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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
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July 8, 1931     The Catalina Islander
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July 8, 1931
 

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PAGE FOUR ~i~HiHm6~Hi~H~Mu~H~f~H~Hmu~gtt~tIm~ttM~i~$~Kt~t~Mm$t~K4K~ltKtB~t$tt~$~ | Calalina Had Exciting Days E Here are a few pages from the manuscript of "Windle's History of == Catalina," concerning the days at the Isthmus and vicinity, when smug- gling, piracy, otter hnnting and mining were the chief activities of the m Island's inhabitants: | | [ HISTORY OF CATALINA ISLAND From the entanglements of intrigue and romance that have been woven around the Isthmus and its vicinity, the fiistorical data some day i may be segregated. Scenario and fiction writers for the three dec- past ades have told many legendary stories of mystery, smuggling and search for hidden treasure. The Isthmus is famed now for its "locations" for the moving picture industry. Many of the "South Sea" scenes of the Hollywood producers were filmed in Catalina Harbor, or in the vicinity == of Bird Island and Ship Rock. Prior to 1864, quite a number of mining men occupied the various coves at the west end of the Island. (See orificial letter published on June 24.) Other inhabitants, not interested in mining, but ostensibly employed in fishing and otter htmting, frequently found Catalina their "Island Home." Then there were men known only by "nicknames," who could have appropriately fitted into Stevenson's"Treasure Island," with its John Silver and his fellow pirates. Not uncommon visitors to Catalina Har- bor were a number of gamblers from San Francisco. Reference has already been made to Cabrillo's discovery of the Is- = land in 1542 and to the chief characteristics of the Indian tribes. I Before the signing of the Guadalupe Treaty, 1848, there not were many Americans in California. The population was a heterogeneous one, made up of men seeking" adventure and, sometimes, safety from eastern E or European legal entanglements. The hostilities with Mexico had made _~ the Islands off the coast of Southern California very convenient "hide- ------ -- outs" for the seafaring men to organize their forces and plan raids and I j depredations. Writing of the early California days, the beloved poet-historian, John ~. = Steven McGroarty, said: "It retest not be supposed that Drake and the -- other English privateers---men who followed him into these Pacific wa- ters--visited the coast of North and South At~erica for the purpose of E exploration. Their purpose was, instead, solely to gather spoils" _- Just what brought the bark "Danube" from New York to the Pa- B cific coast in 1824, when it was wrecked near San Pedro;, has never been U made an important fact in history. This much is known, however, that_=m Samuel Prentiss was one of the survivors of the wreck, and that he was i i one of the first American-born seamen to establish a permanent residence m _=--_--= on Catalina Island. Later, Prentiss built a small cabin on the'west side of a little cove now known as "Johnson's Lauding." After the "Danube" wreck, history records that Prentiss and his corn- _---- panions walked from the disaster to San Gabriel Mission, where they re- mained for several clays. At the Mission Prentiss became acquainted with one of the Indians, who told him of the treasure that had been = buried on Catalina Island. There are two stories concerning the "treas- ure. One, that the ln(han hunself buried the property of the Catalina tribe of Indians before they were taken to San Gabriel Mission in 1821; --=------ the other, that the treasure was "loot and plunder" that had been stolen -- ---------- in 1804 from the missions of Mexico. That the Indian had convinced i Prentiss of the sincerity of his information is authenticated by the fact _~ that Prentiss searched diligently for it for almost thirty years. tHistorieal records indicate that the "Danube" was wrecked during the month of December, 1828.) _-= -- While he was crossing the channel in a small sailboat with the crude imap given him by the Catalina Indian, Prentiss had the misfortune to i encounter stormy weather for three days, during which most of his sup- plies and personal belongings, including the map, were washed overboard. -~ Arriving at the Island he was unable to determine whether the treasure was bu~ried at what is now known as "Johnson's Landing," or at "Timm's Landing" (Avalon), somewhere in the vicinity of the old banyan tree which formerly grew near a spring on the south side of Claressa avenue. It is said that Prentiss did not reveal his true mission on the island _~ until a short time before his death. He then gave the information to =-= Santos, said to be the son of his old shipmate, Louis Bouchette. (Bou- -=--= chctte, the younger, often spelled his name as Bochard, and used the pre- ~_ fix Louis. He also used the name of "William" when it suited his con- venience). " = The following inscription at Johnson s Land ng marks the grave of -____ ~-- Samuel Prentiss: --_------------ In Memory of Samuel Prentiss ===_-- "~ A Native of Massachusetts . Came to California in 1824 Died on Catalina 1854 i_ Age 72 ___-- Samuel Prentiss was well educated. His fanfily in the east made .