WILSON, Spencer W.

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WILSON, Spencer W. ( - )

“Another set of "West Enders" of the era was Captain Charles A. Wilson and his father, Spencer, who supposedly followed Bouchette around, looking for the elusive treasure. They lived a generally quiet life, and Spencer was allowed to stay on the island in 1864 when the Civil War sent the Union Army to establish an outpost at the Isthmus. At that time he ran a herd of 12,000 sheep, 10 cattle, and cut firewood for sale. Capt. Charles is quoted in some Catalina history as saying that the Isthmus offered the best shark fishing around, as well it might; its sand bottom, relatively shallow depth and comparative warmth make a great shark nursery. Wilson lived in a cabin at the Isthmus until his death in 1918.”

* 1980. Mintey, Elyse 19th Century Californiana: Tales of Catalina's Two Harbors Sea 72(3):34n, 340, 34p, March 1980
[original in SCIF archives]

In the News~

November 26, 1863 [Henry Hancock to Lieut. Col. James F. Curtis], Camp Drum: “Sir: I have the honor to report that at 8 P.M. of the 22nd instant I arrived at Fisherman’s Harbor, Island of Catalina, with two enlisted men of Company C… having sailed from the port of San Pedro on the sloop Ned Beal, burden 17 28/100 tons, owned by Spencer W. Wilson of Wilson’s Harbor, Island of Catalina… The population of the island is about 100, one-half of whom are miners… The present number of sheep is about 15,000, nine thousand of which belong to Mr. Spencer W. Wilson. Of goats there are some 7,000 or 8,000. Of cattle and horses there are not many… John Johnson, ten years a resident, 200 head of cattle… Spencer H. Wilson, five years a resident; 10 head of cattle… Juan Cota, 400 head cattle… Swain Lawson, 10 head cattle…”

June 12, 1864 [DAC]: “Letter from Santa Catalina Island. June 3rd, 1864... Wilson's Valley, a mile further westward [from Howland's Landing], is the largest and most pleasant of the three last named [Fourth of July Valley; Cherry Valley; Howland's Valley]. It has a fine beach in front, and equals Howland's in its water privileges. Its proprietor, after whom it is named, is a man of some wealth, and has been located here with his family for quite a number of years. His sheep and goats range the mountains undisturbed, and at the proper season of the year return to yield him their golden fleeces. The only grave I saw upon the island was at this place. Samuel Prentiss (c. 1784-1856). Opposite his residence, scarcely a furlong distant, on a pleasant slope near the seashore, is a solitary grave, surrounded by pickets painted dark brown. The lonely occupant of that small enclosure doubtless sleeps well. I looked upon it and sighed, wondering if his days had been spent in toiling—mining—or busy trade: envied the lot of the sleeper, and passed on to the shore, to hold communion with the deep, dark, rolling, restless sea...There is but little timber on the island....At Queen City, a new town lately laid out at the head of Wilson's Valley, by Col. Shipley, about a mile from the shore, it is said there are cottonwood trees, which have assumed quite tree-like proportions. This city is on an elevated table land above the valley, level and commanding, in the midst of a good mineral region, and really looks well on paper, and is, in fact, a desirable location. It is the pioneer city of Santa Catalina, G. R. P.”