The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1981, Volume 27, Number 4

by Adele Ogden
Author of books and articles on early California history

Images from the article

WHEN Henry Delano Fitch and Josefa Carrillo, central figures in an oft-described romance, eloped from San Diego in 1829, he was supercargo of the Vulture, called the Buitre by Mexican Californians. In July, 1828, he had chartered this English brig of 101 tons at Lima, Peru for his employer, Henry Edward Virmond, a wealthy Acapulco merchant. By September 16, the Vulture, Richard Barry, master, had arrived at San Francisco, where Fitch sold part of a large invoice, including blue and black cloth, Canton cloth, cotton handkerchiefs, chintz, cognac, gin, wine, cordials, glass vases, white and painted crockery, and iron bars. Further sales were made at Monterey and Santa Barbara. By early February, 1829, the Vulture arrived at San Diego. Fitch must have seen Josefa often before their departure on April 16.1

Virmond, bound for Acapulco, met Fitch in San Diego. He had been trading along the California coast in his vessel, the Mary Esther, a brig of 170 tons, also known as the Maria Ester, or Ester. On April 14, 1829, he wrote detailed instructions for Fitch to observe in his future business as supercargo of the Vulture. The brig was to proceed to Valparaiso with her load of hides and tallow. Upon arrival, Fitch must first row ashore to inquire about the price of hides. If the cargo could be sold for a good profit, he was to enter the vessel. Then he was to discharge the Vulture, and purchase a new craft, for which explicit directions were given.2

Some romanticized renditions of Fitch’s elopement give incorrect data, making it appear that his vessel was the Maria Ester, and that, by an urgent appeal to Captain Barry, he and Josefa were permitted aboard the Vulture. Fitch, it is true, had been supercargo of the Maria Ester in 1825, and master in 1826-1827, but he was not in command of that vessel in 1828-1829. There was no last-minute transfer from one ship to the other at San Diego.3

 For four years before his elopement, Captain Fitch was sailing along the Mexican California coast in the employ of Virmond—for two years on the Maria Ester, in 1827-1828 on the Fulham, and in 1828-1829 on the Vulture. These vessels, as all those from Mexico and South America in this period, exchanged native and European goods for hides, tallow, and other California products.

The first documented voyage of Fitch to California was in 1825, when he served as supercargo of the Maria Ester, Virmond, owner and master.4 The vessel sailed from Acapulco to San Blas, Mazatlán, Guaymas, and then along the California coast,  touching at San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Pedro, and San Diego. Returning to Acapulco, the brig took her cargo on to Callao.

When the Maria Ester returned to Acapulco from South America, Fitch was made master, and Virmond became supercargo for another voyage to California. The round trip lasted from July, 1826 to February, 1827.

By this time, Fitch had gained the complete confidence of Virmond. He was given the sole command of the María Ester for a trading venture to Peru. In Lima, from April to June, 1827, he sold her cargo of 1,700 hides and 474 botas of tallow, weighing 1,021 quintals and 35 pounds. After purchasing merchandise suited for the markets of Acapulco, Mazatlán, and California, he gave the brig over to Captain José Cárdenas for the return voyage.5

As Virmond had directed, Fitch then chartered and laded another vessel, the Fulham, an English brig of 149 tons. Again, he traded along the California coast. By February 9, 1828, he was at San Diego, where Virmond, who was on the María Ester, gave him instructions for another voyage to South America.

The Fulham, John Forster, master, was to proceed to Callao, where Fitch, the supercargo, was to sell the cargo and dismiss the brig as soon as possible to save expense. Certain debts were to be paid in Guayaquil, and then a new vessel was to be purchased or chartered. The vessel selected by Fitch was the Vulture, the voyage of which has already been described.6

On July 21, 1830, a little over a year after leaving California on the Vulture, Fitch, with his wife and infant son, returned to San Diego as master of the Leonor. He had followed Virmond’s instructions to the letter. He had sold the 7,953 hides shipped on the Vulture. At Valparaíso he had purchased the United States vessel, the Harriet, a bark of 207 tons, which he renamed, according to Virmond’s request. Virmond had wanted the name to be “Eleanora,” but on the California coast the vessel was known as the Leonor, the Spanish equivalent for “Eleanor.” Included in the cargo were no doubt some of the articles specified by Virmond—copper kettles for the missions, tin in bars, sulphur, cordage, wine, cotton handkerchiefs, blue prints, blue nankeens, and almonds. The vessel touched at Callao to take on sugar and aguardiente. While there, Fitch probably followed another request of Virmond’s: ” . . . do not forget the bell for Santa Cruz.” This bell had been sent to Lima on the Fulham in 1828 to be recast for a weight increase of from forty to forty-five arrobas. At Acapulco, the Leonor was registered under the Mexican flag, and took on some Mexican goods. Virmond came aboard as supercargo, and José María Padrés and 53 convicts embarked.7

Fitch continued to be master of the Leonor on voyages along the California coast in 1830-1831, 1831-1832, and 1833-1834, taking her back to San Blas twice. The cargo exported from San Francisco in January, 1834, is typical of the mixed produce which Captain Fitch collected—1,493 cattle hides, 26 botas of tallow, 28 deer skins, 36 beaver skins, and 8 sea-otter skins.8 Apparently his years of employment with Virmond ended sometime in 1834.9

For the next five years, Captain Fitch remained in San Diego except for six business trips along the coast, in vessels owned by other merchants. His shop, operating by 1833, became the base for an extensive trade with resident merchants and ranchers in Baja California, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco, as well as with supercargoes and captains of vessels from the United States, South America, Mexico, and the Hawaiian Islands.10

From 1835 to 1840, Fitch made important contacts in the Los Angeles area, trading with Abel Stearns, Isaac Williams, John Temple, Fernando Sepúlveda, Juan B. Alvarado, and others. With Stearns business ties were especially strong. Fitch once expressed dissatisfaction with the cotton shawls which he had purchased at Stearns’ shop: “I have not sold one as yet. I don’t think I could give them away.”11 Stearns sent barrels of aguardiente to San Diego. At San Pedro he stored, and delivered to passing vessels, the hides which he collected for Fitch, who hoped that Stearns would be “moderate in your charging of storage.”12 Both merchants helped each other by trying to collect from debtors in their respective areas. Fitch reported in 1839: “Your debtors here have nothing to pay with.”13

Although he pursued his trade with energy, Fitch became increasingly discontented. In 1836, he informed Stearns: “Times here at present are very dull, and I see but little use of keeping shop much longer.” He considered going to Honolulu in the winter. In September, 1839, he wrote: “I never knew business so dull. It is time I left it.”14

In late 1839 several good business propositions were extended to Captain Fitch. James G. Scott and John Wilson offered free passage to Lima on the Index, “to fetch what goods I thought proper.” Robert H. Dare “offered me well to go to Mazatlan with him” in the schooner Ayacucho. José Antonio Aguirre asked him to sail to Callao in the Juan José to take charge of his property. Fitch declared: “I might have made $10,000 by the trip.” Joseph Francis Snook wanted him to take his place as master of Virmond’s vessel, the Catalina, on her return voyage to Acapulco.15

The offer which was accepted was that given by Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado. This proposition seemed more attractive when coupled with a transaction promising good profits.

