The Journal of San Diego History
Spring 1986, Volume 32, Number 2
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Boom Times for the San Diego Whaling Industry

by Ronald V. May
First Prize, Cabrillo Award
San Diego History Center 1985 Institute of History

Images from this article

THE gull’s cry tore through the fog-shrouded mast and rigging of the whaling schooner Horace as it plunged northward through the foam-churned Baja California sea. Captain Prince William Packard1 stirred from his rain-slick position on the foredeck to watch a sharp ray of morning light rip through mists of maritime darkness, much like the old mariner’s bomb-lance once pierced daybreak shadows in search of the Gray Whale known as “devilfish.” Gone would be the days when daybreak would be hailed by the thunder of the Packard Company’s harpoon guns.

The year was 18782 and the re-created scene on the deck of the Horace marked the end of the boom-times for the San Diego whaling industry. The cold and brisk wind billowed through the gray canvas sail like a banner heralding the end of an era spanning twenty years3. As the stevedores at Rose’s Wharf off-loaded the last of the whale oil and baleen “bone” from the Packard Company’s storm-ravished whaling station at Santo Tomás, Captain Packard had resolved to retire from the sea and become a farmer in San Pasqual Valley.4

The memory of those early years was destined to become obscured by a later whaling station which only lasted from 1884 to 1886. With the 1880’s real estate boom in San Diego, came tourists to frolic among the greasy mid-dens and smokey try-works at Ballast Point where whale flesh was boiled into oil and huge flocks of seabirds quarreled in the sky over scraps of whale meat. Tales spun by the whalers and impressions given news reporters through untrained eyes of the tourists intertwined fact with fantasy.5 Recent attempts to unravel the mysteries of San Diego’s whaling industry have lacked the necessary historical setting from which the Packard brothers arrived in San Diego in 1857.6

The common thread through the fabric of time which distinguished the nineteenth century California shore-whaling industry was the multi-national force of men who signed onto the great whaling fleets of England and the United States. From all over the world came these men; ports of Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, Hawaii, the South Pacific, the Carribbean, and the British Empire. Known as mariners among themselves, these time and weather-wizened men were knowledgeable in the skills of ocean, bay, and shore-whaling.

By the mid-1840s, thousands of mariners had abandoned the whaling ports of the South Pacific7 to sign on to ships pursuing Bowhead Whales in the Bering Sea. Such British and American vessels weathered the winter seasons along the Mexican coasts in such places as Magdalena Bay in Baja California.8 Many a harrowing tale of ruined boats, dead men, and Devil-fish must have been swapped over mugs of ale in the roisterous saloons of San Francisco.9 Trading exotic silks, tea, and dishware for water and vegetables with the local Mexicans led to seasonal bay and shore-whaling stations from Baja to the Oregon border.10

The development of these shore-stations goes back into an obscure sixteenth-century industry which reappeared in Tasmania in 1806,11 following successful bay-whaling from British and American ships. Such shore-stations emerged almost simultaneously in New Zealand,12 Portugal,13and Australia14 by the 1830s. Shore-stations in Baja in the late 1840s, therefore, were a natural outreach of a nineteenth-century maritime tradition.15The Baja industry specialized in the use of small schooners and sloops, which could move whaleboats about the sea like pawns in a chess game. In this strategy, whaleboats could pursue whales in the surf, as well as shallow inlets known as “dog-holes” and then, once cornered:

“Quick as thought…thunders the Greener’s gun, while the whaleline tears over the boat’s gunwale. A flash, a splash, and a hole in the water tells where the whale had been. For a second, all is quiet, as the hurt Leviathan, with its deadly harpoon deep in his flesh behind the left flipper, sulks at the bottom of the bay. Scant time has the crew for a hasty ‘hurrah’ and wave of the caps, when, stung by the rankly barb, the alarmed monster tears away, towing the boat behind him at more than race-horse speed. East, west, north, and south he dashes in mad endeavor to free himself from the harmful harpoon and its ominous attachments.”16

The schooners served as primary transport and communication among several stations. When finally killed, the floating whales:

“…were towed lo the beach and flensed, much in the same manner, doubtless, as had been done by our New England whalers more than 150 years ago. At the point where the enormous carcass was stripped of its fat, arose the ‘whaling station,’ where the trypots were set in rude furnaces, formed of rocks and clay, and capacious vats were made of planks, to receive the blubber. Large mincing tubs, with mincing horses and mincing knives, cutting spades, ladles, boilers, skimmers, pikes, and gaffs, and other whaling implements surrounded the try-works.”17

Flensing of the blubber from the whale’s body was an ambitious task and the whales were winched with a capstan at high tide:

“The work of stripping the blubber then commences. For this a whole armory is needed — long-handled blubber-spades, narrow and keen edged, huge hooks and forks, and tremendous knives, some with two handles for ‘mincing’. Stretchers are too, made wide and flat, long enough to carry as much blubber as two stout fellows can stagger up the beach to the mincing vats …,”18

Once the blubber was minced into thin sheets down to the skin, the “Bible leaves” were then dumped into try-pot ovens fed by boiled-out blubber “fritters”. Skimmer ladles poured the oil into wooden casks and the cooper sealed them tightly. Whale meat, viscera, and other scraps were boiled in smaller “fat-lean pots”.19

Given the complexity and logistics of the operation, shore-stations were rarely dismantled before the end of the seasons. The try-works probably were left behind, as would have been the blacksmith and cooper’s shops, wharfs and whaler’s shanties. Boats, equipment, and supplies would have moved with the changing seasons.

