SAN NICOLAS ISLAND THROUGH TIME
- 1892. Stephen Bowers San Nicolas Island in Ninth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the year ending 1889. (1890) 57-61
- 1897. John L. Kelly A Description of a trip to San Nicolas Island in the Year 1897] Manuscript on file, California Room, San Diego Public Library.
- 1897. Grinnell, Joseph Report on the birds recorded during a visit to the islands of Santa Barbara, San Nicolas and San Clemente in the spring of 1897 in Auk 15:223-230, July 1897
- 1898. Eastwood, Alice Notes on the plants of San Nicholas [sic] Island in California Academy Science Proceedings 3:89-120, 1898
- 1899. Holder, Charles F. The Wind-swept Island of San Nicolas in Scientific American 81(15:233-235), October 7
- 1903. Lowe, Herbert The Mollusk Fauna of San Nicholas Island in The Nautilus 17(6):66-69, October
- 1930. Bryan, Bruce San Nicolas Island, Treasure House of the Ancients: Part II in Art and Archaeology 29(5):215-223, May, 1930
- 1938-1939. Log of San Nicolas Island 1938-1939
- 1942. Howell, John Thomas The vascular plants from San Nicolas Island, California in California Academy of Sciences Proceedings 4: 21, 22, 277-284
- 1956. Miller, Max The Strange Legacy of San Nicolas in Westways, June 1956:6-7
- 1960. Norris, Robert M. Desert San Nicolas and the last Nicoleño in Pacific Discovery 13:10-13
- 1963. Vedder, J. G. and Robert M. Norris Geology of San Nicolas Island
- 1967. Foreman, R. E. Observations on the flora and ecology of San Nicolas Island San Francisco
- 1993. Schwartz, Steven & Kelly A. Rossbach A Preliminary Survey of Historic Sites on San Nicolas Island
» Vessels used to haul sheep from San Nicolas Island:
- Helen W. Almy
- Liberty (No.104174)
- Ocean King
SAN NICOLAS ISLAND THOUGH TIME
In the News~
1602: Captain Sebastian Viscaino sights the island. Nicoleños occupy the island.
1814: A group of about 30 Kodiak otter hunters live on the island. They kill most male Nicoleños.
1815: A group of Aleut otter hunters live on the island.
1835: The remaining native Nicoleños (17-18) are removed and taken to mainland missions. A woman, dubbed the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, is left behind.
October 1846: The sailing ship, John Begg, hit a large rock in the vicinity of San Nicolas Island in 1824. The John Begg was chartered for a trading voyage from John Begg & Company of Lima, Peru to California and back, arriving in San Diego in June of 1822 with a load of exotic and luxurious goods for sale. This from the Log of the H.S.M. Herald:
- “On the 27th we fixed the position of John Begge's reef in 30 degrees 22' north, 119 degrees 44' west. This dangerous rock has deep water round it, and lies to the west-north-west of San Nicolas Island, one of the groups which line the Californian coast in this latitude. We also surveyed San Nicolas, San Clemente, and the Coronados Islands. The Pandora went into San Diego, the Herald remained off the low, arid, and uninteresting shores...”
1848: San Nicolas Island becomes part of the United States through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican American War (1846-1848).
July 1853: Captain George Nidever and party remove the Lone Woman to Santa Barbara.
July 14, 1853 [NYT]: “Lieutenant F. H. Stephens of the U.S. Coast Survey, has completed an examination of the shoal near San Clemente and San Nicolas islands on the California coast… the island of San Nicolas distant forty-six miles…”
October 4, 1856 [Prices Current Shipping List]: “Schr. Rising Sun. [Capt.] Adams, St. Nicholas, Santa Barbara Island, 12 days, 11 tons dried fish.”
October 13, 1856 [Prices Current Shipping List]: “Rising Sun. [Capt.] Adams, St. Nicholas, Santa Barbara Island—Capt. Adams.”
August 16, 1857 [W. E. Greenwell to A. D. Bache, Report of the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey for 1857]: “U.S. Schooner Humboldt, Prisoners Harbor, Dear Sir: In comformity with your instructions of June 16th, I forward you a summary report of work executed the past year… San Nicolas is different from Santa Rosa or Santa Cruz. It is considered valueless on account of the sandy nature of its soil and its distance from the mainland. The island is low table-land, not more than three or four hundred feet above the ocean, without valleys, and with very little vegetation. There is no wood on it, but good water can be found near the northwest point. It is, I believe, public property.”
September 28, 1857 [DAC]: “…Having visited and examined San Clemente, Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel, we [Coast Survey] found them offering no inducements for agriculture, and very few indeed for raising stock, whilst there are so many advantages on the main[land]. In a few words, we may characterize their disadvantages as: want of water and want of fuel, with high, bold and rugged sides, which in many places become precipitous…”
1858: W. E. Greenwell established ten triangulation stations on San Nicolas Island, including:
- Kelp: The ground is covered with low sage bushes at this end of the island but in the immediate vicinity of the signal it is more or less free of these.”
- Cliff: “Some small green bushes are within a few meters of it to the north.”
- N. Base and S. Base: “It is on a level piece of ground covered with low sage bushes and a species of cabbage plant, known here as ‘siempre vive.”
- Bluff: “A knoll or hill covered with the same low sage bushes as seen about the base.”
- Port: “The ground about the signal is covered with sage bushes which are higher here than about the stations above described.”
- Slope: “The soil at this station is loose and sandy and the ground thickly covered by a sort of succulent plant, called in these parts ‘soldier tree.’
- North Head: “To the eastward of it is a fine spring of water and a few trees growing around it.”
October 1, 1858: Captain Martin M. Kimberly files a preemption claim in Santa Barbara County for 160 acres on San Nicolas Island in the vicinity of Coral Harbor.
1859: Hungarian-born naturalist, John Xantus (1825-1894) collected an adult male pigeon guillemot (Cepphus columba ssp. eureka) on “San Nicholas Island,” his specimen #8033 of “sea pigeon.” It is in the collections of the United States National Museum of Natural History #23389. This is one of the earliest known biological specimens from the California Channel Islands.
June 1, 1860 Santa Barbara County Agricultural Census Schedule recorded Martin Kimberly as having ten horses and 800 sheep on San Nicolas Island. Annual wool production was listed as 2000 pounds.
June 28, 1863 [[COOPER, James Graham|J. G. Cooper]: “I went ashore there [San Nicolas Island] and visited Captain Kimberly’s house, he having occupied the island as a sheep ranch. Sheep and other stock do remarkably well although the vegetation consists almost wholly of cacti and other plants apparently unfit for pasture…” [Report of Explorations of the Islands off the Southern Coast of California 1863, unpub. manuscript].
October 10, 1865: Denomenation and name of vessel: schooner Sonora
- Where from: San Nicolas Island;
- tonnage: 18.47;
- crew: 3;
- name of Captain: Gurley
- [Abstract of Registered and of Enrolled and Licensed Vessels employed in the Coasting Trade and Fishery, which entered the Port Santa Barbara, District of San Francisco during the months of October, November and December 1865. San Bruno Archives record group 36.]
1867: The United States Lighthouse Bureau reserves 22 acres on the southwest and southeast points of the island.
February 25, 1869 [DAC]: “Wool — We note the arrival of one lot of spring clip from San Nicolas Island. This is the first parcel of the season, and up to the present moment is held by the agents or owner. Full prices are expected during the coming season, as the market is entirely bare at date. In the absence of transactions quotations are entirely nominal, and no movement is looked for until about the middle of March when the market will probably open.”
1869-1870: “Kimberly stocked San Nicolas Island with sheep which increased so rapidly that he had a flock of 15,000, and his income was $10,000 a year. Wool was very high, and he rode the top wave until the dry year of 1864 when many sheep died. Another dry season — 1869 or 1870 — turned San Nicolas into a desert and drove Captain Kimberly out of the sheep business with a heavy loss... Captain Kimberly chartered a ship during the second drought and took sheep to the San Francisco market, a thousand at a time. He could not move the last four thousand, and they remained on the island when he sold it to Mr. Hamilton, a San Francisco banker, in 1870 or 1871.” [Phillips 1927 p. 108-9].
1870 Santa Barbara County Agricultural Census Schedule records Martin Kimberly as having 50 horses and 3400 sheep on San Nicolas Island.
February 5, 1870 [SBT]: “For Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura and the Islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Nicolas. Leaving every ten days. The steamship Kalorama, 500 tons, M. M. Kimberly, Master. Will receive freight at the above ports for San Francisco every ten days. Bills of Lading furnished, and none others signed. Freight carried at the lowest rates. G. L. DeBlois & Co. Agents. Northeast corner Jackson and Drumm streets, San Francisco.”
February 14, 1870 [DAC]: “Arrived. Steamer Kalorama, [Captain] Harloe, 52 hours from San Nicolas Island; 948 sheep, 1 case merchandise, 11 hides, 8 packages merchandise to G. L. DeBlois & Co.”
February 19, 1870 [SBT]: “For Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura and the Islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Nicolas. Leaving every ten days. The steamship Kalorama, 500 tons. M. M. Kimberly, Master. Will receive freight at the above ports for San Francisco every ten days. Bills of Lading furnished, and none others signed. Freight carried at the lowest rates. G. L. DeBlois & Co. Agents. Northeast corner Jackson and Drumm streets, San Francisco.”
1870?: Kimberly sells his interests in San Nicolas Island to Abraham Halsey and William Hamilton for $18,000.
November 4, 1871 [SBT]: “Departures. October 31. Schooner Louisa Harker, [Captain] Thompson, San Nicolas Island.”
March 30, 1872 [SDU]: “An Act to create the County of Ventura, to establish the boundaries thereof, and to provide for its organization… takes the islands of Anacapa and St. Nicholas (sic)…”
September 13, 1873 [SBG]: “The schooner Calambers arrived from San Nicolas Island with abalone.”
September 14, 1873 [SBDMT]: “Shipping News — Arrived — Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, master, from San Nicolas Island.”
September 15, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrivals. September 13. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, from San Nicolas.”
1875: Paul Schumacher conducts archaeological investigations on San Nicolas Island.
February 19, 1876 [VS]: “Delinquent Tax List — Year 1875-6. The following is a list of the names of the persons, and a description of the property delinquent by reason of non-payment of State and County taxes in the County of Ventura, for the year 1875-6… Interest, claim and possession of, in and to the island known as San Nicolas $4000; also Island of Anacapa $1500; Improvements thereon $400; Three mixed horses $90; 3000 improved sheep $6000; 400 lambs $400 = $9390.
March 26, 1876 [SBDN]: “The schooner Matinee came from San Nicolas Island yesterday with 142 sacks of abalones. They will be shipped north.”
November 1, 1876 [SBDP]: “The schooner Matinee, Captain Chase, arrived from San Nicolas Island last evening loaded with abalones.”
1877-1878: Leon de Cessac conducts archaeological excavations on San Nicolas Island.
1878: On his second trip to Japan, Kimberly’s ship is lost at sea with all on board in a typhoon off Japan.
July 23, 1878 [SBDP]: “The H. W. Almy, after an unusually long voyage of three days, arrived this morning from San Nicolas Island with a cargo of five tons of dried abalone, six tons of abalone shells, and ten Chinese passengers.”
August 9, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise left here last evening for San Nicolas Island for abalone shells.”
October 18, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise will sail this evening for San Miguel, San Nicolas and Santa Rosa islands. At one she will take shells on board, at another leave a party, and at a third pick up a party for Santa Barbara.”
October 25, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise from San Nicolas Island loaded with sheep and shells arrived this morning. The sheep are for Sherman & Ealand. The schooner Alma, from San Nicolas, loaded with sheep for Sherman & Ealand arrived last night.”
November 15, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived this morning from San Nicolas Island, loaded with abalones.”