The agreement with Alvarado was formalized at Monterey, January 30, 1840, by the governor’s instructions to Captain John Rogers Cooper, master of the government-owned schooner, the California. The vessel was to sail to Honolulu for badly-needed repairing, which Fitch, the supercargo, was to supervise, “helping to keep down expenses.”16 About the same time, Eulogio de Celis, after consulting with Governor Alvarado, was instrumental in forming a “company” composed of Celis, Fitch, Temple and Stearns, for the purpose of freighting hides to be exchanged for goods at Honolulu.17

Before the California sailed, a number of misunderstandings arose. Fitch was sorry that he had “compromised” himself. He wrote to Stearns: “It can not be expected that I am to go in the schooner in charge of the business without some pay or commission . . . I have to embark something to eat and drink as Cooper has nothing but hard bread (damd hard), hard salt Cala beef, and pure cold water, all that wont do for old Fitch.”18 When Cooper and Fitch objected to sailing in wintery February from San Diego to San Pedro, Celis threatened to withdraw from his contract, and Stearns and Temple expressed doubt about risking a cargo on an unseaworthy vessel. The trip to San Pedro was finally made, but Fitch wrote: “I wish the voyage was ended now. I’ll take care how I get entrapd again.”19

The schooner California left San Diego on March 16, 1840, and arrived at Honolulu on April 12. The cargo, for which Peirce & Brewer credited Fitch’s account with $9,637.59, included 2,700 salted bullock hides, 16 sea-otter skins, a bill of exchange on the Russian American Company, and specie of 125 doubloons and silver.20

In Honolulu, Captain Fitch was very busy. He supervised the repair of the California, and sold her cargo. Then he decided to purchase a vessel, the Morse. When this schooner of 98 tons had been on the California coast in early 1840, Fitch had expressed an interest in her, asking Stearns to find out if the owners wanted to sell her: “I think I could make money in a vessel of about 50-60 tons.”21

By May 12, 1840, the terms of Fitch’s new venture were arranged with Peirce & Brewer, owners of the Morse. For one-half of the vessel, Fitch gave a promissory note for 2,500 hides, deliverable on the California coast and amounting to $4,685.50. He was authorized to sell Peirce & Brewer’s half in California. Merchandise totaling $11,857.18 was taken on joint account with Peirce & Brewer. He also bought an invoice on the joint concern of himself, Stearns, Temple, and Celis. Henry Augustus Peirce assured his partner: “Fitch is well known to me & is very worthy of credit—both as a man of property & prudence.”22

The mixed cargo of the Morse is typical of the variety of goods with which Fitch traded on the California coast and stocked his San Diego store. Textiles predominated—cases of colored prints, blue drilling, white cottons, brown cottons, blue nankeens, black and scarlet fancy prints, blue black Italian silk, and colored velvet. Wearing apparel included crepe and satin shawls, gloves, fancy aprons, taffeta ribbons, lace handkerchiefs, ivory combs, painted merino cloaks, and white shirts. Construction materials formed a big item—paint, kegs of white lead, canisters of linseed oil, pitsaws, and boxes of window glass. Also listed were fourteen “Indian” guns, four single-trigger rifles, shot, coffee, champagne, one writing desk, one bureau and book case, rattan chairs, one silver watch, needles, pots and pans, and blankets.23

Soon after arriving in California, Fitch sold on credit half of the schooner and her cargo to Stearns. Peirce & Brewer later wrote: “Please accept our thanks for the same.”24 The schooner was renamed the Nymph. There was another change in ownership on July 21, 1840, when Fitch and Stearns signed a bill of sale making Temple one-third owner. Temple also agreed to pay hides for one-third part of the $11,857 invoice.25 The affairs of the Nymph were becoming very complicated. All accounts in Honolulu were in the name of Fitch, and keeping purchases, sales, and remittances straight for the three owners presented an increasing problem.

For the remainder of the year, the Nymph sailed along the coast, from San Francisco to Ensenada, entering San Diego Bay three times. Fitch was tireless in his endeavor to make sales and collections at a time when there was an overabundance of goods and much competition. He was frustrated by a problem encountered by all traders in Mexican California, that of selling on credit. He realized that there was “no other way of doing business.” He would have to wait until next year, or later, for his pay.26 His partners, in the Los Angeles area, also tried to do their share. Alpheus Basil Thompson commented that Stearns “appears to be hard up at present, pays no one but Fitch for account of the schooner Morse.”27

In October, 1840, two shipments, in partial payment of the Nymph investment, were made to Peirce & Brewer in Honolulu. The Alcíope left San Diego on October 19 with 1,801 hides, 2,010 arrobas of tallow, 326 pounds of beaver skins, and small amounts of seal skins, soap, figs, cheese, and old copper, making a total value of about $8,100. On October 21, the Don Quixote sailed from Santa Barbara with 1,529 arrobas of tallow, 387 hairseal skins, and one horse, all sent by Stearns.28

Fitch wrote: “I am anxious to have Peirce and Brewer paid.” The three partners shipped hides, beaver, land-otter skins, figs, and old copper to Honolulu on the Lama in 1841, on the Maryland in 1842, and the Fama in 1843. On July 4, 1843, Peirce & Brewer wrote: “Captain Fitch is still owing us about $600, but we have no doubt he is able to pay it.” By late 1843 all seems to have been settled except for a dispute over interest and insurance charges.29

