History of Point Reyes, CA (Part 2)
From: History of Marin County, California
Alley, Bowen & Company, Publishers
San Francisco 1880

GRANTS. - The major portion of this township was covered by two grants, the Rancho Punta de los Reyes, which was granted to Joseph Francis Snook, June 8, 1839, by Juan B. Alvarado, and was patented to Andrew Randall, and was a two league grant, and contained eight thousand eight hundred and seventy eight and sixty eight one hundredths acres, and the Rancho Punta de los Reyes, Sobrante, which was granted to Antonio M. Oslo, November 30, 1843, by Manuel Micheltorena, and was confirmed to Andrew Randall. This was an eleven league grant, and contained forty eight thousand, one hundred and eighty nine and thirty four one hundredths acres.

SCHOOLS. - There are two school, districts in the township, Point Reyes and Pierce. The former embraces all the southern portion of the township, while the latter comprises all the northern portion. There is a good schoolhouse in each district, and school is maintained the usual length of time. A grand Fourth of July clam bake was one of the methods resorted to to raise funds for the Point Reyes school house.

POINT REYES LIGHT HOUSE AND FOG WHISTLE. - The light house was established in 1870, and is located on the pitch of the western head of Point Reyes, in latitude thirty seven degrees, fifty nine minutes, and thirty six seconds north, and longitude one hundred and twenty three degrees, one minute, and twenty one seconds west. The station is Number 495, and the light is a first order Funk's Hydraulic Float. There are four circular wicks in the lamp, whose diameters are as follows: Three and one half inches, two and one half inches, one and three fourths of an inch, and seven eighths of an inch. The lamp consists of two chambers for oil, one above the light and one below. The oil is pumped from the lower into the upper, whence it passes through a chamber in which there is a regulating float, which governs the flow of oil to the lamp. The flow of oil is in excess of the amount consumed to the extent of one hundred and twenty drops each minute. The object of this is to prevent the charring of the wick. This overflow is conducted to the lower chamber, and pumped again into the upper. In this way there is no wastage. The upper chamber is pumped full of oil every two hours. This is what is known as a "flash light," i. e., the lenses revolve around the light in such a manner that the focus of each lens appears as a flash. There are twenty four of these focal lenses, and the entire revolution is made in two minutes, thus causing the flashes to appear every five seconds. A very complete reflecting arrangement is, constructed about the light, so that every ray is brought to the focal plane, and passes thence across the surging billows, to warn the mariner of dangers, and to guide him safely into the quiet harbor. These reflectors consist of a series of large glass prisms, divided into segments, varying in length as they approach the apex of the cone. Of these prisms there are eight horizontal series above the lenses, and the same number below them. Then there are eighteen series on the concave surface above the light, and eight series on the concave surface below, making a total of forty two series of reflecting prisms, and the height of the reflecting apparatus, including the lenses, is eight feet and ten inches, and it is five feet and six inches in diameter. Viewed from the outside, the outlines are very similar to a mammoth pineapple. The reflector is revolved by a clock work arrangement, and requires weight of one hundred and seventy five pounds to drive the machinery. There is a governor attached to the gearing for the purpose of regulating the motion and speed of the revolving reflector. This weight requires to be wound up every two hours and twenty minutes. The lenses are of the La Bute patent; and the gearing was made by Barbier & Fenestre, in Paris, in 1867. This light is on a sixteen sided iron tower, and it is twenty three feet from the base of the tower to the focal plane. It is two hundred and ninety six feet above the sea level, and can be seen at sea a distance of twenty four nautical miles It illuminates an arc of two hundred and eighty five degrees. The oil used is refined lard oil, and the yearly supply at this station is seven hundred and sixty gallons. The lamp will consume seventeen pints of oil, on an average, every ten hours.

The fog whistle is located one hundred feet lower down on the cliff in a little notch hewn out of the face of the rock. The building is twenty four by thirty, and there are two boilers, each sustaining a pressure of seventy five pounds. The blasts recur once every minute, and last eight seconds. The arrangement is automatic and governed by a small engine. The whistle is constructed on a principle similar to ordinary locomotive whistles, only on a much larger scale. The bell or cap being twelve inches in diameter. Every thing is duplicated so that if any piece of machinery should give away; no loss of time would be sustained. Fuel saturated with petroleum is kept in the furnace all the time so that steam may be gotten up at a moments notice night or day, and the whistle set to going in a very short time. The water supply pipe connects direct with the boilers from the tank which is three hundred and fifty feet above, and the pressure is two hundred and thirty six pounds to the inch The fuel and all supplies are sent down on a chute from the top of the cliff. There are a series of stairs leading from the keeper's house to the light house and fog whistle, in all of which there are nine hundred and sixty five steps. Along the most of this stairway a guard rail has been set up to prevent the wind from carrying the keepers into the ocean in their passage up or down.

