Santa Cruz Island
|Native name: |
ESA satellite image of Santa Cruz Island
|Area||250 km2 (97 sq mi)|
|Length||35 km (21.7 mi)|
|Width||10 km (6 mi)|
|Highest elevation||740 m (2,430 ft)|
|Highest point||Devils Peak|
|Population||Rangers and tourists are the only residents|
Santa Cruz Island (
The island's coastline has steep cliffs, large
For administrative purposes the island is part of
Archaeological investigations indicate that Santa Cruz Island has been occupied for at least 10,000 years. It was known as Limuw (place of the sea) or Michumash in the
The name of Santa Cruz for the island came about when Gaspar de Portola expedition visited the Chumash village Xaxas on the island. The Chumash on the next day returned a staff, topped by an iron cross, which had been inadvertently left behind by the Spanish. Hence, the name La Isla de la Santa Cruz (island of the holy cross) appeared on their exploration map of 1770.
William Baron was a San Francisco businessman and co-owner of the company Barron, Forbes & Co. Dr. James Barron Shaw was hired to manage things, and charged by Barron to start a sheep operation. He built corrals and houses for himself and his employees and expanded the road system. He imported cattle, horses, and sheep to the island and erected one of the earliest wharves along the California coast at Prisoners' Harbor. Shaw was the first rancher to ship sheep to San Francisco by steamer, some selling at $30 per animal. By 1869, the year he left Santa Cruz, Shaw's island sheep ranch was well known, and some 24,000 sheep grazed the hills and valleys of Santa Cruz Island.:102 At that time, the gross proceeds from the ranch on Santa Cruz Island were supposedly $50,000.:102–103 Barron sold the island for $150,000 in 1869, and Shaw left for San Francisco and Los Alamos where he continued ranching.
The island was purchased by ten investors from San Francisco, headed by Gustave Mahé. One of the investors, Justinian Caire, was a French immigrant and founder of a successful San Francisco hardware business that sold equipment to miners. By 1886 Caire had acquired all of the shares of the Santa Cruz Island Company which he and his colleagues had founded in 1869. He then implemented his vision of building a self-sustaining sheep and cattle ranch, vineyard, nut and fruit grove operation on the island. Main Ranch was augmented with nine other ranches, Prisoners' Harbor, Christy, Scorpion, Smugglers, Forney's Cove/Rancho Nuevo, Poso, Buena Vista Portezuela, and Sur Ranch. In 1885, he operated the largest private telephone system in the US at that time. A post office operated from 1895 until 1903, while there were 110 workers on the island in 1889. The operation received water from four springs, El Pato, Gallina, The Dindos and The Peacock, which fed into a 26,000 gallon reservoir, tanks and dams. The vineyard was planted in 1884 and by 1895, the winery was maturing 86,000 gallons from the 200 acre vineyard.
Justinian Caire's will stipulated his two sons, Arthur and Frederic, were to be executors of his will and continue management of operations with little change, though Justinian signed over to his wife Albina, all shares in the Justinian Caire Company and Santa Cruz Company the year before he died in 1897. His sons continued a successful livestock, winemaking[
The buyer was Los Angeles oilman Edwin Stanton. Stanton's purchase of the major part of Santa Cruz Island brought a major shift in agricultural production on the island. After trying for a short time to continue the sheep operation, bringing in 10,000 head, he decided to switch to beef production. At the time, the beef industry in California was growing rapidly, with Santa Barbara County among the top ten beef producers in the state. Edwin Stanton's ranch on Santa Cruz Island saw changes that reflected the evolution of cattle ranching in a working landscape. While retaining most of the 19th century structures dating from the Caire period, Stanton constructed a few buildings to meet the needs of his cattle ranch, the most notable of which is Rancho del Norte on the isthmus. Pasture fencing and corrals were altered to suit the cattle operation and an extensive water system was added to provide water to the cattle.:157–159
The Gherini family, descendants of Justinian Caire's two daughters who successfully sued to break up Caire's legacy, continued their sheep ranching operations on the east end of Santa Cruz Island until 1984, using Scorpion Ranch as their base. This was the area east of the Montañon range, which included Scorpion Harbor and Smugglers Cove. They managed the island with resident managers and laborers and often worked as a family during shearing and during the summer. Production dropped during the 1970s and 1980s and the expense of ranching on a remote island rose.
Protracted litigation between the Gherinis and the federal government started in 1980, when the northern Channel Islands were designated a national park and Congress authorized the purchase of the family's remaining land. But the purchase was held up as family members pushed the federal government to pay what they believed was the appropriate amount. In the early 1990s, the government managed to buy the interests of Francis Gherini's three siblings for about $4 million apiece. But the former Oxnard attorney continued to insist that the offer was too low, keeping his 25% interest in the 6,264-acre (25.35 km2) ranch and leaving the Park Service with 75%, effectively blocking the establishment of the park. After 16 years of negotiation, in November 1996, government officials settled with Gherini for 14 million dollars which included 2 million dollars in back interest, clearing the way for the park to be opened to the public. The last of the 10,000 sheep on the island were removed by 1999.:138–157
With Edwin Stanton's death in 1964, his widow and son, Carey, re-incorporated the Santa Cruz Island Company and continued the cattle operations on the island. Carey Stanton died unexpectedly in 1987 at the ranch and was buried in the family plot in the island chapel yard at the Main Ranch. The real property passed to The Nature Conservancy through a prior agreement that Carey Stanton had established with the non-profit organization. The Nature Conservancy rapidly liquidated the cattle operation and ended the ranching era on the island.
Santa Cruz was a base for
George Nidever recalled hunting otter at Santa Cruz in the winter of 1835–36. Working from a base camp at
The Santa Cruz Island Hunt Club operated from 1966 until 1985, beginning as a sheep and pig hunting during a rifle season and an archery season.:162
The United States military began to use Santa Cruz Island during
In 1936 the Caire family reportedly offered their 90% of the island for $750,000 to the state of California for use as a state or federal park. Nothing came of this proposal, and the property was sold to Edwin Stanton. Stanton's son and heir was not interested in a government purchase of his island. He took steps to avoid such events by forging an agreement with The Nature Conservancy, and the property was transferred to the organization upon his death in 1987. Although Santa Cruz Island is included within the boundaries of
Channel Islands National Park owns and operates approximately 24% of Santa Cruz Island. The remaining land, known as the Santa Cruz Island Reserve, is used for scientific research and education, and is managed by a combination of organizations which includes The Nature Conservancy, the