OLIVARI, Giovanni Battista

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OLIVARI, Giovanni Battista (1851-1932), his wife Cesira (1867-1929) and their only child, Pietro (Pete) lived in Camogli, Italy, a small town near Genoa. In 1897, the 46 year old Giovanni came to America and found work for the Santa Cruz Island Company. He was first hired as a sailor on August 10, 1896 at $25/month. He left May 28, 1898 and returned April 12, 1899.

Four years later in 1901, he had saved enough money to bring his wife and son from Italy to Santa Barbara. For over 20 years, Giovanni served as captain of the island company’s schooner, Santa Cruz. In 1901 he hired his then 14 year old son, Pete, to be his deck hand. Part of the Captain’s job included recruiting and selecting laborers on the mainland for work on the island at shearing and grape-picking time. Clifford McElrath described Captain Olivari as a “picturesque old deep-water sailor who had been around the world several times and sailed the seven seas on windjammers.” [McElrath 1967: 3]. Although Giovanni retired as schooner captain in 1919, he was convinced to come out of retirement several times as the Company need him. His final retirement was in 1924. Captain Giovanni Olivari died May 30, 1932 at age 81. With approval of the Catholic Church, his remains were relocated from the mainland to the cemetery on Santa Cruz Island in 1976, along with those of his wife and son.



In the News~

February 25, 1915 [SBMP]: “Scorpion Harbor scene of drowning. Belisario Valencia is swept from boat in heavy sea. Yesterday afternoon Coroner Ruiz received word from Santa Cruz Island to the effect that Belisario Valencia, one of the Caire employees, had been drowned on the afternoon of the preceding day, at Scorpion Harbor on the south side of the island. The message came from Captain Andreas [Giovanni Battista] Olivari of the power schooner Santa Cruz, who had sent a man over in a launch for the purpose of bringing the information to the coroner. It seems that Valencia was assisting in landing a lot of piles that had been taken from Prisoners’ Harbor to Scorpion. The piles were taken from the schooner onto a small boat to a lighter to the landing. There was a high sea running, and while Valencia and a son of Captain Olivari [Pete] were on the lighter, a huge wave swamped the craft and washed the men overboard. Young Olivari managed to swim ashore, but his unfortunate companion was seen no more. Coroner Ruiz sent word back to the island for the men there to keep a watch for the body of the drowned man and send the body to this city when it should be recovered, for inquest and burial. The deceased was about 40 years of age and a widower. Several relatives live in Santa Barbara.”


May 6, 1915 [SBMP]: “The power schooner Santa Cruz came over from Prisoners’ Harbor yesterday with a load of fat sheep for the Gehl Packing Company. Several attempts to land were made, but the water was too rough, and Captain Olivari concluded to wait for smoother water to discharge his cargo.”


February 11, 1916 [SBDN]: “The Santa Cruz Island Company’s schooner Santa Cruz is off Stearn’s Wharf, having arrived here last night. Captain Olivari will take her back to the island tomorrow with a load of supplies.”


July 29, 1916 [SBMP]: “Captain Olivari of the power schooner Santa Cruz, who came over from Prisoners’ Harbor last Thursday with 40 tons of wool from the Caire ranges, will return this morning with a load of supplies for the various departments of the great island ranch...”


July 29, 1916 [SBDN]: “One hundred thousand gallons of wine is the expected output from the great vineyards on Santa Cruz Island this year, according to Captain Olivari, master of the island power schooner. The captain has brought forty tons of wool from the island and is taking back a cargo of supplies. The grape crop on the island is ripening fast and winemaking will begin about September 1. The middle ranch house is again serving as the summer home of Mrs. Justinian Caire, her sons Arthur and Fred, and their families.”


October 21, 1916 [SCICo]: “We believe it advisable to have some emergency provisions on the schooner so in case they have to run for shelter on short notice, they won't go hungry. The basis of the trouble on the schooner between the Captain [Olivari] and the men is largely due to his lack of eyesight. He is more or less distant from his crew for that reason and they undoubtedly take advantage of it.”


December 7, 1917 [SBMP]: “The power schooner Santa Cruz, engaged in the traffic of the Caire ranch on Santa Cruz Island, with her home port at Prisoners’ Harbor, is again in commission after a complete overhauling at San Pedro, a process that requires 43 days. Captain Olivari, her skipper, states that the boat is now in better shape than ever before. She brought to the mainland last Wednesday a load of fat sheep for a local butcher, and will return to the island today with a load of supplies for various stations on the ranch.”


June 25, 1918 [SCICo letter]: states that Santa Cruz Island wince can be ordered through the Captain Olivari’s house located at 137 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara.


November 28, 1918 [SCICo]: “The Captain [Olivari] announced his intention to leave the schooner as soon as possible because of old age and the lack of eyesight. He hasn’t willingly arrived at this conclusion, but through the pleading of his wife and son. If he remains on the boat it is only a matter of time before he loses the boat.”


February 26, 1919 [SCICo]: “The Captain [Olivari] wishes to notify you [Arthur J. Caire] that he intends to leave the schooner at once, giving as the reason for his sudden haste that he is worn out from 3 months of the hardest winter known for the Channel Islands, during which time 5 different boats have gone ashore on the island and that the constant vigilance he has been obliged to maintain has completely tired him out.”


March 12, 1919 [SCICo]: “The only other men in Santa Barbara that it would be possible to obtain [as a qualified Captain for the schooner Santa Cruz] are Frank Nidever, Rosalino Vasquez, and Jack Carrillo.”


March 22, 1919 [SCICo]: “The Captain [Olivari] is almost totally blind, and the operation of the schooner now being entirely done by his son. This blindness is a well-known fact by many people and in case of some accident might react unfavorably toward the Company.”