The force of men employed at this station consists of one keeper and three assistants. R. H. Pooler is the present keeper, having come to the station in January of this year. The first watch begins at one half hour before sundown, and the watches are relieved every four hours. The lamp is lighted at sundown and kept burning until sunrise. There is telegraphic communication from the light house and the fog whistle with the keeper's house. This house is large, roomy and comfortable, and quite well furnished. This is not a "ration station," and the employes have to furnish their own supplies. A very "penny wise pound foolish" policy of economy has recently been adopted by the Government, by which the salaries of these men have been cut down to a mere pittance, these now varying from eight hundred dollars for the keeper to five hundred dollars for the third assistant, per annum When it is considered how these men have to live, far removed from society and neighbors, on a barren rock, subjected to the dangers and fatigues incident to their vocation, and the great responsibility which rests upon their shoulders, it would seem that the Government could well afford to be far more liberal in remunerating their services. The fate and destiny of valuable property and precious lives are in their hands. When the winds of ocean sweep with fiercest fury across the trackless main, lashing the water into seething billows almost mountain high, when the black pall of night has been cast over the face of the deep, and ships are scudding along under close reef and storm sails, not knowing where they are or how soon they may be cast upon the rocks or stranded upon the beach, when the storm king seems to hold fall sway over all the world, suddenly a flash of light is seen piercing the darkness, like a ray of hope from the bosom of God. Again and again is it seen and the sailors rejoice for they know then that port is near and that danger is nearly passed. But whence that ray of light that so cheers the heart of the lonely mariner? In the lonely watches of the dreary, stormy night, with the fury of the wind about him, with the roar and rush of the breakers dashing against the rocks below him, sounding in his ears, with no human soul near him, sits the keeper, true to his trust, faithful to his charge, doing well and honestly his duty, keeping his lamp trimmed and burning. sending forth the ray to guide and make glad the storm encircled sailor, Then let honor be given to whom honor is due, and to these brave, sacrificing men let us render a just tribute.

SHIPWRECKS. - There is, perhaps, no more dangerous and uninviting extent of coast line from Oregon to Mexico than that extending from Point Reyes to Tomales bay. To go ashore at any point along this line is to go to certain destruction. No ship has ever survived the day which cast her on this beach or against these rocks. As dangerous as it was, no light house was erected upon it till 1870. It was rendered doubly dangerous from the fact of its proximity to the harbor of San Francisco, and vessels have gone hard ashore under full sail, little dreaming that danger was nigh, and thinking they were heading direct for the Golden Gate. Since the establishment of the light house these wrecks have been few, compared with the former years. The first vessel which was wrecked on this line of coast was an English clipper ship which went ashore just south of the entrance to Tomales bay in 1855. The weather was foggy and the master had lost his reckoning, and suddenly the cry of breakers ahead brought all on board only to see their ship dashed upon the rocks. No lives were lost, but the vessel was a total wreck and the entire cargo lost. One morning in 1858 the few people who then lived on Tomales bay were greatly surprised to see a large ship with all sails set heading directly up the bay. An hour or more passed and the ship seemed to make no headway. At length a boat was lowered and the first officer came on shore and asked the residents whether or not this was San Francisco bay. It was a sad case of mistaken identity, and the hull of the good English ship "Oxford" still lies where it lay that early morning over twenty years ago. No reason is known why the captain mistook the narrow entrance to a mere inlet for the broad passage of the Golden Gate. In 1861 the clipper ship "Sea Nymph" came ashore on the beach just north of Point Reyes, with all sails set. The weather had been foggy for some time and the ship was being run by "dead reckoning," and it was supposed that it was nowhere near the shore. It was after daylight, but the fog was so dense that the sailors could not see the land, and when the cry of breakers ahead was heard it proved too late, for the vessel had sailed into a pocket of the coast and it was impossible to avoid the catastrophy. The vessel was laden with a full cargo of merchandise, all of which was saved. One life was lost in getting the men ashore - a colored steward - and a Spaniard by the name of Gonzales was killed in a surf boat while wrecking the ship. The next one on the list is a Russian man of war, which went ashore about the same place which the "Sea Nymph" did. This occurred on a dark and foggy night in 1864. The vessel was being sailed by an English chart which showed that there was a light house on Point Reyes. As there was none at that time it is not to be wondered at that the vessel was run ashore with all sails set. The officers stated that their reckoning showed that they were very close to San Francisco bay, and that they were sailing close to the shore so that they might make out the light on this point and then shape their course for the heads at the entrance to that bay. There were one hundred and fifty souls on board, all told, and all were saved. The vessel was wrecked and afterwards went to pieces. Next on the list comes a schooner which capsized off the point and all on board were lost. It is not known in what year this occurred. Near the close of a very murky, foggy day in August, 1875, the ship Warrior Queen" came ashore on the beach about three miles north of the point. She was bound from Auckland, New Zealand, to San Francisco, in ballast. The sky had been so overcast with fog that they had not been able to take any observations for ten days, and their "dead reckoning" showed them to be many miles at sea. Suddenly they found themselves in the breakers going ashore on a sand beach. They immediately cast anchor and held the vessel from going hard ashore, although she was driven far upon the beach subsequently. The men embarked in three boats and put to sea rather than try to effect a landing in the surf, and reached San Francisco safely the next day. The vessel was afterwards wrecked and blown toe pieces with nitroglycerine for the sake of the copper on her bottom A few years later the schooner "Eden," laden with cord wood, capsized off the point, but no lives were lost. The schooner was a total wreck. Two schooners have been wrecked in Drake's bay, but little, however, is now known of the circumstances.

