THOMPSON, Alpheus Basil

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Alpheus Basil Thompson (1797-1869)
Santa Rosa Island's main ranch house is believed to have been built by Alpeus Basil Thompson in the late 1850s. c.1985

THOMPSON, Alpheus Basil (1797-1869), seafarer born in Maine to Alexander Thompson (1757-1820) and Lydia Wildes (1761-1858). He came to Santa Barbara via Hawaii in 1834. Thompson was a merchant, otter hunter, farmer, stock raiser, and shipbuilder of the Washington, Bolivar Liberator, Fama and Loriot. He played an important role in the economic and political development of Santa Barbara. His younger brother, Alexander Francis Thompson, achieved fame as captain of the Pilgrim, made famous by Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. Dixey Wildes Thompson was his nephew, son of his older brother, John. Captain and artist, Frank Wildes Thompson, was another nephew, son of his younger brother, Wildes Thomas Thompson.

At the Santa Barbara Mission on November 5, 1834 at age 37, Alpheus Thompson married 19-year-old Francisca Carrillo (1816-1851), daughter of Carlos Carrillo. Among other business pursuits, Thompson imported lumber to Santa Barbara. Their house on lower State Street was the first to be built of redwood rather than adobe. It was burned to the ground shortly thereafter, allegedly by “a paisano who made his living selling adobe bricks for house building [W. Thompson Santa Barbara History Makers]. Their second house, two-story of adobe and wood, later became the Saint Charles and then San Carlos Hotel. It was torn down in 1923 before the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake.

Nine years after the Thompson marriage (1843), Francisca’s father and her uncle (José Antonio Carrillo) were granted Santa Rosa Island. They in turn sold the island to Francisca and Thompson, and to her sister Manuela and her husband, John Coffin Jones who had married in 1838. The sisters paid their father $3,300 for the island, “one half in silver money of good quality and the other half in goods.” According to Alpheus B. Thompson, the Carrillo brothers received the island:

  • “provided they should occupy the [island] in one year as per the Colonization Act, built a house thereon, corals [sic], plant fruit trees, and place there on cattle, horses, etc. under the pain of losing the same if not strictly complyed [sic] with, etc. The said two brothers were not able to comply with the terms of the Grant and sold the same to me, by making a Deed of Gift to my wife, Daughter of [Carlos] Carrillo as the island could not be transferred out of the family; but it was found that the Colonization Act only allowed Eleven Leagues to any one individual, and it was agreed that the Deed of Gift should be made out to my Wife and to her Sister...the Governor of California Don Manuel Micheltorena made the transfer together with the original Deeds from Supreme Government of Mexico” [Alpheus B. Thompson to Timothy Wolcott, Esq., June 12, 1857, typescript at Santa Barbara Historical Society].

Brothers-in-law John C. Jones and Alpheus Basil Thompson thus became partners in Santa Rosa Island. Funded by Jones, Thompson developed a large stock operation on Santa Rosa Island. In 1844 he built the first redwood house on the island, and by 1855, he had built a second house and a number of corrals. Although Thompson and Jones had been in business together as co-owners of several ships engaged in transporting goods from Mexico to California, they had a falling out over their island affairs.

Jones had moved to Boston in January of 1846, leaving Thompson to run the island, with all proceeds to be split. When Thompson sold a large number of cattle and did not send Jones money, Jones, represented by Alfred Robinson and Charles Fernald, filed suit against Thompson in 1851. Thompson lost the suit, claiming influential Robinson had “bought” witnesses. After Thompson lost again on appeal, his island interests were sold to More. In 1869 at age 74 Thompson suffered a stroke in Los Angeles and died on February 22, 1869. A. B. Thompson papers are on file in the Santa Barbara Historical Society library.

Alpheus Basil Thompson (1797-1869) = [1834] Maria Francisca Carrillo (1816-1851) She died as a young mother at age 34.

