ORD, Robert C.

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ORD, Robert C. (1860-1950), born on Christmas day in 1860, was a member of the well-known early California pioneer family, and the nephew of General E.O.C. Ord for whom Fort Ord was named. In 1894 Bob Ord “rescued” the teenaged Edith Waters from San Miguel Island where she claimed she had been held against her will by her step father for four years. Captain Waters remained very bitter against Ord for his part in the flight of Edith from San Miguel Island. Years later, in 1918, Ord testified at the Waters trial about the incident. For many years, Ord operated the boat Roncador between Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands. According to his May 8, 1950 obituary, “his tall, strong figure was a familiar sight on the Santa Barbara waterfront. One of his chief activities bringing guano from the islands to the mainland.” The City Directory of Santa Barbara, 1895-6, lists Robert Ord as a stone cutter living at 835 De La Vina Street. At the time of his death in 1950 at age 89, he lived at 816 Castillo Street, Santa Barbara.

In the News~

April 29, 1882 [SBDI]: “W. N. Ord of Santa Cruz, a brother of General E. O. C. Ord, and also of Robert B. Ord of this city, died last Wednesday of erysipelas, aged 51 years. The deceased was a justice of the peace and leaves a wife and one child. He was buried by the Knights of Honor on Thursday afternoon.”

August 12, 1890 [SBDI]: “The following party started from this city this morning at 6:30 en route for Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands: Will Kearney, Ord Fergus, C. M. Gidney and wife, Misses May Murphy, Edith McGrath, Minnie Jennings, Josie Weaver, May Washburn, Myra Morgan, Mrs. J. A. Allen, Messrs. Theo Lilligren, Ellsworth Bates, Judson Packard, Pierce Weaver. This party embarked on the good ship Loafer, master Mark Brownsill; first mate Robert Ord. Provisions for a five days’ voyage were taken in.”

October 11, 1893 [SBDI]: “W. I. Cummings has returned from a trip to the islands. He has been absent about two weeks, and he brings back two very valuable skins of the sea otter obtained by Bob Ord's hunting party now on an expedition among the islands with the schooner San Mateo.”

October 28, 1893 [SBDI]: “The schooner San Mateo arrived last night from the islands where, for the past two months, the crew under the direction of Bob Ord, have been hunting otter. They report bad weather, a strong wind blowing steadily around the islands. Of the weeks spent in the channel, they had only a few hours of hunting weather. During this time they secured only two or three skins.”

December 5, 1893 [SBDI]: “The sloop Restless left today for the islands. Bob Ord and party engaged the boat for an otter hunt.”

May 9, 1894 [SBMP]: “A complaint was sworn to by Frank Marincovich against R. C. Ord, Captain Julius and two others, charging them with grand larceny for having taken from the harbor his sloop, Big Loafer. The boat was taken last Thursday night, and nothing has since been seen of Mr. Ord or his men, who have presumably gone to the islands. An officer left in search of them yesterday.”

May 14, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The case of grand larceny against R. C. Ord has been dismissed on motion of the prosecution. He was charged with stealing a boat, the Big Loafer, and sailing for the islands. It appears now that he took the boat supposing it was understood by the owner, Mr. Marincovich, that he was to have the use of it for a stipulated amount of money. There is another charge against Ord of petty larceny, which will probably also be dismissed.”

May 20, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Ed Stevens of the sloop San Mateo related a tale of a lonely fisherman, known here only as “’Fatty,’ whom he discovered on Flea Island, a rock a little to the west of San Miguel Island. ‘Fatty’ was one of the Ord party, who left here on a sealing expedition in the Big Loafer, and was left on Flea Island, while the rest of the party came back here. They intended to return for him immediately, but were detained here by the charge of larceny of the Big Loafer, and ‘Fatty’ had to suffer all sorts of hardships, which Captain Stevens tells in a thrilling manner.”

June 6, 1896 [SBDI]: “Captain Samuel H. Burtis and Robert Ord will leave tomorrow for the islands on an extended otter hunt.”

