PEPPER, Frank

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PEPPER, Frank (c. 1869-?), California-born son of New York-born parents, Pepper was superintendent on Santa Rosa Island for Vail & Vickers for fifteen years, beginning just before the turn of the century. In 1906, Pepper gave permission to Ira Eaton, Frank Nidever, and Clarence Libbey to go wild boar hunting. Pepper said “shoot all the damned hogs you can hit—they are no good to the island. But please try not to frighten the cattle.” [Eaton 1980: 30]. Frank Pepper joined the eighteen fishermen camped at Forney’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island for three days over Christmas of 1906, contributing 35 geese for their Christmas dinner feast which had been shot on Santa Rosa Island. On November 27, 1913 Pepper married Dede Alida Libbey (1891-1914), daughter of Charles Libbey and Ella Maude Libbey neé Kimes. Frank Pepper was 44 at the time, and Dede was 22. Seven months later and pregnant, on June 6, 1914, Dede Pepper committed suicide on Santa Rosa Island “during a moment of temporary mental aberration.” Frank Pepper left the island for unknown parts in 1914, not long after his wife’s death. Charles Wesley “Smitty” Smith replaced Pepper as foreman.


Howard W. Wright: visited Santa Rosa Island in the summer of 1912 aboard Siwash:

“... So we went back to Valdez, took a triple reef in the main, blowing like hell outside and started out for Santa Rosa. So we got there, a very rough trip, very wet, blowing hard, 40-45 knots. Anchored in Beacher's cove [sic] which was very windy, and had a sheep camp, some houses there, run by the Vail family, Ed Vail's son. So we went ashore, against the wind, up to this damn sandy cliff, clambered the cliff, 1500 feet high, got to the top, and a great big [pig] jumped out of the brush and ran away. I had a gun and took a shot and missed the damn thing. We went back over to the ranch house, a ramshackled whitewashed job, blowing like hell, dismal. and people came and invited us in. There was a guy there named Pepper, who had on a real boiled full dress shirt, and a pair of overalls, that's all he had on. Well, he was quite a character. He was working for the Vails. They were running cattle there. Well, we sat around about an hour, and had a cup of coffee, and headed back to the boat. Next morning we felt for San Miguel.” [History of Siwash as Recalled by Howard Walter Wright, Sr., n.d., unpub. ms., SCIF Archives]



In the News~

October 9, 1901 [LAT/SB]: “Frank Pepper, foreman of Santa Rosa Island, came over this morning on the sloop Kingfisher.”


March 27, 1903 [SBI]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, who has been here for several days, will sail for the island tomorrow morning with a number of sheep shearers and vaqueros for the spring shearing. About 15,000 sheep will be handled this spring. Captain Ogenio Larco will take the men over in his launch.”


March 28, 1903 [SBI]: “Larco’s launch left this morning for Santa Rosa Island with Superintendent Pepper and a large number of sheep shearers on board.”


August 15, 1903 [SBI]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, came over yesterday with a cargo of beef cattle. The schooner left for the island this afternoon.”


September 8, 1906 [SBI]: “The gasoline launch Frank Pepper, Captain ‘Pelican’ Larco, which is considered the fastest launch of its size in the channel, is making regular trips to the islands.”


November 3, 1906 [LAT]: “News reached this port today, through the captain of the sloop Fawn, of San Pedro, a vessel that has been engaged in the crawfish industry on Santa Cruz Island, that, when passing Santa Rosa Island, which is about forty miles to sea from this port, he noticed that the 200-foot wharf of Santa Rosa Island Company had been destroyed. During the early part of the present week, a nor’easter was blowing in the channel near the islands, and it is believed the wharf was destroyed at that time. The gasoline launch of Frank Pepper, superintendent of the island, was not visible, and it is believed by the captain of the Fawn that she probably broke from her moorings and was sunk by the blow. As the sea was running high at the time the Fawn was near Santa Rosa, it was not deemed advisable to try to effect a landing and make inquiries. Santa Rosa Island is owned by Vail & Vickers of Los Angeles, and is stocked with horses and sheep. It is believed that a dozen workmen are employed on the island. No word has been received in this city from the island since last week. A rescue party will leave this city this afternoon, to render any assistance that may be needed. It is not yet known whether any lives were lost.”