~ i several attempts to persuade him to return. W'ith the zeal of a gold ~= prospector he searched for the treasure, often existing for days at a ~= W time on fish and a few vegetables and figs that he grew near his cabin. i Occasionally he would capture a white otter, which he disposed of to i the masters of vessels calling at the Island to purchase firewood. _H -------- Prentiss never participated in the "smuggling activities" and, because ~- ~m ~m m he was so friendly and good-natured, one of his mining acquaintances m m carved the board (~rith the inscription and placed it on his grave. Years -~ later the "board was replaced with a tablet of stone, a donation by "adge J. B. Banning, " ~- E Another member of the "Danube's" crew was Louis Bouchette, who -~ U located in Los Angeles. Here again the historical records become cloudy and, until recently, Bouchette of the 'Danube' was thought to be the = same man who operated the "Bouchette Mines," at Cherry Valley, Par- son's Beach and Johnsons, from 1860 to 1876. W "need 'sat *ob oR t s nt en ] O -ey Joe, 'd ~ e f uss'an de ce , se : ed to be a well ~~iUUUlUIMIlUWIIItlIIIIIUUI~IIIUilIlUlUUlUUlIlilSUlIIIIIIIIIIIflI~m~IHI~mfl~,~ THE j known Island character in the early fifties. Among the ------ of Wilmington and San Diego he had a reputation for Not all of the inhabitants were "pirates and cutthro i trickery. In the early fifties a few cattlemen became i~ :rest possibilities for sheep and cattle raising. Water was back Often the men carried it for miles. These men industrious, and some of them had families and homes m Los Angeles. As the letter to Washington subtly necks" were "deported" with the arrival of troops. law-abiding citizens, and making an honest livelihood, were remain at the Isthmus and vicinity. It was before the arrival of the troops that Bouche with enthusiasm to locate the hidden treasure. With secret he prospected around every "big tree" that he cou i trees were cut for "firewood." Bouchette is credited valuable silver lode" at Cherry Valley. Carrying several samples of "rich ore" to the finally interested Andrew Joughin of Los Angeles, mining project. During the spring of 1860 Mr. channel and was so pleased with the prospects that thousand dollars and later purchased considerable ment of the mining property. Under the pretext new claims," Bouchette would be absent from his eral days at a time. He, too, was confident that some find the"treasure"! The mining operations dragged on. Much of the installed near the Bouehette cabin at Johnson's. The hand forge, etc., were later moved up the canyon. Bouchette frequently "salted" a mine to enthuse his In those days Captain John Kassar, ~ormerly a erman, operated a small sailboat between Wihnington With favorable winds and skillful navigation the trtP made in 24 hours.Usually, however, the passengers "thr d P"L' aYe .~ " periodical jaunts to the pueblo of LoS chette entered into a whirlwind courtship and several years younger than himself. They returned to --- again has it that the lady, of French descent, became her life in the mining camp, and that one of the reasons . d tent was because there was no mwror on the Islan = Bouchette then agreed to build for his bride an rated in the canyon, about two and one half miles from ing, and near tlae location of his main mine, When house was furnished with English mahogany fu;rniture glass mirror that cost him $1000. Bouchette ordere ----" France, and it was shipped to San Pedro. During the time that his mines were running at chette built a boarding house at Johnson's, which forty l)eople. The stone-walled well dug and used by t :nestic water is still in existence. Bouchette borrowed considerable sums of money the mainland to develo'~ his mining property. Two ot crew of the Danube, Jean Vignes and John German, are said to have provided Bouchette with opment of his Catalina mines. .. It was not until the spring of 1876 that he deckdeq i land. The prospect holes thought to have madet been his men have been located at Cherry Valley, Fourth ox Johnson's. Before leav'ing, Bouchette closed up the er i near his house, and its exact lc~:ation has never been blacksmith shop still stands in the canyon. A grass building in 1904. Early one morning' it is said that he loaded a small ver ore and a few provisions for a cross channel tr There was a slight westerly breeze and as Bouchette wife was seated in the bow of the boat. They passe~ tery surrounds their disappearance. No record has they arrived at Wilmington Rumor is however that full completed a voyage to' Lower Cali'fornia and that, j Y .... m, his sdver, he gave hts wife a suffictent amount of "s " ~= her home in France, as she was later heard of in part,/hiddet~, More than a hundred years ago the treasure wa~ whereabouts still remains a'secret! When Bouchette did not return to the Island. tn' house commenced to disappear, and in the fall of 187o a special trip to the Island to see what he could save j wreck. So much of the equipment had been carrteu cided to abandon all hope of realizing anything fr( E ohn Kassar was given what was left of the houseiaO~ J~ said that until a: few years ago several of the heaVY were in use in Wilmington. - was A story is told that the large plate glass :mrror.._ the time the Banning Brothers purchased the Island 1~ ~ )art of yachtsmen staving in the house one night bec~ i I Y - .. . nten, and jubilant that one of the v~s~tors, to show hts c? . ,: .... " k" den stmon that breaking a m~rror brought bad luc., revolver and fired point blank at his own reflecUon. ' the mirror later were brought io Avalon and were tta time of the 1915 fire. Although but a bob, when he lived with his relative, son at the Isthmus, the late Captain Charles A. Wi]stm dead in his little cabin near the b'each January o,, tramped many weary hours over the Catalina "hills s "Mexican loot." a Captain W'ilson was somewhat of a philosopher, .anti 1918 he would often entertain his friends with storte~.~ when the Isthmus was called "Union Harbor," and cat, ,, . ,, The the best spot m the world for shark fishing. . . ibrows would arch, his eyes would sparkle, and .beht~d a smoke he would chuckle nfischievouslv at the thong dent. (It is from many of the reminiscences told to son, Captain Holbrook Dr Charles Frederick Holder writer obtained much 'of the information herewith data is prior to 1905.)