June 8, 1896 [SBDI]: “Captain Burtis left last night for the islands in command of the schooner Restless with S. H. Burtis and R. C. Ord as passengers, bound for the islands on a peculiar errand. In old times the Channel Islands were the home of sea otters in great numbers, but they were so persistently hunted that they have been supposed to have been extinct for years. Captain Burtis, however, is sure that a few specimens at least remain, and that he himself has seen them. With this idea he has shipped a numerous crew and has gone in quest of those rare and valuable animals. The sea otter of the North Pacific is the largest of living otters, often reaching a length of four and a half feet, and is found in the open sea often many miles from land. Its fur is of great value, bringing in its raw state often two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars, and is especially prized in China and Japan. It is exceedingly difficult to capture, and must be tired out by persistent rowing and shot when exhausted. Captain Burtis is an old sea otter and seal hunter, with great experience in Alaskan and Japanese waters, and is confident of returning with at least a couple of pelts.”

October 26, 1902 [LAT]: “Robert C. Ord and a crew of several men have gone to San Nicolas Island on an otter hunting expedition.”

November 21, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “The friends of Captain Frank Nidever, one of the best-known skippers in local waters, are very much alarmed because of his continued absence from this city. Nidever left Santa Cruz Island several days ago for this port, hoping to make the trip, a distance of nearly thirty miles, in an otter boat with oars as the only propelling power. He started from the island about the same time that Captain Robert C. Ord and a number of daring friends, began the homeward voyage in a small skiff, and it was expected that he would reach Santa Barbara not later than the following day. Nidever, however, has failed to put in an appearance…”

May 10, 1918 [SBMP]: In the trial of William Waters “...By stipulation of counsel the testimony of Robert C. Ord as given at the last trial was read into the evidence. Mr. Ord assisted Edith Waters to escape from San Miguel Island. It became merely a connecting link in the story told the jury — that she was kept virtually a prisoner on the island for four years and only escaped through the assistance of Ord...”

May 11, 1918 [SBMP]: In the trial of William Waters vs. Edith Waters Burritt “...The defense placed Florence Guiterrez, a local writer, on the stand, and Mrs. Guiterrez told of a visit to the island shortly after the exciting flight of Edith Waters and Bob Ord from the home where the girl claimed she had been kept practically a prisoner for four years...”

May 10, 1918 [LAT/SB]: “In an effort to break the will of the late Captain W. G. Waters, who left his $50,000 estate to his brother, John A. Waters, 92, of Boston, Mrs. Edith Burritt of Santa Monica, adopted daughter of the deceased, told an exciting story from the witness stand today of her escape from San Miguel Island in an open boat, mastered by Bob Ord, now a mining man of Mexico. She was a girl of 16 then, and had lived for four years on the desolate island, where her adopted father raised sheep and cattle. These years were punctuated by happy days when the girl visited the mainland, but they were few and far between. A wild sea was running when Bob Ord assisted the child into the small boat, and the hours of battling against the storm before the mainland was reached, though thrilling, had no terror for the frail girl. Dead in the sea was a better condition than alive on a desolate, windswept island. During the day many old-time sheep shearers, fishermen and water-front men testified to corroborate the contestant, as to island conditions and to the treatment of the girl by her adopted father. The testimony of the day was unusual its recital of the days of 1887 and of that period, the contestant seeking to show that Captain Waters was insane on the one subject of the adopted daughter and his son, Charles Waters. To the son he left the interest on $5000, and he stipulated in the will that if his brother John, or his sister Mrs. Maria Curtis, died before him that his wealth should go to building a soldiers’ monument here, and to the Cottage and St. Francis hospitals.”