Before accounts with Peirce & Brewer were settled, angry words were exchanged. Peirce in Boston, on June 9, 1843, wrote an accusing letter, quite different in tone from the Honolulu company’s letter of July 4.30 When Fitch received it months later, he answered in the forthright and sarcastic style which he used when aroused. Point by point he explained business details. Then, in response to Peirce’s complaint that “With the traders of California I have had an immense deal of trouble, annoyance and loss,” he wrote: “I doubt it not, my good Sir, with regard to myself at least I must say you have spared no pains, left no stone unturned to take the jacket off my back, and not having been able to get more than the body and one sleeve into your possession, are minus the other which naturally must be considered as a loss not having gained it.” To Peirce’s statement that “There seems to be a great want of moral principle” among California traders, Fitch responded: “When California or any other country traders can cope with Sandwich Island merchants in roguery and piracy, then the great work will have been accomplished, all men will be equal and see each other face to face. . . . I must say that if my character rested alone on your good opinion, I should feel sorry indeed.” He conceded that Peirce was correct in charging interest when the Lama was on the coast and he was in Mazatlán, but he pointed out that the sending of the Lama was in opposition to the agreement that no ship would be sent until the expiration of a certain period, when “I can prove . . . I had the funds ready.”31

A voyage on the Nymph to Mazatlán and San Blas was Captain Fitch’s next undertaking. He sold, in exchange for hides, all the tallow he had on hand to Robert H. Dare and James McKinlay, who added enough tallow and a few sea-otter skins from their vessel, the Ayacucho, to make a complete freight for the Nymph. Fitch also put on board, for his own account, 512 pounds of beaver skins, and a little soap.32

After arriving at Mazatlán in January, 1841, Fitch obtained another freight south to Manzanillo. Upon returning to Mazatlán in March, he purchased $14,811.50 worth of goods, mostly Mexican and European textiles. He gave his personal obligations to W.W. Scarborough & Company, Machado, Yeoward & Company, and J.R. Móller & Company, and agreed to deliver the amount due either in tallow deliverable at Mazatlán, or in hides to be freighted to Boston. In California, in May, Temple and Stearns each bound himself for one-third of the amount of the invoice. And, once again, there was a change in the ownership of the Nymph when McKinlay joined the others, each having a one-fourth interest. It was agreed that both Fitch and McKinlay would be supercargoes, each receiving a commission.33

A severe drought in 1840-1841 slowed all business. While McKinlay took the Nymph along the coast as far as Ensenada, Fitch labored in the San Francisco area to make collections and sales. Stearns reported that there was “nothing doing in this quarter,” and Fitch wrote: “Business is very dull.”34

Fitch was not a good bookkeeper. The accounts of the Nymph had become increasingly complex. As a result, strained relationships among the partners led to accusations. Hugo Perfecto Reid, a trained accountant, who was asked by Stearns to check the incomplete accounts, wrote on March 1, 1841: “I have put prices to Fitch’s sales, and footed them up. You will observe they amount to $35,894.50, but it is a moral impossibility to do anything more with them.” Two days later he gave a scathing report:

After a close examination of Fitch’s accounts, I have come to the conclusion that his soul originally occupied some Vacqui Indian’s body.

He has opened no account of the expedition. He may answer that merely as a supercargo he is acting. If only as a supercargo, why be at such trouble as to charge Stearns, Temple and myself with their third parts of duties? . . . it had been much better to have deducted it from the gross proceeds of sale, on the same principle he should proceed with other charges.35

Another complaint directed against Captain Fitch was that he attended to his personal business more than to that of the Nymph. On July 7, 1841, Reid wrote to Stearns that Fitch “will eventually ruin you and enrich himself.” He suggested that an additional clause be added to their contracts: “No one of the granting associates, while the firm lasts, shall be able to do any business or commercial transactions.”36 study of the papers of Stearns and Temple reveals clearly that they, too, were engaged in trade other than that of the Nymph. Fitch in September assured his partners: “I turn everything of mine I get over.”37

By the end of 1841, Fitch had made a firm decision. The schooner must be sold, and the joint accounts must be closed. He wrote to Stearns on November 30 that he was sorry, but there was no other remedy. He explained: “It is not proper that I should be obliged to get everything on my credit and responsibility and others have the benefit of it. I certainly thought that you would have given me some hides for the ship, for account of Scarborough & Company, but as it is I have not the face to ask for more credit.” He repeated his resolution in January, 1842: “I am determined not to purchase more goods on credit and be responsible for others for the payment thereof.”38

All of the partners agreed to sell the Nymph. The schooner left San Diego on February 1, 1842, with a small cargo of tallow, hides, beaver skins, landotter skins, dried beef, and bear skins. At Mazatlán, she was sold to the Mexican government for $8,000, and, after some accounts were closed, $5,076.73 remained. There was still a debt to W.W Scarborough & Company.39

Using the proceeds of the sale of the Nymph, Fitch and Temple bought from Machado, Yeoward & Company a $3,180 invoice, which, Fitch wrote, “is all that I would compromise myself for.” In June, 1842, they returned as passengers on the Trinidad to California, where business was transacted under the name of “McKinlay & Company.” All three men worked to collect tallow for the return cargo of the Trinidad, and tallow, beaver skins, deer skins, soap, bear skins, dried beef, and lumber for the Primavera, owned by Machado, Yeoward & Company.40

For the next three years, the settlement of the Nymph’s business plagued Fitch. In a continued drought period, hides and tallow were scarce, and customers tended to forget purchases made on credit. After returning from Mexico on the Trinidad, he remained in the Los Angeles area for almost eleven weeks trying to collect from debtors. He wrote to McKinlay: “They all promise to pay but God knows when . . . I cannot conceive how you came to trust so many vagabonds.”41 In payment of the amount owed to W.W. Scarborough & Company, shipments were made to Boston—2,500 hides on the Alert in 1842, and 1,200 hides on the Tasso in 1844.42

All four of the partners in the Nymph investment continued to gather local products, including much aguardiente supplied by Temple and Stearns, but they were all edgy and anxious to terminate the partnership. Charges went back and forth. Stearns criticised Fitch and McKinlay for delays in the rendering of accounts. In 1843, he complained: “Nearly two and one-half years have elapsed since I have received any satisfaction as regards the transactions of the negotiations of the Ninfa.” In February, 1845, Fitch wrote: “For my part, I am tired of this business,” and he tried unsuccessfully to get the parties together for a final settlement. In May, he presented terms for winding up all matters related to the Nymph’s “first expedition,” and offered to assume personally the rest of the probably un-collectable debts. In June, Stearns listed eight “faults” in the accounts of the Nymph, and accused both Fitch and McKinlay of not attending exclusively to the schooner’s affairs. Fitch defended McKinlay, stating that he was “a free man” to take on the business of another vessel, the Don Quixote. “Moreover instead of being prejudicial to the interests of the concern, it was in a manner of great advantage,” he added.43