Such stations appeared in the California historical record when they established near urban centers and formed charters for the purpose of selling stock.20 News accounts of this burgeoning industry spurred further interest in development around Monterey in 1854. Such was the case in San Diego when on August 14 and 25, 1855 the San Diego Herald published two letters by the captains of the whaleships Rebecca Adams and Black Warrior on the practicality of San Diego as a port for repairs and transshipping of otter skins and whale oil.21 In 1856, the Eagle returned, followed by the brig Sarah MacFarland and ships Mogul and Clark of London.

In 1857, Prince William and Alpheus Packard arrived on the shores of La Playa with the plan to establish a shore-whaling station.22 Born twins to a Portuguese father and English mother,23 these forty-two-year-old mariners spent the first year in San Diego studying the behavior of the Gray Whales.24 They remained headquartered at La Playa until 1868 when Roseville began to develop and the operation was moved to Ballast Point.

La Playa was a ghost-town back in 1858. The hide houses described by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before the Mast25 were in ruin, the Custom House and U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps warehouse had been abandoned in favor of New Town.26 The “Blecker General Store” sat out in the shallow water on stilts near the Tidal Gauge;27 and mired in the mud was the partly dismantled hulk of the ship Clarissa Andrews. That ship served as a coal depot and had an office operated by Captain J.C. Bogardt of the Pacific Mail Steamship Line.

It was at La Playa where the Packard brothers met George P. Tebbets, who on February 16, 185628 killed a Right Whale off San Luis Rey near the Assistencia Las Flores and tried-out 600 barrels of oil. Thus encouraged, the Packards based their operations in La Playa and established a try-works at Ballast Point. It is not clear if a try-works operated at La Playa, but the additional mile to tow a whale seems impractical. By February of 1858,29; the Packard Company had killed twelve and recovered five Gray Whales. They harvested 150 barrels of oil, which at that time was worth $2000.

Judge Benjamin Hayes visited La Playa and Ballast Point on January 20, 1861, while traveling with friends to the Point Loma Lighthouse. Fascinated by the activity, he elected to remain behind and observe the whaling station. He first visited the bay-whaling operations of Captain W.W. Clark’s shipOcean and later compared it with shore-whaling:

“The whales here are shot with a ‘bomb’. All complain of bad bombs this season, and say that two-thirds of those wounded are lost, by the failure of the bomb. The missiles cost four dollars each…

The pursuit is not without danger. On the 18th instant a bomb did not burst after entering: but the harpoon gave a mortal blow. In its flurry, the whale struck the bow of the boat, where Mr. Stretch, Third Mate, was standing — literally cut off the bow — severely bruising him. On the 20th, we found him doing well but still limping…

The ship’s men cut up the whale from a staging alongside of which they stand with their spades – the fish being afloat. In this there is great saving of time and labor, as com-pared with the process of those on land, who bring the fish ashore at the flood; cut, turn it over. And there it remains, an annoyance to them, until some tide may happen to carry it off to another point…I must confess the smell on the shore…was anything but pleasant.”30

Hayes then left the ship Ocean and rowed to Ballast Point, where:

“Captain Alpheus Packard, and his twin brother Prince Packard are jointly interested…They made 900 barrels last season. This is their fourth season here. The first season they did nothing but merely observe the ground. Last season, they were not completely prepared for operation. I remember – and I have noticed before the fact – they then thought they ought to make 1300 barrels during the season.

This year they have made 450 barrels, from 13 whales, worth at San Francisco $10 per barrel (each 31 1/2 gallons). Captain Packard considers he has done well so far.”31

Also operating at Ballast Point at that time were the Johnson and Tilton Companies.32 The Johnson Company was owned by Captain Miles A. Johnson of New Bedford, Massachussetts, who also maintained stations at Cape Colonet and San Martín Island in Baja California. Captain Johnson worked with his cousins Henry James Johnson, also of New Bedford, and James Johnson of New York.33 Henry James lived with his common-law wife Saturinia and three children on Ballast Point.

Winifred Davidson related a description of the Ballast Point station as described by Mrs. Alonzo Horton:

“The Packards had a little shack about the middle of Ballast Point and lived in it; but the Johnsons had a much larger establishment, a big building on the shore near Fort Rosecrans, that was used as dormitories for the whalers.”34

Research has failed to disclose adequate descriptions of the homes or their relationship to the try-works station. While it would be tempting to simply reference Charles M. Scammon’s 1874 description of the Portuguese-American station at Point Lobos, there may be significant differences in the layouts of the stations designed and occupied by the Ballast Point New Englanders. Examples will be taken from stations in New Zealand, Australia, and Portugal, as well as the one described by Scammon.

British bay-whalers who established the New Zealand shore-whaling stations in the 1830s modelled them after English coastal hamlets with a “squire-peasant” social stratum.35 The layout reflected the pattern with a larger, more elaborate, and prominently stationed house for the station-captain, slightly segregated from the mariner-peasants and their Maori families. Small rectangular houses with fieldstone walls, thatch roofs, and yards trimmed with walkways and fences made up the hamlet. The blacksmith, cooper, and other shops were within the station town, but near the try-works and warehouses by the wharf near the water.