Many thrilling and interesting incidents are related in connection with these shipwrecks, and subject matter for a handsome volume could be gathered concerning them. It is related that at the time the "Sea Nymph" went ashore several of the men, including the captain, attempted to laud in a small boat, but were capsized in the breakers. Several spectators were standing on the beach, but all seemed powerless to render any assistance to the perishing men, who were battling manfully with the waves and striving with only such might and main to reach the shore as dying men can. Among the spectators was one Carleton S. Abbott, who proved himself at that time to be a hero. Loosing several riatas from the horns of the saddles on the horses standing by; he knotted them together, and having made one end of the lengthened rope fast around his waist and giving the other end into the hands of the astonished on lookers, he grasped a long riata in his hand and plunged boldly into the crested breakers. With a skillful twirl of the rope in mid air he sent it with unerring aim over the captain's head, and in a trice had dragged him safely on shore. This was repeated until all the men were saved. When the "Warrior Queen" was discovered by the settlers the next morning after she struck, no signs of life appeared on board, all hands having put to sea in small boats. It became a matter of wonderment among those who had assembled on the beach as to what could have become of all the men. It was decided to go on board and discover, if possible, something to show the fate of the crew, but the question was, how to effect communication with the ship. At length, Henry Claussen, a sailor of much experience, volunteered to swim out to the vessel and take a line on board with him. He performed the wonderful and daring feat, and was rewarded by finding that all books and instruments were gone, hence he knew that the men had put to sea.

DRAKE'S BAY. - On the 13th of December, 1577, Captain, afterward Sir Francis Drake, sailed from Plymouth, England, with five small vessels, bound for the South Seas and through the Straits of Magellan, through which no Englishman had ever sailed at that time. Having been upon several very successful voyages of conquest under a privateer's commission, on the Spanish main, he had but little difficulty in persuading Queen Elizabeth to provide the means for fitting out a fleet for this undertaking, and the popularity of the man drew about him sufficient men to serve under him during the cruise. These vessels varied in size from fifteen to one hundred tons burthen, sailing himself in the largest, the "Pelican," afterwards rechristened the "Golden Hind." On all these vessels there was a force of one hundred and sixty six men. Two of the ships were deserted and cast adrift in the Atlantic ocean, a third, under command of Captain Winter, his vice admiral, returned to England after having passed through the Straits, and the fate of the fourth is unknown, as no mention is made of it in any authority at hand. After passing through the straits he found the Pacific ocean in a very blustering mood, and not at all comporting itself in that quiet manner which its placid name would indicate He then continued to cruise along the coast of Chili and Peru, taking all opportunities of seizing Spanish vessels till his men were satiated with plunder. He then made up his mind to return to England, but feared to atteinpt the passage through the Straits of Magellan, lest there should be a Spanish fleet lying in wait for him, which should destroy his vessel. Knowing that the two oceans met at the southern extremity of the American Continent, he inferred that they must also meet at the northern end, hence conceived the idea of returning to England over that route through the Straits of Arrian. It was yet early in the season, being only in the month of June, but still we are told by Rev. Mr. Fletcher, who was chaplain on board the ship, and acted as chronicler of the voyage, that on the 3d of June, 1579, in latitude forty two - that is, the southern line of Oregon - "the crew complained grievously of nipping cold, and the rigging was stiff and rain was frozen." In latitude forty four - that is, off Umpqua City - "their hands were benumbed, and the meat was frozen when it was taken from the fire!" Finding that his men were complaining so bitterly of the cold, and fearing that no good would result from pushing farther into what appeared to be the veritable arctic regions of the Pacific, he resolved to seek the coast and effect a landing. On the 5th day of June they ran in shore and cast anchor in a bad bay, where, "when the thick, vile fogs lifted, they found they were not without danger from violent gusts and flaws of wind." It is probable that here his Spanish pilot, Morera, deserted him and set out upon that unparalleled feat of pedestrianism, traveling on foot and alone through thirty five hundred napes of unbroken wilderness, inhabited only by savages and wild beasts, the amazement of a land full of natives who had never seen anything before that approached to a white man.

