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  • 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; property of the United States Government
  • 1850-1870 Captain George Nidever and sons occupy the island


  • 1911-1916 lease to William G. Waters
  • 1916-1920 lease to William G. Waters, Robert L. Brooks and J. R. More
  • 1920-1925 lease to Robert L. Brooks and J. R. More
  • 1925-1948 lease to Robert L. Brooks

  • November 7, 1934 San Miguel Island and Prince Island were transferred to the control and jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Navy by Executive Order No. 6896, reservation being made for the use of the Department of Commerce of sites to be selected on which to erect and maintain such aids to navigation and incidental facilities as the Secretary of Commerce might consider desirable.


San Miguel Island Deeds~

May 8, 1869 [SBCounty Deed Book H: 137-138]: “George Nidever, Mark R. Nidever and George E. Nidever... to Hiram W. Mills... in consideration of the sum of five thousand dollars in gold coin... assigns one undivided half of all interest... parcel of land... known as San Miguel Island...”

April 26, 1870 [SBCounty Deed Book H: 635-636]: “George Nidever, Mark R. Nidever and George E. Nidever... to Hiram W. Mills... in consideration of the sum of ten thousand dollars... assigns forever all right, title and interest... together with all the stock therein... as well as the improvements therein... Island known as San Miguel...” [This same day, Warren H. Mills sold to George Nidever 58.05 acres of land in Santa Barbara for $2000.]

April 26, 1870 [SBCounty Deed Book I: 41-43]: “Hiram W. Mills... to P. F. Mohrhardt, J. M. Leuzarder and W. H. Mills... the sum of $1000... has sold... all the undivided three fourths interest in that certain island known as San Miguel...” [This same day, Warren H. Mills sold to George Nidever 58.05 acres of land in Santa Barbara for $2000.]

November 16, 1871 [SBCounty Deed Book J: 31]: “Hiram W. Mills... conveys all his interest... being the one undivided one fourth interest in the island known as San Miguel... to J. M. Leuzarder, P. F. Mohrhardt and W. H. Mills...”

April 10, 1872 [SBCounty Deed Book J: 416]: “Elmer Terry to W. H. Mills... sum of $500... all that undivided one sixth part of and to a certain island known as San Miguel...”

June 1, 1872 [SBP]: “Real Estate Transactions. J. M. Leuzarder to E. H. Kettridge, $10,000, one-third San Miguel Island.”

September 6, 1872 [SBCounty Deed Book J: 630-631]: “Elmer Terry, J. M. Leuzarder and W. H. Mills... instrument to transfer to the Pacific Wool Growing Company... a certain island known as the Island of San Miguel... in consideration of certificates of stock in said incorporated company...”

September 17, 1872 [SBCounty Deed Book J: 642-643]: “John W. Herrington to Pacific Wool Growing Company... in consideration of the sum of $100 lawful money... one undivided one sixth of the island known as San Miguel...”

September 21, 1872 [SBIndex]: “Real Estate Transactions. Elmer Terry and W. H. Mills to Pacific Wool Growing Company, Certificates of stocks to be issued—San Miguel Island.”

November 1, 1887 [SBCounty Deed Book 22: 260-261]: “David Fitzgibbons to Warren H. Mills... in consideration of the sum of $10 and other valuable considerations... the whole of San Miguel Island...”

February 20, 1888 [Minnie Waters diary]: “The wind blew so that Mr. Nichols did not dare to go out on such a small boat as the Ocean King, so they remained [on San Miguel Island] another day... Mr. Nichols has about concluded the bargain and will be Will’s partner instead of Mr. Mills. He wanted to sell out as he has more land that he can attend to and was tired of the island.”

In the News~

February 5, 1897 [LAT]: “Articles of incorporation were filed yesterday for the San Miguel Island Company. The San Miguel Island Company is formed for the purpose of engaging in farming and raising livestock on San Miguel Island, an island in the Pacific Ocean about twenty-five miles from the coast, south of Santa Barbara county. The company is also organized to carry on business on the island, sell real estate thereon, construct one or more vessels for the transportation of persons and property to and from the island, and operate the same. The directors of the company are William G. Waters of San Miguel Island and Ferdinand K. Rule, William E. Roberts, Frederick A. Hines and Henry Y. Stanley of this city. The capital stock of the company is stated at $50,000 divided into 5000 shares at $10 each. The amount of capital stock actually subscribed is $500.”