November 3, 1906 [SBMP]: “Sloop Nestella reports damage to Santa Rosa wharf and wreck of launch. The sloop Nestella, Captain John C. Robarts, a San Pedro vessel that has been engaged in the crawfish industry at Santa Cruz Island, brings the report to this city that the wharf at Santa Rosa Island was demolished by heavy seas some time during the present week. Only meager details are obtainable, and no verification of the story could be obtained. It is stated by the captain of the Nestella that during a rough passage of that craft in the channel between the two islands his attention was attracted to the dismantled condition of the 200-foot wharf at Santa Rosa Island. It is believed that the gasoline launch owned by Frank Pepper, superintendent of the island, broke from her moorings and was engulfed in the high seas. No trace of her was seen by the men of the Nestella…”


November 6, 1906 [SBMP]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, crossed the channel in his gasoline launch yesterday. Pepper says that the damage to the wharf at Santa Rosa Island in the recent storm was not as serious as was at first reported, and that the structure can be repaired in a short time. Pepper’s launch, which went ashore in the storm, was recovered and put into commission again without much trouble.”


November 6, 1906 [SFCall]: “Extermination of elk fought with preserve. Animals will be propagated on private land. Santa Barbara, November 5. — Vail & Vickers of Los Angeles, owners of Santa Rosa Island, have started the propagation of elk on the island, and Frank Pepper, superintendent, says that it is the beginning of what will be a domain of game animals. Two years ago Pepper obtained two elk in the Sierra and took them to the island. There are nine fine specimens of this tribe grazing there. Other game animals are to be taken to the island in the near future. Pepper will bar hunters, the property being private. It is proposed to make the island a guard against the extermination of elk.”


November 7, 1906 [LAT/SB]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, arrived here yesterday and confirms the destruction of the wharf at the island during a heavy blow last week. The gasoline launch owned by Pepper went ashore during heavy seas, but was put in condition in a few days, and he came to this port in it. Mr. Pepper states that the superstructure of the wharf was badly damaged, but the piling is in good shape and repairs can be made without much cost. No fatalities on the island resulted from the storm.”


April 6, 1907 [SBMP]: “The gasoline launch of Frank Pepper came to anchor in the channel yesterday. He is the property of manager of Santa Rosa Island.”


May 24, 1907 [SBMP]: “Manager Frank Pepper of Santa Rosa Island was in town yesterday arranging for the spring shipments of cattle from the island ranges...”


October 26, 1907 [SBMP]: “Captain Henry Short went in the Charm yesterday to Santa Rosa Island to bring Frank Pepper, the superintendent, to the mainland.”


October 29, 1907 [SBMP]: “The Charm, Captain H. S. Short at the helm, arrived from Santa Rosa Island Sunday. Frank Pepper, the superintendent of the island, was also on board. He is staying in town for a few days.”


October 30, 1907 [SBI]: “Santa Rosa Island enjoys prosperity. Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, is in the city on business connected with the affairs of the big cattle ranch. Mr. Pepper reports that the rainfall on the island was about the same as here, near six inches. Everything is looking well and the indications are for a good year. Cattle on the island are looking exceptionally well…”


April 22, 1909 [SBI]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Vail & Vickers cattle range on Santa Rosa Island, arrived from the island yesterday. Mr. Pepper expects the arrival of the gasoline launch Santa Rosa late this afternoon with 100 head of beef cattle for the State Street market. A cargo of 300 sheep will arrive early next week for the same market. Mr. Pepper expects to ship 2500 head about May 10 to the Los Angeles markets. The cattle are reported in the finest of condition.”


September 2, 1909 [SBI]: “Vail & Vickers, owners of Santa Rosa Island… have just made a big shipment of beef cattle to the Los Angeles market, and among the many head shipped were two steers which weighed 2246 and 2230 pounds each, and netted to the owners of the island more than $100 each. These steers were six years old and were raised on the island. They were the heaviest beef that has gone into the Los Angeles market for many years, and aroused much interest among the southern butchers. They were shipped over the San Pedro wharf. For some years the principal shipment and trading point for the island has been San Pedro, but Frank Pepper, superintendent of the island, left this afternoon for Los Angeles and will return with a new 30-foot gasoline launch, which will be used to carry him back and forth from his island home to this city, and in all probability the marketing point will be in Santa Barbara hereafter. Some years ago the owners sold all the sheep on the island and since then have used the great range solely for cattle. Young stock from the Arizona and New Mexican ranges are taken to the island where they are fed for two years and marketed direct from there. The island has the reputation of growing the greatest beef in the state. Over 5000 head are now being fed on the island, while double that amount may be carried.”


