Rising from the waters of the Pacific off the Southern California coast, Santa Cruz Island captures the imagination. Once home to a large Chumash population, in the 19th century it became a self-sufficient island rancho. As with all islands of beauty and size, it attracted people from the coastline.
But as author John Gherini tells us in his prologue, "The attractions of the island, however, routinely led people into conflict, wrapping it in a shroud like its morning fog. The modern history of the island would witness the passion to own it, to protect it, to use it and to fight over it."
For the first time, a thorough history of Santa Cruz Island's tumultuous past is provided. In pre-Columbian times it was a source of wealth to the indigenous peoples - the place where they made their shell bead money. During the Spanish-Mexican period it was a smuggler's haven where fur hunters avoided customs officials.
As a land grant, it passed through the hands of Andres Castillero and William E. Barron and eventually was purchased by Justinian Caire. The island flourished under the direction of Caire and his family. It was a secluded paradise off the Santa Barbara Coast, with extensive sheep and cattle holdings as well as an esteemed winery.
Seeds of conflict were sown by Justinian Caire's will when the island was divided between family members. The Stantons, the Rossis, the Gherinis, the National Park Service, and The Nature Conservancy all were involved over time. The tortured legal and family disputes are recounted for the first time in this important new work.
Island ranching, hunting and recreation, and environmental challenges are described in detail. Recent historical events involving the establishment of the Channel Islands National Park are explored as well.
The book is published by University of Oklahoma Press.
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A little Island with a tumultuous past
narrator made dry history into interesting story
- Barton Skalla