February 5, 1897 [SFCall]: “The San Miguel Island Company has filed articles of incorporation. The directors are: William G. Waters of San Miguel Island; F. K. Rule, William E. Roberts, F. A. Hines and Henry Y. Stanley of Los Angeles; capital stock $50,000.”

February 6, 1897 [LAT.SB]: “The news of the incorporation of the San Miguel Island Company, as given in today’s Times, caused considerable comment and speculation as to the plans of the new company.”

March 8, 1897 [SBDN]: “On the 20th of November last, William G. Waters transferred to Jeremiah F. Conroy, an attorney in Los Angeles, an undivided third interest in San Miguel Island, its improvements and stock thereon, for the sum of $2500. A few days since, William G. Waters and J. F. Conroy sold their interests in San Miguel Island Company for the sum of $49,500. Both of these instruments were executed at Los Angeles and filed in the Recorders office of this county early this morning.”

March 9, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “San Miguel Island is to be turned into a hog ranch. The 14,000 acres contained in the island has heretofore been devoted to sheep, but it will be divided between them now. Such is the intention of the new company, of which W. G. Waters is manager. Mr. Waters is now in Santa Barbara on his way to the island, and he will seed a large part of the ranch to grain, upon which the hogs will be pastured. Fred K. Rule of the Terminal Railway is president of the island company; the vice president is Mr. Roberts of the Cudahy Company. Deeds transferring the interests of W. G. Waters and J. F. Conroy to the San Miguel Island Company were filed today.”

March 15, 1897 [SBDN]: “San Miguel, the western most island of the Santa Barbara group, is to be turned into a gigantic hog ranch by the new company, of which K. F. Rule, treasurer of the Terminal Railroad, is president. Mr. Roberts of Cudahy Packing Company vice president, and H. G. Stanley, secretary. The island comprises some 14,000 acres, quite a portion of which will raise good barley and alfalfa crops. Properly handled, the scheme will be a success.”

April 10, 1898 [LAT]: “After a meeting of the San Miguel Island Company yesterday the following officers were elected: President Captain William G. Waters; vice-president F. A. Hines; secretary Henry Y. Stanley; treasurer G. S. Edwards; superintendent and manager Captain Waters.”

March 17, 1899 [LAT]: “Captain Waters’ Suit. Attorney Conroy gets judgment for a small amount. A decision was handed down yesterday by Judge Trask in the suit of Jeremiah F. Conroy against William G. Waters, wherein judgment was ordered in favor of the plaintiff. Attorney Conroy sought judgment on three causes of action. First, upon a note executed to him by Captain Waters, dated March 2, 1897, in the sum of $750, with interest. Second, for professional services in which the fees aggregated $500, and third, for the alleged conversion by the defendant of sheep and wool on San Miguel Island, alleged to have been the property of the plaintiff and valued at $5000. The total amount for which judgment was asked was $6606…”

May 20, 1900 [SBMP]: “The regular annual meeting of the stockholders of the San Miguel Island Company will be held at the office of the Company, room 8 in the First National Bank building, Santa Barbara, California on Tuesday the fifth of June, 1900, at 2:00 P.M. for the transaction of such other business as may properly come before the meeting. T. S. Howley, Secretary, San Miguel Island Company.”

June 7, 1900 [SBMP]: “The San Miguel Island Company yesterday elected the following directors: J. F. Conroy, W. A. Hawley, T. S. Hawley, J. M. McAvoy, W. G. Waters. Captain Waters is continued as President and manager, J. M. McAvoy is the Vice-President, T. S. Hawley secretary, and George Edwards treasurer.”

