MATHEWSON, J. E. "Pard'
MATHEWSON, John Everett 'Pard' (1867-1949) was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts, the youngest of five children born to Henry (1830-1866) and Susannah Allen Mathewson (1830-1893). On a camping trip to San Francisco, he visited Terminal Island and also as a side trip visited Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. In 1892 at age 25 he sold his camping equipment and horses and moved to the island, and seeing an opportunity to apply his crafting skills, he opened Avalon Boat Works. He built a pier and workshop up against the hill on the west of Avalon Bay, where he turned out fine recreational and utility vessels designed for island use. The Catalina Island Yacht Club is located just east of Mathewson's pier. His own vessel was the Avalon.
Mathewson began by building rowboats and simple fishing launches. Rowboats were very popular for use along the island's coast, and rowing was a fashionable pastime. He increased the size of boats he built, and in 1902 he built Nestella for John Jay Nestell. Nestella was 20 feet long with a 6-foot beam and 4-horse gasoline engine. Mathewson also began building glass-bottom boats, inserting glass panels into the bottom of rowboats. His glass-bottom boats carried 10-15 passengers. The 38-foot Mon Ami was a large side wheeler glass-bottom boat. In 1907 an even larger one was built of mahogany, 40-feet long with a 20-horse power engine that was capable of 10 knots.
Mathewson expanded his businesses into building cottages, selling insurance policies and renting a large fleet of boats to island visitors. He opened the Avalon Boat Stand for his rentals. In 1910 Mathewson began building what was to become his trademark vessel, the Catalina wherry. The first wherries were 14 feet long and 3 feet wide, with single and double rowing positions. These evolved into even more sophisticated wherries, the last of which was built in 1925.
Mathewson sold his Avalon Boat Stand to his employee, Joe Guion, and is now Joe-Rent-A-Boat, today operated by Joe Guion, Jr. Some wherries were sold to Al Bombard for use at Isthmus Cove in Two Harbors in the 1930s. Others were put into storage in the 1960s.
Pard Mathewson died on July 12, 1949 at the age of 82.
In the News~
September 23, 1904 [SBMP]: “Catalina Party on Santa Cruz. Campers find Channel Islands far superior to the more southern resort. A party of prominent people from Catalina are making a three weeks' tour of the Channel Islands, and have established a most complete camp at Quava [Cueva] Valdez bay on Santa Cruz Island, where they have been for over a week. The party left Avalon on the 14th of September in the gasoline sloop Avalon, which carried full camp equipment and supplies for the trip besides all the members of the expedition. They sailed immediately to Santa Cruz Island and established their camp there, from which they make side-trips to other parts of the island and fishing excursions out into the channel. Their camp is a most picturesque one, being composed of nine tents placed on the beach under the protection of the overhanging cliffs, and near where a fresh water spring bubbles out of the rocks. A large tent in the center is reserved for pleasure-making and for a dining room. They have employed an experienced cook, Mr. Pierce, who formerly worked in that capacity at the Potter Hotel, and have all their meals served in the big tent. The other tents are appropriately decorated with humorous names, such as "hens' Roost," "Orphans' Home", "Butt Inn", "Parker's Inn", etc. They have an abundance of small row boats in which excursions are made into many caves that have been washed out by the waves on the shores of the island. Fishing parties returning from the island report that the Catalina people are most enthusiastic about the splendid fishing that exists about the island, saying that it is far superior to even their own far-famed Avalon for fishing purposes. They can catch a great variety of fish within a stones throw of their camp. The Avalon party consists of Charles Parker and wife, who organized the party; Captain Mathewson and wife, Mrs. Pratt, Chris Ringson, George Aull, Peter Reyes, Edward Edmondson, John Johnson, and the Misses Josephine Foust, Emma Foust, Lena Kelly, Lena Nelson, Elizabeth Hudson, Cora Geruer and others. They expect to explore Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands before returning, and will visit Santa Barbara for a few days, arriving here next Monday.”
May 11, 1932 [TI/Avalon]: “For sale — Mathewson Cottages, 17 units. P.O. Box 1366.”