1879 Stehman Forney map of San Nicolas Island: In 1879, Stehman Forney reported that the island was occupied by H. D. [Howard Davidson] Mills, who had about 2,000 head of sheep at that time (Forney 1879: Topographical Survey Map #T-1523. U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Scale 1:20,000). Forney and his survey team mapped several primary triangulation positions across San Nicolas Island in 1879, and they mapped and described what they identified as an Indian cave where Native American artifacts were present. According to their account, this was “a large cave formerly inhabited by a wild Indian woman, who lived there alone for 18 years.” They named a nearby signal Cave Station. In 2012, Steve Schwartz reported results of archaeological investigations conducted by his office and by students led by archaeologist René Vellanoweth of California State University, Los Angeles, in the vicinity of the cave described by Forney in 1879. The location is labeled “Indian Cave” on T-sheet no. 1523 (1879), which Schwartz had scanned at the National Archives. Forney’s (1879) fieldnotes included distance and bearing to the cave from Cave Station, along with the observation that this cave had been the residence of the lone woman (Figure 39). The navy excavations uncovered the mouth of a large cave, and by the fall of 2012 the team had excavated the length of the cave, which was filled with dune sand. Although the depth of the deposit is not known at this time, at least one artifact dating to the mid-nineteenth century, a bottle, has been recovered at the mouth of the cave. The site was assigned the trinomial CA-SNI-551. Although there may have been more than one habitable cave on the island, only the one at site CA-SNI-551 is known to be in the vicinity of Cave Station. Forney’s awareness of the lone woman and her cave residence likely came from the fur hunters who had been on the island with her. Nidever served as a ship’s captain and pilot for USCS surveys of the Channel Islands and, partly because of his knowledge of the area, he had a longstanding relationship with the USCS that began in 1850 (Lawson ca. 1880). USCS Santa Barbara office supervisor William Greenwell’s wife was likely the “Mrs. Greenwell” Emma Hardacre consulted in her historical study of the lone woman that she began in the 1870s (Hudson 1981). Because of USCS ties to Nidever and others who were on the island in 1853, the Cave Station records are sufficient to establish the location of the cave. The USCS survey data combined with Schwartz’s research on early reports of the cave are sufficient for this location to be considered a historical site of unique significance.
1879: “Fishing communities and coastal whaling stations were often established by the shore, where vessels could be hauled out or anchored and the catch processed (May 1985; Scofield 1954). The USCS mapped and described several landings at fishermen’s huts or cabins on the California coast, particularly in the southern part of the state. Some likely depict early Chinese junk fishing, such as Chino Station (Forney 1879) on San Nicolas Island. The mapped location corresponds to historical archaeological site AB-22 (temporary number), where Chinese ceramics are present. The date of origin for this site has not been established archaeologically, but USCS records indicate that it was in use by the 1870s.” [Byram, Scott. Triangulating Archaeological Landscapes: The US Coast Survey in California, 1850–1895. Volume 65, Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility, Berkeley, 2013].
May 13, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise has been due several days from San Nicolas and San Miguel Island.”
November 21, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Mary E. Donovan is in the harbor loaded with grain and hay for San Nicolas Island.”
January 12, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise left yesterday for San Miguel Island with eight calves for Mr. Mills and a large cargo of supplies for the abalone hunters.”
January 27, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise has gone to San Nicolas Island after abalone shells.”
February 26, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived from San Nicolas Island this morning and discharged 100 sacks of abalone shells and meat. She will depart tomorrow for San Miguel Island for seal oil and skins.”
June 18, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise from the island San Nicolas, arrived today with a lot of shells and abalones. She sails this evening on her return with supplies for the sealing camps.”
June 28, 1880 [SBDP]: “The Coast Survey steamer McArthur, which arrived here on Saturday, went to San Nicolas Island this morning to complete some work which will occupy some days. She will return here, stay a couple of weeks, and then work her way easily up the coast. The McArthur is now under command of Lieutenant E. H. C. Leutze, U.S.N...”
May 27, 1881 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, arrived from St. Nicolas Island.”
May 31, 1881 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, sailed for San Miguel Island yesterday.”
June 14, 1881 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, sailed for Anacapa Island this forenoon. Mr. S. W. Barnard took passage on her to San Nicolas Island where he goes to search for Indian relics.”
June 20, 1881 [SFDEB]: “Southern California News. Parties are searching San Nicolas Island for Indian Relics.”
March 12, 1883 [SBDP]: “The Convoy has on board 250 sacks of abalones and shells from San Nicolas Island.”
March 17, 1883 [SBWP]: “Several schooners arrived in the channel Saturday and are now anchored near the wharf. The Convoy has on board 250 sacks of abalones and shells from San Nicolas Island...”
October 8, 1883 [SBDI]: “Captain Larco sailed Sunday for San Nicolas Island to carry over a party of Chinese abalone fishers.”
November 3, 1883 [SBWI]: “The abalone business is carried on more or less along the sea shore of the semi-tropic, but at this place on the islands of the Channel the occupation is conducted, though quietly, upon larger scale than any other locality further south. The abalone is a greater success than the egg in point of natural economy, in that the shell also is materially viable. The meat is taken by the Chinamen and dried. The dried abalone is esteemed as a great dainty and is worth in San Francisco six cents per pound. It is exported from that point in large quantities to China and gourmets of that frugal people do not hesitate to pay the heavy price it commands in that Empire after first cost, freight and handling are added. The particular charm that this dried meat has for the celestial palate is not apparent to the barbarian tooth. The Independent reporter found it much resembling in consistency, color and odor a piece of veteran sole leather...San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Nicolas, Anacapa, Catalina, and Santa Barbara islands are all productive points of supply. Messrs. Rogers and Brothers of this city sent out today for San Miguel a party of five for abalone, seal skins and oil. The number of abalone to be obtained by such a party is impossible to estimate, low tide being the only time when they can be gathered, and the lower the tide the more exposed to view. It would seem that the practical mind of the American should be able to find some manner of preparing this healthful article of food in a manner acceptable to the taste of white men.”
July 31, 1884 [SBDI]: “A Chinese junk founders on a reef near San Nicolas. We learn from Captain Libbey, who arrived in the harbor this morning with his sloop, the Ocean King, with several tons of abalone shells, the miraculous escape of the crew of a Chinese junk that left San Diego a few days ago for the purpose of securing a cargo of abalone shells for the San Francisco market. While lying at anchor on the evening of the 25th inst., a westerly gale sprang up, and not withstanding the fact that the vessel had two anchors out she drifted upon a reef that at high tide is not noticeable. On board, all was still up to the time she struck the rocks, and her pounding course woke the occupants. The vessel was a total wreck… Captain Libbey, who had been aroused by the noise of the boat in going over the reef, being lifted and lowered by the action of the swells of the ocean, hove in sight and rescued the men from their perilous position and landed them safely in Santa Barbara. The crew consisted of eight men, and the only thing on board that was saved was a bag of rice and a coil of rope. The boat was of about 35-tons register and uninsured. From the description of the boat it is supposed to be the one that was launched in this city [Santa Barbara] some two years ago by the Chinamen…”
January 17, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Ocean King went to San Nicolas Island day before yesterday for shells and abalones.”
September 17, 1885 [SBDP]: “The sloop Ocean King yesterday brought over from San Nicolas Island forty five sacks of abalones.”
June 7, 1886 [SBDP]: “The sloop Brisk, Captain Vasquez, Friday took a party of seal hunters to San Nicolas Island. While there the boat experienced some rough weather and lost her anchors. She arrived back here yesterday.”
October 16, 1886 [SBDP]: “The schooner Ocean King arrived from San Nicolas Island today with a cargo of wool—this season’s clip.”
October 19, 1886 [SBDI]: “A crew of Chinese fishermen left for San Nicolas Island this morning.”
September 26, 1888 [SBMP]: “The sloop Ocean King sailed yesterday morning for San Nicolas Island.”
1889: “San Nicolas Island is the driest and most sterile. Like San Clemente, it is comparatively flat-topped, with a moderate slope towards the northward… with very bold, precipitous sides of coarse sandstone on the southern and eastern faces and on part of the northeastern face… Two thirds of the surface of the island is covered with sand, and the remaining… with coarse grass. Small patches of scrub oak are found in a few places, but no trees show on the island as made from seaward” [George Davidson Coast Pilot of California, 1889].
1889: Bowers, Stephen San Nicolas Island in Ninth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the year ending 1889. (1890) 57-61
August 26, 1889 [LAT]: “Lieutenant Commander Z. L. Tanner of the Navy has made an interesting report to the Fish Commission of the work of the steamer Albatross from the beginning of the present year to June 30 last… San Nicolas Island was found to be rather barren of life…”
November 11, 13, 15, 20, 27 & 29, 1889 [VV]: “Nineteen days on San Nicolas Island… It is possible that many of our home readers are not acquainted with the fact that San Nicolas Island belongs geographically to Ventura County… I set sail from Ventura, October 15th… The company consisted of DeMoss Bowers, as assistant, Rev. Rollo Branch and J. C. Brewster as invited guests, A. Barnard as helper in various ways… Some twenty-five years ago parties at Santa Barbara stocked the island with sheep, going twice a year to secure the clip. But few visit it, or know anything concerning it… I think the government ought to survey this beautiful island and open it to settlement. While I cannot positively say what the island is capable of producing until tested, yet I believe under proper cultivation it may prove very productive. It was doubtless covered with vegetation less than fifty years ago. It contains several springs of water, and it is not unlikely artesian water can be obtained at a comparatively small cost… Steven Bowers.”
November 19, 1889 [VV]: “J. C. Brewster is finishing some fine photographs of San Nicolas Island. He secured three dozen negatives while there. He has the only photos of the island ever taken, we think. As San Nicolas belongs to Ventura County our readers will do well to secure a set of these fine pictures.”
May 8, 1891 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ruby arrived from Anacapa Island yesterday morning bringing over E. Elliott, the owner of the island, and nine sheep shearers. They were kept on the island ten days after they were ready to return, by reason of the schooner neglecting to come for them promptly, and provisions began to get scarce. Mr. Elliott says the wool clip both on Anacapa and San Nicolas was unusually heavy. The price of wool is also better than it has been of eight or nine years past.”
August 30, 1891 [SBMP]: “Miles of human bones. Discoveries of a party who went to San Nicolas. The party who went to San Nicolas Island on a prospecting tour with a view to taking up government land, returned after a two days visit on the island. They concluded not to exhaust their rights on land so useless. From Frank Fazzio who took them over, some interesting details of the trip are learned… On the other side of the island, the east side, they found human bones for a distance of five miles along the beach. They were very thick and looked as if it had been a graveyard. They also discovered the remains of human bodies on the ridge, which runs lengthwise through the island. In some places two skeletons were seen close together as if they had been buried together in the same grave. The wind had blown off what covering of soil had been thrown over them, and it looked quite ghastly. Bones were thickly strewn along this ridge for upwards of three miles. From appearances upwards of 3000 or 4000 Indians must have been buried there. A shanty which had been built on the west side was found buried clear to the roof in sand. There are now about 2000 sheep on the island and from a sort of rough grass they seem to keep fat. The party went into a cave which afforded an Indian woman, the sole occupant of the island, a home for seven years. It seems that when her party was leaving the island, that she jumped overboard and swam ashore in the night. Years went by before she was taken off. The party enjoyed the trip immensely, but say the island is not worth much.”
September 8, 1891 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ruby returned from an extended trip to Lower California, San Diego and San Nicolas Island.”
January 12, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Santa Rosa, Captain Burtis, left for San Nicolas Island yesterday with a number of Chinamen.”
February 8, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Ruby has gone to San Nicolas Island.”
April 16, 1892 [CDT]: “On the lonely wind-swept Island of San Nicolas… locals are archaeologists are now gathering the relics of a strange extinct race… There are so many human relics there that San Nicolas is known as the Isle of Skulls…”
July 28, 1892 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ruby sailed for San Nicolas Island yesterday with E. Elliott and son. The boat will bring back a cargo of sheep.”
September 10, 1892 [LAT]: “The State Fair… A murderous-looking club of one of the Indian chiefs lies beside an angel’s face of bitumen and sand, found on San Nicolas Island… This is rather an odd and rare relic, being the first known instance of the Santa Barbara Indians working this material into idols…”
August 29, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Liberty was taking on a cargo of provisions, etc. yesterday for San Nicolas Island.”
October 4, 1892 [SBMP]: “The Liberty sails this morning for San Nicolas Island with a cargo of lumber.”
October 5, 1892 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty sailed for San Nicolas Island yesterday.”
October 6, 1892 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty was detained by the late arrival of sheep shearers from Bakersfield, and will sail for San Nicolas today.”
October 7, 1892 [SBMP]: “Sloop Liberty left this port bound for San Nicolas with sheep shearers yesterday morning.”
October 26, 1892 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty arrived yesterday with a large cargo of wool for E. Elliott from San Nicolas and Anacapa islands.”
October 29, 1892 [SBMP]: “E. Elliott will ship forty sacks of wool on the Corona today, part of the shearing from his San Nicolas and Anacapa sheep.”
January 13, 1893 [SBMP]: “The schooner San Mateo came over yesterday from San Nicolas Island bringing a load of abalone shells.”
January 15, 1893 [SBMP]: “The schooner San Mateo left yesterday afternoon for San Nicolas Island for a cargo of abalone shells.”
January 27, 1893 [SBMP]: “The schooner San Mateo came in Wednesday night from San Nicolas Island with four hundred sacks of shells.”
January 28, 1893 [LAT]: “Four hundred sacks of abalone shells were brought in from San Nicolas Island Wednesday night for shipment east.”