  • 1. Francisco “Frank” Alpheus Thompson (1836-1900)= Maria Anita Concepcion Ramona de la Guerra (1849-1935)
  • 2. Maria Ysabel Thompson (1838- ) resided Santa Barbara
  • 3. Francisca Carolina Thompson (June 1841-May 30, 1917 in Nipomo)= John Francisco Dana (1838-1936) COUSIN
1. John Alpheus Dana (1862- )
2. Josephine Caroline Dana (1864-1878)
3. Alexander Albert Dana (1866-1891) SLO MISSION
4. Charles Anthony Dana (1868- )
5. Mary “Maud” Dana (1869-1902)
6. Caroline “Carrie” Dana (1871- )
7. Elena “Ellen” Dana (1873-1893)
8. Edward E. Dana (April 19, 1876-April 23, 1966)
9. Samuel M. Dana (1876-1932) = Tita Isabel (Sept. 10, 1883-May 25, 1955) SLO MISSION
1. Mollie K. Dana (1908-1927) SLO MISSION
10. Alaric Benjamin Dana (Sept. 19, 1878-June 30, 1954)
11. Mary “Mollie” Dana (1879-1955)
  • 4. Helena “Elena” Anita Thompson (1843-1926) = Tyng
  • 5. Carlos “Charles” Alejandro Thompson (1845-1916)
  • 6. Adalberto “Albert” F. Thompson (1847- )

In the News~

1831: In 1831, Thompson became part owner of Convoy, along with William French, Eliab Grimes, and John Coffin Jones, Jr. Jones wrote to a potential Mexican partner: “The Convoy is intended, if possible, to be put under Mexican colors and remain on the coast of California to hunt [otters] according to the plan we talked of when I was in Monterey.” Thompson wanted a portion of her to be sold to a Mexican citizen, warning that “security and caution will be necessary in proceeding.” [Ogden. California Sea Otter Trade, 1941.]

December 2, 1843 [Deposition of Captain James Stevens, October 10, 1854]: “I was captain of [Alpheus B.] Thompson’s brig, Bolivar Liberator… I went to the island of Santa Rosa in the said brig in the latter part of November 1843 or the first of December. I went to the island to take possessions to the island for Mr. Thompson. I took the alcalde [mayor] of Santa Barbara, Don Tomas Robbins, Thomas Park, Mr. Covarrubias, Mr. Robbins and Mr. Stevens as passengers. I took over material for building a house on the island for Mr. Thompson… Possession was given by the alcalde to Thompson through Captain Robbins.”

[1854] March 17, 1881 [SBDP]: “At the time of the wreck of the Yankee Blade, I was living on the island of Santa Rosa, in the employ of my uncle, A. B. Thompson… This was, I think, in 1854... D. W. Thompson.”

June 15, 1858: “On the matter of the guardianship of the minor children of Francisca Carrillo de Thompson, deceased, upon the petition of Charles E. Huse, guardian of said minor children, due notice of the time and place of hearing said petition having been given, and no objection to the granting of the same having been filed, and it having been made to appear, by the oath of Charles E. Huse, that his wards are deeply in debt for their maintenance and education; that there are no moneys in his hands to discharge the same and to pay the accruing expenses of their maintenance and education; that the father of said minor children is unable to maintain them out of his own estate; that they have no personal property except an undivided interest in livestock upon the Island of Santa Rosa; that said interest can be sold more advantageously and for a better price at private sale than at public auction; it is ordered: that the guardianship of the minor children of Francisca Carrillo de Thompson, deceased, sell at private sale, their personal property described in the petition on such terms as shall appear to be the most Advantageous. Charles Fernald, County Judge.” [Huntington Library, Stearns Collection, Box 87, Folder 12]

June 19, 1858: “On the matter of the guardianship of the minor children of Francisca Carrillo de Thompson, deceased, to the Hon. Probate Judge of the County of Santa Barbara… [C. E. Huse] has sold to T. Wallace More, all the undivided interest of said minor children in the livestock upon the Island of Santa Rosa, for the sum of $8756.00 payable one third in cash, one third in one year, and the remainder in two years; that the purchaser is to pay an additional sum provided other interests in the same livestock are purchased by him at a higher rate than $30,000; that the interest sold constitutes of one sixth part of the stock undivided; that this undivided interest is of comparatively trifling value except to one who can control the remaining interests, or a majority of them; and who likewise has ready money to a large amount, to enable him to reduce the animals from their present wild state; and your petitioner is informed and believes that a majority of the persons who give legal advice in the County of Santa Barbara, have stated as their opinion, that the interest of these minor children in the livestock is liable to be sold for the satisfaction of judgments amounting to about $40,000 recorded against their father, who was formerly their guardian; that in consequence of the cloud which has been thrown over their title to this stock from persons who have the boldness to purchase it, and your petitioner does not know of any person who would give, for the interest sold, one fourth part of the price paid, and to be paid by T. Wallace More, the purchaser. Wherefore your petitioner prays that the sale of the interest of his wards in the livestock on the Island of Santa Rosa, made to T. Wallace More, may be approved. Charles E. Huse.” [Filed June 22, 1858]. [Huntington Library, Stearns Collection, Box 87, Folder 12]

