PARSONS, Nathaniel and Theophilus

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PARSONS, Nathaniel (1821-1889) and Theophilus 'Thof' Parsons (b. April 8, 1821), were Massachussetts-born twin brothers who were early Santa Catalina Island squatters. They arrived aboard the Ruby on her maiden voyage in 1889, with their sister, Esther Parsons Wheeler, her son [their nephew], Alonzo Wheeler, and his wife, Sophia. The Parson brothers lived in a small stone house at the westernmost beach on the west end of the island, where they raised vegetables and grazed cattle and sheep. The beach is known Parsons’ Landing. According to Judge Windle, when Nathaniel Parsons was about 80 years of age, he left the island and went to the mainland to reside with his sister near Los Angeles, first disposing of his cattle.

Nathaniel Parsons died on August 22, 1889. He had requested that he be buried at Avalon. No cemetery existed at the time of his death, so Sophia Wheeler, Ed Whitney and Harry Polley treked up Avalon Canyon and found a spot they deemed suitable. Today this is the site of the Avalon Cemetery.


  • Mrs. Esther Parsons Wheeler (1808- ) = John Woodbury Wheeler
Alonzo Wheeler (1835-c. 1900) = Sophia Atwood Pool (1838-1925)
1. Geneva Russell Wheeler (1874-1963)
2. Annie Lawrence Wheeler (1875-1955)
  • Nathaniel Parsons (c. 1811- )
  • Theophilus 'Thof' Parsons (c. 1811- )



In the News~

June 13, 1863 [J. G. Cooper]: “June 12th I crossed over to Catalina Island [from Santa Barbara Island] in the same vessel [sloop Hamilton], and the next day landed near the northwest end. I there found Mr. N. Parsons with a small schooner of seven tons, which I engaged to take me around this and other islands. As he could not start with me for a week, I remained at Mr. Howland’s house, and made such collections and explorations as I could in the north end…” [Report of Explorations of the Islands off the Southern Coast of California, 1863, unpub. manuscript].


November 7, 1892 [LAH]: “Catalina Township. Catalina Election Precinct ~ At Pavillon. Inspectors William Condit, Alonzo Wheeler. Judges — William M. Hunt, E. J. Whitney. Clerks — S. Eddy, George Morris. Ballot Clerks — Harry Elms, Theophilus Parsons.”


September 20, 1896 [LAH]: “Uncle Theophilus Parsons, the old pioneer, who has existed on this island for about thirty-five years, has moved into the new home which has been constructed by his kind-hearted friends.”


July 1900: “…my old friend Captain Parsons who is spending his last days on his beloved island of Santa Catalina. The Captain visited San Nicolas some forty years ago, when a man and his wife lived in this house [stone house at Corral Harbor], the man making his living by shooting otters at night; for at night, the otters would come up on the rocks and munch the abalones. Being interested in their work they were easily shot…” [Trask, Blanche Dying San Nicolas Land of Sunshine 13(2):95-100, 1900]


March 12, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Parsons’ Beach—A romantic spot, the last beach before reaching the westerly end of the island. This was the home of ‘Old Uncle,’ a queer character who lived there alone for a number of years, and his house, a little 7 x 9 structure, built of beach stones, still stands as a monument to him.”


July 1, 1937 [TI/Avalon]: “… On Dead Man’s Island at this time lived an uncle of Mr. Wheeler’s. Theophilus Parsons, a fisherman who had been on the coast since 1850. At one time he lived in a little stone cabin at Bushey’s (a little beach west of Johnson’s on Catalina.) He lived with us at Avalon several years, about 1890.”


August 19, 1931 [TI/Avalon]: “Nathaniel Parsons, after whom Parsons Beach was named, was the uncle of Mrs. Wheeler who owned the Island Home, an apartment house located where is now the Dr. Mary Dennis block, at the corner of Sumner and Crescent avenues. Parsons was popularly known as “Uncle.” He built himself a small stone house on Parsons Beach. When about 80 years of age, he left the island and went to the mainland to reside with his sister near Los Angeles, first disposing of his cattle.”


August 31, 2012 [TI/Avalon]: “… On this maiden voyage, [Ruby, March 16, 1889] brought over Captain Alonzo Wheeler, his wife, Sophia A. Pool Wheeler, his mother, Mrs. Esther Parsons Wheeler, and his maternal twin uncles, Captain Nathaniel and Captain Theophilus Parsons… Theophilus “Thof” set up residence at his favorite cove on the west end of the island, which took on his name, Parson’s Landing…”



Parsons Landing, Santa Catalina Island is located on the north side approximately seven miles west of the village of Two Harbors. There is a secluded beach camping site operated here. From Emerald Bay it is a two-and-a-half-mile hike. A campground with eight primitive campsites for up to 6 people per site, accessible by kayak or hiking, is located at Parsons Landing. There are chemical toilets, fire rings, barbecue pits and picnic tables. There is no shade; there is no running water. Fees are charged by the Santa Catalina Island Company. The Landing is named for Captain Parsons who had a camp there. It is the last beach before reaching the westerly end of the island.


October 4, 1896 [LAT/SCat]: “The members of the Catalina Walking Club have returned from Johnson’s Landing, where they were conveyed on the yacht, Esperanza, commanded by Captain Erney Morris. Among the points of interest visited were Crystal Peak, Uncle Parson’s Beach, Gold Canyon, the Haunter House, at Bonshey’s mine, the white fig orchard at Elysian Park, Cherry Valley and the Isthmus…”


April 24, 1961 [LAT]: “$65 million sought for county projects… Among the more unusual requests is one for funds to study points where ‘harbors of refuge’ could be established for small craft. The sums sought are not for purchase or construction, but merely for feasibility studies… At Santa Catalina Island they would be: Isthmus Cove, $30,000; Johnson’s Landing, $10,000; Parson’s Landing, $4000; West Coast Harbor, $30,000, and White’s Cove, $20,000…”


April 9, 1979 [LAT]: “Four large black flotation bags containing an estimated $400,000 worth of ‘Thai sticks,’ wound flower stems of marijuana plants, were found Sunday off Parsons Landing near Santa Catalina Island, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said. The first bag of the sticks was discovered about 7:30 AM by 22-year-old Gary Adams of Long Beach, who was sailing with friends. Several hours later, Art Davis, 60, of Long Beach, spotted two other bags while fishing in the area. The fourth bag was picked up by a county Fire Department Bay Watch crew”