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ances never reached the point of bloodshed, in which they
could not be likened to Christian nations.

"Their huts were made of sticks covered in around with flag
mats, worked or platted, and each village generally contained
from 500 to 1500 huts."

Of language he says : "They have many phrases to which
we have no equivalent." He said that after the coming in of
the Spaniards, or, as he puts it, "the conquest," their language
degenerated until "the present generation barely comprehends
a part of what one of the old 'standards' says." "They believed
in one God, the maker and creator of all." The term "Giver
of Life" was. used for ordinary occasions. "The name of God"
was never taken in vain, their nearest approach to an oath
being a term equivalent to "Bless me!" They had "never
heard of devil or hell until the coming of the Spaniards." They
"had no bad spirits connected with their creed." They "be-
lieved in no resurrection whatever," but believed in the trans-
migration of souls into the bodies of animals.

The "chiefs had one, two or three wives, as their inclina-
tion dictated. The subjects only one." "The last case of big- ,
amy, or rather polygamy, was one of the chiefs from Santa
Catherina (Catalina), who was ordered by the priest to San
Gabriel and their baptized. He had three wives, the first one
of whom was allowed him, and the others discarded." Reid
said this Indian was still living at San Fernando and called
"Canoa or Canoe."

Children were taught to be respectful to their elders, "for
if an adult asked a boy or girl for a drink of water, they
were not allowed to put it to their lips until the other had satis-
fied his thirst. If two were in a conversation, a child was not
permitted to pass between them, but made to go around them
on either side. No male from childhood upward was allowed
to call his sister liar' even in jest, the word for liar being
'yayare.' "

That such refined regard for the amenities of life existed
among the aborigines of this coast appears incredible.

Shells have always been prized by aborigines for adornment,
and Santa Catalina, as well as the other isles of Southern Cal-
ifornia, has always been rich in beautiful irridescent abalones
(Haliotis splendens, H. Cracherodii) as well as other forms.

*Note — If Reid is right the Spanish writers were mistaken
in supposing the idol was a demon or devil.


"Although money in the strict sense of the word did not
exist among them, they had an equivalent consisting of pieces
of thick rounded shells, less than a five-cent piece. These had
a hole in the center and were strung on long strings. Eight of
these yards of beads (for they were also used as such) made
about one dollar of our currency."*

Before passing from the occupation of Santa Catalina by the
aborigines, to its usurpation by the white man, some notice
must be taken of history written by their own hands as they
shaped their implements of bone and stone and carved their
"ollas" from the serpentine quarries. These utensils are today
the pride of the archaeologist as well as the study of the eth-
nologist. A few years ago anthropologists were enthusiastic
over these "finds." It was rumored that "a vast collection of
curios" had been removed and sent to the Smithsonian Insti-
tute. Through the courtesy of Mr. W. de C. Ravenel, adminis-
trative assistant of the U. S. National Museum, I have received
a list of Santa Catalina relics now in that museum* A fine list
of Indian rehcs now in the Peabody Museum at Cambridge
has very kindly been furnished by Prof. F. W. Putnam, Pea-
body Professor of American Archaeology and Ethnology.
Through the kindness of Mr. Frank Wiggins, Secretary Los
Angeles Chamber of Commerce, I have been able to copy a list
of relics found on Santa Catalina Island, and now in the Cham-
ber of Commerce. These lists will be published by the U. S.
Cal. Acad. Science.

The soapstone specimens were made from the soapstone*
quarries of Empire Landing, or Potts Valley. Mexican Joe
says there is one big rock from which as many as 64 pots have
been cut. (See cut of Indian quarry.)

Charles Frederick Holderf says of these serpentine ollas:
"There was little need for pottery with such vessels. From this
stone, which today is made into mantels and tiles, and lines the
entrance to the Los Angeles Court House, the ancients formed

* For data regarding the use of shells by Sou. Cal. Island-
ers, see "Ethno-Conchology : A Study of Primitive Money,"
by Robert E. C. Stearns. Rep't U. S. Nat. Mus., 1886-87.

* In Mr. Wm. Henry Holmes' Anthropological Studies in
California, he mentions a series of relics collected by him when
on the island.

* Also known as Catalina marble, or Verde antique.

t An Isle of Summer: Santa Catalina. By Charles Fred-
erick Holder.


dishes, spoons, stone plates, medicine stones, sinkers and a
variety of objects.