April 4, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The World’s Fair shipments from Santa Barbara County will comprise seven carloads… some Indian utensils contributed by E. Elliott, the owner of San Nicolas Island, on whose shores they were gathered…”
July 14, 1893 [SBDI]: “A few days ago the San Diego papers gave accounts of a disturbance of the elements at San Nicolas Island. Captain Mullett of the steamer, Jennie Griffin, was quoted as the authority for the statement, but nevertheless the story was given little credence. In the Los Angeles Herald the Captain says that every word of the report was true, and further states: ‘You ought to investigate this matter,’ said the energetic captain. ‘It will no doubt be investigated by the United States Government and scientists in time. Such an event is worth it. It was a tidal wave accompanied by earthquake shocks. The island is partially submerged, and that harbor is wiped out. It was filled up by sand rolling in.’ The captain appeared to be ready to take up the cudgels with anyone who disputes the accuracy of his account of the terrific disturbance on San Nicolas. He says he can be corroborated by thirteen or fourteen men who were there with them. The Jennie Griffen is in the service of a fish company and was at the island at the time of the disturbances for the purpose of getting crawfish for the San Francisco market.”
July 20, 1893 [SBDI]: “The schooner Jennie Griffin arrived in harbor yesterday in command of Captain Chase of San Diego, formerly of Santa Barbara. The Jennie Griffin is the boat in which Captain Mullett and party were on when they witnessed the eruptions, etc. on San Nicolas Island. Captain Mullett and his crew left the boat in San Diego and the Jennie Griffin is now being taken back to San Francisco by other parties. A well known captain of the city who has had years of experience among the islands has no faith in Mullett's story. He says that he has seen the harbor at San Nicolas Island fill up with sand in a remarkable short time, but it was not due to any eruptions of the earth's surface or any electric storms, but to heavy wind storms and the action of water. Captain Mullett and his crew probably saw such changes take place, and imagination added color to the facts.”
September 12, 1893 [SBDI]: “Sloop Restless will leave this city in a day or two with Mr. Elliott and a party of sheep shearers. They go to San Nicolas Island to leave the shearers and the Restless will return with a load of sheep. She will return for the men and go to Anacapa where the sheep on that island will be sheared.”
May 17, 1894 [SBMP]: “The Restless, Captain Burtis, left for San Nicolas Island yesterday for a weeks trip. She will bring back a cargo of wool.”
May 30, 1894 [SBDI]: “The sloop Restless has been provided with a new mainsail. The Restless leaves the latter part of the week for San Nicolas Island, for Mr. Elliott. On the 14th the sloop will take a party to the islands.”
June 14, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop yacht Restless, Captain Burtis, came in at 1 o’clock this morning from the islands. Captain Burtis said that on Friday night, he anchored at the east end of San Nicolas Island, and that there was such a gale blowing that landing was out of the question. A short time after he had anchored, a five-ton sloop belonging to Frank Fazzio of Ventura, came in and dropped anchor about two hundred fathoms astern. In the morning she was gone. Captain Burtis said that she had probably dragged her anchor and drifted out to sea, and, in his opinion, it was impossible for her to weather the storm, as, in his twenty years’ experience in the channel, he had never seen such a sea. Inquiries by telephone to Ventura, however, resulted in the assurance that the sloop had arrived there all right, but only after a very narrow escape.”
June 14, 1894 [SBMP]: “Mr. E. Elliott returned at an early hour yesterday morning on the Restless from a trip to San Nicolas and Anacapa islands, from the former of which he brought a schooner load of fine sheep which he will dispose of by private sale. The sheep are in fine condition and all free from scab or any other diseases. There are 80 or 90 splendid ewes among them, and these will also be sold to those desiring them. Mr. Elliott reports one of the roughest trips he has experienced within the past fourteen years. The wind blew a gale and while lying at anchor at San Nicolas Island, the occupants of the boat were thickly covered with dust, although fully half a mile from shore. The return trip was made against heavy winds that impeded the process considerably.”
August 13, 1894 [SBDI]: “The sloop Restless arrived from San Nicolas Island Saturday night with a load of shells and abalones, being the property of a party of Chinamen who have been camping there.”
April 9, 1895 [SBDI]: “Captain Ellis’ schooner [Achilles] has gone to San Nicolas Island for a load of sheep.”
April 9, 1895 [SBDI]: “Last night Captain Burtis and L. B. Pratt arrived in the harbor with the favorite pleasure boat, Restless, from San Nicolas Island. Last December Mr. Pratt went to the island with Captain Burtis and four otter hunters and leaving them there took the sloop to San Pedro, put her in winter quarters and returned here. A short time ago he left here for the island and has been spending some time cruising around, having visited Santa Catalina, San Clemente and the other islands, finally bringing up at San Nicolas. Here he found the otter hunters glad to see him and glad to leave the island. Their trip was not very successful, for although they killed five otter, none of them were secured, the strong undercurrent carrying them out to sea, and the sea being so rough that to launch a boat was impossible. Soon after arriving at the island the men found a box of butter and some wreckage, presumably from the steamer Los Angeles, as no other American vessel has been wrecked on this coast which would be apt to have just such freight. This is a wonderful find, as the island is about 200 miles from the place of the wreck. Mr. Pratt says he was at sea on March 29th, the night the Liberty was wrecked and that the wind was blowing strong from the nor’west, but that there was certainly no tidal wave as he would have felt it if there had been. He said, however, that the first question asked by the otter hunters on San Nicolas was if there had been an earthquake on the mainland. They said that on March 9th they were shaken up severely. It will be remembered that this was the day of the Mexican earthquake and also San Miguel upheaval, which gives some color of truth to the report of the disturbances, although there is no doubt that the reports were exaggerated.”
April 26, 1895 [SBDI]: “The sloop yacht Restless returned this morning from San Nicolas Island.”
May 13, 1895 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles arrived yesterday from San Nicolas Island with a cargo of wool.”
December 1, 1895 [NYT]: “On an isle of skulls once the home of a vigorous race of Indians. Filled with scientific treasures. The last survivor on the Channel Islands has now been dead over forty years… The only safe landing ground at San Nicolas is at Corral Harbor, a pretty cove formed by two sandstone arms thrust out from the main barrier of the shore. The entrance is only six or seven yards across, and the water within is as placid as a lake and sufficiently deep to float a vessel of twenty tons’ burden. On the bleak, silvery strip of beach, immense white pelicans are to be seen at almost any season in the year…Further up the slope of the beach there is a dilapidated shearing shed and a weather-worn shanty belonging to Chinese shell-gatherers who haunt these lonely cliffs during the later summer and fall…”
August 1, 1896 [LAT/SP]: “The gasoline schooner Lizzie Belle W, Captain David W. Weldt, arrived Thursday noon after being thirteen days out with a party of Los Angeles and Pasadena men. They visited Santa Barbara and the islands and brought numerous skulls and other relics from San Nicolas…”
September 26, 1896 [LAH]: “Bendix M. Baker met a painful accident at San Nicolas Island last Wednesday. While trying to land on the beach in a skiff a large wave struck the boat, completely up-ending it and turning it over, the boat coming down upon Mr. Baker's left foot, severely mashing it and bruising the ankle. Mr. Baker arrived here on Saturday and is now confined to his bed at his residence on Third Street.”
October 4, 1896 [LAT/SCat]: “The Nellie, Captain Frank Whittley’s yacht, has gone on a cruise to San Nicolas Island, with the following named party: A. B. Chappell, Joe Gautzer, J. C. Meyers, Mr. Faulkner and Captain Whittley who is in command. They go for the purpose of collecting Indian relics. The party will remain about two months, when Captain Whittley will call for them with the schooner Keywee, taking several pack animals along to convey from the interior of the island the relics obtained.”
November 11, 1896 [LAT/Red]: “The schooner Nellie of San Pedro is at this port, having recently come from San Clemente and Santa Catalina islands… She will proceed to San Nicolas Island, at which place a search will be made for skulls and other relics. Frank P. Whittley is captain of the little vessel…”
November 29, 1896 [LAT/SCat]: “The yacht Nellie leaves for the isthmus at daybreak, and from there will sail for San Nicolas Island with a party in search of Indian relics. Captain Frank Whittley has charge of the party.”
1897: John L. Kelly A Description of a trip to San Nicolas Island in the Year 1897. Manuscript on file, California Room, San Diego Public Library. http://islapedia.com/images/4/4f/Description_of_a_Trip_to_St.pdf
April 11, 1897 [LAT]: “For sale — Sheep ranch on island a few miles off coast in Pacific Ocean; 1500 head fine sheep, cottages, outbuildings, boats, horses, corrals, etc.; 22,000 acres of land, $1600 worth of abalones sold from the island this year; healthiest place in the world; numerous springs of fresh water; greatest elevation 400 feet; annual net profits have been nearly $4000; will sell for one third actual value; Owner retiring from business to travel in Europe. See Van Cranken, 114-1/2 S. Broadway.”
May 4, 1897 [LAT/SP]: “Bendix M. Baker returned from San Nicolas Island yesterday in the sloop Nellie. He brought with him a large number of curios, such as stone mortars and pestles, bone needles, bone knives, abalone shell trinkets and fishhooks, and human skulls. These curios are relics of the aborigines of the island, now for many years extinct. Mr. Baker has a large collection of these interesting relics.”
May 11, 1897 [LAR]: “The expedition under the auspices of the [Pasadena] Academy of Sciences will leave tomorrow (Tuesday) for scientific research on the Santa Barbara islands. A schooner has been chartered, and fully equipped. The party will consist of Joseph Grinnell, Horace Gaylord, Harry Galyord and James Britton. They will probably be joined later by Professor Hoag of Throop, and F. S. Daggett. The plan is to spend the first week on Santa Barbara Island, the second on San Nicolas, and about two weeks on San Clemente.”
May 25, 1897 [SBMP]: “Captain Burtis’ schooner Restless left yesterday with a gang of Chinese abalone hunters for San Miguel Island. On his return he will take a band of horses for Mr. E. Elliot to San Nicolas Island.”
May 31, 1897 [LAT/P]: “Harry D. Gaylord, one of the members of the expedition sent out under the auspices of the [Pasadena] Academy of Sciences, returned this morning from San Clemente Island. The other members of the party are still at the island, where Mr. Gaylord will rejoin them within a few days, having come back to Pasadena only to be present at the exercises of Memorial Day. Santa Barbara Island and San Nicolas Island were visited by the party, and at the latter, many interesting Indian relics were found. Three species of birds new to this coast have been discovered. The expedition is meeting with much success in its researches, and Mr. Gaylord speaks with enthusiasm of the work already accomplished.”
June 22, 1897 [LAT/LB]: “After nearly three weeks’ sojourn on the barren island of San Nicolas, a party of relic hunters reached Long Beach today, loaded with skeletons, skulls, and ancient implements and ornaments of stone and shells, the remains of historic tribes. The party found eighty-seven skulls buried in the sand on the island, but were only able to secure three entire. They made one excavation twenty feet square, in which they found nine skeletons in a crouching attitude, as though the men, women and children had been buried alive. In another place they found the remains of hundreds of bodies that had been buried. Evidence was found that the islands were inhabited by two or more different races, one of which was of great size, the peculiar characteristics being giant jawbones.”
July 23, 1897 [LAT]: “For sale — Large sheep ranch of upward of 22,000 acres, on an island off the coast, with 1200 head of blooded sheep, no diseases, no herding, no expense except for shearing, buildings, corrals, horses, boats. Complete outfit for making money… Owner going to Europe and will sell for one-third cash…”
August 6, 1897 [LAT/SCat]: “Clarke, the Times agent who has a collection of curiosities, has sold a skeleton of a San Nicolas Island aborigine to Dr. Davenport of Paris, France, who is visiting here. Mr. Clarke is getting out a new edition of a book descriptive of the island, which will contain a useful map.”
December 19, 1897 [LAT/SD]: “The four-masted British ship Ruby, Captain Jones, arrived in port today, 144 days from London. Captain Jones reports that last Thursday morning, when off San Nicolas Island, he was hailed by a crew in distress. He hove to and sent off a lifeboat to the distressed men, who were found to be five sailors and the captain of the sloop Ranger. The latter stated that he was engaged in taking supplies from San Pedro to San Nicolas, and that on the night of December 9 his vessel dragged her anchor in a fearful storm and went on the rocks, a total wreck, the crew escaping with their lives only. All of the men had been without shelter for seven days, and were suffering greatly for food and nourishment. They were taken on board by Captain Jones, and shown every attention, and will be sent to San Pedro tomorrow.”
January 1, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “The Ranger found. Skipper Gerull of this city… returned to this port last evening with the schooner Ranger which had drifted away from San Nicolas Island on December 5, leaving five men stranded there until the British ship Ruby picked them up and brought them back to port…”
February 4, 1898 [LAT/SP]: “The chamber has started a movement, the purpose of which is to have San Clemente, San Nicolas and Anacapa islands opened to settlement.”