October 12, 1909 [SBI]: “Manager Frank Pepper of the Santa Rosa Island Company will return from Arizona in a few days with several trainloads of cattle for stocking the Santa Rosa Island ranch. They will be transported from Santa Barbara to the island in the company’s power schooner, the Santa Rosa.”


December 16, 1909 [SBI]: “Captain Henry Short expects to sail on Saturday or the first of next week for San Miguel Island with mail and provisions for the people who are working on the ranch there. Captain W. G. Waters and his brother will arrive from Los Angeles possibly tomorrow, and will be taken to San Miguel, which is the property of Captain Waters. From San Miguel, Captain Short will proceed to Santa Rosa. Here the mail and provisions for this island will be left. Frank Pepper, manager of the island ranch, is to return in the Charm to spend Christmas holidays in Santa Barbara. This is the regular monthly trip, which Captain Short makes to these two islands...”


January 10, 1910 [SBI]: “Frank Pepper arrived Saturday evening from Santa Rosa Island, of which he is foreman, in the island’s new boat. The boat was recently taken directly from San Pedro where it was built for the island. It is 40 feet in length, and has an engine rated at 6 h.p., and can develop a speed of from 10 to 12 knots an hour. Mr. Pepper left yesterday for his home on the island.”


January 29, 1910 [SBMP]: “Superintendent Frank Pepper of Santa Rosa Island was in port this week with his new launch, the Tortuga, a 40-foot boat with rather narrow beam, and having a forty-horsepower gasoline engine. The engine room is separate from the cabin, the living arrangements being very cozy. The Tortuga is yawl-rigged and with its power is considered about the speediest of the island boats. It was built especially for dispatch work between the island and Santa Barbara.”


August 5, 1910 [SBMP]: “The power yacht Charm returned from a ten days’ pleasure cruise around the Santa Barbara islands, having on board a party of Carpinterians who report a most delightful voyage. They visited and encircled four islands of the group: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa. At San Miguel they were entertained at the ranch house of Captain W. G. Waters, and saw all of the many natural attractions that make this most western isle of the Santa Barbara aggregation interesting. They also saw the points of interest on Santa Rosa Island, and were hospitably received at the home of the manager of the big cattle ranch, Frank Pepper...”


September 4, 1910 [SBMP]: “The Santa Rosa Island power schooner was in port yesterday loading piles for repairs to the wharf at the island’s port, Beechers Cove. Frank Pepper, manager of the island, was a passenger on the boat.”


October 10, 1910 [SBMP]: “Superintendent Frank Pepper of Santa Rosa Island, yesterday brought over a party of island cowpunchers to see Buffalo Bill and his riders and Indians. The island party made the crossing in Pepper’s trim yawl-rigged gasoline boat, Tortuga.”


December 28, 1910 [SBMP]: “The power schooner Santa Cruz, Captain George Nidever, arrived yesterday from San Pedro where she has been for some weeks undergoing repairs. The Santa Rosa Island mail boat, Frank Pepper’s Tortuga, was also in port yesterday.


January 20, 1911 [SBMP]: “According to reports brought yesterday from the Channel Islands, they failed to receive any benefits from the recent rains that saved the season for the mainland farmers and cattlemen. The rainfall on Santa Rosa Island was less than half an inch; while about a quarter of an inch was reported on Santa Cruz, with scarcely none on the west end. These reports were brought over by Captains Nidever and Libby of island boats… Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, arrived here from Los Angeles last evening. He leaves today for the island to investigate the reports of short feed and no rain. He has been away for several days.”


September 2, 1911 [SBMP]: “Captain Borgenson with his wife and part of the crew [of the wrecked Comet] made their way in a small boat to Santa Rosa Island and were brought to this city yesterday morning by manager Frank Pepper of the Santa Rosa Island Company and his powerful schooner Santa Rosa Island...”


October 6, 1911 [SBMP]: “The Santa Rosa Island boat arrived yesterday afternoon, with Mr. Vickers, one of the owners, and Frank Pepper, the manager. Mr. Vickers returned to his home in Los Angeles.”