May 14, 1918 [LAT/SB]: “Waters’s will declared void. The will of Captain W. G. Waters, owner of San Miguel Island, was broken tonight by a jury in the Superior Court. The jury returned a verdict holding that the time the will was drawn by the testator the latter was of unsound mind so far as his children — Mrs. Edith Scott Burritt of Santa Monica and Charled D. Waters of this city — were concerned. The verdict was reached on the second ballot and within ten minutes after Judge John L. Hudner gave he case to the jury. Immediately after the jury was discharged the jurers crowded about Mrs. Burritt, the contestant, and shook her hand. John A. Waters, 93, brother, to whom Waters left his $75,000 estate, also congratulated Mrs. Burritt. John Waters had come from Boston to defend the will, but stated that he really did not wish his dead brother’s estate. He himself is worth over $250,000. When Captain W. G. Waters, who died here last year, wrote into his will that his daughter, Edith Scott Waters-Burritt of Santa Monica, should inherit but $1 from his estate, laid the foundation for probably the most spectacular will contest the Santa Barbara courts have ever known. All the unusual incidents of Mrs. Burritt’s unusual girlhood were brought out in bold relief in the testimony. Four years spent on lonely San Miguel Island, thirty miles off the Santa Barbara coast, she termed as four years of prison. Her escape across the channel in a boat mastered by Bob Ord, now a Mexican mining man, was one of the most thrilling chapters. Captain Waters was divorced from his first wife inBoston forty years ago and, coming West, married a wealthy Mrs. Scott of San Francisco. With her wealth San Miguel Island, one of the Santa Barbara’ group, was bought, and there Captain Waters waxed rich, raising sheep, cattle and hogs. Mrs. Scott’s daughter, Edith, was adopted by him, and when the mother died her education in music, art and drama was brought to a close. ‘When we arrived at the island after mother’s death I was told that was to be my home.’ The captain took me into the kitchen. ‘There’s the stove, there’s the sink, there’s the utensils. Get us something to eat,’ he said. ‘I had never cooked in my life before, but I did the best I could. There was an old Mexican who taught me how to make bread. God bless his dear memory. He was so kind to a motherless, friendless girl.’ The witness paused, and then reverted to her mother’s funeral. ‘I asked the captain for money with which to buy suitable mourning. He told me to use my mother’s black skirt and I made a dress to wear at her funeral.’ The spectators leaned forward and one woman sobbed, while R. H. Cross, one of her lawyers, laid the emphasis on the statement with: ‘So you wore your mother’s dress to her funeral.’ On the island, for a time, was a woman companion, but she left and the girl found no means of companionship except with the sheep and cattle. Alone she would rove along the rocky island shore searching for shells. The herders would do what they could for her when the captain was not about. ‘Captain Waters would not let me continue my schooling for fear I might meet a boy; my music lessons had to be given up because my teacher had a young son, and I was dragged home from a church concert where I was to sing because the captain found that I had been placed near a man, a singer. He seemed insane on the subject of boys and me, and for that reason I was taken to the island.’ The girl had appealed to fishermen who occasionally stopped on the island to take her to the mainland, but for fear of the captain they refused. Then Bob Ord, hunting sea otters, established a camp on the east end of San Miguel, and when the girl appeared one night in his camp with the wild request for aid in escaping, he was so struck with her pathetic attitude that he volunteered. That morning, before light, he set out with the fleeing captive, and an angry ride, at times lulled by a dead calm, featured the escape. When Charles D. Waters was 13, he first saw his father after separation since infancy. Five years later, at Captain Waters’s insistence, the son came to Santa Barbara from St. Paul, Minnesota, to learn the cattle business on San Miguel Island. Suddenly, testified the son, his father’s affection for him fled, and they parted. The old ties were never wholly repaired.”

July 9, 1921 [SBMP]: “Fightin' Whale Damages Bob Ord's Launch. Bob Ord has an experience in the channel aboard his gasoline launch, Santa Rosa that convinced a local deep sea men a "black killer" is at large off this port. Mr. Ord was en route for San Miguel Island for a cargo of guano when a moving object of tremendous weight, struck the Santa Rosa's bottom, lifting her stern clear out of the water and carrying away her rudder. Mr. Ord, who was thrown to the deck, caught a glimpse of a black object moving rapidly away. This, local sailors say, was a "black killer," the only species of whale that will make an unprovoked attack upon a boat. Should it develop that this whale was accompanied by any considerable number of his kind, fishermen say, the albicore and tuna fishing will be poor for awhile, as the black whales either kill or consume vast quantities of the larger species of the mackerel family. The Santa Rosa, after the accident turned about and came back to port with a jury rudder.”

