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Pirates are known to have worked around the California Channel Islands. Among the most heinous are Oscar Bartels, who stole the schooner Star of Freedom in 1895 and sailed her to Mexico; and thieves Frank Reina (aka Rios) and William Gerald (aka Gerrull) whose theft of provisions from a Chinese abalone camp on San Nicolas Island in 1900 resulted in the death by starvation of one of the three Chinese camped there.

In the News~

June 13, 1913 [LAT]: “With the expectation of engaging in a pitched battle before accomplishing their purpose, Sheriff Nat Stewart and a picked posse will leave Santa Barbara late tonight for Santa Cruz Island, twenty-five miles off the coast, to try to capture three fugitives from justice… three men answering the description of a trio charged with having stolen the fishing launch Antioch from Benicia, California April 25 last, were encamped there…”

June 13, 1913 [LAT]: “Hunt pirates on Santa Cruz. Sheriff and posse start on nautical expedition… Armed to the teeth, Sheriff Nat Stewart and a posse of deputies left Santa Barbara at a late hour tonight on a chartered boat for Santa Cruz Island where they expect a deadly comb at with a trio of pirates. The report of the pirates cruising on the channel was received this afternoon by local fishermen, who declared they had conversed with them… Captain Colice Vasquez at the helm…”

June 14, 1913 [SBMP]:Antioch slips through fog, escapes… the Otter circumnavigated Santa Cruz Island but found no signs of the launch…”

December 28, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Following the theft of two five-gallon demi-johns of wine and a box of cartridges from the fishing boat Eagle, of the Larco Fish Company, late Saturday night, and several other recent attempts at theft, also the killing by unknown parties of several sheep for food on Santa Cruz Island, rumors are in circulation here today that a mysterious band of pirates, using a powerboat, have established headquarters at Friars’ Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, and are using the island as a rendezvous from which to carry on their nefarious trade. The rumors come from various reliable sources, and people in touch with the movement of vessels in and out from ports in this vicinity. The pirates are said to be youths, and to have started their practical career in the last week, using a powerboat either rented or stolen from ship owners in San Pedro or Long Beach. The theft of the wine and cartridges from the fishing boat Eagle Saturday night has served to concentrate attention on the depredations of the alleged pirates, and the fact that a government official has been investigating the rumors for the last several days lends strength to the belief that important developments will soon be made. Friars’ Harbor is an inaccessible spot except by boat. It is several miles from the Santa Cruz Island Company’s wharf and offices, so that the sheep which roam the island could be killed for food without the company finding it out for some time.”

December 29, 1914 [SBDNI]: “A close watch is being maintained along the water front for mysterious craft which might have some connection with the many thefts from boats in the bay, which have occasioned local boat owners considerable loss. Immigration Inspector A. G. Bernard is also on the lookout, scenting possible smugglers, for it is believed that the bay thefts were the work of the same individuals reported to be living on Santa Cruz Island, slaughtering the island sheep and holding high carnival generally. In days gone by, Smugglers Cove on the island was noted for the thrifty work of the pirates who made it their lair. Other coves as hard to enter, and concealed from the sea, abound, and each will be carefully searched if the rumors set afloat by the fishermen are given credence by the government officials. Inspector Bernard has been right on the job since the reports were given publicity, and proposes to investigate. He has been watching for Chinese contraband, but so far no track of such business has been traced to this section. Some of the fishermen believe that the sheep shooting on the island is the work of what they call ‘rough-necks’ from Los Angeles and San Pedro, who make trips to the island to indulge the inclination for protracteds sprees, though still others believe there are genuine pirates infesting the island coves.”

December 31, 1914 [LAT]: “Are pirates making their hide-out on Santa Cruz Island? This question is being asked by local fishermen. The Italian fishermen employed by the Larco Fish Company are certain the isolated harbors of the island are frequented by robbers of the sea. Captain George Gourley is also positive and says reports he receives indicate that the robbers live on the fat of the land, shooting the sheep kept on the island…”

September, 1921 [Ventura/50 Years Ago]: “Austrian pirates are still killing on Santa Cruz Island. Harry Vandelinder and Dr. Roberts, who were hunting wild hogs on the island last week, report they watched a party of Austrian seamen land, and a short time later smuggle two sheep carcasses aboard their boat as they departed.”