Supplies ordered for the New Zealand stations may have been similar to those used at the San Diego station:

“…nails, cedar and hardwood, bricks and window glass, hoes and axes, ironmongery, groceries, tobacco, paint and oil, sheet lead, guns, molasses, tea, sugar, knives…haberdashery, flannel shirts, boots and shoes, wool socks, monkey coats, great coats, drawers and shirts…opium, ether, carbonate of soda, caster oil, magnesium, cream of tartar, citron ointment…bottled mustard, pickles…casks of gin and rum…fish hooks, gunpowder, tin dishes, fry pans, and lanterns.”36

Archaeological excavations in New Zealand revealed English Staffordshire ceramics, bone and china buttons, “black glass” ale bottles, cheap clay pipes, gin bottles, beads, and slate.37

The Twofold Bay station at New South Wales, Australia, did not reveal the squire-peasant hierarchy:

“…and is simple in the extreme. One or two humble but comfortable and neatly kept weatherboard houses are situated well up on the banks. Down near the water’s edge is an open wooden shelter covering the old brick try-works and a number of large iron vats and tanks for oil. In front of this and running down into the water is a primitive sort of ramp of tree-trunks placed side by side…At the entrance to the shed a suitably placed simple wooden windlass represents the power machine…A little distance from this building is another low shed about 40 feet long and 12 by 15 feet wide, and within it, lying side by side, are two of the old whaleboats.”38

It was the Australian shore-whalers who evolved the emphasis upon schooners, cutters, sloops, catches, and sail-rigged whaleboats in the 1840s as accessory to the stations.

The Portuguese-American shore-whaling stations at Monterey and Carmel were small communities of white-washed cabins adjacent to garden patches of corn and pumpkins.39 The families kept pigs, sheep, goats, and cattle in corrals. These homes were somewhat away from the try-works area. In the Portuguese Azores, thatched boathouses were maintained along stone boat slips and mess rooms with a table were near the try-out station.

Similar to the Monterey and Carmel stations, the homes were somewhat away from the try-works.40

The ethnic mix of San Diego’s early whalers implies that the shore-stations from Baja to Alta California were crewed mostly by New Englanders of unknown ethnic descent.

Table 1.

San Diego Whalers from the 1858 to1878 Period41


Name Birthplace Age Listed Occupation
Hammett Comsacho ? ? mariner
Martin Comacho ? ? mariner
Dan Flanders Massachusetts 44 mariner
Samuel W. Hackett Massachusetts 32 mariner
John Jenkins Pennsylvania 47 Asst. keeper/ mariner
Henry James Johnson Massachusetts ? mariner
James Johnson New York ? mariner
Miles A. Johnson Massachusetts ? mariner
George Johnson ? ? mariner
Thomas Lambert Martha’s Vineyard ? mariner/gunner
Alpheus Packard Massachusetts 52 mariner
Prince William Packard Massachusetts 52 mariner
William C. Price Ireland 27 Asst. keeper/ mariner
Grosvenor Purdy New York 37 mariner
Eli Saddler ? ? mariner
Fred Sisson ? ? mariner
William Thomas ? ? mariner
Rueben Tinker ? ? mariner
Levi Tilton Massachusetts 35 mariner
Enos A. Wall Maine 51 Asst. keeper/ mariner
George Wentworth Maine 37 mariner/gunner
Horatio Clarke ? ? mariner
John Carruthers ? ? mariner

Archaeological investigations on Ballast Point in 1981 and 1982 exposed a midden of greasy sand mixed with artifacts of the 1850 to 1880 period; butchered animal bones, sea shells, and whale bones. Interpreted to date from the early years, the English Flow Blue, Luster Ware, and white Ironstone ceramics, cheap pipes, black glass ale bottles, sarsaparilla and aromatic schnapps bottles, and rusted iron do not suggest any particular ethnic group.42 Large quantities of fish bones and Pismo clams were also present, perhaps sold to the whalers by the Chinese family of Juk and Ah Sing, who lived at the tip of Ballast Point in the late 1860s.43

The butchered animal bone may well have been from the Kriss and Rose butcher shop in Old Town, for on May 29, 1865, Louis Rose sued the Packard Company for a $743.22 meat bill.44 When Sheriff James McCoy went out to serve the Packards, he found both La Playa and Ballast Point deserted. Rose filed a new complaint on February 20, 1866 naming Alpheus Packard, Prince Packard, and Thomas Lambert. Again by default, the court added fees and the decision elevated the bill to $842.42. The matter came to an end when Sheriff McCoy seized forty-three casks of oil, a total of 200 gallons each, from the beach. Due to the effects of the Civil War, whale oil sold for $1.45 a gallon in New England at that time;45 thus, the court and Rose harvested $12,470.00 worth of merchandise!

By 1868, the community at La Playa began to grow and the whalers moved to Ballast Point. Louis Rose had begun to develop La Playa:

“…A little further on – where the green hillside slopes gently to the waters of the Bay, innumerable stakes denote the streets and blocks of an embryo city. The horses cantered gaily over the green sward along the water’s verge, and our friend took peculiar pains to inform us that we were passing through the principal street of Rose City; while the lady passengers amused themselves by building airy castles upon innumerable blocks and filling the streets with industrious designs.”46

By July of 1869 Louis Rose had completed a wharf and hotel.47

While on a recruiting trip to San Francisco in 1867, Captain Alpheus Packard purchased a sloop-rigged whaleboat appropriately named the New Hope48 and sailed it down to San Diego with his cargo of men and supplies. The Packard Company then established a second station:

“The sloop New Hope arrived with passengers and oil from the Island of San Martín, and soon the party will commence their whaling operations in this place. Their summer’s whaling has not amounted to much, but they have more than cleared their expenses.”49

Lighthouse Keeper William C. Price appears to have moonlighted as a whaler in 1864, as did Keepers John D. Jenkins and Enos A. Wall. On November 23, 1867, Price resigned from the Point Loma Lighthouse50 and married Enos “Jack” A. Wall’s daughter Maria Refugio and pursued a career in whaling:

“The great event of the week, and in fact of the month here has been the marriage of Captain William C. Price, commonly known as Billy Price, and Miss M.R. Wall, daughter of one of the first Americans in San Diego …Everyone and his wife and family attended the ball which was given on the night of the 5th, and dancing was kept up til sunrise.”51

Price spent a while as an officer in the Packard Company,52 but in 186953 joined with Captain Eli Saddler on the schooner Emma Hayne to establish the Saddler & Price Company at Punta Banda, just north of Ensenada.54

About that same time, the editorial staff of the San Diego Union visited the companies of Johnson and Packard at Ballast Point:

“On Monday afternoon, at the invitation of Captain Henry Johnson, we paid a visit to Ballast Point. It was dark when we reached the point. We ran alongside the schooner Summer Cloud, from the deck of which the genial countenance of our friend Randle welcomed us aboard. And, we were extended the hospitality of the vessel. After a night’s rest…a little boat pulled by our stalward arms soon placed us upon Terra firma and once more we were the recipient of kindly greetings, from the wife and family of Captain Johnson. A cruise among the whales, and barrels of whale oil cost us several pleasant hours. The Captains Packard appeared to be doing a ‘boiling’ business. A gentleman, whose name we forget, is the cooper for the whalers, and seems to have a busy time of it. The season has proven to be better than any known for years. We enjoyed the explanation given us by the ‘old salts’ of the use of bomb guns, pivot lances, and other deadly machinery for the capture of whales, and relished muchly everything except the intolerable stench arising from the decomposing carcasses of whales and boiling oil.”55

So successful was that whaling season, that the Packards, Eli Saddler, and Grosvenor Purdy invested in real estate.56 The total catch of thirty-nine whales that season,57 however, was insufficient to cover the operating costs and the Packard Company once again was sued. On April 29, 1869, Judge Henry C. Skinner filed on behalf of the Davis and Curtis Company58and on May 29, 1868 the Packards again failed to appear in court and lost by default. Sheriff McCoy seized the following property from their Ballast Point station:

“Three bomb lances, one swivel gun in a box, eight harpoons, one tub of towline (new), one coil of cable rope, one coil of towline (new), three coil second hand rope, one hundred gallon cask, two whaleboats, six oil tubs, one grinding stone, two mincing machines, thirteen oars for whaleboats, two boat masts, five harpoons with poles, and one box of harpoons nailed up.”55

The Packard Company survived the court confiscation of its property because of its sister station at Santo Tomás. In fact, it also had an intermit-tent camp at San Martín Island, very near the Johnson Company station at Cape Colonet.60 The New Hope continued to ferry supplies and oil between these Baja stations and San Diego and on February 28, 1871 (San Diego Union) arrived with 550 barrels of whale oil from the Tilton Company.61

The appearance of Isadore Matthias62 on the steamship Sierra Nevada on May 5, 1869 marked a turning point for the San Diego whaling industry. Matthias became the “silent partner” investor in a cooperative for both the Johnson and Packard Companies in the 1870 to 1871 season. He reorganized the stations at Ballast Point, Punta Banda, and Santo Tomás and announced the enterprise in the December 22, 1870 San Diego Union.His base of operations for record-keeping and transshipping was a grocery store on “F” Street near the San Diego Barracks. Regular accounts of the operation began to appear in the San Diego Union:

“Mr. Matthias left at Punta Banda two large whaleboats with a captain and crew of 18 men…At Santo Tomás there are three boats employed. The number of whales taken since the commencement of the season is eight, from which 240 barrels were filled; the party there is under the direction of Captain Alpheus Packard, with officers George Wentworth, A. Saddler (sic), E.A. Wall,63 and Fred Sisson; there were ten men…

At Punta Banda there are, as stated, 18 men under Captain P.W. Packard, and officers George Johnson,64 William Thomas, Hammett, and Martin Comacho…

At San Diego, Captain Miles A. Johnson has charge of operations, with officers Henry Johnson and James Johnson…Up to the present time, 16 whales have been taken at San Diego, filling 525 barrels.”65

Key to the communication system and placement of the whaleboats were the schooners Summer Cloud at Ballast Point, Toccao at Punta Banda, andEmma Rayne at Santo Tomás.

Encouraged by the successful yield of 21,888 gallons of oil in the 1870-1871 season, Matthias decided to expand the operation at Todos Santos Bay off Punta Banda.66 He directed Captain Packard to hire 21 mariners and purchase four new whale boats in San Francisco and on December 7, 1871 Packard brought them to San Diego (San Diego Union). This new force and their supplies were then shipped south on the chartered schooner Lark,sloop Dolphin, and sloop New Hope67.” The total operation from this expanded force of seventy-five men yielded 55,000 gallons of oil from the 1871 to 1872 season. By 1873, the whale herd was substantially smaller and the oil yield drastically low.

When the United States Army Corps of Engineers notified the Johnson Company that it had to leave Ballast Point in 1873, the Matthias cooperative terminated as well. Most of the whaling station was leveled by the massive earthwork construction for a fifteen-gun fortress in 1873 and the shanties were used to house the soldiers.68

The Johnson Company dissolved that summer and Captain Miles A. Johnson signed Power of Attorney over to his cousin James before sailing south to Mexico.69 Captain Henry James sold his New and Middletown properties and signed on to a career with the Pacific Mail Steamship Line.