October 14, 1911 [SBMP]: “Manager Frank Pepper of Santa Rosa Island, left yesterday on his launch Tortuga for his home across the channel. Here has been here for some days arranging for the receipt of about 3000 head of Arizona cattle, which will be shipped to this city the latter part of the month to be transported to the island range. Mr. Pepper himself will go to his company’s ranches in Arizona to select the stock which will be fattened on the island.”


November 5, 1911 [SBMP]: “A herd of elk, now numbering nine, is the nucleus of a game preserve that has been started on Santa Rosa Island under the management of Frank Pepper, superintendent of the big ranch property across the channel. About two years ago, Mr. Pepper secured from the Sierras, three specimens of elk, and transported them to the island, where they soon became acclimated. They have since thrived, the number increasing each season. It is an ideal range for them, and the day may come when the island may well be stocked with this species of game, now becoming extinct in other portions of the continent. Absolute protection is guaranteed on the island.”


November 8, 1911 [LAT]: “An announcement by Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, that Vail & Vickers, owners of that vast tract of land will endeavor to establish a game preserve for the perpetuation of the wild animals that have done much toward spreading the fame of California comes as most welcomed news to the citizens of the State who are interested in the preservation of the game to be found in the West…”


December 10, 1911 [SBMP]: “Captain Frank Pepper, manager of Santa Rosa Island, arrived yesterday from his big ranch, with reports that the rainfall for the recent storm amounted to but one-half an inch.”


December 11, 1911 [SBI]: “


December 23, 1911 [SBMP]: “Frank Pepper, manager of Santa Rosa Island, was in port yesterday in his private yacht, Tortuga, bringing reports of short rainfall, but still hopeful as to the season. 'We did not get as much rain at the island as you did on the mainland,' said Pepper, 'not over half an inch, but there is no particular rush about it. There is feed enough to carry what stock we have until March. If this proves to be a dry winter, we will be forced to move a considerable number of cattle in the early spring.'


January 11, 1912 [SBMP]: “Overstock of island sheep cause worry. Good rains would restore confidence in ability to handle herds... Santa Rosa Island is largely stocked with cattle, and while conditions are bad, they are not in the same danger as the sheep. Manager Frank Pepper said some weeks ago that the dry feed supply could last until March 1st without rain...”


April 4, 1912 [SBMP]: “Eagles are exterminating boars and foxes on islands. The wild boars and foxes of Santa Rosa Island dare now being rapidly exterminated in a novel manner, according to a story brought across the channel by Superintendent Frank Pepper of the island domain of Vail & Vickers. The American eagle is doing the work, and in the accomplishment of its purposes exercises a strategy and judgment that would make a Mexican General blush in the shame of his comparative incompetence. The eagles that have their habitat in the rocky eminences of the island grow to immense size, the smallest mature bird measuring about four feet from tip to tip, and the largest being seven feet or more in sweep with wings extended. Their lifting power is marvelous, for they can carry thirty or forty pounds dead weight for miles with apparent ease. Pepper has had an opportunity to watch the attack of these eagles upon the young boars that infest the island, and he describes the method thus: The bird swoops down upon its prey, and rises to a height of fifty feet or more with the struggling animal clutched firmly in its talons. If the pig shows too much fight he is dropped mercilessly to the ground, the fall crushing him at once. Then the eagle again descends, and seizing the lifeless form, sweeps off to the distant aerie without stopping for rest or parley. Foxes are also the prey of the eagles, and Pepper considers it fortunate for the company that the island rangers are devoted wholly to cattle. What the big birds might do to sheep would be something disastrous to the inventory of the ranch, were it not for the single fact that Santa Rosa carries nothing smaller than a yearling steer, excepting the wild creatures of the hills. Pepper says the outlook for the year on the island is very good, feed coming on nicely and the ground being saturated with water, although the rainfall was not so heavy as on the mainland.” [also WP; NYT]


November 13, 1912 [SBMP]: “Superintendent Frank Pepper of Santa Rosa Island arrived here yesterday on his power schooner.”


November 13, 1912 [SBI]: “Frank Pepper arrived here Tuesday from Santa Rosa Island in his power launch. Mr. Pepper is manager of the island and the sheep and cattle range there.”


December 4, 1912 [SBMP]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, has returned from Los Angeles, bringing several golden pheasants with which to stock the island, Mr. Pepper has been instrumental in introducing a number of species of wild game and wild birds to Santa Rosa Island, and there is no hunting possible, every chance is favorable to their propagation.”