Finally, in July, 1845, the Nymph affair was submitted for arbitration to David Alexander and Charles W. Flugge. Fitch was not happy with the decision: “By deducting my commission you may say I have been at work for three years for nothing . . . I am the greatest loser by the arbitration.”44

The Nymph was the last vessel which Captain Fitch owned or operated. In late 1842, he was almost involved in the part ownership of the bark Don Quixote, belonging to Paty & Company of Honolulu. McKinlay proposed that he and Fitch charter or purchase half of the bark. Fitch firmly disassociated himself from the plan. He did not want “to have anything to do with it . . . we have sufficient in the fire already.” Again, on January 6, 1843, he told McKinlay: “You may take her by yourself with Paty.” He was especially anxious to settle all debts with Stearns, and he pointed out that their use of goods obtained in Mazatlán with Stearns’ part in the sale of the Nymph “l do not think is altogether proper.”45

Although Fitch refused to be involved in the ownership of the Don Quixote, he did agree to purchase goods from the vessel. He continued trading with John Paty even after the latter separated from McKinlay in 1845. As late as Fitch’s last visit to San Francisco in 1848, he was trying to collect hides and tallow which Paty owed him.46

From 1842 to 1849, Captain Fitch actively carried on his California trade by using vessels owned by others, as he had done in 1835-1840. He had become convinced that “. . . we can purchase goods on the coast cheaper than we can import them.”47 The merchandise obtained from the shipping, as also the California products which he collected, were freighted, and he sailed as passenger to transact his coastwise business. He occasionally travelled on horseback between San Diego and Los Angeles. Each year, except in 1845 when he went only as far as San Pedro, he sailed to San Francisco, touching on the way at intermediary ports, where he contacted retailers and ranchers.48

As a traveling trader in the 1840s, Captain Fitch continued to do business with merchants from Boston, Mexico, and Honolulu, and with Californians owning vessels, such as Miguel F. de Pedrorena, Henry Dalton, William Heath Davis, and Alpheus Basil Thompson. He was on very good terms with supercargoes and captains sailing from Boston: Alfred Robinson and Thomas Shaw’ of Bryant, Sturgis & Company; Thomas B. Park and William Dane Phelps, employees of Joseph B. Eaton and other shareholders; William Davis Merry Howard, James P. Arther, and Theophilus C. Everett of Benjamin T. Reed’s concern; Henry Mellus of William Appleton & Company; and John H. Everett of Curtis, Stevenson and Price.

Boston vessels supplied him with a great variety of commodities, from pearl cigar cases and breast pins to ploughs and kegs of powder. For household use, Fitch bought textiles and dishes of all kinds, pans, copper pots, kettles, knives, spoons, looking glasses, chairs, and clothing. Construction materials and tools made up a large part of his purchases: axes, sickles, hammers, hatchets, screwdrivers, shovels, paint, wire, nails, and lumber. He obtained from the Vandalia one pair of cart wheels for $60 and one “winery mill’ for $25. From Mexican vessels he bought such articles as panocha, serapes, ponchos, rebozos, hats, and ornamental shell combs. Vessels from the Hawaiian entrepot were a source of Chinese tea and other Oriental goods, coffee, sugar, and commodities from the United States.

The California products traded by Fitch at his store and along the coast in the 1840s included not only the basic hides and tallow and a few furs, but increasing amounts of soap, vaquetas (tanned hides), aguardiente, saddles, boots, and figs. The latter four items brought returns in cash as well as in commodities. Boston merchants took most of the hides, paying for them with tallow and merchandise. Tallow was sold to traders sailing to Mexico. The beaver, sea-otter, and fur-seal skins which Fitch sent to Honolulu, Mazatlán, and Boston, brought very little profit. One hundred fur-seal skins, shipped on the California, in 1841 sold for only $2.75 each, “seal caps being much less used of late than formerly.”49

Trade in aguardiente, and a little wine, proved to be a lucrative business, although it involved marketing problems. The largest amounts were obtained in the Los Angeles area, from Stearns, Temple, Flugge, Isaac Williams, John R. Wolfskill, and other ranchers, and were marketed in Monterey and San Francisco. Difficulties included stealing, evaporation in storage, and leaking barrels.

Vaquetas, saddles, saddle leathers, and boots were sold at Los Angeles, Monterey, and San Francisco to retail merchants such as Flugge, James Watson, Talbot H. Green, William Heath Davis, and William Alexander Leidesdorff. They were also consigned, for sale along the coast, to supercargoes of Boston vessels. Saddles sold very readily.

Flugge, who owned a store in Los Angeles, handled leather for Fitch. On January 11, 1845, he reported that he had disposed of four complete saddles and some vaquetas, and “I shall be glad to receive a few good saddles of you.” In April, he acknowledged receipt of tanned hides, but hoped that Fitch “could send me some which are somewhat heavier, as those which you have sent me will not answer for soles.” In September, he wrote: “The baquetas you speak of I shall be happy to receive as soon as possible. Please let them be good and large ones.” On October 19, he observed that the ten tanned hides which Fitch had sent “are the fairest lot which I have received from you.”50

Northern California proved to be an excellent market for leather goods. In December, 1844, Fitch consigned forty vaquetas on the Vandalia to Green and Watson, merchants at Monterey. In September, 1845, he put on the ship California twelve sets of saddle leathers complete, and ten pairs of boots. In 1846 Davis in San Francisco wrote that he was sure he could dispose of the saddle leathers and boots which Fitch had consigned to him “as the U.S. government is now forming a company of Cavalry and I believe they want saddles.” By October Davis had sold most of the boots and all of the saddles for cash at $22.50 each. Saddle leathers predominated in the invoice shipped for sale on the Malek Adhel in 1847. In March, 1848, Charles L. Ross, of Gelston & Company in San Francisco, wrote that the saddles which Fitch had sent “are selling very well.”51

Dried figs were a Fitch specialty, and usually sold readily at Monterey and San Francisco. Five bags of figs, freighted to Honolulu on the Lama in 1841, were auctioned by Peirce & Brewer for $88.26. In 1842, Captain Jean Jacques Vioget, who had a consignment of figs from Fitch, was asked to send six or eight bales to Watson at Monterey. In March, 1844, four bales of figs, weighing sixteen arrobas, and invoiced at $5.50 an arroba, were shipped on the Juan José to Davis. In December, 1844, Fitch informed Green: “I have no figs on hand at present but expect a lot daily and will send you some as soon as possible.” In January, 1845, the promised figs, in two bales, were sent from San Diego on the Clarita. At Monterey, in 1848, Hiram C. Clark, supercargo of the Eveline, easily sold a consignment of figs in eight bales, weighing almost thirty-seven arrobas.52

