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VASQUEZ, Ramon (1841-1926), early Santa Barbara-born otter hunter, lifelong seaman and “deep-water” sailor. Vasquez was the first to offer seals for sale in Santa Barbara. Ramon’s younger brother, Crispine, was lost at sea in 1878 with Martin Kimberly while otter hunting in near Japan. Ramon died of heart failure at age 85, and was survived by his sons Joseph, Nicolas and Ramon, as well as two daughters and 30 grandchildren. He is buried in Santa Barbara at Calvary Cemetery. He long outlived his wife, Maria Nicolasa Rodriguez (1852-1880).

In the News~

August 1, 1878 [SBDP]: “Ramon Vasquez, charged with having broken the head of José Ortez, was acquitted by a jury in Justice Smith’s court yesterday afternoon.”

WHAT IS THE FOLLOWING CASE? A. P. More owned Santa Rosa Island.

March 4, 1882 [SBDP]: “March 2. R. Vasquez vs. A. P. More. Motion to dismiss appeal denied on the ground that no appeal has ever been taken, and it is further ordered that said cause be stricken from the calendar.”

March 4, 1882 [SBDP]: “March 3. Ramon Vasquez vs. A. P. More. The order heretofore made, striking this cause from the calendar is vacated and set aside, and permission is given to argue the matter upon which said decision was rendered.”

March 14, 1882 [SBDP]: “Ramon Vasquez vs. A. P. More; set for hearing the 8th inst.”

March 15, 1882 [SBDP]: “R. Vasquez vs. A. P. More. Continued until the 16th inst.”

March 22, 1882 [SBDP]: “R. Vasquez vs. A. P. More, continued until the 21st inst.”

April 8, 1882 [SBDP]: “April 6. R. Vasquez vs. A. P. More. The defendant moved the court to reinstate this cause on the calendar and proceed with the trial thereof. The court denied the motion on the ground that there is no appeal taken to this court whatever.”

May 24, 1882 [SBDP]: “Ramon Vasquez vs. A. P. More. It appearing to the Court that the complaint in the Justice Court in this cause was answered by the defendant; that the Justice notwithstanding said issue entered Judgment by default. It is on motion of Counsel for defendant ordered that the said Judgment made and entered by said Justice, be and the same is hereby reversed, vacated and set aside and the said cause is remanded to the Justice who entered the said Judgment for further proceedings.”

January 7, 1884 [SBDI]: “Ramon Vasquez, a native of this city, and who has been an otter hunter for twenty-five years, has accepted a position in the employ of a San Francisco fur trading house at a large salary to hunt for them in the waters along the shores of Alaska. Vasquez is an expert marksman, and has had quite a varied experience. He has hunted three years in the Japan seas and all along the Pacific coast of North America. His brother was an otter hunter also, but was lost at sea. Ramon leaves in three weeks and will be gone seven months.”

October 9, 1884 [SBDI]: “Joe Olivas and Ramon Vasquez, Santa Barbara boys, who have been off on an otter hunt to the Alaska waters, have been heard from. The schooner on which they were employed, belonging to a firm in San Francisco, and netted them $50,000.”

May 15, 1886 [SanDU]: “T. J. Higgins yesterday sold his sloop Brisk to Ramon Vasquez, otter hunter of Santa Barbara, for $600. This is a good craft. Increase in real estate business demanding all his attention is all that made Higgins part with her.”

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.”

May 26, 1889 [SBMP]: “Ramon Vasquez and a party of Californians are fitting out the sloop Brisk for a sealing expedition to San Miguel Island. Yesterday they put aboard a number of barrels to hold the seal oil and tripods to use in trying it out. The sloop will probably get off today.”

December 25, 1893 [SBDI]: “The schooner San Mateo left yesterday for Santa Cruz Island for another catch of seals to go in the Midwinter Amphibia. Ramon Vasquez and Joe Espinosa are aboard with a party of hunters. The latter will be left on the island while the San Mateo goes south for an overhauling and repainting.”

August 7, 1895 [SBDI]: “Will Devine came over from the island last night. Ramón Vasquez returned at ten o’clock with Will Devine, who has been on the island since March. His mother and younger brother remained at San Miguel, though they are expected in Santa Barbara as soon as a suitable boat can be provided... Since the wreck of the sloop Liberty, communication with the mainland has not been regular, but the family has suffered great inconvenience, further than a lack of vegetables and one or two other articles of food. As soon as a stock of provisions is laid in, Devine expects to return, possibly in about a week.”

June 17, 1897 [SBDN]: “The fire department was called out last evening at 9:30 o’clock in response to an alarm turned in from box 35. The fire was in a boathouse in the rear of Ramon Vasquez’s place on State, between Yanonali and Montecito streets.”

June 18, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “The burning of the boathouse of Ramon Vasquez on State Street, between Yanonali and Montecito streets last evening, caused the inhabitants of Santa Barbara a small-sized scare, as a strong wind was blowing at the time and because of the adjacency of the burning building to other houses and ice works. A bucket brigade put out the fire ere the firemen reached it.”