December 31, 1912 [SBMP]: “…Walter Vail Jr., a son of the late partner in the firm [Vail & Vickers], arrived in Santa Barbara yesterday to visit Frank Pepper, the manager of Santa Rosa Island, now ill at Cottage Hospital.”


February 1, 1913 [SBMP]: “The heirs of the late Walter L. Vail, of the firm Vail & Vickers, owners of Santa Rosa Island, have sold their interests to the Empire Land and Cattle Company, the deed going on record yesterday. There are over 66,000 acres in the island, which supports several thousand cattle. Frank Pepper, superintendent of the island, who is just convalescing at the Cottage Hospital, having been ill for several weeks, states that there will be no change in management of the property as a result of the recent death of Mr. Vickers. Mr. Pepper expects to return to the island Sunday.”


February 1, 1913 [SBDN]: “Santa Rosa Island which includes over 60,000 acres has been sold by the heirs of Walter L. Vail, to the Empire Land and Cattle company. The cattle in the island are included in the deal. No immediate changes will be made on the island as a result of the transfer. Frank Pepper who has been for many years manager under the old owners, will return to his old duties under the new form Sunday.”


July 18, 1913 [SBMP]: “A record catch has been made by Captain Ira Eaton, seal hunter for Captain George M. McGuire. Captain Eaton Started from Pelican Bay Tuesday afternoon with preparations to be gone several days in quest of an assortment of seals. In less than four hours the astonished campers on the island saw him return with a capture of nine fine specimens. This catch is undoubtedly the best ever made on these islands in the short space of time. Captain Eaton returned to this city last night with his catch and they will be shipped to Europe to be trained for circuses.”


July 24, 1913 [SBMP]: “The fall movement of the cattle from Santa Rosa Island will begin shortly. Manager Frank Pepper has gone to Bakersfield to secure a number of vaqueros.”


October 21, 1913 [SBMP]: “Frank Pepper, superintendent of Santa Rosa Island, arrived here yesterday in his launch Tortuga.”


November 26, 1913 [SBMP]: “Captain Henry S. Short, returning yesterday from San Miguel and Santa Rosa islands, reported a heavy rainfall on the south side of the channel... Captain Short had as a passenger from Santa Rosa Island, Frank Pepper, the superintendent of the island. Mr. Pepper is reported to be here on a very pleasant mission.”


November 30, 1913 [LAT]: “A double wedding Thursday morning at the home of Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Seegert was one of the delightful incidents of Thanksgiving Day. The bridal parties were Robert Bruce Mitchell, who married Miss Jessie Colwell, and Frank Pepper, whose bride was Miss Dede Libbey. Both ceremonies were performed by Rev. George C., Wright. The couples started the same day on a honeymoon by automobile, intending to visit Los Angeles and other southern cities. Mr. and Mrs. Pepper will make their home on Santa Cruz Island, where Mr. Pepper is the superintendent .”


December 15, 1913 [SBDN]: “The private launch of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pepper was today towed to Santa Rosa Island by the schooner Santa Rosa Island, Mr. and Mrs. Pepper being aboard. Mr. Pepper is superintendent of the island. He and Mrs. Pepper go over to reside during the winter.”


December 16, 1913 [SBMP]: “Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pepper will leave today on the island schooner for Santa Rosa Island, where they will reside, Mr. Pepper being the superintendent of the island. The schooner will tow Mr. Pepper’s private launch, the Tortuga, across the channel.”


January 14, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Captain Ira Eaton at the helm of the Gussie M, put in here last night to explain to his friends that the tumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. ‘I did not intend to return until today, but I learned of the anxiety concerning me since the storm, so I pulled out for home. You would not dream there had been a storm over at the island. The water there has been as calm as a millpond. Captain Pepper’s boat has been anchored for a week right out in the open sea, and has not been disturbed by the storm conditions’…”


February 11, 1914 [SBMP]: “Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pepper left yesterday morning on his little launch Tortuga for Santa Rosa Island of which he is superintendent. They have been in Santa Barbara several days.”


June 6, 1914, Frank Pepper’s wife, Dede, committed suicide on Santa Rosa Island. » Pepper, Dede


October 6, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Coming for mail and supplies, Captain Frank Pepper’s private launch, Tortuga, arrived here yesterday from Santa Rosa Island.”