Some of the sea-otter and seal skins which Fitch traded were obtained by hunters whom he hired. In August, 1840, the Nymph, on her way to Ensenada, sailed to Isla Guadalupe. Fitch wrote: “I am in hopes that the sealers in Guadalupe have done something, or otherwise they would have returned long ago, or else they have lost their boat.” In May, 1841, his otter hunters and all others, who were operating with local licenses, were ordered to return and to hunt thereafter only with a permit from the governor. In August, 1843, Robert Robertson, in charge of Fitch’s store, wrote: “I have heard but little from your otter hunters and that little is unfavorable.” In April, 1844, Edward Stokes advised Fitch: “You had better push them (otter hunters) before the black Steward (Allen Light) comes, for after they arrive the San Diego Hunters may go to sleep.” In January, 1847, Honolulu agents for the Hudson’s Bay Company regretted “to hear of the loss you sustained in otter skins and boats.”53 

Sea elephants were also taken by Fitch’s hunters. He wrote to Stearns in 1840: “If you want some lamp oil, I can supply you with 30-40 gallons of good elephant oil at one dollar per gallon. I am burning it in my house and think it burns equal or better than sperm.” He had sent out a boat, and “in four days two men brought in blubber sufficient to make 120 gallons.” The 1841 license of Fitch permitted him to hunt sea elephants as well as seals and sea otters.54

Baja California was a source of products sold by Fitch in his coastwise trade in the 1840s. The Nymph sailed three times to Ensenada. Ranchers and agents of the Dominican padres travelled overland to San Diego with small amounts of sea otter skins, cattle hides, vaquetas, saddles, boots, figs and aguardiente. These articles were exchanged for merchandise at Fitch’s store.

On the voyage of the Nymph to Ensenada in August, 1840, Captain Fitch reported that he did “very well.” He sold nearly $1,700 worth of goods, and received payment “for most of it” in hides and “a fair lot” of sea otter skins, eighteen of which were prime. He wrote: “I laid longer in Ensenada than I expected, eight days, owing to some of the inhabitants living far off.” Before sailing from San Diego to Ensenada on April 28, 1841, Fitch surmised that there were about 500 hides “in and about the Ensenada . . . Perhaps I can pick up something else there.”55

Agustín Mancilla and his brother, Tomás Mancilla, Dominican friar at Santo Tomás, often traded with Fitch. The Nymph, when anchored at Ensenada in 1840, received 300-400 hides from Padre Tomás, and in September, 1841, eleven pairs of boots from him, and a few hides from Agustín. On May 4, 1841, Agustín wrote: “My brother sends you four knapsacks with their pack saddles, and some single pack saddles. I send for myself six pairs of boots.” He also specified the goods which he wanted. In January, 1842, after Agustín had returned to Santo Tomás from San Diego, he forwarded seven sea otter skins to add to the six which he had left at the San Diego store. Altogether, they were valued at $484. In February, 1843, he delivered four excellent, dark-colored sea otter skins, for which he charged $45 each. If Fitch would pay $50, he could supply him with more. He asked if a draft on the Pious Fund would be acceptable. He also inquired if he had been credited with two barrels of aguardiente, and wanted to know what price he could get for large vaquetas of good color. In August, 1843, Agustín journeyed from the peninsula with a load of hides, saddles and sea otter skins, only a few of which were for Fitch.56

Examples of other overland deliveries from Baja California follow. In March, 1840, Fitch was expecting Santiago Arce to bring figs and sea otter skins from Ensenada. In December, 1841, Estanislao Armenta, comandante occidental de Fronteras at San Vicente, bought $1,795 worth of goods at the San Diego store—black mascadas, hats, printed calico, panocha, sugar, hatchets, colored cloth, paper, loose pita, tobacco, handkerchiefs, thread, needles, stockings, silk, rebozos, and ribbon.57 On July 7, 1843, at Los Angeles, Fitch certified that he had purchased sixty-six head of cattle from Francisco J. Gastélum of Baja California, 300 hides from Mission Guadalupe, and hides “from different people who say they are from Mission Guadalupe.” On March 14, 1844, Perfecto Duarte at San Vicente ordered coarse and fine cloth, black sewing silk, printed calicoes, shawls, clothing, and handkerchiefs. He sent twenty vaquetas, and apologized: “I am sorry they are so poor. I was hoping to tan this spring some vaquetas which would be better to put to my credit at your store.” In August, 1846, Miguel Alberez was expected to deliver vaquetas, which Fitch’s storekeeper was told to ship to San Pedro. On October 5, 1847, Tomás Bona at Santa Teresa sent two sea-otter skins, and asked for a piece of blue printed calico and two pieces of coarse cotton cloth, six yards of striped cloth, and a pound of red pepper. Some of the above names, with those of other Baja California customers, appeared in Fitch’s records to 1849.58

The margin of profit at the San Diego shop was small. Merchandise was exchanged for local products and some specie. However, a resident merchant had to pay as much, or almost as much, for goods to stock his shelves as a person who bought only a few articles. Furthermore, as all retailers who were located on ports knew, potential buyers were lost when a “floating store” appeared in the bay. They could not compete when Californians joyfully boarded the anchored craft in search of bargains and new goods. In 1845 Fitch wrote to Howard that he was having difficulty in selling cloth to San Diegans, because “The few people there get supplied from the shipping.”59

Whenever Captain Fitch went to sea, he employed someone to handle the business at his store. He mentioned having a “shopkeeper” in 1837. James Orbell was in charge from 1840 to 1842. On December 29, 1842, Orbell acknowledged a deficit of $6,140 and agreed to reimburse Fitch, who complained to McKinlay: “I have been cheated by that dam’d scoundrel of an Orbell out of more than $6,000 and all he can show for it is about $1,500 in bad debts. So much for the person you recommended me to keep in my shop.”60 Robert Robertson was hired in 1843, and Pedro Pablo Poncia from 1846 to 1849. An anecdote was told of Poncia. When Captain Phelps purchased seventeen large tin pans for sixteen dollars at the San Diego store, and then immediately sold them for a profit of about one hundred per cent, “It annoyed Don Pedro (Poncia) so much he closed the store for the balance of the day.”61