June 11, 1901 [SBDI]: “The gasoline schooner Francine of San Pedro was wrecked on Gull Island, two miles off the south side of Santa Cruz Island late Saturday afternoon. Captain Tacrone and son and his engineer arrived this afternoon from Santa Cruz Island giving an account of the wreck. When between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands they encountered a heavy sea and high wind and sprung a leak. They attempted to run into shoal waters near Gull Island, but the vessel filled so rapidly that they took to the boats and with the greatest of difficulty landed on Gull Island, which is only a rock about an acre in area. After much difficulty they rowed over to Santa Cruz and thence were brought over here. The loss is about $3,000 with no insurance. The Francine has been carrying sheep for the San Miguel Island Company.”

June 13, 1902 [LAT]: “At a meeting of the San Miguel Island Company last night the following directors were elected: Captain W. G. Waters, J. M. McAvoy, S. E. Crow, George A. Black and H. L. Irwin. Waters was chosen as president, McAvoy vice-president, George S. Edwards, treasurer, and H. L. Irwin, secretary.”

July 29, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “J. F. Conroy has brought suit against the San Miguel Island Company for the appointment of a receiver and an accounting. He alleges that he had been unlawfully voted from the affairs of the company. Each director is made a defendant.”

February 7, 1903 [SBMP]: “Jeremiah F. Conroy, formerly of this city, lost his alleged sensational case against the San Miguel Island Company and its directors yesterday before Judge Ewing. Some months ago Conroy brought an action against the company, W. G. Waters, its president and manager, and its directors, claiming as a stockholder that over $10,000 of the company’s money had been diverted from its treasury, and asking for a receiver for the company’s property, which includes San Miguel Island. The defendants appeared voluntarily and demurred to the complaint. Whereupon Conroy forced matters by asking that the books and papers of the company be brought into court and that a receiver be immediately appointed for the corporation. The matter came up yesterday afternoon before Judge Ewing of Ventura, sitting for Judge Taggart. Mr. Conroy, who is an attorney representing himself and the company and its directors were represented by attorneys W. S. Day, Henley Booth and S. E. Crow. The case was argued at length by Mr. Booth for the defendants. Mr. Conroy replied and the defendants submitted the matter without further argument. Judge Ewing sustained the defendants’ demurrers and denied Conroy’s application for a receiver, saying that the complaint was insufficient and uncertain, and that he did not think the appointment of a receiver was justified. Mr. Conroy said that he would appeal the case to the supreme court. The case concerns San Miguel Island and the property of the company which owns the island, and is the outgrowth of trouble among the stockholders which has lasted since 1897.”

September 17, 1903 [SBMP]: “The troubles of the San Miguel Island Company, which have occupied the attention of the courts for a number of years, have at last been settled, Captain William G. Waters having purchased the interests of J. F. Conroy and other small stockholders, and in the near future will dissolve the corporation and manage the island on his own account.”

September 17, 1903 [LAT/SB]: “Captain W. G. Waters, president of the San Miguel Island Company, which conducts a large cattle and sheep business on the island, has just purchased the stock of J. F. Conroy of Los Angeles. Captain Waters expects to have absolute control of the island in the near future. The San Miguel Island Company has been engaged in litigation for years past, owing to differences between Captain Waters and Mr. Conroy, who control the majority of the stock.”

March 14, 1904 [SBMP]: “A suit was commenced in the Superior Court yesterday by E. Beckman, formerly of this city, against W. C. Waters as president and principal stockholder of the San Miguel Island Company. The complaint is a voluminous affair and alleges that the San Miguel Island was sold by the plaintiff to Waters in 1892 for $7000, only $1,000 of which has been paid. It further alleges that the island is now the property of the plaintiff and is held illegally by the corporation, and asks for an injunction, restraining the company from selling or disposing of the property, and for an accounting. J. F. Conroy is attorney for plaintiff.”

April 7, 1905 [SBMP]: “The launch Peerless was at San Miguel Island yesterday on a business trip for the San Miguel Island Company. Upon her return today, she expects to sail for San Pedro with her owner, George McGuire, and Captain Vasquez. The boat will be put into dry dock there and overhauled.”