"The old out-door manufactory is most interesting, and the
unfinished ollas can still be seen, with others marked in the
rock ready to be cut, when the workmen dropped their tools,
never to return."

The remains found upon the island prove that the largest
townsite was at the isthmus, where, according to William Henry
Holmes, "an important village stood for a long period."*

As early as 1826 or '27 the Mexican governor, Echeandia,
appears to have entertained fears of American usurpation.
Hittell* says: "The general feeling of distrust against Ameri-
cans was further exhibited in 1827, in reference to a house
erected in 1826 by Captain Cunningham of the American ship
Courier, on Santa Catalina Island. It is not unlikely that the
maintenance of this establishment, though claimed to be for
hunting purposes, may have had something to do with illicit

Captain John Bradshaw of the Franklin was accused "of
having touched at Santa Catalina in defiance of special orders,"
and John Lawlor of the Hawaiian brig Karimoko had been ac-
cused of departing from San Pedro without paying duties. It
is said : "He had, in spite of repeated warnings, touched at
Santa Catalina Island and had even deposited goods there, be-
sides breeding animals, the exportation of which was contra

As the policy of the Mexican government was opposed to
foreign traffice on California shores, unless heavy duties were
paid, most American ships indulged in contraband trade, and
Santa Catalina Island, with its natural harbors, was a very con-
venient port for such trade. Charles Dwight Willard in his
History of Los Angeles City says : "During the years from
1826 to the American occupation, Catalina was a favorite resort
for smugglers, and some of the most prominent citizens of Los
Angeles were believed to take part in contraband trade."

Santa Catalina also had her period of gold excitement.
Professor J. M. Guinn,* our Secretary, has given an interesting

* Anthropological Studies in California, by William Henry
Holmes. (Rept. U. S. Nat. Mus.)

* Plittell's History of California, Vol. II.

* Bancroft's History of California, Vol. HI.

* An Early Mining Boom on Santa Catalina, by J. M.
Guinn. Overland Monthly, Vol. XVI (1890).


history of mining in the island. He says : "The existence of
these metals on the Island of Santa Catalina was known long
before the acquisition of California by the United States.
George Yount, a pioneer of 1830, who, with Pryor, Wolfskill,
Laughlin and Prentiss, built a schooner at San Pedro for the
purpose of hunting sea otter, found on one of his trips to the
island some rich outcroppings. It does not appear, however,
that he set much value upon his discovery at the time. He
was hunting sea otter, not gold mines. After the discovery
of gold at Coloma, and the wild rush of gold hunters to the
coast, Yount recalled to mind his find on Santa Catalina. He
made three trips to the island in search of his lost lode, but
without success. His last trip was in 1854."

Professor Guinn further says: "A tradition of Yount's lost
mine was still extant in Los Angeles. This directed attention
to Catalina as a prospective mining region."

The first location of a claim was made in "April, 1863, by
Martin M. Kimberly" and "Daniel E. Way."

"The first discoveries were made near the isthmus on the
northwestern part of the island. The principal claims were in
Fourth of July Valley, Cherry Valley and Mineral Hill. Later
discoveries were made on the eastern end of the island." Ac-
cording to Professor Guinn there must have been something
like a real estate boom on the island : "A site for a city, called
'Queen City,' was located on Wilson Harbor," lots were staked
off and numerous claims "were recorded in the Recorder's of-
fice of Los Angeles County." "Numerous assays were made,
showing the lands to be rich in gold and silver-bearing rock,
the assays ranging from $150 to $800 per ton." "Stock com-
panies were formed with capital bordering on the millions."
But the millions in stock did not materialize in cash for their
enterprise, as the busy miners soon found themselves without
money to develop their mines. As the writer says: "It was
the famine year of Southern California, the terrible dry season
of 1863-4. Cattle were dying by thousands, and the cattle
barons, whose wealth was in their flocks and herds, saw them-
selves reduced to the verge of poverty."

Another difficulty arose, and this effectually stopped the
progress of mining on this island during the Civil war. As
the island had fine harbors for the landing of ships, it was ru-
mored that privateers from the Confederacy were intending to
make the island a rendezvous, so the U. S. government built
the barracks and stationed troops on Santa Catalina. Orders


were published forbidding any "person or persons, others than
owners of stock and corporate companies' employes," to land
on the island. This order was issued from the headquarters on
Santa Catalina Island, February 5, 1864.