Captain Fitch was an alert, honest trader. He disliked being in debt. He watched the pennies closely, buying selectively in lots costing from about $100 to $2,000. He usually made a number of separate purchases from the same vessel while she was on the coast, either at San Diego, or at ports which he visited. Park, supercargo of the ship California in 1839, told him he must make up his mind to pay the same price as others for the goods he wanted. Fitch complained to Stearns about Henry Mellus, assistant supercargo of the same vessel: “You said true in your last letter when you said that no doubt Mr. Mellus would soap and shave me with a good bill but very few goods for it, for my shelves were nearly as empty after purchasing $2,000 as before.” In 1844, he informed Howard: “I was on board the Vandalia and intended to have purchased something but as I found everything so very dear I took but very little.”62

Numerous examples are found in his correspondence of close attention to the details of a business transaction. Orbell was told to examine all bales of panocha “to see that they are full.” In 1842, after shipping soap obtained from Monterey merchants, he advised McKinlay: “. . . I think it will be as well to have some of them counted to see if they are right.” In 1845, he complained to Howard: “On opening the crate of crockery I found 27 pitchers short and about 71/2 doz cups and saucers instead of 15 doz.”63

Fitch’s dealings during the years attest his business integrity. Others besides traders credited him with this quality. William Henry Thomes, crewman on the Admittance, 1843-1846, wrote: “Mr. Fitch is one of the most generous, whole souled Americans on the coast. I know that he was a great favorite all over the coast, and was as honest a man as ever resided in San Diego.” According to José Ramón Sánchez: “Fitch was in the habit of doing good to all those who came in contact with him, and although I was in his service a long time, I do not recall having heard a single complaint against his honesty.” A sentence in the captain’s letter to Stearns in 1845 is revealing: “We have a French Whaler (Espadon) here, full, bound home, and as I am Custom house officer, am not able to smuggle anything as it would be against my conscious.”64

Those finding fault were few. Reid criticized his bookkeeping, and Stearns, although usually on friendly terms, censured him for his management of the Nymph’s voyage. Richard Henry Dana wrote the most derogatory words. He referred to Fitch as ” . . . a fat, coarse, vulgar, pretending fellow of a Yankee trader, who had made money in San Diego, and was eating out the very vitals of the Bandinis . . . “65 When Dana gave this description, he identified Fitch as a passenger on the Alert when she sailed from Monterey on January 6, 1836, and arrived at San Diego on February 6. But Fitch was in San Diego on January 6 and January 27. The only documented passengers on the Alert at that time were Juan Bandini and José Antonio Estudillo.66

Dana’s remarks were incisively refuted by Phelps, master of the Alert, 1840-1842, when he recorded in his journal:

Capt. F of whom I have seen much during the last,18 months —is fat, and also a trader, but I have never seen or heard of any thing respecting him to induce the belief that he is not fair and honorable in all his dealings and I know that he is kind hearted, and liberal in the extreme. The only. motive Dana could have for using such terms respecting him (it is said) is, that he entered Capt. F’s house intoxicated, and using’ offensive language, was kicked out!67

Hospitality and camaraderie marked the captain’s relationships. The Cyane’s officers, who observed the raising of the United States flag in San Diego on July 29, 1846, “Say that Fitch is a glorious old chap,” Phelps reported. Fitch is known to have been on “sprees” aboard vessels. His home was often the scene of dinners and parties for ship-officers. In December, 1840, a number of masters and supercargoes attended a fandango at the presidio given by Pedrorena and Fitch. When her husband was in Mazatlán in 1842, Josefa invited Robinson and Phelps of the Alert to dinner. On Christmas day of the same year, the top echelon of all the ships in harbor dined at the Fitch home. In August, 1845, he urged Howard to bring Mrs. Howard when he came on the California, as he had “a large room fitted up.”68

In addition to managing his own demanding business, Fitch attended to numerous requests from fellow merchants who had interests in the San Diego area. Most frequently, he was asked to look after the hide houses (barracas) on the beach, while the owners were absent. He supervised the barraqueros, the men left in charge, when they were curing hides and delivering merchandise. When John Lewis, an employee of Scott and Wilson died in 1842, Fitch made a complete inventory of everything in their hide house before hiring a new barraquero, William Williams. Another arduous task was collecting debts, large and small, which customers in the San Diego area owed other merchants. “Please ask the Lopez woman for four dollars,” John H. Everett, supercargo of the Tasso, wrote in 1844. In 1847, Captain Fitch was asked to appoint and serve on a committee to inspect the condition of the badly damaged Moscow.

During the Mexican War, supplies were furnished by Fitch to United States troops and vessels. Ezekiel Merritt received shot, powder, bullocks, sugar and other supplies for a total value of $797.56. General Stephen W. Kearny’s depleted forces obtained food and clothing from the San Diego store. However, some orders on the government were never paid, and Fitch did not live long enough to press claims, as other California and Boston merchants had to do before receiving partial compensation.69

The year before his death, Fitch sailed to Mexico on the Eveline. When he returned on the same vessel in February, 1848, he wrote to Larkin that Mazatlán was “very dull, no goods, not even Mexican.” He brought with him a few boxes of merchandise and some drafts from Mott, Talbot & Company, to whom he sent in the fall 214 ounces of placer gold.70 In April, he shipped on the Malek Adhel a few Mexican goods to be sold along the coast “for cash but not less than the prices affixed.” In May, he made a quick trip to Los Angeles in connection with settling the long drawn-out affair of the Don Quixote concern. In July, Fitch freighted on the Olga, bound for San Francisco and intermediate ports, an invoice of satin, levantine dresses, red serapes, rebozos, broadcloth, and silk handkerchiefs. He then took passage on the vessel. In September and October, in San Francisco, he purchased sugar, rice, cocoa, tobacco, prints, and other products from recently-established firms such as Starkey, Janion & Company, and Mellus & Howard. Seeing the effect of the gold rush, he wrote to Poncia: “It is necessary to raise prices of all goods,” in the San Diego store.71

On October 14, 1848, the Olga left Sausalito with Captain Fitch and his merchandise, valued on the ship’s manifest at $3,464. By the terms of an agreement concluded with Henry Frederick Teschemacher, supercargo of the Olga, Fitch was to consign, for sale on half profits, saddles, bits, spurs, reatas, and soap. Also, he gave an order for Teschemacher to receive and sell, on half profits, the goods which he expected by the Cayuga from Mazatlán.