December 16, 1906 [SBMP]: “A new phase of the apparently indeterminable San Miguel Island litigation was brought out in the superior court by by the filing of an answer to a complaint that had been filed about three months ago by Elias Beckman against William G. Waters and the stockholders of the San Miguel Island Company. The case has been in court in one way or another for several years past, Beckman claiming ownership to the island and that he is entitled to $24,000 as the amount of the profits derived from that advantage that had been enjoyed from the benefits of the arrangement that had been made with Captain Waters. Beckman alleges that Waters organized a company and actually took full possession of the island, denying that Beckman possessed any interest in it. In the original proceedings a demurrer to the complaint that had been filed by Beckman was sustained and Beckman took an apeal to the supreme court, where the ruling of the lower court was reversed and the case was sent back to the lower court for a new trial. About three months ago Beckman filed a new complaint and no proceedings have since taken place in connection with the case until the filing was made yesterday, making answer to the new complaint.”

November 17, 1908 [SBI]: “Tomorrow the long contested suit of Elias Beckman against Captain W. G. Waters and the San Miguel Island Company, which has been before the courts for the last four years, will be reopened in the Superior court, with Judge Monroe of Los Angeles presiding. The suit concerns the personal property on San Miguel Island, the island belonging to the government. The suit was brought in March 1894, by Elias Beckman, to secure possession of the island and prevent it from being transferred to the San Miguel Island Company. The plaintiff claimed in his complaint that the defendant held the property only by a deed of trust and had no right to dispose of it. The original complaint was demurred to and the demurrer sustained. A demurrer to amend the amended complaint was also sustained, and taken to the Appellate court. Here the decision of the Superior court was reversed and the case sent back to the Superior court of Santa Barbara County, to be tried. This trial was to have begun today, but owing to the absence of some of the interested parties, it was continued until tomorrow, when the fight will be taken up again in earnest. As the case is somewhat involved, it will probably require several days to hear. Beckman claims that when he transferred the property to Captain Waters, about February 1, 1892, he did so through a deed of trust. The provisions of this deed have never been carried out, plaintiff claims, and he asks that the defendant be enjoined from transferring the property to the San Miguel Island Company and that an accounting be given as to receipts and expenditures for all of the time the defendant has held the property. The defendants claim that the property was entirely conveyed to them and that the plaintiff has no right to it. J. F. Conroy, of Los Angeles, represents Beckman. Judge Day appears for Captain Waters, with Henry C. Booth as attorney for the San Miguel Island Company. As Judge Crow is a witness for the plaintiff, he is disqualified to sit in the case, which accounts for the fact that a Los Angeles judge will preside.”

November 19, 1908 [SBI]: “San Miguel Island remains in possession of Captain Waters and the San Miguel Island Company. At the close of the presentation of the case, shortly before noon yesterday, Judge Monroe decided in favor of the defendants, and gave judgment accordingly. His main reason for so doing was that Elias Beckman waited too long before bringing action. The case opened this morning with a denial by the court of a motion for non-suit, made yesterday afternoon by Attorney Henry C. Booth, representing the San Miguel Island Company. The defense then took the stand, Captain Waters being the only witness. His testimony was to the effect that the whole transaction was in the shape of a mortgage and not a conveyance. Of the amount of the mortgage he claimed, only $1500 had ever been paid. Attorneys J. F. Conroy and E. W. Squier for the plaintiff argued their side of the case. The court did not ask for argument from the defendants, but decided in their favor on the showing of the testimony. In passing on the case, Judge Monroe stated that his reasons for deciding in favor of the defendants were based on the facts that Beckman did not appear in the case; that he had waited too long before attempting to recover the property and that it appeared that the San Miguel Island Company had been in open possession of the island and its improvements for several years.”

December 19, 1911 [SBMP]: “The Supreme Court has affirmed the Santa Barbara Superior Court in the denying a new trial in the case of Elias Beckman v. W. G. Waters and the San Miguel Island Company. The suit is of long standing and involved the ownership of the island and the accounts of the company. Waters is left in possession.”