Drake at once put to sea again and coasted southward, seeking a secure anchorage until the seventeenth of the month, when "it pleased God to send him into a fair and good bay, within thirty eight degrees towards the line." There seems to have been a very different state of weather existing in those days from that prevalent in the same latitudes at the present time, and many attempts have been made to harmonize those statements with what it is reasonable to suppose was the truth. First of all the statements of this chronicler, although a Reverend gentleman, must be taken cum grano salis. He was sure that no one could dispute his statements, and he was doubtless loth to give this "New Albion" the credit of having a climate that would more than vie with "Old Albion." Again it will be remembered that the northwest trade winds which prevail along the coast are fully as searching and cold as the Winter winds, and that to a crew of men just from under a tropical sun, it would prove doubly piercing, and they doubtless thought these results of cold should occur even if they did not. Again there was a legend among the old Indians along this coast that was, once a year snow fell in mid Summer. Now such a climatic somersault may have possibly occurred, and the condition of the weather been just as described.

But be that as it may, the truth that Drake did effect a landing in a "fair and good" bay, stands out boldly and unimpeachably, and to locate the place is the subject now in hand. Authorities differ widely in regard to the matter, and thorough research fails to establish satisfactorily to all the exact situation of that body of water which should be called Drake's bay. From time immemorial it was thought that the present Bay of San Francisco must have been the place, and all men of thirty years of age and older will remember the statement in the old school history to the effect that the first white men to sail into the Bay of San Francisco were Sir Francis Drake and his crew. Franklin Tuthill, in his "History of California," maintains that ground and says: "Its (San Francisco bay) latitude is thirty seven degrees, fifty nine minutes, to which that given by Drake's chronicler is quite as near as those early navigators with their comparatively rude instruments were likely to get. The cliffs about San Francisco are not remarkably white, even if one notable projection inside the gate is named Lime Point;' but there are many white mountains both north and south of it, along the coast; and Drake named the whole land - not his landing place alone - 'New Albion,' They did not go into ecstasies about the harbor - they were not hunting harbors, but fortunes in compact form. Harbors, so precious to the Spaniards, who had a commerce in the Pacific to be protected, were of small account to the roving Englishman. But the best possible testimony he could bear as to the harbor's excellence were the thirty six days he spent in it. The probabilities are, then, that it was in San Francisco bay that Drake made himself at home. As Columbus, failing to give his tame to the continent he discovered, was in some measure set right by the bestowal of his name upon the continent's choicest part, when poetry dealt with the subject, so to Drake, cheated of the honor of naming the finest harbor on the coast, is still left a feeble memorial, in the name of a closely adjoining dent in the coast line. To the English, then, it may be believed belongs the credit of finding San Francisco bay."

It is, however, now most generally conceded that Drake never saw inside of the Bay of San Francisco. Humboldt was the first to correct the common belief in this matter, holding that it was farther north, under the parallel thirty eight degrees and ten minutes, a bay called by the Spaniards "Puerto de Bodega." This place could not have borne that name at the time of Drake's visit to the Pacific coast, for it was not till 1775 that a distinguished Spanish navigator by the name of Lieutenant Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, in a naval vessel called the "Sonora," entered this bay and after carefully exploring it, gave it the name of Bodega in honor of himself. This subject will be found fully pursued in our chapter on the general history and early settlement of the county.

GOLD. - The chronicler of Drake's voyage wrote: "The earth of the country seemed to promise rich veins of gold and silver, some of the ore being constantly found on digging." Little credit is generally given to this assertion of the Rev. Mr. Fletcher, but it is, however, a fact that gold does exist in greater or less quantities all over this section. At Tamales point there is a place called Gold gulch, where sluices were put in and placer mining carried on quite extensively in 1865-66, and the yield averaged two dollars and a half a day to the man. It is fine flake dust, hence much of it was lost. Lack of water caused them to abandon the enterprise. There are also quartz lodes here that promise well. Seven assays averaged of gold thirty dollars and eighty three cents, and of silver fifty four dollars and ten cents.

GRANITE. - It is worthy of mention in this place that there is a large out cropping of granite at Tomales point, and that Point Reyes is also composed of the same rock. This is the only out cropping of this rock in Marin county. It is of a grayish color, coarse and not well adapted for economical purposes.

Nothing more remains to be said of this township. Its industry is staple and will always cause it to be prosperous. Only one thing is lacking, and that is that its farmers should be land owners instead of renters. Then would be inaugurated an era of prosperity little dreamed of now. This time will come sooner or later.

[Return to part 1 of Point Reyes History]

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