The Olga arrived at San Diego in early November. On December 27, Fitch wrote a letter to Teschemacher, but on January 9, 1849, the supercargo at San Pedro replied: “I have just heard that you are very sick. I hope the story may not be true.” On January 10, just three days before Fitch died from what was reported as “typhoid-pneumonia,” Teschemacher informed Howard: “I shall perhaps (if Captain Fitch is not dead) have thirty saddles, a quantity of first rate California soap, some good blankets and some other articles well calculated for the mines.”72

It was his widow, Josefa, who first fulfilled the agreement with Teschemacher. On January 24, 1849, she delivered to the Olga sixteen saddles, four pairs of boots, sixteen pairs of spur leathers, seven pairs of spurs, seven bridle bits, eight boxes of soap, one box of beaver hats, and one box of tin pans, plates, and coffee pots.73

Captain Fitch pursued his varied mercantile affairs with vigor. His personal contacts with people of all classes were extensive, from Valparaíso and Acapulco to San Francisco. At San Diego and on the California coast, he traded with vessels from the United States, South America, Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, and with those owned by Mexican Californians. His future biographer will have much to add about his interest in ranching, his civic services, and his concern for the welfare of his family and the education of his sons.74



1. Henry Delano Fitch, Documentos para la Historia de California (Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley), no. 10; Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Documentos para la Historia de California (Bancroft Library), I, 151, 156-57; Departmental State Papers (Bancroft Library), II, 52-53. For data and references for all vessels mentioned in this article, see Adele Ogden, “Trading Vessels on the California Coast, 1786-1848” (original, Bancroft Library; copy, San Diego Historical Society Library and Manuscripts Collection).

2. Fitch, Documentos, no. 11.

3. Bancroft states: “Why Fitch did not sail in his own vessel does not appear;” Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco: The History Company, 1884-90), III, 141, ftn. 62. Virmond always referred to his vessel as the “Mary Esther,” but after she was registered under the Mexican flag, she was known as the María Ester.

4. All accounts of Fitch give 1826 as the year of his arrival. But on May 17, 1825, at San Francisco, Fitch signed a receipt, given to the presidial commander, for a refund on an export tax placed on the cargo of the María Ester; Vallejo, Documentos, XVIII, 133. For the background of Fitch before 1825, see the excellently researched article by Richard F. Pourade, “Presidio Hill’s New-Found Grave Recalls an old San Diego Romance,” San Diego Union, June 23, 1968.

5. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 1-2, 5-7.

6. Ibid., nos. 1, 9-10; Vallejo, Documentos, XXIX, 164.

7. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 10-11; Josefa Carrillo Fitch, “Narración,” Departmental Records (Bancroft Library), VIII, 83.

8. Rafael Pinto, Documentos para la Historia de California (Bancroft Library), I, 28.

9. On March 25, 1834, Fitch was at Santa Barbara on the Leonor, bound for Monterey. In September he was in San Diego purchasing goods from Thomas Shaw, and in October he was a passenger on the Ayacucho, sailing from San Diego to Monterey. George P. Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951-1968), I, 3; Fitch, Documentos, no. 14; James McKinlay to Stearns, Santa Barbara, October 14, 1834, Abel Stearns, Papers (Huntington Library, San Marino).

10. Supercargoes from whom Fitch purchased goods in this period included: José Antonio Aguirre of the Leónidas, from Acapulco, Mazatlán, and Callao; James McKinlay of the schooner Ayacucho, from Callao and Mazatlán; Henry Virmond of the Catalina and Leonor, sailing from Callao and Acapulco; Miguel F. de Pedrorena of the Delmira and Juan José, from Callao; James G. Scott and John Wilson of the Brig Ayacucho and Index, from Callao. Small purchases were made from Honolulu merchants: William Sturgis Hinckley of the Don Quixote, Alpheus Basil Thompson of the Loriot and Bolívar Liberator, and Henry Paty of the Morse. Supercargoes and captains of Boston vessels had many dealings with Fitch: Alfred Robinson of the Pilgrim and Alert, Thomas B. Park of the California and Alert, Thomas Shaw of the Lagoda and Mon-soon; Joseph Steele of the Sarah and Caroline, and John Stickney of the Kent.

11. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, April 21, 1836, Stearns Papers.

12. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, December 22, 1838, Stearns Papers.

13. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, February 10, 1839, Stearns Papers.

14. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, September 14, 1836, September 7, 1839, Stearns Papers.

15. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, February 15, 1840, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 64, 72; Vallejo, Documentos, VIII, 158.

16. Departmental State Papers, XVII, 8-9; Fitch, Documentos, no. 98.

17. Ibid., nos. 103, 106.

18. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, February 15, 1840, Stearns Papers.

19. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, February 28, 1840, Stearns Papers; Vallejo, Documentos, XXXIII, 19, 21-22, 25, 28; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 104-06.

20. Ibid., no. 121.

21. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, January 7, 1840, Stearns Papers.

22. Henry Augustus Peirce to Charles Brewer, Honolulu, April 30, 1840, James Hunnewell, Papers (Baker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, Boston); Fitch, Documentos, nos. 113-15, 117, 119, 122, 159; Fitch to Stearns, Monterey, June 20, 1840, Stearns Papers.

23. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 110-11, 119, 122.

24. Ibid., nos. 146-47, 198, 243.

25. Ibid., no. 134.

26. Fitch to Stearns, Monterey, October 31, 1840, Stearns Papers.

27. A.B. Thompson to Joseph Oliver Carter, San Pedro, October 10, 1840, Alpheus Basil Thompson, Papers (Santa Barbara Historical Society).

28. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 142, 154, 200, 244, 249; John Temple to John Forster, Los Angeles, October 8, 1840, Stearns Papers; Francis Johnson to Stearns, Monterey, January 28, 1841, Stearns Papers. There was a dispute over the tallow sent on the Don Quixote.

29. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, April 22, 1841, Stearns Papers; Peirce & Brewer to Hunnewell, Honolulu, July 4, 1843, Hunnewell Papers; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 142, 180, 190, 198, 200, 226, 240, 242-44, 248-49, 252-53, 258, 264, 278, 291, 359. Fitch did not receive his note to Peirce & Brewer for 2,500 hides, cancelled, until 1848; Ibid., no. 552.

30. Ibid., nos. 146, 264.

31. Ibid., nos. 304-05.

32. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, December 14, 1840, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 144, 148; Archives of San Diego (Bancroft Library), Commerce and Revenues, no. 6.

33. William Davis Merry Howard to Stearns, Mexico (City), February 24, 1841, Stearns Papers; Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, I, 79; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 152, 156-58, 165, 240.

34. Fitch to Stearns and Temple, San Francisco, September 12, 1841, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, no. 131.

