeling had on any occasion ever arisen. He was a well-informed man, particularly well versed in matters concerning minerals, the discovery and search for which had been his favorite pursuit. Neither Kelly nor Beatty can give any decided opinion of the cause of his attack. Wither [which seems most probably] he was laboring under a fit of insanity, or had in his rambles discovered a rich vein of metal, and wished to murder his companions and then denounce the mine for his own benefit. These are but surmises of the truth of which we can probably never be positively assured.”


March 29, 1862 [LAS]: “Frightful Massacre at Cerros Island. Messrs. Lawrence Kelley and John S. Beatty arrived in this city day before yesterday from Cape St. Lucas, bringing intelligence of a bloody [line deleted in original] may be remembered that on the 25th of December, 1861 an expedition was dispatched from this port by Lent, Sherwood & Co., to Cerros Island, on the coast of Lower California, with the object of exploring for copper and other minerals. The members of the party were Lawrence Kelley, Elisha B. Beatty, and a Chilean named Juan Jose Mison, an old man 62 years of age, commonly called Don Juan. The party had been nearly a month encamped on the island on pursuit of their regular avocation, when about midnight on the 4th of February, Don Juan, having previously got up and dressed himself under pretense of not feeling well, made an attack upon Beatty, first stabbing him in the side and then cutting him on the face by several blows from a hatchet, one gash severing the nose and right jaw and extending nearly to the right ear. Kelley and Tompkins awakened, aided Beatty, threw themselves upon Don Juan and overpowered him—the whole being covered with bloody signs of the conflict. Beatty went out to see what had become of him, leaving Tompkins talking to the Chilean, who had been quieted. Kelley found Beatty who asked for water and his blankets, as he supposed himself to be bleeding to death, and was proceeding to the tent when the Chilean came rushing from it toward him, shouting "todos matar"—(I will kill you all.) Kelley, after one visit to the boat, hid himself in the mountains, where he remained all that day (5th February) and night, when he came down to the tent, where he found Beatty, who had returned before him, to find Tompkins cold in death within the tent. Kelley and Beatty afterwards sallied out to the boat, taking with them from the tent a shotgun and a rifle. They found the Chilean on board, just preparing to push off, and dispatched him at once. Kelley taking some stones and crushing in his head to make sure. The Chilean is supposed to have been insane. Mr. Tompkins was formerly a member of the firm of Walter & Tompkins, merchant tailors of Montgomery Street, and was well known in this city. —S.F. Herald & Mirror.”