July 26, 1924 [SBMP]: “Peveril Meigs, Jr., his 16-year-old son Stewart, and Walter Bishop reached Lady’s Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, yesterday afternoon to search for the bodies of Dr. Harold Bishop of Alhambra, and Milton Stewart of Santa Barbara, with Mrs. Walter E. Wilkinson victims of a sailboat accident Tuesday morning off Arch Rock. Dr. Bishop was the brother of Walter Bishop, one of the searching party. The party is provisioned for a stay of ten days or longer. It was transported to the island by Captain Bob Ord of the Roncador. Upon leaving Lady’s Harbor Captain Ord headed toward San Miguel Island for cargo. He will return for the searchers in five days, it was stated. Mr. Meigs stated, before his departure, he had small hopes of recovering the bodies until they are washed ashore. Walter E. Wilkinson, husband of one of the victims, was yesterday reported to be steadily recovering from the effects of his battle with the waves. Mr. Wilkinson was the only member of the sailboat party to excape with his life.”

August 30, 1924 [SBMP]: “Captain Bob Ord dropped the mudhook from the good ship Roncador yesterday afternoon, came ahore from a trip to San Nicolas Island, and immediately started campaigning to colonize this lonely islet. ‘It will be first necessary,’ Captain Ord said, ‘for my followers to attain a state of chronic unconsciousness for me to solicit funds with any degree of success. To attain this state will be a difficult task and would be impossible to explain, but I have seen one or two people accomplish it. I must give one word or warning, however: never let the brain come in contact with the monetry nerve—it would be fatal. In my dacity residents will not have to work more than 10 minutes a day—at extreme low tide. During this period they can get enough clams to last them 24 hours, if they are lucky. Otherwise they can fast, which will help to attain the perfect state of chronic unconsciousness.’”

September 17, 1924 [SBMP]: “The fishing boat Roncador, chartered by Captain Danny Pico on September 5 to take a party to San Miguel Island, was reported seven days overdue yesterday by the owner, Bob Ord. Captain Ord said yesterday that unless the boat returns to port today, he will organize a searching party and leave for San Miguel Island tomorrow morning. When the Roncador left for San Miguel Island with Captain Pico in charge, a woman and two children were taken on as passengers to the islands, Captain Ord said yesterday. Two other men, Johnson and Garcia, were taken on as crew by Captain Pico. Captain Ord said yesterday that he was not greatly worried at the failure of the boat to return to port. The worst that might happen to a veteran skipper like Pico would be to run out of fuel, he said. Another theory advanced by Captain Ord for the failure of the boat to return is that the weather around San Miguel Island may be so that the party has sought refuge in one of the coves or possibly has run down to Santa Cruz.”

May 12, 1925 [SBMP]: “The skeleton of a giant prehistoric animal believed to be a mastodon has been unearthed at the top of Green Mountain on San Miguel Island, according to Captain Bob Ord who yesterday brought three pieces of petrified home to Santa Barbara which he asserts are only a small portion of the 12-foot tusks. The fossil was discovered partly imbedded in the earth at the high-head and tusks partly exposed, according to Captain Ord. Although the bones have not yet been examined by scientists, Norton Stuart of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History expressed the opinion that the remains of the prehistoric toothed whale might possibly be mistaken for a mastodon, but he did not minimize the importance of the discovery...”

