KIMBERLY, Martin Morse

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Baby Kimberly, Santa Barbara Cemetery


KIMBERLY, Martin Morse (1826-1878), Connecticut-born, one of Santa Barbara’s better known early American settlers, sea captain and otter hunter. He came to California in 1852, and in 1853 he suffered lung damage while diving for a fouled anchor cable in San Francisco.

According to the 1922 recollections of his widow, Jane Amelia Merritt Kimberly (1840-1936), the captain moved to Santa Cruz Island with an old English sailor to cure his consumption and he recovered. After three years on Santa Cruz Island he was evicted by Dr. James B. Shaw.

During 1853, Kimberly salvaged the Winfield Scott which was wrecked on a reef at Anacapa Island. Kimberly went on to business on San Nicolas Island. On October 1, 1858 he filed a preemption claim in Santa Barbara County for 160 acres on San Nicolas Island in the vicinity of Corral Harbor. He stocked the island with sheep, and soon he had a flock of 15,000 animals. This prosperous venture crashed with the drought of 1864 when many of the sheep died. The dry season of 1869 and 1870 drove Kimberly out of the San Nicolas Island sheep business. His New York-born bride, Jane Merritt, had arrived in Santa Barbara aboard the steamer Orizaba from San Francisco. In 1870, Kimberly was able to sell his interests in San Nicolas Island to Abraham Halsey and William Hamilton for $18,000.

In 1873 as sea otters became more scarce around the Channel Islands, Kimberly traveled to the Sea of Okhotsk off Siberia and northern Japan for otters. On May 5, 1873 his namesake son died at 4 years of age of meningitis and is buried in the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

Five years later, on his second trip to Japan in 1878 aboard Cygnet, Kimberly’s ship was lost at sea with all on board in a typhoon off Japan.


Kimberlys had four children:

  • Martin Morse (1869-1873) died at 4 years 3 months of age
  • Guilford (1871-1953) died at age 82
  • Jennie (1874-1964) died at age 89
  • Martin Morse (1877-1904) died at age 26

Jane Kimberly, lived to be 96 years old. She is buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery with her children.

» 50 Years and More in Santa Barbara by Jane Merritt Kimberly as told to Michael J. Phillips July 22, 1922 in Santa Barbara Historical Society Noticias, XXXIV:3, Autumn, 1988.




In the News~

January 22, 1857 [SBG]: “Reports the Ella Fisher, [Captain] Kimberly, left Santa Catalina on the 15th on a cruise down the coast after otters.”


April 16, 1857 [SBG]: “Arrived. April 10th, schooner Ella Fisher, [Captain] Kimberly, from a cruise down the coast, bringing 55 otter skins.”


April 1863. February 21, 1932 [LAT]: “…In the 1860s Catalina had a gold rush. The first claim was that of Martin M. Kimberly and Daniel E. Way, recorded in April 1863. Assays on this claim ranged from $150 to $800 a ton. Stock companies were hastily formed, a site for the ‘Queen City’ was chosen, and city lots were staked out on the all but uninhabited island. But the only real mine found on the place was found to be Captain Timms’ paint mine, and even that was a failure, so the boom came to naught.”


June 28, 1863 [J. G. Cooper]: “I went ashore there [San Nicolas Island] and visited Captain Kimberly’s house, he having occupied the island as a sheep ranch. Sheep and other stock do remarkably well although the vegetation consists almost wholly of cacti and other plants apparently unfit for pasture…” [Report of Explorations of the Islands off the Southern Coast of California, 1863, unpub. manuscript].


April 7, 1865 [SBCounty Deed Book D: 599-600]: “This indenture made the 7th day of April in the Year of Our Lord 1865 between James M. Crabb of the County of Santa Barbara, State of California, party of the first part, to M. M. Kimberly (party of the second part) of the same county and state… for and in consideration of the sum of $100 … quitclaims … all that certain tract of land situate on the Island of St. Nicholas [sic] in the Pacific Ocean, bound and described as follows: commencing at a redwood stake four feet high from the ground marked as NE two hundred yards distant North East from a spring situate in the South Westerly part of the said Island, and running thence west one half of a mile to a red wood stake four feet high from the ground, thence at right angles south one half of a mile to a red wood stake four feet high, thence at right angles East one half of a mile to a red wood stake four feet high, thence at right angles one half of a mile North to the place of beginning, containing one hundred and sixty acres…”


February 3, 1869 [SBP]: “Born in Santa Barbara January 29, the wife of Captain M. M. Kimberly, of a son.”