The Packard Company continued on without financial backing at the Santo Tomás station. Returning to San Diego with a meager 5,000 gallons of oil from Bahia de Tortugas in 1874, Captain Joseph Lent of the schooner Horace reported sighting the Packard Company in Baja on January 25, 1876. The New Hope finally arrived in San Diego with 2,142 gallons of oil (thirty-eight barrels).70 That same day, the schooner Rosita arrived from an unknown Baja station with 350 gallons of oil, 600 pounds of salted fish, and fifty seal skins. Captain Packard arrived three weeks later with 2000 more gallons of oil on the New Hope. While it is possible that the newspapers were simply not reporting shipments from the Packard Company during this time, the oil might have been sold to a local Mexican market.

Clearly, the boom times of the San Diego whaling industry had passed in 1878. In that last season at Santo Tomás, the Packard Company recovered 3,953 gallons of oil, which was roughly the equivalent of two whales.71 They had stooped to saving the baleen, a sure sign of hard times. When the savage storm struck the luckless mariners, the message was certainly clear. Fortunately for the survivors, the Horace had stopped to offer assistance.

Ironically, the best remembered era in San Diego’s whaling industry was the least important. In 1883, veteran whaler and one-time gunner for the Packard Company, Captain Enos A. Wall sailed into San Diego Bay in his schooner Sierra. Wall had survived the Storm of 1878 and continued to ply his trade with the unchartered maverick companies down the Baja coast. At age sixty-six and in his last years, he joined with Captain Plummer to form the Wall & Plummer Company on Ballast Point.72 While Wall lived on his schooner, he constructed wooden shanties on “Whaler’s Bight” on North Island73 across the bay for his crew. Wall & Plummer had try-works on North Island and Ballast Point. The “Old Salt” Wall became a favorite among the many tourists who visited him and many of his sea tales account for misconceptions of the boom times.

The plume of whale-oil smoke from the try-works and the shipping of significant quantities of oil on steamers to San Francisco attracted the attention of several investors. Real estate financier and part-owner in Baja maritime trade venture, Thomas J. Higgins joined with carpenter John R. Scranton in January of 1884 to form the Higgins & Scranton Company.74 By the time they had established themselves at Punta Banda, the season had come to an end without their killing a single whale. Scranton withdrew from the bankrupt venture in the spring. Higgins’ son Birt brought up the station equipment from Mexico and reestablished near the Wall & Plummer Company. Both crews of mariners lived at North Island for a time.

On December 31, 1884, Captain Enos A. Wall died and with him went the Wall & Plummer Company. It can be assumed that Higgins & Sons bought out the defunct station, since they went on to glean 8,600 gallons of oil recovered. Higgins was forced to save the almost worthless baleen from his catches. When Higgins & Son folded up their station on Whaler’s Bight and on Ballast Point in 1886, the whaling industry became a swiftly fading memory in San Diego’s maritime community.

Just as the morning fogs once obscured the masts and rigging of the schooner Horace as it creaked on that storm-swept morning of 1878, lost records and time-muddled sea-stories have swirled fact under fantasy like so much driftwood on a beach.76 The complete story of the relationship between foreign bay-whalers and Baja shore-stations still remains much of a mystery. The record of how San Diego’s mariners hunted devil-fish in Baja dog-holes with bomb-lances may never be known.



1. Prince William and Alpheus Packard were twin brothers born in 1815 in Massachusetts to a Portuguese father and English mother. Lucy Wentworth Notes, San Diego History Center Research Archives (Great Registry of Voters, 1868, p. 65). Alpheus Packard married an Indian woman named Magdalena, who died at Ballast Point in the late 1860s and was buried at La Playa. Alpheus was not mentioned by name in archival records after 1873 and may have perished in the 1878 storm. Prince W. Packard surfaced in the Great Registry of Voters as late as 1894 as a farmer in San Pasqual Valley. He was described as 5’7″ tall, of dark complexion, blue eyes, and gray hair. A note in the newspaper index catalogues at the California Room of the San Diego Library indicates that Alpheus Packard II was present at the 1966 “Whaling Days” celebration in Old Town, but no record of this existence has yet been uncovered.

2. The storm which ruined the Packard Company whaling station at Santo Tomás was described by William E. Smythe as having reached the highest wind velocities to that date in San Diego. The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler was pressed into a sand bar and the Pacific Mail Steamship LineOrizaba sailed past San Diego until the winds died down. William E. Smythe, History of San Diego (San Diego: The History Company, 1907), p. 688.

3. The San Diego Union, February 20, 1878.

4. Great Registry of Voters of 1882.

5. David Starr Jordan, 1887, Part XVI, The Fisheries of the Pacific Coast, in The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States. George Brown Goode, Editor, Assistant Secretary to the Smithsonian Institution and a staff of associates. Section II, “A Geographical Review of the Fisheries Industries and Fishing Communities for the Year 1880,” U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, 47th Congress, Ist Session, Senate, Misc. Doc. 124, Part 3, Washington D.C. Government Printing Office, Edwin C. Starks, “A History of California Shore Whaling,” Fish Bulletin No. 6, State of California Fish & Game Commission (Sacramento: State Printing Office, 1922).

6. Richard Crawford, 1983, “The Whalemen of San Diego Bay,” Mains’l Haul, Volume XIX, p. 3. Maritime Museum Association of San Diego; Thomas Leo Nichols, “California Shore Whaling, 1854 to 1900,” A Thesis Submitted in Partial Satisfaction of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Geography. California State University, Northridge, 1983.

7. Michael Pearson, 1983, “The Technology of Whaling in Australian Waters in the 19th Century,” Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology,Volume 1, p. 41; Harry Morton, The Whale’s Wake (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press) pp. 15-19.

