JEFFREYS (Jeffrys, Jefferies, Jeffries), Thomas

From Islapedia

JEFFREYS [Jefferys, Jefferies, Jeffrys, Jeffries], Thomas (c. 1818-1891), English-born mariner living in Santa Barbara who accompanied George Nidever to San Nicolas Island in April of 1852 when the first signs the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island were found.

In 1852, Jeffreys sold to Santa Barbara Judge Charles Fernald for the sum of $10 “a certain frame house situated on the Island of Santa Cruz in the County of Santa Barbara, near the beach fronting that part of the Island known as Prisoners Harbor.” according to Santa Barbara County Deeds Book A (p. 72-730) dated November 12, 1852.

Thomas Jeffrys of England, age 32, is listed in the 1850 Santa Barbara census.

Thomas Jeffreys, mariner, is listed in the 1852 Santa Barbara County Census, age 34, born on Ascension Island and residing in NSW [New South Wales]. (Note: Ascension Island was garrisoned by the British Admiralty from 22 October 1815 to 1922.)

In 1857 Jeffreys married an Indian woman named Sebastiana and they had:

  • Juan Jeffreys (1848-1870)
  • Maria Jeffreys (1855-1870)
  • Maria Concepcion Jeffreys (1856-1870)
  • Matilda Jeffreys (1858-1860)
  • Francisca Jeffreys ( 1859-1870)
  • Mariana Jeffreys (1860-1860)

In the 1860 census Thomas Jeffreys, 43, is living with: Sebastiana Jeffreys, 43, Indian; Concepcion Jeffreys, 7, Indian; Matilda Jeffreys, 2, Indian; and Mariana Jeffreys, 2 months (b. 1860), Indian. Jeffreys was naturalized in Santa Barbara as a citizen on August 7, 1871. He died on August 5, 1891 and is buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery.



In the News~

1850. “It is stated by Mrs. Hardacre, who received the story from Thomas Jeffries, that the Mission Fathers, as late as 1850, believed it quite possible that the Indian woman and child who had been left on the island were still alive, and that Father Gonzalez Rubio offered Jeffries two hundred dollars if he would cross the channel and find the woman. She says he made the trip in midwinter of 1850-51 but had no success.” [Ellison, W. H. The Life and Adventures of George Nidever (1802-1883), 1936, p. 122]


1851. “Lost Woman of San Nicolas… There was no craft at Santa Barbara large enough to make the trip to San Nicolas. Interest in the woman’s plight died down, but upon the Mission fathers, the fate of the one lost sheep weighed heavily. In 1850, Father Gonzales offered Thomas Jeffries $200 to find and bring her to Santa Barbara. Jeffries returned without having discovered a trace of the lost woman. Early the next year a boat captained by George Nidever, with Thomas Jeffries, a fisherman named Charlie Brown and a crew of Indians, set sail for San Nicolas… A second cruise failed to discover any sign of human life, but on the third, in July, 1853, on the evening after the boat’s arrival, Captain Nidever discovered the print of a naked foot on the lonely shore…” [O’Neil 1939]


1852. “In April of 1852 I went over to the Islands with my schooner, accompanied by a foreigner by name of Tom Jefferies, who is still living here… Jefferies, one of the Indians, and I landed and traveled along the beach towards the upper end of [San Nicolas] island…” [George Nidever (1802-1883). His Life and Recollections, 1937]


1853. “In May of 1853 I fitted out my schooner for a trip to Turtle Bay to prospect for gold… Besides us two there were Charley Brown, Tom Jeffries, and four Mission Indians…” [George Nidever (1802-1883). His Life and Recollections, 1937]


July 13, 1878 [SBDP]: “Arrested after an absence of six years. An indictment was found on the 9th of January, 1872, by the grand jury of this county, against an Indian named Salvador, for assault with intent to commit murder. The assault was made upon a fisherman of this city by the name of Thomas Jeffries. The Indian left the night of the assault, and has not been heard of since, until last week, when it was reported that he, with others, had been committing depredations near Santa Ynez. Deputy Sheriff Williams arrested him yesterday at Sanza Cota’s, an Indian ranchería near Santa Ynez Mission, and brought him down on the Constantine this morning.”


Hardacre, Emma (1880): “...Their certain fate lay heavy on the more tender-hearted of the Mission fathers; but it was not until 1850 that Father Gonzales found an emissary to search for the lost. Thomas Jeffries had come into possession of a small schooner, and was offered $200 should he find and bring the woman or child to Santa Barbara alive. Fifteen years having passed since the abandonment of the island and no one having visited the spot during that time, the probability of the death of the parties was universally accepted, although no actual proof of death had been sought or found. But when Jeffries's boat was seen, at the close of a balmy midwinter, coming into the bay without the signal he was to have displayed provided his search had been successful, the matter was settled. Groups of persons congregated on the sands. Some watched from shore the small craft fold her wings and settle to rest on the mirror-like water, others put off in canoes to meet the boatmen, and gossip concerning the trip. Jeffries had found no trace of living beings on the island, and whether the woman had been beaten to death in the surf, or died after gaining land, would probably never be known. The schooner was left idly rocking close to shore; sailors and landsmen strolled slowly up to the town. Night mantled the moaning waters, and the great deep was left in possession of another secret. The return of Jeffries brought up afresh the incident which by some had been almost forgotten. For a few hours, little was talked of save the heroic young mother and her child in the sea-girt isle. Time passed swiftly on, and in the dreamy full contentment of the land the dead woman of San Nicolas Island slipped from mind, and thought, and speech. Tom Jeffries's visit to San Nicolas Island was the theme of ore than one day's gossip. The island he described as seven or eight miles long, by three or four in width; the body of the land near six hundred feet above the beach, the plateau falling in steep gulches to the sea... Thomas Jeffries walks the streets in blouse, wide hat, and flowing gray hair.”


1886 Santa Barbara Directory: “Jeffreys, Thos. Mariner. Res. N. corner Montecito and De la Vina streets.”