February 18, 1898 [LAT/SP]: “The Board of City Trustees at Tuesday evening’s meeting indorsed the resolution of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce in favor of opening San Clemente, Anacapa and San Nicolas islands to settlement.”
May 28, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “The sloop Dot is in from San Nicolas Island with a cargo of guano.”
June 5, 1898 [LAT]: “Ventura. Two important documents have been filed for record with the County Recorder. The first is a deed whereby Ezekiel Elliott of Santa Barbara conveys to George LeMesnager of Los Angeles, in consideration of $8000, all his right, title, interest and claim in the island of Anacapa. The second is a deed whereby J. V. Elliott of Santa Barbara conveys all his title, etc. in consideration of $8000 to Peter Cazes of Los Angeles, in the island of Saint Nicholas [sic]. Both islands are off the coast of Ventura County, and are a part of this county. Captain H. Bay Webster, who has recently made many trips to both islands, says…that the Saint Nicholas Island is about eighty miles from the mainland and lies due south of Ventura. It is little more than a storm-swept desert. It is much larger than Anacapa, containing about forty square miles, but is of little value. It has carried 3000 head of sheep. But the soil now must be given a rest from the ceaseless grinding of these locusts’ hooves. The island is of some historical note, having been the last island from which the aborigines were removed. The last of her race was the woman rescued by Captain Nidever, after having passed a solitary existence of eighteen years on the island. This island is not a reservation, but it has never been opened to entry. The deeds are dated November 19, 1897.”
June 5, 1898 [SFCall]: “Ventura, June 4. There has been filed with the County Recorder a deed whereby in consideration of $8000, Ezekiel Elliott of Santa Barbara conveys to George Le Mesnager of Los Angeles all his right, title and interest in Anacapa Island and a deed whereby J. V. Elliott of Santa Barbara conveys, in consideration of $8000, to Peter Cazes of Los Angeles, all of his title and interest in St. Nicholas [sic] Island. Both islands are off the coast of Ventura County, and are a part of this county. Anacapa lies about twenty [miles?] nearly 1000 acres of land, capable of supporting 1500 sheep or goats. St. Nicholas is due south, eighty miles from Ventura, and contains about forty square miles, capable of carrying 3000 sheep.”
September 18, 1898 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island is to be explored.”
September 25, 1898 [LAST/SCat]: “San Diego party returned from San Nicolas Island… Landing in the surf was difficult and dangerous, and the party did not land at Corral Harbor, owing to the heavy sea. One man is living on the island with two dogs. The latter appeared bright and intelligent, but their master had not heard of the war and did not care whether school kept or not…”
December 20, 1898 [LAT/SCat]: “’Chappie,’ who recently returned from a month’s stay on San Nicolas Island, in quest of relics of its early inhabitants, which is but one of many such visits he has made, has placed his collection on exhibition in the office of the Hotel Metropole. It is one of the most complete collections on the coast, and embraces some very rare and curious articles fashioned out of stone and bone by the aborigines. To what uses many of them were put cannot even be conjectured. Some of the cases have rather a gruesome appearance,
March 8, 1899 [SDU]: “Hermits of the Pacific. San Nicolas Island the home of a Frenchman. Wind-swept, a mass of sand shifted at every whim of the wind, the home of the gods of the Pacific, San Nicolas Island would not be considered attractive as a place of residence, yet as our yacht rounded to off a spit of sand that reached out into the sea a small shanty could be seen on the rocky shore and nearby a man and ten dogs, says a writer in the New York Sun. The island appeared to be about ten miles long, perfectly flat on top, rising to a height of two hundred or more feet in places and cut and seared by the wind in a marvelous condition. After many attempts to land, we succeeded, almost at the risk of our lives, hoping to see the whole inhabitant of the dreary spot. But he had disappeared and we made out way to his shanty — a single roomed affair under the lee of the hills near the beach. On the door was the satirical notice: 'No trespassers allowed on this island.' The impression the island conveyed was that the sea and wind were making a combined effort to destroy it. Devastation was everywhere. Not a green thing, no water was in sight, only the sand dunes shimmering in the sunlight. The path to the summit was over a hard sandstone in yellow, blue and white tints strangely incrusted and cut by the wind and water in marvelous shapes: mimic bursts and statues of rock from above, windows covered with delicate lacework, festoons and a thousand and one carving caught the eye and fancy as we climbed upward. When the summit was reached the eyes rested upon a plain without a spear of grass or a particle of vegetation. It may have been four miles long and its surface covered with small stones arranged in wind rows, which were picked up and blown along by the terrific winds. On the north end the sand was in full possession, and seemed imbued with a life of its own. It was ever creeping upward, filling the canyons and gullies, rising in clouds and whirling aloft in special shapes. Desolation could not better be illustrated than by this island, about sixty miles off Los Angeles, Southern California; yet there lived a man who avoided us in the afternoon, but finally came along the beach, appearing mysteriously. He was a Frenchman, small of stature, with a mahogany-colored skin, deep-set eyes and a kindly expression. On his head was a great sombrero-like hat, tied by a string beneath his chin. On his shoulder he carried an old-fashioned shotgun and a canteen of water, a cane or staff completing his outfit. Two shepherd dogs, which followed at his heels, were his sole companions. He was very reticent and refused the papers offered him and had no desire to hear of the world. He told him of the ending of the war with Spain, but he did not know there had been a war. He had turned his back on the world long ago; had two faithful friends, his dogs, and was not dependent upon anyone. When asked why he did not collect the Indian implements so common on the island, he expressed a feeling of disgust and fear, intimating that the terrible winds with which the place was cursed were due to the robbing of the graves, as he put it. He complained of nothing but the winds, which sometimes drove him out of his house at night and forced him to take refuge among the rocks along shore. That night we had evidence of this, as the wind rose and blew a hurricane from the island, in a clear sky, finally blowing the yacht into calmer seas. Any French family who have missed a relative may possibly find him by addressing San Nicolas Island...”
March 19, 1899 [LAT/SB]: “The Restless has arrived from San Nicolas Island with a cargo of abalones and shells.”
March 27, 1900 [SBMP]: “A tale of suffering and death from San Nicolas Island. Piratical crawfish catchers appropriate the only provisions in an abalone hunter's camp... When the Dawn arrived off Corral Harbor there was no sign of life at the camp. The captain sent a skiff ashore, and in the old adobe house that the late Captain Kimberly built many years ago when he owned the island, were found two Chinamen, lying in their bunks, too weak to walk, and almost too exhausted to speak. But they weakly told of the theft of their provisions, how they had lived three months on abalone meat and what fish they could get, and how they had sickened though lack of proper nourishment. One of them had already died... The dead Chinaman's name was Ah King, a cousin of Ah Jim. The latter does not know what steps will be taken to prosecute the crawfish catchers who robbed the camp...”
April 1, 1900 [LAT/SCat]: “Messrs. F. W. Clark and E. L. Doran have gone to San Nicolas Island on a curio-hunting expedition. They chartered the Avalon to take them over, and it is to return for them at the expiration of two weeks. San Nicolas is one of the richest of the Channel Islands in relics of the prehistoric people who inhabited all these islands and who are only known to us through the antiquated relics of stone and bone which they left behind…”
April 12, 1900 [LAT/SCat]: “The Avalon returned from San Nicolas Island last night with E. L. Doran, F. W. Clark and Al Holbrook, the curio hunters who were left there ten days previously. They came back laden with all sorts of spoils which the island sands were made to yield up. When asked about the stories of the Chinaman starving to death on the island, Mr. Clark replied that the Chinaman was certainly dead, but that it was not from actual starvation. Their supplies were stolen, but they were then in as good condition to live as were the former natives of the island, who had no base of supplies except the food they found in the waters. The sheep herder who lives on the island did all he could to alleviate their condition, dividing his supplies with them. One of the Chinamen was taken sick, however, and died. It is rarely that bonita touch at San Nicolas, and it was many months before the two survivors found opportunity to leave the island. The sheep herder has not been off the island in more than two years, and much of the time he is the only human being on that desert spot, which does not now produce a stick or a shrub on its entire area.”
April 28, 1900 [SBMP]: “Messrs. F. W. Clark and E. L. Doran visited San Nicolas Island on a curio hunting expedition. They chartered the Avalon to take them over, and it returned for them at the expiration of two weeks. San Nicolas is one of the richest of the Channel Islands in relics of the prehistoric people who inhabited all these islands and who are only known to us through the antiquated relics of stone and bone, which they left behind. On most of the islands there are frequent pueblos or city, enormous mounds and windrows of shells being found all over the island.”
August 26, 1900 [SFCall]: “…As to San Nicolas Island little has been known except that it is a most desolate spot, and was used as a burial place by the aboriginal dwellers in this region, but a seal hunter who knows the island says that it has a spring on which oil is always floating. There is a strong oil spring under the surface of the sea, near one of the islands.”
March 9, 1901 [LAT]: “J. F. Jacobs of San Diego found some curious fish harpoons on San Nicolas Island in a cave. They were undoubtedly made by a prehistoric race.”
March 20, 1901 [SBDI]: “The gasoline schooner Francis of San Diego arrived in port this morning with 295 sacks of abalone shells and meat from San Nicolas Island, consigned to local Chinese merchants.”
March 26, 1901 [SBDI]: “The sloop Olita, Captain Joe Arabas, left this morning for San Nicolas Island. The Olita will bring over a cargo of abalone meat and shells for local Chinese.”
May 15, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Successful botanist. Over a month ago, Mrs. Trask chartered the Avalon and went over to San Nicolas Island on a botanizing expedition, taking with her Mrs. Ledbrook and Gus Knowles. This morning in the early hours they reached home again, having had a very successful and interesting trip, bringing with them a hundred varieties of rare plants and flowers. They found the island rather bleak and thirsty, as less rain has fallen there than here.”
October 13, 1901 [LAT]: “Island of mystery. San Nicolas — little of it known to world. An expedition from the University of California will soon explore the gruesome land that is spread over with skulls and jawbones of a lost race… The only safe landing ground at San Nicolas is at Corral Harbor, a pretty cove formed by two sandstone arms thrust out from the main barrier of the shore. The entrance is but six or seven yards across, and the water within is as placid as a lake… Henry G. Tinsley.”
November 14, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “A party consisting of A. J. Crose, J. D. Murray, Captain Holbrook and Henry Veth, chartered the Mascot and left today for San Nicolas Island, where they will spend two weeks searching for Indian relics.”
November 29, 1901 [SBI]: “San Nicolas Island has been declared officially a lighthouse reserve and President Roosevelt’s official order dedicating the little island to the government is now in the land office. It is stated that the government will immediately place a light tower on the island. There has been much need of a light here as the island is in the line of course taken by the big Panama and Horn ships, and also many of the coast sailing vessels. The island is about 45 miles southwest of this city, and about 85 miles due west of San Pedro.”
February 28, 1901 [LAT]: “Government to lease San Nicolas Island. San Nicolas Island is to be leased by the government to the highest bidder. This information was received at the local Army Engineer’s office, in a circular issued by Captain Thomas H. Handbury, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., Engineer Twelfth Lighthouse District, San Francisco. Sealed proposals will be received after March 1, to be opened April 1. The term of lease will be five years, revocable at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury, and the rental will be payable May 1 of each year… San Nicolas is in Ventura County… There is an abundance of water, slightly brackish, on the island, but there is almost an entire absence of vegetation… The island was inhabited many years ago by Indians, thousands of whose skeletons are buried thereon, while the ground is strewn with mortars, pestles, ollas and other implements used by the ancient tribe. Numerous depressions in the ground mark the sites of the homes of the aborigines. San Nicolas, like many others of the Channel Islands, may be leased by sheep herders, although it is said that oil prospectors have looked longingly on the island as a promising field for their operations.”
March 2, 1902 [CDT]: “To explore the strange island of San Nicolas… Skeletons dot hillsides. As far back as the memory of any person in southern California runs, hundreds of white skeletons have dotted the valleys and hillsides of San Nicolas. Strange utensils of serpentine, sandstone, and steatite are found there among the human bones… An examination of some of the mounds discloses all sorts of curious utensils, stone cooking pots, water ollas, mortars, pestles, drills, bone needles, and fishhooks, shell beads, charm stones, pipes, cups, and a few arrow heads, spear points and swords made of bone. The absence of many weapons proves the peaceful attribution of the islanders…”
March 8, 1902 [OC]: “San Nicolas Island in Hueneme township is offered for lease by the Lighthouse Department for five years from April 1. The island is 7 miles long and contains 30 square miles.”