35. Hugo Perfecto Reid to Stearns, San Gabriel, March 1, 3, 1841, Stearns Papers.

36. Reid to Stearns, San Gabriel, July 7, 1841, Stearns Papers.

37. Fitch to Stearns and Temple, San Francisco, September 12, 1841, Stearns Papers.

38. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, November 30, 1841, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, no. 196.

39. Ibid., no. 215; Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, I, 236, 238, 241.

40. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 217, 232, 262, 373, 506-08, 588; Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, I, 236-41, 288-89.

41. Ibid., I, 275.

42. Ibid., I, 241; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 223, 297-98.

43. Ibid., nos. 268, 338, 344, 350, 352-354; Fitch to Stearns, Santa Anita, February 16, 18, 1845, Stearns Papers.

44. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, July 30, 1845, Ibid.; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 354-56.

45. Vallejo, Documentos, XXXIII, 1, 297; Larkin to Faxon Dean Atherton, Monterey, February 12, 1843, in D.B. Nunis, ed., “Six New Larkin Letters,” Southern California Quarterly, XLIX (March, 1967), p. 73. William Heath Davis and John Paty, writing a number of years after the 1843 agreement, stated that Fitch was one of the merchants purchasing the Don Quixote, but contemporary letters and accounts show that Fitch was only involved in buying goods, not the vessel.

46. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 314, 375, 381-82, 446, 484, 513, 517, 535, 589; William Dane Phelps, Logbooks . . . and Papers (Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge), Vol. 8, November 5, 1847.

47. Vallejo, Documentos, XXXIII, 297.

48. For Fitch’s voyages, including dates and vessels, see Ogden, “Voyages of Captain Fitch, 1825-1849,” (San Diego History Center Library).

49. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 174a, 176.

50. Ibid., nos. 318, 322, 334, 363, 372.

51. Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, II, 329; Fitch to Howard, San Diego, September 20, 1845, William Davis Merry Howard, Papers (California Historical Society, San Francisco); William Heath Davis, Letterbook (California State Library, Sacramento; photocopy, Bancroft Library), pp. 10, 24; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 470, 489.

52. Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, l, 288, II, 329, III, 13; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 244, 296, 487, 490.

53. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, August 3, 1840, Stearns Papers; Departmental State Papers, Los Angeles (Bancroft Library), VI, 28-29; Archives of San Diego, p. 281; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 166, 267, 301, 418.

54. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, January 27, 1840, Stearns Papers; Departmental State Papers, Benicia, Prefecturas y Juzgados (Bancroft Library), IV, 1.

55. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, August 23, 1840, April 22, 1841, Stearns Papers; Phelps, Logbooks. . . and Papers, Vol. 5, April 28, 1841.

56. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, August 3, 1840, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 163, 170, 191, 245, 267.

57. Ibid., nos. 109, 186-87.

58. Fitch, certification, Los Angeles, July 7, 1843, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 227, 295, 459.

59. Fitch to Howard, San Pedro, May 29, 1845, Howard Papers; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 164, 284.

60. Vallejo, Documentos, XXXIII, 1; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 31, 109, 166, 221-22, 237; James Orbell to Stearns, San Diego, March 3, 1841, Stearns Papers.

61. Henry Mellus to Howard, San Diego, September 27, 1848, Howard Papers. For Robertson, see Fitch, Documentos, no. 267. For Poncia, a native of Switzerland, see ibid., nos. 227, 444, 448, 510, 522, 544, 547: Pablo L. Martínez, Guía Familiar de Baja California (México, D.F.: Editorial Baja California, 1965), p. 446. Bancroft states that William Williams was in charge of Fitch’s store in 1840, but Fitch hired Williams to look after the hide house of Scott and Wilson, after a former employee had died; Fitch, Documentos, nos. 87, 108.

62. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, April 22, 1839, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, no. 75; Fitch to Howard, San Diego, December 16, 1844, Howard Papers.

63. Fitch, Documentos, no. 109; Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, I, 320; Fitch to Howard, San Diego, September 20, 1845, Howard Papers.

64. William Henry Thomes, On Land and Sea (Boston: De Wolfe, Fiske & Company, 1884), p. 263; José Ramón Sánchez, “Notas Dictadas,” in Pioneer Sketches (Bancroft Library), no. 11; Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, September 12, 1845, Stearns Papers.

65. Richard Henry Dana, Jr., John Haskell Kemble, ed., Two Years before the Mast (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1964), I, 233.

66. Fitch to Stearns, San Diego, January 6, 1836, Stearns Papers; Fitch, Documentos, no. 22; Juan Gómez, Documentos para la Historia de California (Bancroft Library), p. 37. Fitch possibly was a passenger on the Alert from San Diego to Santa Barbara in October-November, 1835.

67. Phelps, Logbooks . . . and Papers, Vol. 5, February 23, 1842.

68. Fitch, Documentos, no. 399; Phelps, Logbooks . . . and Papers, Vol. 4, December 18, 1840, Vol. 5, February 23, December 25, 1842; Fitch to Howard, San Diego, August 23, 1845, Howard Papers.

69. U.S. Treasury Department document, October 27, 1846, copy, Fitch, Bibliographical File (San Diego History Center Library); Anita Fitch de Grant, undated letter, in Ibid.; Gilbert N. Fitch, interviewed by Forrest Warren, “Half-Minute Interviews,” San Diego Union, July 26, 1940, p. 10A. Benjamin T. Reed, Boston merchant, made two trips to Washington, D.C. in 1849 in an endeavor to receive payment for government drafts. Reed to Howard, New York, November 12, 1849, Boston, January 16, 1850, Howard Papers.

70. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 473, 486, 492, 553; Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers, VII, 114, 140, 172, 175.

71. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 484, 494, 510, 513, 522, 528-36, 539-42, 547, 550.

72. Monterey Customhouse Records (copies, Bancroft Library), October 27, 1848; Fitch, Documentos, no. 478; Henry Frederick Teschemacher to Howard, San Pedro, January 10, 1848 (sic., 1849), Howard Papers; San Francisco Alta California, February 15, 1849.

73. Fitch, Documentos, nos. 600, 608, 615.

74. An excellent, scholarly account of Fitch is that by Ronald Lee Miller, “Henry Delano Fitch: A Yankee Trader in California: 1826-1849” (Dissertation, University of Southern California, February, 1972; photocopy, San Diego Historical Society Library).

THE PHOTOGRAPHS are from the San Diego History Center’s Title Insurance and Trust Collection.