8. Nichols, “California Shore Whaling,” p. 32; David Henderson, “Whalers on the Coasts of Baja California: Opening the Peninsula to the Outside World,” Geosciences and Man. Volume 12, page 51; Richard Crawford, “Whalers From the Golden Gate: A History of the San Francisco Whaling Industry, 1822-1908,” A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in History, 1981, pp. 20-21.

9. Charles M. Scammon, The Marine Mammals of the North-western Coast of North America, Described and Illustrated Together with an Account of the American Whale-Fishery (New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1874; republished in 1968, Dover Publications, Inc., New York) p. 27.

10. William E. Smythe, History of San Diego, 1542-1907. (San Diego: The History Company) p. 103; Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez, 1929, Spanish Arcadia, Los Angeles, Volume 2, pp. 40-41 (reprinted edition, 1976, by Arno Press, Inc.: A New York Times Company.)

11. Pearson, “Whaling Technology,” p. 40.

12. Peter J.F. Coutts, “An Archaeological Perspective of a Whaling Station on Taeri Island, New Zealand,” Manuscript, 1984, p. 6.

13. Robert Clarke, “Open Boat Whaling in The Azores, the History and Present Methods of a Relic Industry,” Discovery Reports, Volume XXVI (Cambridge University Press, 1954), p. 325.

14. Michael Pearson, “Shore-based Whaling at Twofold Bay; 100 Years of Enterprise, National Parks and Wildlife Service,” New South Wales, Australia, manuscript, p. 23.

15. David Henderson, Men and Whales at Scammon’s Lagoon, Volume XXIX, Baja California Travels Series (Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1972) pp. 51, 82; Scammon, Marine Mammals, p. 268; Nichols, “California Shore Whaling,” p. 32. The closing of stations in the South Pacific in the 1845-48 era is well documented, but their whereabouts after that time is not entirely known.

16. Edward Berwick, “Offshore Whaling in The Bay of Monterey,” The Cosmopolitan, Volume XXIX (May, 1900), p. 633.

17. Scammon, Marine Mammals, p. 247.

18. Berwick, “Offshore Whaling,” pp. 635-636.

19. Nichols, “California Shore Whaling,” p. 84.

20. Alexander Starbuck, History of the American Whale Fishery From its Earliest Inception to the Year 1876. Privately Printed, 1878 (reprinted in 1964 in two volumes by Argosy Antiquarian Ltd., New York), p. 100; Nichols, “California Shore Whaling,” pp. 64-65, 100.

21. San Diego Union, November 3, 1855.

22. Benjamin Ignatius Hayes, Pioneer Notes From the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, 1849-1875 (Los Angeles: Private Printing; Starks, “A History of Whaling,” p. 21. F. Ross Holland, Jr., “Shore Whaling on the California Coast with Specific Reference to San Diego,” They Came from the Sea. Carl F. Reupsch, Editor, Seventh Annual Cabrillo Festival Historic Seminar (San Diego: Cabrillo Historical Association, Volume 1, Number 7), p. 12. The date of 1857 has been deduced from references in Benjamin Hayes’ 1861 diary in which the Packards were said to have arrived four years earlier, had stated that Captain Packard “has been in the business for over twenty years,” suggesting that Alpheus and Prince began shore-whaling al least as early as 1854 and could well have pre-dated the earliest chartered station in California at Monterey, Scammon, Marine Mammals, p. 23.

23. Lucy Wentworth Notes, San Diego History Center Research Archives, p. 4, Lucy Brown Wentworth was born in Old Town to Captain John Brown of Fremont’s California Battalion and Martina de Villar Brown. Her family moved to La Playa in 1867 and their neighbors were mainly the whalers who worked for the Packard Company. She was courted by George Wentworth, a gunner, born in Maine in 1830. They married in 1873. Her close tie with the Packard family was responsible for her knowledge that Prince and Alpheus were Portuguese-Americans. This point is significant to the Portuguese Historical Association in Point Loma today, who are researching the hypothesis that all California shore-whaling stations were established by Portuguese families from the Azores. The Anglicized names, they contend, were the result of marriages in the eastern seaport towns and cities in New England. This line of research is intriguing and may be supported by the fact that Captain Thomas Lambert of Martha’s Vineyard supervised the mergeance of the “New Company of Portuguese Whalers” with the “Old Company” in Monterey in 1865 and in the 1868-1869 season worked for the Packard Company as a gunner before returning to Monterey (Barrows, Henry D. and Luther A. Ingersal, Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California. (Chicago: The Lewis Company, 1893), p. 84.

24. Scammon, Marine Mammals, p. 23.

25. Henry Richard Dana, Two Years Before the Mast (Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press, 1964). William Heath Davis, “Dream of Glory,” 1887, San Diego Daily Sun, Vol. XIII, No. 129, Whole Number 1969 (reprinted in The Journal of San Diego History, Volume XIII, No. 2, pp. 16-17; Smythe,History of San Diego, pp. 103, 202. During the Mexican Period from 1822 to 1846, New England mercantile companies received license to trade foreign goods for cattle hides and tallow and La Playa was an Embarcadero where warehouses stored cured hides until the ships of Bryant & Sturgis or other companies arrived from Boston to transport the hides back east. The Mexican War of 1846 terminated this business and the flea-ridden warehouses were abandoned. An excellent watercolor by Gunner Meyers exists in the Bancroft Library which depicts the hide houses. The remains of the hide houses were covered by the Marine Hospital which was built at the Quarantine Station in 1891 and is now the grounds of the Naval Ocean Systems Center on Rosecrans Street.