April 17, 1902 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island, one of the Santa Barbara Channel group, which the government some time ago advertised for rent, will probably soon be thoroughly exploited for water and oil. W. J. Gimpsey, an oil man and mine owner of Victor, has received word from Washington that his rent bid for the island — $362.50 per year—is the highest offered, and if no unforeseen obstacle turns up he will become the lessee of the 13,000 acres in the ocean, about four thousand acres of which are already considered good land. McGimpsey believes that there can be enough water developed on the island to make it blossom, but above all he believes that it is possessed of oil fields, and he will begin boring as soon as he comes into possession of the land. The sheep now on the island will probably be removed. Should the oil predictions prove true on San Nicolas Island, the Channel Islands may open up an entirely new field to oil men. McGimpsey is now in this vicinity looking for a suitable vessel to visit the island.”
June 25, 1902 [LAT]: “W. J. McGimpsey left today for San Nicolas Island, where he will prospect for oil. He has leased the island from the government, and expects to begin drilling within a short time. ‘I have visited the island before,’ said he, ‘and spent some time investigating the field, which, so far as it is possible for a man to judge from a geological point of view in relation to other geological fields in this section, impresses me as being equal, if not superior, to any that have thus far been successfully operated.’ A report is going the rounds of sea-faring men and others that all the buildings and shacks on the island were seen burning the latter part of last week. The island was visited Tuesday by the United States lighthouse tender Madroño, when notices were posted ordering a French sheepherder to vacate, for the reason that the island property had been leased by the government. A few days later, the scow Brothers, Captain Winters, conveyed the sheepherder, with 3000 sheep, to San Pedro.”
June 28, 1902 [SBMP]: “San Nicolas Island was visited Tuesday by the U.S. lighthouse tender, Madroño, when notices were posted ordering a French sheepherder to vacate for the reason that the island property had been leased by the government.”
June 29, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “W. J. McGimpsey left yesterday for San Nicolas Island, where he will prospect for oil. He has leased the island from the government and expects to begin drilling in a short time.”
November 14, 1902 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island is about ninety miles from the coast. The island, although once densely populated, is now a barren waste. It is visited only occasionally by fishermen, abalone gatherers and relic hunters. It is not safe for any one to wander to its bleak shores for any length of time without an ample supply of food and water, as it is entirely out of the beaten line of travel.”
November 16, 1902 [LAT/SP]: “Charles Bell, a local fisherman, who sailed as one of the crew aboard the schooner May, Captain Manha’s boat, when she took the three young Germans to San Nicolas Island to fish lobsters for the W. J. McGimpsey Fish Company of Los Angeles, was here today and said that the men left on the island are undoubtedly without provisions, as their supply at the start, more than two weeks ago, had not been enough to last over five days. He does not believe they will starve, because there are sheep on the island and fish are plentiful. The story in today’s Times relative to three men, who had come from San Nicolas in a small skiff, and who were encountered off the west coast of Catalina several weeks ago, is about a different set of fishermen. Bell states that that he is acquainted with the circumstances in that case, also; that it is a fact three men were taken to San Nicolas and left there with but a scant supply of food, and that when provisions gave out they equipped a small row boat with a 2 x 4 scantling, and put out for San Pedro, arriving at this point safely. The schooner Western sailed early yesterday morning for San Nicolas, and is expected back with the fishermen tomorrow.”
November 22, 1902 [SN]: “Los Angeles. Tale of terrible suffering endured on San Nicolas Island. Lived on coffee and salt. Subsisted for a time on raw gulls and were about to eat a cat—relief effected after thrilling adventure. A San Pedro special says that Captain Alvin Hyder, of the power craft Western, and E. S. Stout of San Pedro succeeded in making their way to San Nicolas Island and rescuing three young fishermen left there to starve, while the settlement of difficulties between Captain Frank Manha of the schooner May, and the W. J. McGimpsey Fish Company of Los Angeles, is pending in the courts. The Western brought the rescued men to San Pedro Sunday morning. The fishermen, who give the names of J. Logan, E. M. Richards and William Junker, tell harrowing stories of their experiences while marooned. For more than a week they had lived on dry coffee and coarse salt, as their provisions had lasted only five days after they left San Pedro in the latter part of October. A storm prevented their catching fish, and for six days the only food they had was the raw meat of sea gulls they succeeded in killing with rocks. When rescued they were preparing to kill their pet cat, having saved her as a last resort. Captain Hyder says the men attempted to row out to his boat in a small skiff, but were so weak from privation and the waves were so high they were swamped completely. Their skiff was capsized and the oars lost. The men were almost drowned before they were dragged out. They collapsed after their rescue, and could barely move a muscle. The captain says the men would have died if left on the island a week longer. The Western had a stormy passage to San Nicolas, and many times disaster seemed imminent. The occupants had to lash themselves to the rigging and the hatches had to be nailed…”
June 16, 1903 [LAT]: “Who’s to pay for rescuing fishermen? Judge Conroy is trying to find out who ought to pay the bills for rescuing the starving fishermen of San Nicolas who were brought off in a boat last fall after having been deserted on the island.”
February 14, 1904 [LAH]: “New corporations. Articles of incorporation were filed in the county clerk's office yesterday as follows: San Nicholas [sic] Development Company, to conduct a real estate and financial business: capital stock, $200,000; subscribed, $25; incorporators, W. J. McGimpsey, F. Constance Wallace, T. C. Van Epps, Jean Archibald and D. R. Weller.”
August 16, 1904 [LAT]: “Season opens for lobsters… For days past, weeks past, the little lobster sloops have been cleaning away their decks and stealing away with huge deckloads of lobster traps to St. Nicolas, San Clemente, Santa Barbara Island, Anacapa — almost every island in the channel, to leave camps of lobster fishers. They are planted there in camps of two, not to return to the mainland until next April; and then $500 cash to the good if the luck is fair… The wild, uninhabited island of San Nicolas is considered to be the best lobster ground for the next two months… The fishers depend absolutely on the little sloops that ply to and from the mainland to bring them their provisions and take their fish to the market. Most of the fishers are Swedes and Norweigans…”
September 17, 1904 [SBMP]: “Wild man story again to the fore. San Nicolas Island has furnished the papers with another story of a castaway. The story of the last Indian woman who lived alone, so story goes, for twenty years on this barren island, is familiar to everyone in California. This time it is a man. How long he has been there or how he came there has not been learned. He may be an escaped convict or shipwrecked sailor; a sole survivor of some long lost and forgotten ship; or he may be the Indian woman’s baby that was left behind when the tribe was taken off the island… The story of the castaway, or ‘wild man,’ comes from San Pedro and is as follows: Captain Swenson of the lobster schooner Leone, who arrived here this afternoon from San Nicolas Island, reports having seen a wild man on the island day before yesterday. He states that the man was tall and had long gray hair and beard, and was dressed in garments which had little semblance of civilized clothing, but which had evidently at some time or other had been such. When the man saw Captain Swenson he ran off at full speed, and Swenson says he never saw a human being get out of sight so quickly. He states that during the past two years he has noticed unaccountable human tracks on the island, which is uninhabited save for the fishermen that go there during the lobster season. Formerly some sheepherders lived there, but the business did not pay, and they moved. The coast of the island is especially rough at all times, rendering a landing in the winter time impossible, the breakers sometime showing three miles out. Swenson also states that the man was seen by the party of Pomona people who were taken over there about ten days ago by Carl Jorgensen in the Ruth. They are still there, but will return about the first of next week. No explanation of the presence of this man on the island can be given. It is believed, however, that he succeeded in making his way there in a small boat either from the mainland or from some vessel, and that he has remained there so long that he has become demented. If this is true, he must have been living on the sheep that still remained there after the herds were removed two years ago.”
November 30, 1904 [SBMP]: “Captain R. Vasquez has returned from San Nicolas Island with the remains of Tie Kee, the Chinaman who died from starvation on that island about five years ago. San Nicolas is a low, barren island that lies about seventy-five miles south of this city. It has a rough shore and no good harbors for landing. Its shores produce large quantities of abalone shells, which were much sought after by the Chinese residents of the coast. The dead Chinaman was one of a party of three who left this city about five years ago, prepared to live on San Nicolas for six months while hunting abalone shells and meat. They fitted a fine camp there, which was looted a few days later by some passing fishermen while the owners were on the other side of the island. The thief took everything they possessed in the way of camp equipment and provisions, and the unfortunate Chinamen were left without means of subsistence. For several months they lived upon abalone meat, and having no means of leaving the island, they were soon too weak to gather sufficient food. One of them died and was buried by his companions. The other two then became so weak that they lost their senses and wandered about the island in an aimless manner, at last falling prostrate. A few hours afterward they were discovered by Captain Clarence Libbey of the Reliance, who thought they were already dead. He took them to his boat and succeeded in bringing them to the city. During the last few days a purse has been made up by the Chinese for the purpose of exhuming the body of the dead Chinaman and shipping the remains to his home in China. Captain Vasquez was accompanied on the trip by Mr. E. A. Sanders of the Ricketts Undertaking Company, where the remains of the Chinaman will be prepared for shipment to the Orient.”
December 1, 1904 [LAT/SB]: “The remains of Tie Kee, the unfortunate Chinaman who died of starvation on San Nicolas Island five years ago, have just been brought to this city by Captain Vasquez of the Peerless. A purse was made up by the Chinese residents for the purpose of exhuming the remains and shipping then to China. Tie Kee’s death was caused by the robbery of his camp on the island, which was shared by two other Chinamen. The robbers took all their catch, camp equipment and provisions, while the fishermen were on the other shore of the island after abalone shells. They managed to live for some days without other provisions than abalone meat, but at last Tie Kee died and was buried by his companions. The other two were rescued by Captain Libbey of the Reliance and brought to this city.”
February 2, 1905 [SFCall]: “Los Angeles, February 1. Plea for aid in a bottle. Message discovered on Long Beach tells of man and son marooned on island. Midway between Long Beach and San Pedro, this afternoon C. H. Goodwin of the former city picked up a bottle which was floating in the surf near the beach. It contained a message, which is either an appeal for help from a man, who by this time may be starving, or a hoax. Whatever it may be it will be investigated. The message reads: ‘January 20, 1905. To whoever picks up this bottle: Stranger, we are alone on San Nicolas Island. We came here in a small boat; she has gone adrift. Joe Todd. San Francisco, Cal., 1011 Golden Gate Avenue is the address of my mother. My son is with me. We are all well and have food for a week if no help arrives.’ The message was taken to Long Beach and turned over to the authorities who communicated with the address given them, but no reply has been received. Whether a vessel will be sent to investigate the truth of the message is not known, but if it is learned from San Francisco that a man and his son are missing and that the correct address has been given there, a schooner will be sent to the island at once. San Nicolas Island is a bleak and barren spot about eighty miles almost southwest of San Pedro. It is seldom visited except by abalone fishermen or exploring parties, who go there to dig for relics of the race which once inhabited the place. A fine collection of these relics was secured there last summer for the Smithsonian Institution.”
February 11, 1905 [LAT/SP]: “Captain Munch of the power launch Rose, which arrived last night with a cargo of lobsters from San Nicolas Island, reports the accidental death by drowning of Johan Olafsen, a fisherman in his employ, Tuesday morning. Olafsen and Chris Jensen had a camp on San Nicolas Island and were looking after the interests of Munce. During a heavy sea one of the lobster traps broke loose and started to float away. When the swell drove it in 100 feet from shore, Olafson plunged into the sea and swam out to the trap. Suddenly a huge breaker swept over the man and he sank and did not rise again. Captain Munce with the Rosa spent several hours looking for the body, but without avail. It is thought sharks may have seized the body and carried it away. Olfasen, it is stated, had about $250 in gold on his person at the time of his death. Nothing is known here regarding his antecedents.”
July 4, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez will sail this morning with a load of supplies for Captain Waters, San Miguel Island. From there he will go to San Nicolas Island in order to bring Frank Nidever and Clarence Libbey, abalone fishermen, who have been on the island for three months. Their catch of abalone meat, shells and pearls will also be brought in on the boat.”
October 1905: “At the end of October Ira went to bring Clarence Libbey and Frank Nidever back from San Nicolas Island. They had seventeen hundred pounds of crawfish, three tons of abalone and four tons of shells. They also had found some good pearls in the abalones which they could sell for two or three hundred dollars…” [Eaton. Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife p. 26]
November 3, 1905 [SBMP]: “The Irene came in yesterday afternoon from San Nicolas Island with a ton and a half of abalone shells, which were gathered on that island by Frank Nidever. Walter Stafford is in charge of the boat. Abalone shells are in demand at the present time, and they command a good price in wholesale markets. They are used in the manufacturing of jewelry and fancy articles.”
October 9, 1906 [SFCall]: “News has been received here that Martin Hermansen, a member of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, was drowned October 1 while engaged in crawfishing off San Nicolas Island. In a rough sea Hermansen’s fishing boat was capsized and he was unable to reach the shore.”