Mrs. S. A. Howland tells me that something like eight or
ten thousand dollars' worth of gold was sent to San Francisco,
but the one who carried it there failed to report afterward; also
that the "Gem of the Ocean" mine in Fourth of July Valley
was blasted for ore, with the result that the blast stopped all
future expectations, as water, instead of ore, now filled the mine.
The "Argentine," another mine in this valley, could only be
worked at low tide; at other times the mine was completely
out of sight.

Before this time the island had become well known as a
fine grazing island for sheep. Men settled on it to look after
their sheep interests and little homes or shacks were built in
some of the coves. In some cases men had their wives with
them, and the settlers on the island began the era of "squatter
supremacy." Trees and vines were planted, wells dug, and each
settler raised his vegetables, tended his herds of sheep, and
only made trips to the mainland for necessities he could not

I am indebted to Mrs. S. A. Howland, widow of Captain
Howland, for the following data relative to those days :

The cove now called Johnson's Landing was settled by John
Benn, a German, and his wife. He built the present house, but
this was not the first one he lived in at that place. The cove
was known as John Benn's Place. His wife was Spanish.

About ten years after John Benn settled in the cove, Cap-
tain and Mrs. Howland bought a squatter's right to the valley
now known as Howland Valley. They bought the right of
Mr. Harvey Rhoads.

Samuel Prentiss, or Prentice, a native of Rhode Island, and
known as "Old Sam," was one of the settlers. He died on
the island about the year 1865, and was buried at Howland's
Valley. A small picket fence surrounds his grave.*

*Sa.muel Prentiss was a sailor said to have deserted from an
American man-of-war, in South America. He was subsequently
one of the crew of the brig Danube, December 25, 1828. Ste-
phen Foster writes "Prentiss," Prentice. Mrs. Howland tells
me that this hunter and trapper was an unlettered man but full
of information gathered in his roving and outdoor life.


Avalon Valley was settled by two bachelor brothers, Ger-
mans, named Johnson — not related to the Johnson who gave
his name to Johnson's Landing. There were about five families
on the island when Mr. Rowland lived there.

The first American child born on the island was William Per-
cival Rowland, on April 8, 1866. Re was the second son of
Captain and Mrs. Rowland. Re grew up to manhood, but died
ten years ago.

Sheep shearing and election days were events on the island.
Election was held at the cove of the Johnson brothers, now
known as Avalon, and the big fig tree on F street was planted
by Mrs. Rowland to commemorate the re-election of Abraham
Lincoln. The election was in November, 1864, but the tree
planting was deferred until February, 1865.

Captain and Mrs. Rowland lived on the island for over thir-
teen years. After some litigation the settlers learned that the
U. S. Government had never owned the island, it having passed
from the Mexican Government, through Pio Pico to Don Jose
Covarrubias." After James Lick acquired the island the "set-
tlers" left it.

As the statement is frequently made that Santa Catalina at
one time belonged to the United States Government and "was
sold by the government to James Lick," the following reliable
data received from Mr. S. J|. Mathes, of Avalon, may set this
vexed question of ownership at rest.

"The Island of Santa Catalina never belonged to the U. S.
Government. It was given as a grant by the Mexican Govern-
ment along in the forties, to Don Jose Covarrubias, of Santa
Barbara (father of Nick Covarrubias, of Los Angeles). Re sold
it to a lawyer of Santa Barbara named Packard. After this
there were quite a number of transfers, perhaps a dozen persons
being interested in the island before James Lick acquired it.
Lick owned it about twenty-five years.

"George R. Shatto bought it in 1887, owned it about a year
or a little more, when he sold it to an EngHsh syndicate. They
were to pay $400,000. They actually paid $40,000 and defaulted
in their payments. The sale fell through because the mines
did not prove to be as valuable as they thought them. They
supposed from the specimens shown them that they had a ver-
itable bonanza.

"The Bannings* acquired the island in 189 1. I do not know
just what they paid. Shatto pai d $150,000.

