O’LEARY, Alec

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O’LEARY, Alexander (Alex, Aleck) ( -1904) [O’Larrey], San Clemente Island squatter and hermit who lived at Mosquito Cove at the turn of the century.



In the News~

December 21, 1892 [LAT]: “San Clemente Wool Company vs. Alexander O’Larrey; suit in ejectments to recover possession of part of San Clemente Island and for $500 damages.”


December 21, 1892 [LAH]: “San Clemente Wool Company vs. Alex O’Larrey. The plaintiff claims to have been in possession of all of San Clemente Island for 20 years past, and alleges that within the last year the defendant has unlawfully taken possession of Mosquito Harbor on the island. The plaintiff sues for restitution of the premises and $500 damages.”


February 1893 Catherine MacLean Loud diary: “The winter brought little excitement until E. O’Leary sent word that a whale was ashore on San Clemente Island. It took fourteen men to pull it up on the beach. Harry Elms gleaned some bones from it to display in his Shell and Curiosity Shop at the north corner of Whittley and Crescent Avenues.”


February 27, 1894 [LAT]: “The San Clemente Wool Company gained judgment for possession against O’Larrey yesterday in Department Five.”


[1895] “Until 1895 glass bottom boxes were placed on the water at the side of an ordinary boat when parties were looking for abalones and viewing the submarine gardens. In that year, Alex O'Leary, the hermit of San Clemente Island, who spent some time at Avalon, suggested the construction of the glass bottom boat, and acting upon this suggestion Bill Condit and Charles Fage proceeded to build the first craft of the kind ever made, and in which Mr. O'Leary was skipper for some time. The first side-wheel glass bottom boat was built by Gurious & Tobin in Mathewson's boatyard, and afterward became the property of the Meteor Boat Company, although it is ow dismantled and idle...” [Guinn, J. M. A History of California and an extended history of its Southern Coast Counties (1907) vol. 2]


September 8, 1895 [LAH]: “Aleck O'Leary, the boatman, took out Miles Dodd, Jr. to the Goat Harbor fishing grounds. They returned with a large catch.”


August 5, 1897 [LAH]: “Alec O'Leary, in a fourteen foot boat, in company with his dog, Bo'sun, made the trip from San Clemente to Avalon yesterday in eight hours, leaving San Clemente at 7 in the morning and arriving here at 3 in the afternoon.”


October 15, 1897 [LAT/SCat]: “This morning Jim Gardner and T. V. Hardwick sailed for San Clemente Island in the sloop Violet, taking with them a supply of provisions for Alex O’Leary at Mosquito Harbor. The island belongs to the government, and in anticipation of its being thrown open to settlement some day, O’Leary five years ago located at Mosquito Harbor, where there are about two acres of available land and a stream of water…”


May 12, 1898 [LAT/SCat]: “Alex O’Leary, the hermit of Clemente Island, who has been at Avalon for two weeks, started yesterday morning for that island on the sloop, Violet, accompanied by Clark Reeves, the owner of the boat, and Montague Foster. When almost midway in the channel a heavy wind came up, and the party was soon drenched to the skin. So much water was shipped that they had to take up the bottom boards and bail her out. They were compelled eventually to return, reaching Avalon at 7 P.M. Only O’Leary’s skill kept the little craft afloat.”


October 6, 1898 [LAT/SCat]: “The Violet, Captain C. F. Reeves, returned last night from a trip to Clemente, having taken over three months’ provisions for Alex, the hermit of Mosquito Harbor.”


September 14, 1898 [SFCall]: “Pasadena, September 13. San Clemente, a desert island so called, which lies in the Pacific in the Santa Barbara Channel group [?], is to be colonized, if the plans of Mr. Bolton and forty odd families of this neighborhood he has interested do not fall through. These families have pooled their belongings and propose to squat on 160 acres each… The only inhabitants of San Clemente are a few sheep and cattle herders, and a hermit, Aleck O’Leary, who lives with his goats and cat and dog miles from human beings. Sometimes he comes to the mainland, making the trip in a skiff with a flour sack for a sail...”


January 7, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Several gentlemen who had drifted into Avalon got together last week and arranged a trip to San Clemente, lying about twenty-five miles southward from Santa Catalina. The island is government property, and is uninhabited, save by two young men, John and Robert Robarts, who have charge of some five or six thousand sheep belonging to S. C. Hubbell of Los Angeles, and Alec O’Leary, who has led a hermit life down near the east end for ten years past. The gentlemen were seeking adventure…”


January 16, 1904 Catherine MacLean Loud noted in her diary: “Alex O’Leary, for 10 years a hermit of San Clemente Island, recently died in the Philippine Islands. He lived alone there as he did here and ants almost made away with his body before he was found in his lonely cabin. Mr. O’Leary attempted to take up a government claim on San Clemente Island and in spite of government officials trying to dispose him he stayed ten years.”


January 17, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “End of a hermit. Alex O’Leary, one of the queer characters which drift into out-of-the-way places, and who for ten years lived a hermit life on San Clemente Island, has recently died at Manila, Philippine Islands. He lived there in seclusion as he had here and his death was unnoticed until ants had almost made away with the body in his lonely cabin. O’Leary attempted to take up a government claim on San Clemente and notwithstanding the efforts of the government officials to dispossess him, he kept his residence there for many years under rather adverse circumstances.”


1909: “There is a small camp at Mosquito Harbor, where Alec O’Leary once lived… Al Shade, a boatman, had a few fig trees at his camp at Mosquito planted, I fancy, by O’Leary, and one little spring on the south side; and these trees were continually filled with finches and mockingbirds…” [Holder, 1910, p. 145, 159]