February 2, 1909 [OT]: “Los Angeles, Feb. 2 — While exploring the shifting sand dunes of bleak San Nicolas Island, C. B. Linton of Long Beach, a member of the Southwest Archaeological Society, made one of the most interesting discoveries ever unearthed in that place of mystery. It is a string of wonderful pearls still clinging to the skeleton neck of a chief of the extinct people who once dwelt there. The pearls would be almost priceless if well-preserved, but they are much decomposed. The pearls, which doubtless came from the now extinct red abalone, are the size of English walnuts and still lustrous...”
February 24, 1909 [SBI]: “Fishermen marooned on San Nicolas. Nearly five weeks on lone island far off Santa Barbara. Subsist on fish and suffer severely from exposure. San Pedro. Captain Swansen of the launch Leone arrived this morning after a stormy trip to San Nicolas Island, where he found four men who had been living on crawfish and other such fish as they were able to catch, for nearly five weeks. They are Charles Erickson, Jack Anderson, ‘French Joe,’ ‘Russian Pete,’ crawfishers who state that they had been fishing for Captain Vasquez of Santa Barbara. Because of rough weather, when the stock of provisions gave out, they were forced to subsist on crawfish, with no bread or coffee or fresh meat, for 28 days. They suffered terribly from cold and general discomfort during the storm period, which lasted from the middle of January until they were taken on board the Leone on Monday last. The men report that during January and February the storms were the worst that had visited the island for many years. The launch Gussie M of Santa Barbara, which was nearly wrecked last Sunday, was their supply boat, but she was unable to make the landing at San Nicolas during the period when they were marooned, and had been forced to remain offshore.”
April 23, 1909 [LAT/LB]: “Considerable anxiety was expressed today by boatmen over the non-appearance of the launch May, now three days overdue. She left Saturday night for San Nicolas Island with Milton McMillan and a party of friends who sought relics and specimens. Provisions for four days were carried and they expected to return Tuesday night. Since they let not a word has been heard from them. Sunday and Monday there was a strong northwest wind blowing and the channel was very rough. It was hoped however, that the craft was able to get into the lee of Santa Barbara Island before the wind struck it. Unless heard from tomorrow relief party will be sent out.”
April 24, 1909 [LAT/LB]: “No word has been received from Milton McMillan and his party, who went to San Nicolas Island a week ago with only four days’ supply of food, and who were to have returned Tuesday. There were four in the party besides McMillan, but no one seems to know their names. Vessels plying in the coastwise trade, and the Banning boats were asked today to keep a lookout for any trace of the boat or any wreckage. Tomorrow a relief boat will be sent out to search for the missing party.”
April 24, 1909 [LAH]: “Long Beach. April 23. Has the sea claimed as its victims Milton McMillan and four other men who started for San Nicolas Island Saturday night in the launch May? Fear that such is the case has grown during the past twenty-four hours. Relatives and friends, anxiously awaiting some word of the voyagers, are clinging to the hope that they are still safe. Statements differ as to McMillan’s plans when he left San Pedro. Some say he expected to return Monday from San Nicolas, while others say they believe he expected to remain longer. He had in mind the collection of a large number of curios and relics and the excavation of the skeleton of a huge whale, which he proposed to ship east. Provisions were taken on board at San Pedro Saturday evening. Food sufficient for four or five days only is believed to have been secured. San Pedro boatmen and the men on the vessels of the Wilmington Transportation Company have been warned to look out sharply for some sign of the missing men or the launch. There was a hard blow Sunday and Monday, and the sea undoubtedly was unusually rough west of Catalina Island. McMillan came here recently from Kansas City, Mo. His father, Colonel William McMillan, died here a few months ago. A sister of the missing man, Miss Mary McMillan, lives at 1328 East Second Street. The son, who is about 40 years of age, has made several trips from here to nearby islands, apparently much interested in his explorations. He had in mind the leasing of Santa Barbara Island and the running of pleasure launches there this summer with camping parties.”
April 25, 1909 [LAH]: “Long Beach. April 24. Asserting that he had been in no trouble, and that his store of provisions would have lasted four days linger, Milton McMillan, who returned to San Pedro late last night in the launch May from San Nicolas Island, laughed at the plans which were being made to start a rescue party. The trip home from the island was made in twelve hours. The May is schooner rigged and came home with sails full of wind. Tonight McMillan started for San Nicolas with a larger party. The object of his trip was to secure the skeleton of an enormous whale. He found the skeleton so buried in the sand that some time will be required to exhume it. En route to the island McMillan encountered some strong winds and put in for shelter at Catalina Island, and later at Santa Barbara Island.”
April 28, 1909 [LAT/LB]: “Captain Dennis Flynn of the launch Elliott, who returned today from San Nicolas Island, says that two boys, Gordon Richardson, aged 13, and Dietrich Sepulveda, age 15, who were committed to the Ella Linton home for incorrigibles, are kept by Clarence B. Linton, a collector of curios, on the island against their will. Flynn states that he found the lads in a starving condition, and fed them from the launch's stores, and that they begged him to take them off the island, saying that they were kept there to gather shells and curios, and did not see a white person for weeks at a time. Mrs. Ella Linton, matron of the home, says that she secured permission from the parents of the boys for her son, C. B. Linton, to use them on the island. It was believed that employment would be good for them. Mrs. Linton denies that her son had treated the lads cruelly. She says they are not ‘state cases.’”
May 26, 1909 [SBI]: “San Nicolas Island, which lies 55 miles off Santa Barbara, is to be leased to the highest bidder, and bids will be received up to June 10 by Major S. R. McKinstry, lighthouse engineer, San Francisco. The notice announcing this fact was received here today. Interest in the bidding should be the greatest here. The lease is to run for five years, from August 1. San Nicolas is seven and a half miles long by two wide, and its highest point is 890 feet. During the past ten years it has been abandoned. At one time E. Elliott leased the island for sheep-raising. This is looked upon as the only use to which the land can be put. It is believed here that some one has made the government an offer, and that advertising for bids is the result.”
June 20, 1909 [SFCall]: “…Another proposition carried on by Burke in Los Angeles was the colonization of San Nicolas Island, a barren spot in the Pacific Ocean off San Pedro. The attorney rented a launch and carried prospective purchasers of stock back and forth to the ocean domain….”
February 19, 1910 [SFCall]: “Oakland, February 18. Funeral services for Brevet Major William O. Howe, who died in San Francisco Tuesday, were held today under the direction of Lyon Post G.A.R. Major Howe was a printer and engraver, born in Maine. Howe came into some prominence about 15 years ago by taking possession of St. Nicolas Island, a dot in the Pacific Ocean. There he created a kingdom of his own, hoisted a flag of his own design and enthroned himself as his own monarch. When news of Howe’s act reached the mainland the United States authorities sent a revenue cutter to the island, upset the kingdom and brought Howe back to America.”
April 14-15, 1911: “While visiting San Nicolas Island, April 14 and 15, 1911, my attention was called to a pair of these wrens (Salpinctes obsoletus pulverous) carrying nest material into a crack under the eaves of the store-house where the ranch provisions are kept… About 20 men (sheep shearers et al.) were at work 15 to 30 feet distant, and were constantly passing and entering the store house…” [Linton, C. B. Unusual Nesting Site of the San Nicolas Rock Wren in Condor 13(3):109 May-June 1911.]
July 11, 1911 [LAT]: “Frank Paschall, a young boatman, returned today from San Nicolas Island, and sought medical attention for a crippled hand and other injuries received while at the island, and which brought him to the verge of physical collapse after a narrow escape. The launch Mermaid, with Paschall in charge, had taken a load of supplies to the island and it was necessary to take them ashore in a skiff. Paschall had taken nine loads ashore and was taking the tenth load through the heavy surf, when he was seized with a cramp in his hand, which rendered it useless. A heavy breaker struck the rowboat, and after riding high on the swell, capsized it, spilling the supplies into the water. With one hand Paschall held to the boat and came up under it. In some way he succeeded after an hour’s work in getting free and righting the boat. Then with belated aid from the shore he was enabled to land. First aid treatment failed to relieve the cramp and Paschall immediately started for Long Beach. He says the time spent imprisoned under the boat was the most terrifying experience he ever had.”
September 13, 1911 [LAT]: “Captain Archie Paschall returned today from a cruise to San Nicolas and the pearl and abalone concessions of the Linton Company. While strolling over the island, Captain Paschall made an interesting find in the shape of a perfect Indian skeleton which had been buried on the top of one of the hills. The bones were in a fair state of preservation being enclosed in a matting made of some strange grasses. Lying on the breast of the skeleton was an Indian bow made from a big piece of whalebone, and other trinkets near the bones indicate that they were those of some chief. The grave was covered with boards, evidently from the wreck of some vessel. Other graves of aborigines have been discovered, but they were mostly on San Miguel Island. The last native Indian from these islands was taken off in 1860 by a Catholic priest in Santa Barbara.”
September 13, 1911 [LAT]: “A Long beach man found the skeleton of an Indian at San Nicolas Island, but no efforts were made to interview him or ‘can’ any of his speeches for the benefit of San Francisco high-brows.”
September 28, 1911 [LAT/LB]: “C. B. Linton, who owns pearl and abalone concessions on San Nicolas and Santa Barbara islands, this morning purchased of Judge A. C. Lawson the launch Flyer, which he will use in transporting his shells to the mainland. Captain George Childs, formerly of the schooner Santa Rosa Island, will be in command.”
September 28, 1911 [LAT/LB]: “C. B. Linton, who owns pearl and abalone concessions on San Nicolas and Santa Barbara islands, this morning purchased of Judge A. C. Lawson the launch Flyer, which he will use in transporting his shells to the mainland. Captain George Childs, formerly of the schooner Santa Rosa Island, will be in command.”July 21, 1912 [LAT]: “Cruising in the channel… The yawl Clipper, owned by Ben Weston, visited Santa Barbara Island and San Nicolas Island. The start was made from San Pedro breakwater… San Nicolas is a larger island than Santa Barbara, but only about one-third is good for anything. The rest of the island is composed of mountains of sandstone… The clipper arrived at the east end of the island early in the afternoon and ran into the anchorage that is found there… The place in mind was Corral Harbor, but all hands knew that they would never be able to get into the little pond. Corral Harbor, despite its large name, is only sixty feet in diameter and has a twenty foot entrance… The crew for the trip was Ben Weston, owner, Will Bloeser, Kenneth Cary and Paul Jeffers…”
August 27, 1912 [LAT]: “Islands denuded. Clarence B. Linton of Long Beach, who was here today, and who has the abalone concession on San Nicolas and San Clemente islands, says that the accessible parts of the Channel Islands have been almost denuded of abalones, and that it will not be a very long while until the abalone shell and meat industry in Southern California will be a thing of the past. There are portions of San Nicolas and San Clemente islands where the mollusks are as thick as bees in a hive, but it is impossible to reach them, from either sea or land owing to the threatening rock-bound coast. It is rumored, says Linton, that P. Sandoval is losing his hold on the abalone and fishing concession on the Lower California coast, and that several Californians are after the concession from the Madero government.”
September 8, 1913 [LAT]: “Captain J. A. Paschall, a local launch owner, who, during the past two years has made several explorations trips to San Nicolas Island, one of the channel group, has loaned to the Chamber of Commerce his private collection of curios from that island, and they will be placed on exhibition Tuesday. The collection consists principally of war implements, bows, clubs, spears and skulls and bones of the people who occupied the islands hundreds of years ago. Some of the war clubs are peculiarly shaped and evidently made of the thigh bones of mankind. They were all found on the high plateau on the towering peaks, which cap the little island. Some of the bones indicate large men, and as they were found in one spot on the island, are supposed to be the remains of a landing party, attacked and defeated by the native islanders, whose bones indicate they were of smaller statue. San Nicolas is ninety miles from Long Beach and is the least known of the channel group.”
August 4, 1915 [LAT]: “The discovery of prehistoric sculpture of remarkable fineness of modeling, on San Nicolas Island off the coast of Southern California, was announced by Dr. Hector Alliot, curator of the Southwest Museum at Los Angeles… Dr. Alliot said he has been conducting excavation work on the island and that this discovery was the latest and greatest result of his research work there.”
August 9, 1915 [LAT]: “…Discovery of strange remains on the farthest out of the Channel Islands was announced last week by Dr. Hector Alliot, curator of the Southwest Museum… According to Dr. Alliot, San Nicolas Island was the last outpost of the Stone Age…”
August 14, 1915 [LAT]: “To the heavy storms which swept the Channel Islands in June, 1914, science owes the remarkable discoveries now made public by Dr. Alliot. Terrific gales and sweeping seas tore away the flimsy crust which for ages had been gathered above the ancient burial ground at the northern extremity of San Nicolas Island and more than 100 graves were uncovered. On this island, called the loneliest spot between the poles, the expedition from the Southwest Museum spent many weeks. To the head of the expedition, William Henry Golisch, assistant curator of the museum, and Mrs. Golisch, is due chief credit for many of the archaeological discoveries on which are based the present deductions, which threaten some long-established theories of evolution.”