*The Banning brothers of the Wilmington Transportation


"Shatto held an auction sale of lots while he owned the
island and disposed of about 200 lots. The Bannings have re-
duced this by purchase to about eighty lots, which are in other

I am indebted to Mrs. E. J. Whitney of Avalon, Santa Cata-
lina Island, for valuable information regarding the early days
of Avalon. She says :

"George R. Shatto of Los Angeles purchased the island
from the Lick estate of San Francisco in July, 1887, and im-
mediately began to lay out the town site and prepare for the
building of a hotel/, the first load of lumber for it coming over
the first week in August." This town was called "Shatto" in
the first maps which were printed, but Mr. Shatto did not accept
the name and the map was not recorded. How did the town
come to be called Avalon? In a letter from Mrs. Whitney, who
is a relative of the Shattos by marriage, she writes : "Mr. and
Mrs. Shatto and myself were looking for a name for the new
town, which in its significance should be appropriate to the
place, and the names which I was looking up were 'Avon' and
'Avondale,' and I found the name 'Avalon,' the meaning of
which, as given in Webster's unabridged, was 'Bright gem of
the ocean,' or 'Beautiful isle of the blest.' " Mrs. Whitney was
certainly very happy in her choice of names, as none could be
more appropriate. The site of the town had only been used
as a camping ground and called "Timm's Landing." I quote
farther from Mrs. Whitney's letter: "The first meeting of the
Board of Trustees of 'Catalina School District' was held July
4, 1 89 1. They were Mrs. S. A. Wheeler, Mr. Frank P. Whitt-
ley and Mr. E. J. Whitney. The first teacher was Mrs. M. P.
Morris, wife of the pastor of the church The first church v/as
'The Congregational Church of Avalon,' organized July 15,
1889. The first pastor was Rev. Chas. Uzzell. A Catholic
church was built almost two years ago."

The first child born in the town of Avalon was Douglass
McDonell, about eleven years ago.

Among the first permanent residents of Avalon were Mr.
and Mrs. S. A. Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler was the first to buy
property for the purpose of engaging in business. He built tl^^e
"Avalon Home" (hotel), afterward called by the Banning Co.
"The Island Villa Hotel." Mr. Wheeler conducted the first
bakery on the island. Mrs. Wheeler reported many plants new
to science and others before unknown on the island.


The Banning brothers built an aquarium on the water front
of 'Avalon and opened it to the pubHc in July, 1899. The build-
ing is 30x60 feet and has 10 large tanks and 13 smaller ones.

In the summer of 1902 Santa CataHna Island was connected
with the mainland at White's Point by wireless telegraph. The
first message was sent to Avalon on August 2, 1902. This sys-
tem,* on the island, was perfected under the management of
General A. L. New.

Santa Catalina Island is widely known as a "watering place,"
and it is estimated that the little town of Avalon has numbered
6,000 persons at one time.

The need of another town on the island has become appar-
ent to the Banning Co. The site chosen is at the Isthmus, the
old Indian townsite. Here a large hotel is to be built and houses
erected. Boulevards, wharves and a new steamship are among
the expected improvements. And, in the evolution of events,
the little isthmus site, lying between mountains on two sides
and washed by the Pacific ocean on the others, will rise, as if
by magic, over the deserted graves and forgotten middens of
a race that has almost ceased to exist.

The writer wishes to acknowledge her obligation to the fol-
lowing :

The Rev. Father J. Adam, Barcelona, Spain.

The Very Rev. J|. J. O'Keefe, Superior of the Franciscans,
San Luis Rey.

Mr. S. J. Mathes, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island.

Mrs. S. A. Rowland, Loma Vista, Cal.

Mrs. E. J. Whitney, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island.

Professor J|. M. Guinn, Secretary Southern California His-
torical Society, Los Angeles, Cal.

Also to Miss Mary L. Jones, librarian of the Los Angeles
Public library, and her able corps of assistants, for many favors.

*A newspaper, "The Wireless," was started at Avalon on
March 25, 1903. This is stated to have been the first newspaper
in the world to receive its press notices by wireless telegraph.



Although the flag of the United States was raised over
Monterey by Commodore Soat, commander of our naval forces
on the Pacific Coast, on the 7th of July, 1846, Los Angeles,
the then capital of the Province of Upper California, was only
taken possession of by the combined forces of Commodore
Stockton and Colonel Fremont on the 13th day of August,
1846, Don Pio Pico, the Mexican Governor, having left the
city August 1 2th. These being the facts, of the case, the ob-
vious inference would seemi to have been that the true legal
date of the change of government should have been the latter
date, instead of July 7th, as is commonly understood.