February 5, 1870 [SBT]: “For Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura and the Islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Nicolas. Leaving every ten days. The steamship Kalorama, 500 tons, M. M. Kimberly, Master. Will receive freight at the above ports for San Francisco every ten days. Bills of Lading furnished, and none others signed. Freight carried at the lowest rates. G. L. DeBlois & Co. Agents. Northeast corner Jackson and Drumm streets, San Francisco.”


February 16 , 1870 [SFDEB]: “For Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura and the Gaviota. The steamer Kalorama, M. M. Kimberly, Master. Will receive freight at Washington Street Wharf on the 10th instant, and sail on Saturday, February 19th at 10 o’clock A.M. For further particulars inquire of A. C. Sabins, 205 Sacramento Street.”


February 19, 1870 [SBT]: “For Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura and the Islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Nicolas. Leaving every ten days. The steamship Kalorama, 500 tons. M. M. Kimberly, Master. Will receive freight at the above ports for San Francisco every ten days. Bills of Lading furnished, and none others signed. Freight carried at the lowest rates. G. L. DeBlois & Co. Agents. Northeast corner Jackson and Drumm streets, San Francisco.”


October 22, 1870 [SBPr]: “Real estate transactions. September 15. M. M. Kimberly to Hamilton and Halsey, San Nicolas Island, $10,000, currency.”


December 29, 1870 [SDU]:Cygnet. Arrived December 23, 3 days from Santa Barbara, Captain Kimberly.”


March 4, 1871 [SBT]: “Born in Santa Barbara February 29 to the wife of Captain M. M. Kimberly, a son.”


1872: “Captain Martin Morse Kimberly made a two-year voyage to the Asian coast in 1872 on the Cygnet. His objectives were two-fold: to salvage whale bones from ice-bound whaling vessels abandoned the previous winter in the Bering Sea, and to explore for sea otters and fur seals in the Sea of Japan. He found sea otters in the Kuril Islands and delivered 200 skins in Hakodate, Hokkaido receiving $80-$90 for each pelt. Other adventurers, hearing of Kimberly’s exploits from members of his crew, soon followed in seeking the valuable sea otter.” [Yesaki, Mitsuo. Sutebusuton: A Japanese Village on the British Columbia coast. 2003]


January 31, 1872 [SDU]:Cygnet has been undergoing a thorough overhaul. Will sail for Santa Barbara in a few days.”


June 22, 1872 [SBT]: “Heard from. It will doubtless be a source of pleasure to many of our citizens to hear something of the whereabouts of Captain M. M. Kimberly and Z. T. Merritt, citizens of this place who are on a trading voyage to the north Pacific. They left San Francisco in the schooner Cygnet on the 3rd of May, during a heavy blow, and were driven to the Sandwich Islands, from which they started again on the 21st of May. We extract from a letter received from Captain Kimberly, Dated May 18th, giving an account of the trip: ‘We are now close to the port of Honolulu, and thinking you would like to hear of our whereabouts, I thought I would give you a sketch of our trip: We left San Francisco on the 3rd instant at 12 P.M., strong northwest wind; at 3 P.M. wind increased to a gale; hove the schooner to and continued hove to for forty hours; then kept off before the wind and ran down 300 miles southeast of Santa Barbara, when the wind moderated and we steered for the islands. Nothing worthy of note has occurred on the passage. Tomorrow we sail for the northwest part of the Pacific. Will write the first opportunity.’ From the Honolulu Commercial Advertiser we gather the following item of the Cygnet: ‘The schooner Cygnet, Captain Worth, which arrived on Sunday from San Francisco and sailed on the following day for Petropaulski, is on a trading and wrecking voyage to the Arctic Ocean, for which she goes well prepared.’”


May 10, 1873 [SBPr]: “Sudden Death. The very sudden death of the little boy of Captain and Mrs. Kimberly this morning at two o’clock, was attended with some symptoms of poisoning, for which no one is able to give any satisfactory account. He was about four years old, and was sick only about nineteen hours.”


December 16, 1873 [SBDP]: “Manifest of cargo shipped on board the steamship Ventura from San Francisco to Santa Barbara December 13: …1 do M. M. Kimberly…”


August 19, 1874: “…company’s business at St. Paul Island, Alaska; that on the 19th day of August, A.D. 1874, the schooner Cygnet, of Santa Barbara, Captain Kimberly, appeared off said island; that on the attempt being made by Captain Charles Bryant, special Treasury agent in charge of the seal islands, to board such vessel, she stood way after she had lowered her GET REST FROM BOOK


…they launched their boat, and pulling around the island came on the schooner by surprise. Before she could get underway they were on board. It proved to be the schooner Cygnet, of Santa Barbara, Cal., Kimberly master. He was evidently much disturbed by being boarded so unexpectedly. The captain said he was hunting for sea otters and…


On the __ of June, 1872, the schooner Cygnet appeared on St. Paul Island, where she still remained on the day of our departure, having been last seen as the fog cleared up on the 14th of July. She was engaged in shooting seals in the water, in which she appeared to be very successful. On one occasion she approached within rifle shot of a densely populated…


…Captain Kimberly was very much astonished when unformed that he was violating the laws of the United States; acknowledged that he had been killing seals, but maintained that the jurisdiction of the Government did not... [Seal and Salmon Fisheries and General Resources of Alaska, Vol. 1. 1898.]