January 30, 1916 [LAT]: “… The work of William Herman Golisch’s Expedition of 1914 to San Nicolas Island, is the only one that in recent years, has developed anything of extraordinary importance…”
February 9, 1916 [LAT]: “Wrecked on the loneliest spot in the world, Charles Eckhart of San Pedro was yesterday rescued from the coast of San Nicolas Island, where he had been marooned for a month. His friend and sailing partner, Henry Geberbauer, was drowned when the launch Selma, in which the two men were working, was driven into the surf on the island on January 8. Eckhart survived the buffeting of the waves and reached the shore. The launch was wrecked. The drowning of Geberbauer brings the channel’s death toll for the storm to three. For the entire month Eckhart was on the island he subsisted on such food as could be wrested from the ocean. The storm continued and boats from San Pedro did not put out to the fishing ground. It was thought that the two fishermen had made a safe landing either on San Nicolas, San Clemente or had gone north to escape the storm. When the weather conditions became better and no word was received of the missing men, William Eckhart, a brother of Charles, went in search of the Selma and her crew. He discovered Charles Eckhart living a Robinson Crusoe existence in an abandoned sheep herder’s hut...”
February 15, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Henry Gerberauer, a well known San Pedro fisherman, was drowned off San Nicolas Island January 8. News of his death was brought home by Charles Eckhart, his partner, whose launch Selma was wrecked the day after the accident so that he could not return home. Marooned on the island, Eckhart remained at the ranch house until last Sunday when his brother, William Eckhart, brought him home. The day of the fatality Geberbauer and Eckhart were tending to their lobster traps when a strong northwester came up and swamped the skiff. Eckhart was ablt to reach the shore, but Geberbauer was caught in the surf and drowned. His body was not recovered. The next day the Selma broke loose from her anchorage and was thrown upon the beach. The huge waves smashed the hull like kindling wood, but Eckhart hopes to return to save the engine. The Selma was a 32-foot launch and equipped with a 16 horse-power engine and was valued at $1700. The Eckhart brothers live at 368 Sepulveda Street. Geberbauer was unmarried and had no relatives and no property.”
April 20, 1917 [OC]: “J. G. Howland, who leases San Nicolas Island from the government, has filed his annual tax report with County Assessor Barry as the island is a part of Ventura County. Mr. Howland lists 1400 head of sheep. The island is 60 miles from shore. Howland lives there alone.”
September 16, 1917 [OT]: “Those engaged in cutting kelp for the Hercules Powder Company off San Nicolas Island, 120 miles west of Point Loma, are reporting as much success in the gathering of Indian curios and relics as in the collection of seaweed. San Nicolas Island is covered with Indian graves, each one of which contains the skeleton of an Indian. Each skeleton is in a sitting position and holds in its bony arms the skeleton of a dog. In addition each grave is filled with trinkets and articles of household and warlike use. Measurements of the bones and comparison with the limbs of living men show that the buried aborigines were of a large and sturdy race. Besides the graves, the cutter crews are in the midst of perhaps the best fishing on the coast.—San Diego Union.
June 26, 1918 [LAT]: “Five days overdue, Captain Arthur H. Mason, in is launch Victor, arrived in Long Beach today after being stormbound at San Nicolas Island… Captain Mason started for San Nicolas Island just over a week ago today, intending to return two days later. He just arrived in the lee of the island when a four days’ storm arose that prevented him from leaving port. Four other launches put into San Nicolas for shelter, Captain Mason said.”
October 24, 1918 [LAT]: “Kaiser Wilheim a resident of California — but by no means a citizen, God forbid — is among the possibilities of the future… he may be placed as a prisoner on the bleak and barren, windswept island of San Nicolas, in the Santa Barbara channel. This matter has been placed before Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior…”
October 27, 1918 [LAT]: “Regarding the suggestion of Colonel Henry Lamb to Secretary of the Interior Lane, which it is said is being ‘seriously considered’ by the government, that the Kaiser be sent to San Nicolas Island… Why wish the Kaiser on Ventura? San Nicolas Island belongs to Ventura County…”
October 31, 1918 [SBMP]: “San Nicolas Island, 60 mioles west of Santa Barbara, will never be turned into a ‘St. Helena,’ as the final roosting place of Kaiser Bill of the House of Hozenzollern, if Brodie Williams, the hermit of San Nicolas, has his say in the matter. ‘Bloody Bill can only take up his habitation over my carcass; is the feeling way Brodie puts it in a scintillating letter received by his old waterfront friend, Jack Carlson. Word that San Nicolas Island had been suggested as the abode of the pirate of Potsdan after peace is declared, reached Brodie last week via fishermen why ply the channel waters for halibut, albacore, pompano and yellowtail. San Nicolas is supreme in history as the most dreary island in the five zones. It is bleak and barren and has been swept daily by the trade winds since the moment Cabrillo tied up with his bark at San Miguel — and later died there as he gazed dreamily into the gathering sunset eons ago. Brodie Williams, his dogs, nine parrots and the pelicans are the only inhabitants of San Nicolas. Far back from the mainland Brodie has installed himself in what might be termed a pretentious wikiup. He is the supreme individual on the island. All the laws are made and executed by Brodie himself. He is the kingpin of an uninhabited kingdom. He bends a humble knee to no autocratic power. He is the big mogul…”
November 1, 1918 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island will never be the final resting place of Kaiser Bill of the House of Hobenzollern, if Brodie Williams, the hermit of San Nicolas Island, has his say in the matter. ‘Bloody Bill can only take up his habitation on the island over my carcass,’ is the feeling way Brodie puts it in a scintillating letter received by his waterfront friend, Jack Clarkson… Brodie Williams, his dogs, nine parrots and the pelicans are the only inhabitants on San Nicolas…”
December 1, 1918 [LAT]: “On behalf of the Hermits’ Union, I wish to protest against the remarks in your paper from one who calls himself Brodie Williams, the hermit of San Nicolas Island. Our union, composed of some of our leading hermits, never heard of Williams and he has no standing with us… Mike M. Luke.”
June 6, 1919 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island is offered for five-year lease by the government…”
June 7, 1919 [SBMP]: “Uncle Sam has a pair of islands to rent. He wishes to lease San Nicolas and Santa Barbara for a period of five years, reserving the right to take any timer, stone, sand or other materials he may require. The highest and best bidder will get the lease, with the approval of the secretary of commerce. San Nicolas Island is 55 miles west of Santa Barbara. It is approximately seven and three-fourth miles long, and the average width is two and one-half miles. The highest point on the island is 890 feet. Most of the area, about two thirds, is covered with sand; the balance has coarse grass and scrub oak. All rights to maintain postlights, roads and landings are reserved by the government, and the lease may be revoked at any time. J. G. Howland of Los Angeles is the present holder of the lease...”
June 19, 1919 [SBDNI]: “Santa Barbara and San Nicolas islands that lie about midway between the Santa Barbara Channel Islands and Catalina and about sixty miles off shore are for rent. In the Ventura courthouse the terms of lease and description of the islands are filed. San Nicolas Island is now under lease to J. G. Howland of Los Angeles. The island is described as being 65 miles off shore and 44 miles westward from San Clemente, seven and one-half miles long and a general width of two and one-half miles. The highest point is 890 feet. Two-thirds of the island is covered with sand and the balance with coarse grass and a few patches of scrub oak. The present holder has a good flock of sheep on the island.”
July 9, 1919: “Whereas, by an instrument of revocable license dated July 9, 1919, issued by the Secretary of Commerce, and renewals thereof, one E. N. Vail was given permission to use and occupy for grazing purposes the site of the San Nicolas Lighthouse Reservation…” [Revocable License/SCIF]
May 7, 1920 [CS]: “A ‘school for moonshiners’ is being conducted on San Nicolas Island, 75 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, according to a statement made by Ira Eaton, arrested on Santa Cruz Island, off Santa Barbara, Cal., charged with operating an illicit still. Eaton was brought to Los Angeles by William E. Cavanaugh, deputy United States marshal. Cavanaugh said Eaton told him of the ‘school’ and also that he knew of at least twenty stills being operated on Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Anacapa islands. The moonshiners were decalred to have learned their trade on San Nicolas Island, then set up in whiskey making on the other islands, which are populated only by a few fishermen and sheep herders.”
November 4, 1923 [LAT]: “Naming Dead Man’s Isle… The first interment on Dead Man’s Island is said to be that of Chief Black Hawk, the last male survivor of the San Nicolas Island Indians…”
March 25, 1925 [VDP]: “Ventura owned island is base for booze ships from Canada. Mother ships land wet goods on Island and smaller vessels pick up cargoes and convey them to mainland. That San Nicolas, Ventura owned island in the Pacific, is the landing base of large booze vessels, is the statement which has been received by the authorities here. Uncle Sam’s revenue cutters have been plying about the island for some weeks. It is said that immense cargoes of booze have been landed there by mother ships coming down from Canada and picked up by smaller vessels and transferred to the mainland. San Nicolas is a part of Ventura county and is the furthest out of any Channel Islands in the Pacific. It is a part of the Hueneme township and Point Hueneme is the closest point of the mainland to the island. ”
April 17, 1925 [OT]: “Spit extending eastward, San Nicolas Island, California.—A recent survey by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey steamer Pioneer shows that a sand spit has made out from the easternmost point of San Nicolas Island for a distance of 0.8 mile. There is a channel of 8 to 10 fathoms between the end of the sand spit and the kelp patch shown on the chart.”
December 11, 1925 [HDI]: “Desolate and wind-swept San Nicolas, one of a chain of islands lying off the coast of southern California, has become a spot shunned by most yachtsmen… It is inhabited only by a man named MacArthur and his wife, who care for 2,000 sheep owned by a cattle company which leases the island from the government… Twice a year a boat visits San Nicolas to load sheep, and the members of her crew sometimes are the only people seen by the MacArthur for months at a time. They have been on the island nearly three years…”
March 1927 Bruce Bryan notes, regarding a 1926 trip to San Nicolas Island: “…The first day on the island was spent in transporting our provisions to the shack, which is situated about two miles east of Corral Harbor on the north shore, where the single inhabitant of the island, a seventy-six year old sheep-herder lives. He invited us to stay with him for the duration of our trip, and accordingly we pitched our tent in back of his shack, and rigged up the seven-tube radio set which we took along in his dining room. We earned our keep by doing all the cooking and dishwashing, while the old man, Captain Nelson, read his Bible. In a day or so we were all calling him ‘Dad’…” [Collecting Indian Relics on a Desert Island in Los Angeles Museum, Museum Graphic 1:4 (145-150) March 1927].
April 9, 1928 [OC]: “Excavations just made on barren St. Nicolas Island, 100 miles off the coast here, and which belongs to the Ventura county have given evidence of an unsuspected and far-flung prehistoric Indian commerce, according to A. R. Sanger, Los Angeles archaeologist, who is back from an expedition to the island. Sanger carried on extensive excavations in the huge burial mounds on the island and found among other things a small stone image of a buffalo which is entirely unique and unprecedented in the history of the group of Channel Islands. There were never any bison, or buffalo, on the island, historians claim and Sanger is of the opinion that either the Indian who modeled the buffalo was a member of the tribe that lived there and who had gone to the mainland and western prairies where he had seen buffalo, or that the image was bartered or traded in by other tribes further inland. Sanger, by his findings, believes that the Indians of the California islands had active commerce with more warlike and aggressive races in the interior of the mainland, at least 1000 miles to the east. The archaeologist spent more than three weeks excavating on San Nicolas Island and returned with an unusually valuable collection of relics. By his findings Sanger claims he has proved two things, one that the island Indians were actively engaged in commerce, and the other that the island Indians were more or less of a warlike nature. This latter he proves by the fact that he found a complete skeleton of a warrior with a large stone spearhead embedded in the pelvis bone. Another skull showed where an arrow or spear had entered it from the top of the left cheek with such force that it tore out the teeth of the upper and lower jaws on one side. Among other relics that Sanger secured are bone whistles, shell beads and soapstone images of fish and squirrel, and a number of delicately carved fishhooks. Before returning to the mainland, Sanger spent several days exploring on Santa Rosa Island and looking over Santa Cruz Island. He plans to return in a few weeks to resume excavations.”
1929 Margaret and Roy Agee moved to San Nicolas Island, with their daughter, Frances, age three. The family lived in a three-room house with a kitchen, livingroom and bedroom. A wood-burning stove provided heat in the winter months. Margaret’s parents, Lyman and Edna Elliott, lived on the island and managed the sheep. They bought out the sheep interests of Robert Brooks beginning in 1930.