26. Colonel George Ruhlsen, “San Diego Barracks,” The Journal of San Diego History, XIII (Spring, 1967), p. 10.

27. Smythe, History of San Diego, p. 243. Wentworth Notes, p. 2.

28. San Diego Herald, February 16, 1856.

29. San Diego Herald, February 5, 1856.

30. Hayes, Notes, p. 557.

31. Ibid.

32. Products of Industry Census, June 1, 1860.

33. Lucy Wentworth Notes, p. 3. The Johnson Company owned $3000 worth of materials and supplies and maintained five employees in addition to the officers. Lucy Wentworth recalled that Henry James Johnson lived with a woman named Saturinia Carravya and their children, John, Sara, and Filbury on Ballast Point. After they were moved by the U.S. Army in 1873, he was said to have married Guadalupe Esparza at Whaler’s Bight across the bay on North Island. It is assumed that this was the same Captain Henry James Johnson who skippered steamships between San Diego and San Francisco for the Pacific Mail Steamship Line in the late 1870s. The fates of his children, Saturinia, and the other Johnsons became obscure after 1873.

34. Winifred Davidson, n.d., “Loma Lore,” San Diego Scrapbook, San Diego Historical Society Research Archives, Acc. #0667.

35. Resembling the volcanic Baja California coastline, the New Zealand topography enabled a base of operations at the Maori village of Otagu (now the town of Dunedin) with outposts at Timaru (1839-40), Purakanui (1836), Taeri Island (1831-1841), and Mussel Beach (1839). Otagu had 80 huts adjacent to the tryworks and Maori women were integrated into (he whaling families. Each hut had a garden, orchard, and outhouses.

36. Ibid. pp. 20-21.

37. Ibid. p. 7.

38. W.J. Dakin, Whalemen Adventurers (Sydney, Australia: Sirius Books, 1963). Pearson, “Technology of Whaling,” pp. 41-42.

39. Scammon, Marine Mammals, p. 250.

40. Clarke, “Open Boat Whaling,” pp. 325 & 338. The interrelationship among the American, English, and Portuguese whalers is probably stronger than most people realize. Clarke noted that the first station at Te-awa-iti in the Torey Channel, Cook Strait, New Zealand was established in the 1830’s by a company of all those nationalities. The house styles, layout of the station, and ethnic preferences for the details may have differed depending upon which group dominated the particular station.

41. Great Registry of Voters of 1868, 1877, 1882, 1894; Lucy Wentworth Notes, San Diego History Center Research Archives. All ages in Table 1 were from the 1877 Great Registry of Voters.

42. The archaeological collection is currently under analysis along with material associated with the 1796-1840 Spanish fort below the whaler’s camp and the 1902-1920 U.S. Army debris above. The classes cited in the text are generally representative, although glass and ceramics are generally in low quantity. Dr. Peter Coutts has noted this phenomenon in New Zealand whaling stations and suggested that most fluids were stored in wooden casks and individual consumption was on tin plates and cups.

43. Lucy Wentworth Notes, p. 3.

44. District Court Case #108.

45. Frances Diane Robotti, Whaling and Old Salem (New York: Bonanza Books, 1962), p. 84.

46. San Diego Union, January 1, 1869.

47. San Francisco Bulletin, June 9, July 19, 1869.

48. Lucy Wentworth Notes, p. 3; Herbert C. Hensley, 1952, “The Memoirs of Herbert C. Hensley, History of San Diego, City, County, and Region, Through the Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Recollections of the Author, Compiled and Edited by Him Over a Period of Three Years, 1949-1952,” Accession #1750, Ref. Acc. 2404, p. 610. The New Hope was among many New England manufactured whaleboats cut for the Pacific ship chandlery trade and shipped around the Horn and fitted at a shipyard in San Francisco. It was rumored to have been used for a gallows by the infamous Vigilante Committee in 1849, thus implying that its sloop-rigging may have been original. In 1867, the Packard Company purchased and sailed the New Hopeto San Diego. It was the supply ship and workhorse for the Packard Company until 1878 when the Company disbanded. Sold to various people over a period of five years, it served ore and guano smugglers. In 1883, someone fitted it with an inboard motor and in 1884 Captain Sevort bought theNew Hope for chartered fishing and hunting cruises. Sevort renamed it the Lou, according to a news note in the January 24, 1884 issue of the San Diego Union. After being seized by U.S. Customs on a smuggling incident, the Lou was sold at public auction in 1890. It wrecked on Ballast Point in 1891, was salvaged, acquired by a man named Osterhous in 1892 who sold it in 1893 to the luckless Sam Smith. On a guano-poaching caper on the Coronado Islands, Smith killed a 15 year old boy under suspicious circumstances. Tried in U.S. Circuit Court in Los Angeles in 1895, Smith was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. The last record of the Lou was when a Captain Goddard blew-up a Greener’s gun and lost some fingers while whale-hunting in Mexico in 1897.

49. San Francisco Bulletin, October 22, 1867.

50. F. Ross Holland Jr., and Henry G. Law, Historic Structure Report, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California. Denver Service Center, Pacific Northwest/Western Team, Branch of Historic Preservation (National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, Denver, Colorado, 1981), p. 231.

51. San Francisco Bulletin, November 30, 1867.

52. Nichols, “California Shore Whaling,” p. 164.

53. San Francisco Bulletin, May 27, 1867.

54. San Diego Weekly, March 6, 1869.

55. San Diego Union, January 1, 1869.

56. County Recorder, Land Transfers, Books 4, 5, 6.

57. San Francisco Bulletin, April 13, 1869.

58. District Case #387.

59. San Diego History Center Research Archives, Letter of Record, Sheriff James
McCoy, December 22, 1869.

60. San Diego Union, August 14, 1870.

61. The Tilton Company was listed in the Products of Industry Census, June 1, 1860, and apparently was an unchartered Baja California company which eluded newspaper accounts. That census listed a $3000 investment, eight employees, $200 in wages, and production of 1000 barrels of oil worth $10,000. It was owned by Levi Tilton, who registered to vote at the age of 35 on August 15, 1877. Tilton was born in Massachusetts.