July 23, 1897 [SBDI]: “Mr. Logan of New Orleans, who has been spending the past year here, gave some of his young friends a very pleasurable trip to the islands, the cruise requiring several days, the return being made yesterday. The Olita, Captain Newton’s pretty yacht, was chartered, and Ramon Vasquez was in command. The week was spent mostly at Santa Cruz Island, the party visiting all of the various harbors and camps. Mr. Logan’s guests were Fred Poett, R. Redington, Reginald Fernald, Martin Meigs, and Wilson Dibblee.”

July 17, 1897 [SBDN]: “Ramon Vasquez received his papers as master of the Olita. He took a party to Santa Cruz Island on his first trip as master.”

December 13, 1898 [SBMP]: “The yacht Helene, built a few years ago by J. D. Axtell and owned by Edwards & Company, is a total wreck in Forney's Cove on Santa Cruz Island. Captain Ramon Vasquez, who was in command, is seriously ill at his home on lower De La Vina Street, the result of the drenching received in escaping to the shore, and the exposure in the cold during the following day and night. The rest of the party escaped with their lives and the clothes upon their backs, but nothing else...”

December 13, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Santa Rosa came into port late last night bring with her six shipwrecked men from the schooner Helene… The six men on the vessel were Ramon Vasquez, Joseph Leva, Colice Vasquez, Joe Cota and Charles Shout… The Helene was a comparatively new boat, having been in the channel about four years… She has been employed catching live seals for the Rogers Brothers…”

December 13, 1898 [SFCall]: “Wave-swept channel rock their haven. Horrible suffering of shipwrecked men. Loss of schooner Helene. Strikes a reef off Santa Cruz Island. Crew of six gains the shore by swimming, after a night spent on a rock washed by the breakers. The schooner Santa Rosa came into port last night bringing six shipwrecked men fro the schooner Helene. These men tell a thrilling tale of their experience after having been shipwrecked off Santa Cruz Island on Thursday evening. While on the east side of Santa Cruz they encountered a southeaster and a very heavy sea. They immediately made for the west end of the island, which is protected from a southeast wind. They anchored off Forney's Cove, at the extreme end of the island, and had lain there three or four hours when a northeaster began blowing down the channel between Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands. Three anchors were immediately thrown out, but they were powerless against the heavy wind. It was useless for the crew to attempt to pull up anchor and make to sea. The vessel dragged her anchors, and at about midnight struck a low reef, which forms one side of Forney's Cove, with terrific force, knocking a large hole in her bottom. The vessel turned over on her side, and what provisions were not washed off her deck by the waves which swept over her were destroyed by the water. The six men had great difficulty in saving themselves from being swept off the rigging. The small skiff was unfastened, but as soon as put into the water was capsized. Its oars were thus lost. Finally the crew succeeded in righting it, and fastened one end of a rope to the boat and the other end to the wrecked Helene. They all got in and set the skiff adrift, hoping it would be blown to a small rock about 100 yards from the wreck. This hope was realized. All night long they remained on the rock in a howling wind, soaked to the skin, and the waves washing completely over them every few minutes. Late the next day the tide had lowered sufficiently for them to wade a considerable distance on the reef, and by swimming a few hundred yards they reached the mainland. They found a deserted Chinese cabin, which contained provisions. Here they remained another twenty-four hours when the schooner Santa Rosa happened to see their signal of distress. When the southeaster came up the Santa Rosa had been forced out of Santa Barbara harbor and held in the channel two or three days, seeking a safe harbor. She was within three or four miles of the west end when Captain Burtis saw the signal of distress. The wind was blowing a terrific gale at the time, and it was with great risk that an anchorage was made and the men rescued. When found they were in a sorry condition, all being chilled through and through. Ramon Vasquez, an old sea captain, was in command of the Helene. He was in a serious condition when picked up. He could neither move a muscle nor make a sound. At a late hour today the attending physician said that he could not live many hours. The other five men, although badly bruised and exhausted, are not in a serious condition. The men on the vessel were: Ramon Vasquez, Joseph Leva, Colais [sic] Vasquez, Joe Olivas, Joe Cota and Charles Thrift. The Helene was built in this city at a cost of $5000, but was never considered a seaworthy vessel. She was four years old, and was registered at fifteen tons. She was the property of Edwards & Co., local hardware men. The Helene had been catching seals alive for Rogers Bros. of this city, who trained them and sold them to Easterners.”

December 15, 1898 [SBMP]: “Captain [Ramon] Vasquez suffered a relapse and his recovery is now considered very doubtful. The exposure to wet and cold in Forney’s Cove after the wreck of the Helene has led to a serious condition, and now pneumonia or lung fever may follow.”

December 20, 1898 [SBMP]: “Rosaline Vasquez has visited the scene of the wreck of the Helene and obtained part of the rigging, the mainsail, etc. He returned yesterday on the schooner Santa Rosa, reporting nothing left of the sloop but pieces. Captain [Ramon] Vasquez is improving slowly now, having passed the danger point.”