7/14/1929 Captain Broen, House Olsen and Norman Murdock went to San Nicolas Island on a curio expedition. After 9 days they tried to return and the boat suddenly capsized and sank. With the help of the shepards they were able to survive until rescued on 7/29/1929 by the coast guard patrol. They brought back articfacts from the burial mounds on the island. [Text from photo listed on eBay.]
May 18, 1930 [LAT]: “…The windswept, desolate, ocean speck again has lived up to its ill-omened reputation with the conviction and sentence last week of 18-year-old Milton Prentice for the murder of Steve Semerenko, a fisherman who was thought to have been stealing sheep from the island’s flocks. During the course of the month-long trial on a charge of second-degree murder it was revealed that the Channel Islands, of which San Nicolas is one, are the last out-post of organized rustling in the West. Several of the islands, San Clemente, Santa Rosa and Catalina, in addition to San Nicolas, have large flocks of sheep, easy prey to the stealthy attacks of marauding fishermen with an increasing and bitter feeling between them and the stockmen which culminated in the fatal shooting of Semerenko and the wounding of John Heise on February 23 on board the launch Taiyo, while anchored in a cove at San Nicolas Island. The circumstances leading to the shooting as told at the Ventura trial were that Prentice had gone to the island to be with his parents, who were in charge of the 1200 sheep pastured there. Frequent stories of fishermen led to the building of a small guard hut near the landing beach where the youth watched, armed with rifle. Lonely days rolled by until the Taiyo anchored and a dory put off to make a landing. Prentice is said to have waved and then fired a warning shot. This was answered by a shot from the boat and intermittent fire continued between the Taiyo and the shack until Semerenko lay dead and Heise wounded. Heise managed to navigate the boat into Avalon Harbor where he told of the attack and Prentice’s arrest and conviction followed.”
February 23, 1931 [REG]: “Los Angeles. Robert L. Brooks, who owns San Nicolas Island off Ventura, California, is being sued in superior court here for $10,000 damages because of the death of Steve Semerenko, fisherman. Mrs. Efrosinia Semerenko charges her son was killed by a rifle bullet fired from the defendant’s island last February 25. Milton W. Prentice, eighteen-year-old ranch hand, pleaded guilty last May to killing Semerenko and was sentenced to serve from five years to life in prison. Witnesses at Prentice’s preliminary hearing testified there was a bitter feud between the island ranchers and fishermen because of the theft of sheep and cattle.”
March 9, 1932 [SBMP]: “A valuable original collection of prehistoric Indian relics of stone, bone and shell from San Nicolas Island has been added to the State Indian Museum in the capitol in Sacramento. San Nicolas Island, 90 miles off the coast, directly south from Santa Barbara, is only inhabited by three persons at present, but experts declare it was once the home of an intelligent race of Indians. Images and fetishes carved from stone, bone, and whistles inlaid with abalone shell and shell beads are strictly of island origin and not found on the mainland, it is claimed.”
November 23, 1932 [LAT]: “At Sea on the Rum Blockade by Harry Carr. “At daylight the young chief bosun's mate waked Capt. Muller Hay in the bunk across from mine. "Here's the bootlegger, sir" he said. We climbed out in our pajamas to see a sullen sorry rum ship made fast to a Coast Guard cutter. All night our young skipper had stood in the pilot house, his eyes glued to his night glasses", watching for a shadow that would mean a rum boat running without lights. He had escaped us only to run into another Coast Guard ship. The lieutenant on the cutter said that the rum ship had ignored his call and tried to scuttle away into the mists of the morning. A shot across her bows only increased her speed. Then the one-pounder in the bow began to speak. At the fourth splashing shot the rum runner cut off his engine. He had no liquor on board, not having yet contacted the Canadian "mother ship" in the fogs of Tanner's Shoals. But he had violated a Federal law in having failed to stop. Capt. Hay brought our fast little ship alongside and a young bosun's mate buckled on a navy revolver and leaped aboard. If ever I saw a look of black disgust, it was on the rum runner's fat face as he was being searched for weapons. They asked him what he was doing out there. "Just sightseeing" he said sourly. '"Yeah?" said the bosun's mate. "Well, there are some swell sights back in San Pedro. Put your helm about." And away went the rum boat in custody. The sun was high when we came in sight of San Nicolas Island, a gosh-awful desolation in the sea. At one side of the little island was a little landing to which we could see women and men running down from the little ranch house on the cliff. An ex-navy man lives there with his wife and his wife's daughter and husband. They raise sheep; for recreation they dig up relics of the strange lost people who lived there in some distant, prehistoric day - quaint pitiful things - stone make-up boxes of forgotten belles, little stone pots still stained with cosmetics, shell necklaces, cooking pots. They are absolutely cut off from the world. Not long ago the navy man hurt his foot on a stone. There was no medical help until a ship happened to drop in. As the result of this neglect, infection set in and his leg had to be amputated. One of the family is a little girl whose school is the living-room where her step-grandfather, the navy man, works out problems for her on a blackboard. She is a lovely little peachblow child with grave, solemn eyes.”
January 31, 1933 President Herbert Hoover signs Executive Order 6009 that placed all of San Nicolas Island under the control of the Navy, a transfer from the Federal Light House Board. The first airplace landing field is established on the island in 1933-1934, during the last year of Vail’s third five-year lease.
August 1933: A U.S. weather station was established on San Nicolas Island, administered by the Navy. It was noted that the island population at the time was 15 people, which included the weather station people and the Elliott and Agee families that were still on the island to take care of the sheep.
September 1933: Robert L. Brooks sold his interest in San Nicolas Island to Roy Agee, Margaret Agee, Lyman Elliott and Edna Elliott. The sale included about 1000 sheep, horses, cows, equipment, sheds, fencing, and houses located on the island (Brooks 1933).
January 20, 1934 [SDET]: “Isles off southern coast to get lights. Seven new lights are to be established Feb. 10 on islands off the coast, according to report by Capt. H. W. Rhodes, superintendent of lighthouses for the 18th district. Two of the lights are to be placed on San Clemente Island, one at China Point, the second at Pyramid Head and the third at the end of the headland at the northerly end of San Clemente. The other four lights are to b established on San Nicolas Island, Catalina Island (east end and west end), and Santa Barbara Island.”
June 11, 1934 [Revocable License]: “…Whereas, E. N. Vail disposed of his sheep, horses, equipment and other improvements on said Government reservation to R. E. Agee and L. P. Elliott, who are now, and for more than five years past have been, occupying Government reservation; and whereas the term of occupancy expires July 31, 1934… Now Therefore, in consideration of the premises, the Secretary of the Navy hereby grants to R. E. Agee and L. P. Elliott permission to occupy the Naval Reservation, San Nicolas Island, California, for grazing purposes from August 1, 1934.”
May 25, 1936 [LAT]: “Teacher and two pupils return from lonely isle. Lonely and desolate San Nicolas Island… has sent its district school to the mainland for the summer vacation. The ocean-bound school. Possibly the smallest in the United States, consists of its teacher, Miss Alma R. McLain, and her two pupils, Frances Agee, 8 years of age, and John Scrimiger, 7…”
July 7-18, 1938: San Nicolas Island Expedition. California Academy of Sciences. The expedition team included: Loye Miller, T. D. A. Cockerell, and Harvey Allen, geology and anthropology. On the island were: Mr. & Mrs. Reginald Lamberth, Island Managers, and their children Jeanne (7) and Dennis (5); Lawrence and Raymond Foster, brothers of Mrs. Lamberth; and Edward Hendricks, Naval Radio & Weather Observer. They traveled to the island from San Diego aboard E. W. Scripps. » Loye Miller San Nicolas Island Expedition, 1938 manuscript on file, CAS
DATE?: Isle of lost race doomed by nature… San Nicolas has few inhabitants: United States radio operators who twice daily send weather reports and two representatives of the geodetic survey who constantly make soundings in the pounding surf… On the beach are the bleaching spars and ribs of craft dating as far back as 1780… A Basque sheepherder, who once resided on the barren outcropping of mid-Pacific rock… says the spirits guarding the graves of the lost empire of Indians are angered because the white men have come to disturb the rest of the departed…”
November 1942 the Army was given temporary jurisdiction over San Nicolas Island, and it became a gunnery range. San Nicolas Island was transferred back to the Navy after World War II.
1945 Phil C. Orr made four trips to San Nicolas Island: February, March, April and September. Of his September 1945 trip he noted: “During previous visits it had been impossible to explore the west end of the island because of military restrictions. On this occasion we were able to explore it when, by the aid of radio and radar reports, it was known that there would be no target practice in the area.” » ORR, Phil C.
1946. Missile Missives, the newspaper for Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, began. It became the Missile in 1960. In January 1999 the Coverall, the newspaper for Naval Base Ventura County, Port Mugu was merged with the Missile and the name was changed to the Channel. In 2000 the paper's name was changed to the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was discontinued in 1915.
1947 San Nicolas Island came under the control of the Naval Air Station at Point Mugu as part of the Naval Air Missile Test Center.
July 1947 [Popular Mechanics]: Pacific Shooting Gallery
February 17, 1950 [NSJRN]: “San Nicolas Island. Marine veterans of the Guadalcanal invasion have driven out the ‘enemy’ on this Santa Barbara Channel Island in a mock battle marking the first large scale use of aircraft in joint land-sea air maneuvers.”
December 31, 1954 [OPC]: “It was a year of continued expansion at Point Mugu… This includes a barracks and test control center on San Nicolas Island at a total cost of $517,800… Plans and specifications are being prepared for proposed $1 million in construction at San Nicolas. No contracts have been awarded…”
1956. U.S. Naval Air Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, 1946-1956 “...the last lease was cancelled by the government in 1941. During World War II, San Nick was the home of a small Army detachment connected with coastal artillery and other ordnance training. The island served as a target, and ordnance items are occasionally still found there. The main mission of San Nicolas station is to maintain facilities which aid scientists in gathering data from missile test operations conducted in the Sea Test Range. Expanding aviation facilities include a runway capable of handling the four-engined R5D transport used to carry personnel and cargo to and from the island...”
July 4, 1957 [Spokane Daily Chronicle]: Navy scientists are today tried to find out why a rocket fizzled in its attempt to pry some of the sun’s secret out of the upper atmosphere. The two-stage rocket, designed to go 80 miles up, was launched yesterday in an international geophysical year project. The rocket reportedly went up 59 miles, but astronomers at Mount Wilson observatory, which is working with the navy on the project, said it failed to transmit information back to the ground station.”
October 31, 1957: Naval Facility (NAVFAC) San Nicolas Island was commissioned. Between 1957 and 1973, and in 2004, U. S. Military research rockets were launched in support of other missile tests from Vandenberg Air Force Base and Point Mugu, California. NAVFAC San Nicolas Island was decommissioned after twenty-six and a half years, on March 2, 1984, after which it was made a remote operation.
November 27, 2019 [Denton Daily]: “US tests cruise missile BANNED by expired INF treaty The US military has tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of over 500km, the Pentagon confirmed. Such weapons were banned under the INF arms control treaty, which the US exited this month. The flight test of a “conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile” was conducted on August 18 at a range on San Nicolas Island, California, the US Department of Defense said Monday. After a successful launch, the missile struck its target more than 500km (310 miles) away. Photos and video of the test launch suggested that the missile in question was a Tomahawk, an existing US cruise missile normally launched from ships and submarines. This was confirmed later in the day by Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver. Use of the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System in the test is of particular significance, since those are the launchers positioned at US missile defense sites in Poland and Romania. Russia has cited the existence of these sites as a threat and a violation of the INF by the US, since the launchers can fire both Tomahawks and SM-3 defensive missiles, as the Pentagon just demonstrated. Weapons with a range of between 500km and 5,500km were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, a key arms control mechanism that helped de-escalate Cold War nuclear tensions when it was signed in 1987. In February this year, the US announced it was quitting the treaty, accusing Russia of having a non-compliant missile system. Moscow denied the accusations and invited inspections of the system, but no one took it up on the offer. The treaty expired on August 1. The Trump administration had previously signaled it was determined to exit the INF back in October 2018, when National Security Advisor John Bolton described it as a “relic of the Cold War” during his visit to Moscow. “There’s a new strategic reality out there,” Bolton told reporters at the time, describing the INF as a “bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world,” that applied only to the US and Russia in Europe and did not do anything to constrain the actions of China, Iran or North Korea. The INF was the second major Cold War arms control treaty the US led the way in dismantling, following the demise of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty in 2001. The sole remaining arms control treaty, New START, is due to expire in February 2021.”
San Nicolas Island military anacronyms:
- NAVFAC = Naval Facility [San Nicolas Island]
- CIWS = Close In-Weapons Systems
- NOLF = Naval Outlying Landing Field contains the 10,000-foot runway, 2 hangars asnd airfield support
- RAM = Remote Attack Missiles
- SLAM = Strategic Lnd Attack Missile
- SDTS = Self Defense Test Ship