June 29, 1858: “At chambers on the matter of the guardianship of the minor children of Francisca Carrillo de Thompson, deceased… ordered that the sale of personal property of the minor heirs of said Francisca Carrillo de Thompson, made by their guardian as reported to the court, be and the same is hereby approved by me. Charles Fernald, County Judge.” [Huntington Library, Stearns Collection, Box 87, Folder 12]

July 1858: Dixey W. Thompson, Plaintiff vs. John C. Jones, Alpheus B. Thompson, Francis A. Thompson, Isabel Thompson, Caroline Thompson, Albert Thompson; Charles E. Huse, Guardian, & T. Wallace More, and Abel Stearns, Defendants. Action brought in the District Court of the 1st Judicial District, State of California, Los Angeles County. Dixey W. Thompson, the Plaintiff… alleges… in or about the year 1844, defendant Alpheus B. Thompson became located upon Santa Rosa Island in the County of Santa Barbara and engaged in the business of raising stock, to wit, meat cattle, sheep and horses… on the 30th day of March 1852, by the order and request of said defendant, Alpheus B. Thompson, the said plaintiff was engaged and employed by the said defendant, to take charge of, control and master a certain schooner called Sophia, claimed by the said defendant to be owned by him… engaged in the importation of stock to and from the Island of Santa Rosa from the said 30th day of March in the year 1852, to the 1st day of October in the same year, a period of six months, for which said service... to pay the said plaintiff the sum of $100 per month… the said defendant is now indebted to the said plaintiff… in the sum of $600…”

February 24, 1869 [SBP]: “Died in Los Angeles February 22nd, Mr. A. B. Thompson, of Santa Barbara, aged 71 years.”

June 1, 1869 [letter in possession of Mrs. Williamson (?) from Albert F. Thompson to John F. Dana]: “I have this day sold to Alexander P. More, my right, title, and interest to the Santa Rosa Island, for the sum of $1000.00. I think that Charles will also sell for the same price very soon. If you want to dispose of your interest in the island I can negotiate it for you with Mr. More. I think that I was lucky to get that amount for the same. The island has never yielded us anything, could not sell it to nobody but More. Could not sustain an action, and if More did not want to purchase it he could enjoy the possession of the same for a life time without interruption. Salude a todos, Albert F. Thompson” [son and heir of Alpheus B. Thompson]

April 29, 1915 [SBMP]: “Yesterday a very notable window display was made at the Ruiz Pharmacy in a huge device that had ornamented the hull of the good ship Fama, owned by Captain A. B. Thompson, famous in the ocean traffic of the long gone years, the vessel having been wrecked off the Santa Barbara lighthouse many years ago. This decoration, which was secured from the hull of the wrecked ship by Colonel Hollister, consists in a gigantic eagle with outstretched wings, surmounting the shield of the United States, beautifully carved in wood, and gilded and painted in appropriate fashion. The ornamental figure stands five feet high and is about five feet in width. It was placed in the center of the vessel’s stern, above the name and that of the home port. Colonel Hollister hung the figure in the old Lobero Theatre, afterward rechristened the Santa Barbara Opera House, as an ornament, and later he gave the handsome relic to Charles A. Thompson, son of his old friend, Captain Thompson, who still cherishes it as one of his prized mementos of the early years. Captain Thompson, owner of the vessel referred to, also operated several other vessels owned by him, in trading between the Sandwich Islands, as they were then called, and various ports along the California coast. He was the first American to come to Santa Barbara, he having arrived here in 1834. The present owner recently had the figure newly gilded and painted, and as it has been preserved in perfect form, it is a handsome object to view, aside from its positive value as a historical relic.”