September 19, 1874 [SBWP]: “Born. Kimberly. In Santa Barbara, September 11th, to the wife of Captain M. M. Kimberly, a daughter.”


November 23, 1875 [SBDN]: “Arrived. The schooner Cygnet, Captain Kimberly, arrived on Saturday from San Francisco.”


January 11, 1876 [SBDN]: “The schooner Cygnet, Captain Kimberly, has returned from a cruise about the outlying islands for sea otter. Something more than a thousand dollars worth of furs were secured. She will go hence northward.”


November 1, 1876 [SBDP]: “The schooner Cygnet, Captain Kimberly, from Alaska via Victoria, arrived yesterday. Welcome home, Captain.”


June 22, 1885 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly arrived at this port Saturday bringing forty-five handsome otter skins, the result of a two months’ cruise. The skins are valued at $3100. This is the most successful trip made for many years, or as the captain expressed it, ‘since Captain Kimberly’s time.’”


June 22, 1885 [SBDI]: “Schooner Angel Dolly, Captain Ellis, arrived Saturday from a two months’ trip otter hunting, with forty-five fine otter skins valued at $3100. This is the most successful otter hunt that has been made on the California coast since the days of Captain Kimberly and Vasquez. We congratulate Captain Ellis on his success.”


December 18, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “The estate of M. M. Kimberly, deceased, was on trial in the Superior Court yesterday. The case is one of long standing, and has run through a series of complications since 1879…”


December 19, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “In the Superior Court the petition of Jennie A. Kimberly in the estate of M. M. Kimberly, for a homestead, was denied.”


April 11, 1895 [LAT/SB]: “A case entitled Alice McCurdy Hart vs. Guilford Kimberly et al., was presented before a jury in Superior Court on Wednesday and continued until Thursday. This is a somewhat notable case, being the third suit growing out of a foreclosure suit preferred some years ago by the plaintiff against the heirs of Captain Kimberly, an otter hunter who is supposed to have been drowned at sea.”


March 27, 1900 [SBMP]: “The captain [of the Dawn] sent a skiff ashore [on San Nicolas Island], and in the old adobe house that the late Captain Kimberly built many years ago when he owned the island, were found two Chinamen ...”


May 17, 1904 [SBMP]: “Martin Moss [Morse] Kimberly died at the home of his mother, Mrs. J. A. Kimberly, 102 Chapala Street, last evening, aged 27 years. Besides his mother, a brother, Guilford Kimberly, and a sister, Miss Jennie Kimberly survive him. The deceased was a native of this city and spent most of his life here. About a year ago he went to Sonora, Mexico with Charles Ealand, and was employed for several months on the latter’s stock ranch. He returned last fall suffering from the effects of a severe attack of a fever peculiar to that section of Mexico. The change did not prove beneficial, as had been hoped it would, and he gradually declined until death ended his suffering. The funeral services will take place at the residence tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. Internment private.”


February 25, 1915 [SBMP]: “Interesting bits of early life in Santa Barbara was given yesterday by Mrs. Kimberly at the meeting of the California history section of the Woman's club, which held its regular bi-monthly meeting at the Woman's club house. Mrs. Figg-Hoblyn, chairman of the section, has provided many interesting programs, and one of the most interesting was that given yesterday by Mrs. Kimberly. She came to Santa Barbara in 1866, the bride of Captain Kimberly. At that time there was no wharf and passengers arriving by boat were carried ashore by the sailors. About ten families made up the American population of Santa Barbara and most of them were brides. Mrs. Williams, later the lighthouse keeper, was the only American woman with a family. Santa Barbara had become known as "new Italy", and the talk about the healthfulness of the place brought many consumptives, many of them in the last stages of the dreaded disease. The accommodations in those days were very poor, and especially so for invalids suffering with this dreaded disease. Mrs. Kimberly said that frequently a family would spend the entire night in driving about in a hack looking for a room in which to spend the night. Though Mrs. Kimberly did not come to Santa Barbara until several years after the great drought, the effects of the year were still being felt, many of the best families, owners of large grants of land, having been ruined by the dry year. Even at the time she came the estero was white with the bones of cattle that had come down from the hills seeking water.”