May 12, 1925 [LAT]: “Santa Barbara, May 11. The petrified skeleton of what appears to be a huge mastadon, the tusks of which measure nearly fifteen feet, has been discovered on Green Mountain, the highest point of San Miguel Island, thirty miles from the shore of Santa Barbara County. Portions of the tusks were brought ashore today by Captain Bob Ord, veteran Santa Barbara navigator, who asserted that the head and tusks of the animal are above ground at an elevation of 600 feet and apparently the entire skeleton is intact. This is the first skeleton of its kind ever unearthed in this locality…”

May 13, 1925 [LAT]: “Santa Barbara, May 12. Only an examination of the teeth and jawbone of the petrified skeleton of a gigantic prehistoric monster found on San Miguel Island by Captain Bob Ord, will definitely determine whether it is a mastodon or a prehistoric toothed whale, according to Dr. D. B. Rogers, Smithsonian excavator, and Norton Stuart of the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. If it is a mastadon, it will disrupt the entire sequence of geology as worked out by scientists on the Pacific Coast, according to Stuart, while if it is the toothed whale, its discovery is of vital importance, he said. Both men made a minor examination of the tusks this morning, but were uncertain as to their origin. ‘If it is a whale,’ Rogers said, ‘it died about the time the bottom of the sea rose, as it has been exposed to the air during the process of petrification and is therefore imperfect and brittle. If it had petrified beneath the water, I believe it would have been as solid and hard as other specimens we have in the museum’… Captain Ord will return to the island within a few days to secure the teeth and jawbone for examination…”

June 5, 1926 [LAT]: “Reports Aimee Semple McPherson alive and well… From Santa Barbara yesterday came information that two men with field glasses had engaged Captain Robert Ord to take them to San Miguel Island last Monday. During the trip, they continually scanned the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel and made remarks indicating to Captain Ord they thought Mrs. McPherson’s body was afloat in the Santa Barbara Channel or that she had been taken alive to San Miguel Island. Captain Ord discounted the latter theory, as the island has only one known inhabitant.”

June 22, 1927 [SBMP]: “Captain Robert C. Ord, well known on the waterfront, yesterday was fined $100 on the charges of killing 12 sea lions. Ord appeared before Justice of the Peace, C. E. George, pleaded guilty and paid the fine, which was the minimum penalty for the offense. Similar charges against Gerald Upwood and Garcia Vincent, known better as Vincent Garcia, were dropped by Deputy District Attorney, A. D. Haines, following the payment of the fine by Ord. Walter W. Engelke, head of the State Fish and Game commission patrol in this district, brought the charges and was the complaining witness. Acording to the complaint, organs of the 12 sea lions were found in the possession of Ord and his companions. Ord is the owner of the Roncador, a small boat which plies between the Channel Islands and this port. The sea lions were killed on San Miguel Island, the complaint alleges, and only organs, which are used and purchased by Chinese, were taken by the three defendants. Mr. Engelke discovered the dead sea lions in the State Fish and Game patrol boat, Albatross.”

June 18, 1934 [LEtter Judge Atwell Westwick to Herbert Lester]: “Dear Herb, That incomparable mariner Rev. Robert Ord tells me that he sails for San Miguel Island tomorrow. I hasten to drop you a line — which Bob has promised to deliver. I don't know just what takes Robert to San Miguel and I did not ask him, as I'm not very inquisitive by nature. We ought to presume, anyway, that his purpose is legitimate. You might cross examine him, however,as he has dropped several hints about killer whales and other life over there. I only wish, whatever his object and designs, that I could go along, but that is utterly out of the question...”

May 8, 1950 [SBNP]: “Robert C. Ord, member of pioneer family, dies. Robert C. Ord, well-known member of an early California family, died at 88 yesterday in a local hospital. He had lived in Santa Barbara 81 years. Mr. Ord operated a boat, Roncador, between here and the Channel Islands for many years. His tall, strong figure was a familiar sight on the Santa Barbara waterfront until recent illness confined him to his bed. One of his chief activities was bringing guano from the islands to the mainland. One of his early associates said today, ‘Bob knew the islands like a book. He made many trips to San Miguel, which is a tricky business. San Miguel manufactures all the wind for the south coast.’ ... Mr. Ord, who lived at 816 Castillo Street, leaves his wife, Alvina; a brother, Emmet G. Ord of Long Beach, and two sisters...”