62. San Diego Union, May 5, 1869; March 2; November 16; December 7, 1871; March 20, 1873; November 17, 1880; Smythe History of San Diego, 1907:380. Considering his financial role in the San Diego community from 1864 through at least 1880, it is surprising that little has been written on Isadore Matthias. Born in Prussia in 1839, Matthias arrived in San Diego as a bookkeeper in 1869. He had been naturalized in the Fourth District Court in San Francisco on August 1, 1867. His eloquent signature may be responsible for various documents indicating an “I” or “J” Matthias who advertised the “highest prices paid for country produce” at his general merchandise store on “F” street. In addition to grubstaking the local whaling industry, Matthias’ interest in Manuel A. Farrar’s saloon was revealed in District Court Case #520, April 25, 1872, when the contents were seized and sold at public auction on May 28,1872. Matthias may also have been a mariner, for a chart of San Diego Bay survives in the Port District office with his name on it.

63. San Diego Union, December 22, 1870; March 3, 1871; November 11, 20, 22, 1883; Smythe, History of San Diego, p. 290. Great Registry of Voters 1882; Holland and Law, Historic Structure Report, p. 231. Enos A. Wall was born in Freeport, Maine and arrived in San Diego with his shipmate John C. Stewart on the Bryant & Sturgis hide ship Alert in 1833. By 1836 he was supervisor of one of the hide houses and lived at La Playa. He served the City of San Diego as an Elector in 1850 and a Councilman in 1851. When the San Diego Guard formed in 1856, Wall served as a private until it disbanded at the beginning of the Civil War. On August 14, 1858, Wall received a 160 acre Bounty Land Warrant for service in the Mexican War in 1846. When he achieved “fame” in 1883 as a tourist attraction on Ballast Point, Wall claimed to have signed on with the Packard Company in 1864. He registered to vote on April 29, 1867. In 1870 to 1871, Wall was reported as an officer and gunner at the Santo Tomás station. On May 5,1871 he signed on as Keeper of the Point Loma Lighthouse, but stepped down on March 5, 1872. When he sailed into San Diego on the schooner Sierra, he was fully equipped to hunt whales and it can be presumed that he had been dog-holing in Baja California prior to that time.

64. This George Johnson does not appear to be the same George Alonzo Johnson who made fame and fortune as a Colorado River boat captain in the 1850s and 1860s. The latter man was operating a large cattle ranch for the Alvarado family at Los Penasquitos Canyon by 1871.

65. San Diego Union, March 2, 1871.

66. San Diego Union, January 9, November 16, 1871.

67. San Diego Union, December 14, 1871. The expanded force intensified the whale hunt and ambushed so many whales by 1872 that the return population in 1873 was too small to support the operation:

Whale Oil Shipments in the 1871 to 1872 Season

Date of Entry Quantity Source of Oil Destination of Oil Vessel Transport
1/13/1872 200 bbls. Ballast Point San Francisco California
1/25/1872 200 bbls. Ballast Point San Francisco California
2/6/1872 130 bbls. Ballast Point San Francisco California
2/11/1872 290 bbls. Baja, Calif. San Diego New Hope
2/13/1872 300 bbls. Ballast Point San Francisco ?
2/17/1872 200 bbls. Punta Banda San Diego New Hope
2/24/1872 65 bbls. Baja, Calif. San Francisco Orizaba
3/19/1872 60 bbls. Ballast Point San Francisco ?
3/17/1872 300 bbls. Ballast Point San Francisco L.P. Foster
4/17/1872 1000 bbls. Baja/Ballast San Francisco L.P. Foster

Whale Oil Shipments in the 1872 to 1873 Season

Date of Entry Quantity Source of Oil Destination of Oil Vessel Transport
11/2/1872 72 bbls. Baja, Calif. San Diego New Hope
11/2/1872 32 bbls. San Diego San Francisco Pacific
1/12/1873 60 bbls. Santo Tomás San Diego New Hope
1/14/1873 60 bbls. San Diego San Francisco ?
2/20/1873 60 bbls. Santo Tomás San Diego New Hope
3/ 9/1873 35 bbls. Santo Tomás San Diego New Hope
4/ 6/1873 70 bbls. Baja, Calif. San Diego New Hope
4/23/1873 100 bbls. San Diego San Francisco Gipsy
5/9/1873 65 bbls. Santo Tomás San Diego New Hope

68. Ronald V. May, “The Fort That Never Was on Ballast Point,” The Journal of San Diego History, XXXI (Spring, 1985).

69. San Diego History Center Research Archives.

70. San Diego Union, March 20, January 25, 1876.

71. San Diego Union, October 27, 1877.

72. San Diego Union, November 11, 1883; January 5, 1884.

73. San Diego Union, November 22, 1882; January 3, 1884.

74. San Diego Union, January 17, 1884.

75. San Diego Union, January 19, 27; February 12, 24; March 3, 4, 14, 1884.

76. Starks, “A History of Whaling,” p. 21; Don Stewart, Frontier Port, A Chapter in San Diego’s History, (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1965).

THE PHOTOGRAPHS facing page 73 are courtesy of The Pat Hathaway Collection. Drawings on pages 81 and 82 were done by Sally Hyslop. TheHarper’s Weekly cover is from the author’s collection.