January 11, 1936 [SBMP]: “Mrs. Jane Amelia Merritt Kimberly, 96, beloved by all Santa Barbarans who knew her—and they were legion—died at her home, 104 Chapala Street, yesterday afternoon following an illness of one month. The patrician pioneer resident was called by those who knew her well, ‘Aunt Jennie.’ She came here as a bride 70 years ago... Mrs. Kimberly leaves a son and daughter: Guilford Kimberly of 26 West Mason Street and Miss Jane Kimberly, of 104 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara; two grandchildren, Bessie and Ellen Kimberly; and three nieces… She was born February 15, 1839 in New York City, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Phineas G. Merritt. When she was an infant the family moved to Galveston, Texas, subsequently moving to Philadelphia where she was reared and educated. Her father came to California in 1856, sending for his family five years later. The Kimberlys embarked for California coming via Panama, crossing the Isthmus by railroad and continuing to San Francisco by boat. She became the bride of Captain Martin Morse Kimberly and on January 1, 1866 came to this city. Her arrival caused a stir in the pueblo, for there were few travelers then. She was the only woman newcomer to the pueblo that year. Her husband, a man of the sea who was engaged in otter hunting at a time when those mammals frequented these waters, spent a year or more on Santa Cruz Island, to recover his health. Then followed several years during which he raised pigs on Santa Cruz and later San Nicolas [island]. Captain Kimberly stocked San Nicolas with sheep, but the drouth ended that enterprise for him. He returned to otter hunting. Twelve years after their marriage Captain Kimberly sailed from this harbor never to be seen again. His ship was lost at sea with all on board…”


November 27, 1954 [SBNP]: “Guilford Kimberly, 82, whose family was closely identified with early Santa Barbara history and who always lived within the same block, died yesterday after an illness of three weeks. He had been retired for a number of years. Known among his acquaintances as ‘Captain,’ Mr. Kimberly as a youth participated in the capture of a British four-master, often regaled his friends with stories of the early theatre in Santa Barbara, including the presentation of melodramas starring artists in the old Opera House and Potter Theatre, and had a widespread acquaintance because of his work in grocery stores. Mr. Kimberly was born here February 28, 1871, the son of Martin M. Kimberly and Jane A. Merritt Kimberly. His father, Captain Martin Kimberly of Connecticut, came to San Francisco in 1851 and to Santa Barbara the year after. When he saw Santa Cruz [Island] across the channel, he decided that was where he wanted to stake out a claim and went to San Francisco, bringing back sheep and pigs to stock the island. However, because of a lease already in force, he instead settled on San Nicolas Island, and the pigs he took there were the forebears of wild boars which later afforded fine hunting. He later turned to catching sea otters in this area, then went as far as Japan hunting the prized animals, where his boat was lost in a typhoon… Surviving are two daughters, Mrs. Ellen Reiss, Playa del Rey, and Mrs. Elizabeth (Betty) Hansen of Santa Barbara; a sister, Miss Jennie Kimberly, and five grandchildren…”


June 30, 1964 [SBNP]: “Miss Jeannie Kimberly, 90 [89], a native of Santa Barbara and daughter of a sea captain, who watched the community grow from 3,000 to 60,000 residents, died yesterday at her home, 104 Chapala Street. She had been ill for two weeks. The former nurse, society editor of the old Morning Press and apartment operator, loved to reminisce about the decades in which she watched the sleepy Spanish pueblo grow to a modern American city. She was born here on September 4, 1873, the daughter of Captain Martin More and Jane Amelia Merritt Kimberly. Her parents were married in San Francisco on Christmas Day, 1865, and the next year came ashore at Santa Barbara in a small boat from a ship, since there was no wharf. Her father later was one of a group who built the old Santa Barbara wharf which preceded Stearn’s Wharf. While Jennie was a child, her seafaring father disappeared with his ship in a typhoon off the north coast of Japan. He had operated as a whaler and otter-hunter, and his daughter remembered seeing the three whaling stations on the Santa Barbara county coast, one at what is now the Municipal Airport slough, one at Cojo Landing near Point Conception, and a third one between Point Arguello and Surf. Her mother remained in Santa Barbara to become an active participant in community affairs until her death in 1936 at the age of 96. She had been the daughter of the editor of The Republican in San Francisco, first California journal to subscribe to the ideals of the GOP. Kimberly Avenue in Santa Barbara is named for the family in Santa Barbara… When the Southern Pacific railroad came, the Kimberlys had to sell their house to make way for the depot and build a new one at 104 Chapala Street. Miss Kimberly lived in the same block all her life, the one bounded by Chapala, Mason, Estado [State], and Yanonali streets…”