June 10, 1901 [SBDI]: “Herbert A. Rogers is now negotiating with the directors of the Pan-American Exposition for space at the exposition for a small amphibia, to which he will take several seals from the Channel Islands and train them for exhibition. Mr. Rogers has had much experience in catching and training seals, having been in the business with E. F. Rogers for over 20 years. During the last year his men have captured 45 animals about the islands, which have been shipped to various cities of the east and abroad. New York, New Orleans, Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Hamburg, Germany, have seals from the channel waters. Mr. Rogers is now preparing an expedition that will go to the islands soon after 15 large seals for the exposition, if his request for space is granted. The art of capturing the queer amphibious animals is known only to a few. One must be unusually quick and must be very handy with the lasso. Ramon Vasquez, Colice Vasquez, José Espinosa, José Olivos and Hiram Pierce are all experts. It is dangerous as well as difficult work to get them, as they are very vicious and only haunt the roughest shores, where the deep caves are.”

July 6, 1901 [SBMP]: “The Voorhees party left last evening in the yacht Olita for an outgoing trip. The party came near being delayed through a misunderstanding with the captain. The yacht finally left port with Ramon Vasquez in command.”

September 10, 1905 [SBMP]: “The launch Vishnu has returned from the wreck of the J. M. Colman on the west coast of San Miguel Island. She brought back First Mate Frank Patterson, who went out to the wreck on a steamer from San Pedro. Engineer Claud Cole and Pilot Ramon Vasquez returned with the boat.”

June 18, 1908 [SBMP]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez went south on a short business trip.”

July 26, 1908 [LAT/SB]: “Unless the crews of Mexican and Chilean stevedores are soon brought to the mainland from barren Flea Island, the scene of the wreck of the steamer Anubis, there may be bloodshed and death. The hot-tempered gangs, cooped in narrow quarters, are armed factions, ready for the spark that will ignite passions. Petty fights, in which knives were drawn, have taken place frequently since the ship went aground… Captain Rosaline Vasquez of the Gussie M, and Captain Ramon Vasquez of the Baltic, both arriving today, told of the ugly situation and the revenue cutter Manning, with Captain Pillsbury of the Marine Underwriters of San Francisco on board, reached here tonight and the story was confirmed…”

July 8, 1911 [SBMP]: “On Frank Garbutt’s big yacht, Skidbladnir, and on Captain Rosaline Vasquez’ Gussie M, a party of thirty actors and actresses of the Selig Motion Picture Company will cross the channel… It was planned yesterday to stage one picture on the wreck of the steamer Santa Rosa, but the developments of the night may make this impossible. The wreck will be visited on the way across.”

July 29, 1911 [SBMP]: “To Islands Today. The Gussie M, Captain Rosaline cruise to Santa Cruz Island with Mr. and Mrs. L. F. Ruiz and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Greenwell, who will camp at that place for a couple of weeks. Returning, the Gussie M will bring a cargo of abalone meat and shells from the Chinese camp at Forney's cove on the south side of the island. Vasquez also hopes to secure three seals for eastern shipment.”

April 4, 1926 [SBMP]: “Captain Ramon Vasquez, one of the founders of the Santa Barbara island seal trade that has grown during his lifetime to the proportions of an industry, died in the family home at 623 East Haley Street yesterday afternoon at the age of [85] years. A deep-sea fisherman all his life, Captain Vasquez was the first man to realize the tremendous of the seals in the island rookeries which now supply 90 per cent of seals in captivity and was leader in capturing them for marketing purposes. Surviving the pioneer fisherman are three sons, Joseph, Nicolas and Ramon Vasquez, all of Santa Barbara; two daughters, Mrs. P.M. Badillo of Palm City, California, and Mrs. Rose Garcia of Santa Barbara, and 30 grandchildren... While Santa Barbara was the birthplace of Captain Vasquez and his permanent home during his lifetime, he was for many years a deep water sailor and made numerous fishing and hunting expeditions to Alaskan, Japanese and Chinese waters. Most of the hunting on these voyages was for fur-bearing mammals. He was the first man in Santa Barbara to offer seals in the city for sale. He followed this trade for many years. He was succeeded as a trapper by Captain Ira Eaton. The latter now captures practically all the seals taken from the islands, and they are marketed by Captain George M. McGuire, former city councilman who controls the industry.”

April 6, 1926 [Lompoc Review]: “Seal catcher passes. Santa Barbara, April 4—Captain Ramon Vasquez, one of the founders of the Santa Barbara Island seal trade that has grown during his lifetime to the proportions of an industry died in the family home at 623 East Haley Street yesterday afternoon at the age of 75 years. A deepsea fisherman all his life, Captain Vasquez was the first man to realize the tremendous value of the seals in the island rookeries, which now supply 90 percent of seals in captivity and was the leader in capturing them for marketing purposes.”