On the 17th of August, 1846, Commodore Stockton, who
had succeeded Commodore Sloat as commander of the Pacific
squadron, issued a proclamation to the people, signing him-
self "Commander-in-Chief and Governor of California." He
announced that the country now belonged to the United
States and that as soon as possible would be governed like any
other territory of that nation, but meanwhile by military law,
though the people were invited to choose their local civil of-
ficers, if the incumbents declined to serve.

On the same date, to-wit, August 17th, the "Warren,"
Commander Hull, anchored at San Pedro from Mazatlan,
bringing definite news of a declaration of war.

California, as an unorganized territory, remained under mil-
itary Governors from the time of the change of sovereignty
till December 20, 1849, ^^ over three years, and during a very
important period of its history.

August 22, 1846, Governor Stockton ordered an election
of Alcaldes and other local municipal officers to be held Sep-
tember 15th in the several towns and districts of the territory.

Governor Stockton on the 2nd of September, the last day
of his stay in Los Angeles (and before the receipt of the order
from Washington requiring the Governorship to be turned over
to a ranking military officer), issued a general order creating
the office of Military Commandant of the Territory, which was
divided into three departments, and appointing Fremont to fill
the new command.


Orders from Washington were brought by Colonel Rich-
ard B. Mason, who arrived at San Francisco, February 12, 1847,
that Gen. S. W. Kearny on his arrival in California (and the
senior officer before his arrival) was to be recognized as Civil
Governor. 'After Kearny's departure for the East, Colonel
Mason succeeded him in command and also as Governor,
May 31, 1847. Alcaldes who had been elected or appointed
continued to administer justice within their several districts,
according to Mexican law and usage, appealing to the Gover-
nor only in difficult cases, it being his poHcy to interfere as
little as possible in local matters.

But before these orders were received in California, Com-
modore Stockton, namely, on January 16, 1847, issued com-
missions to Fremont as Governor and to W. H. Russell as
Secretary of State.

January 22nd Governor Fremont issued a proclamation
announcing the establishment of civil rule. His headquarters
wi^re at Los Angeles, where he won many friends, especially
among the native Californians, by joining in their festivities,
and to some extent in their ways of dress and life. He occu-
pied the large two-story house (since demolished) of Capt.
Alexander Bell, on the northeast corner of Aliso and Los An-
geles streets.

The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which Alta Califor-
nia was ceded to the United States by Mexico, was signed on
February 2, 1848, and was proclaimed by the President on
June 19th, and news of the same reached California and was
proclaimed by Governor Mason, August 7, 1848.

Gen. Persifer F. Smith arrived and superseded Governor
Mason, February 26, 1849. General Mason left California May
I, 1849, ^^'^ di^d o^ cholera at St. Louis the same summer at
the age of 60 years.

Gen. W. T. Sherman, who had ample opportunity to judge
of his work as Governor, in his Memoirs says of Governor
Mason : "He possessed a strong native intellect, and far more
knowledge of the principles of civil government and law than
he got credit for," and that "he was the very embodiment of
the principles of fidelity to the interests of the general govern-

General Smiith's incumbency of the office of Governor
was brief and unimportant; it extended only from; February
26 to April 12, 1849.


On the latter date Gen. Bennett Riley, Lieutenant Colonel
of the Second U. S. Infantry, arrived at Monterey, with in-
structions to assume the administration of civil affairs in Cali-
fornia, not as Military Governor, but as the executive of the
existing quasi-civil government which the people under Gov-
ernor Mason had established.

On the 3rd of June, 1849, Governor Riley issued a procla-
mation calling for an election on August ist of delegates to
formulate a Constitution, who were to meet at Monterey Sep-
tember 1st.

Among the notable men in that convention was W. E,
Shannon, an Irishman by birth and a lawyer, who introduced
that section in the bill of rights which made California forever
a free State; borrowed, it is true, but as illustrious and imper-
ishable as it is American.

At the first general election held in the Territory, Novem-
ber 13, 1849, the Constitution was adopted by a vote of 12,064
ayes to 811 noes; and on the same day Peter H. Burnett was
elected Governor and John McDougal Lieutenant Governor.

Governor Riley's term extended from April 12th to Decem-
ber 20, 1849. He made a most excellent executive during a

Online LibraryHistorical Society of Southern CaliforniaAnnual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and of the Pioneers of Los Angeles County (Volume yr.1902-1904) → online text (page 13 of 29)