California SeaportsReyes

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: ° Alameda: ° Berkeley ° Oakland
Contra Costa County: ° Crockett, ° Martinez ° Port Costa
Marin County: ° Point Reyes, ° San Rafael (China Camp), ° Sausalito, ° Tiburon
° Mendocino ° Sacramento
San Francisco (City and County)
Solano: ° Benicia (St. Paul's Church), ° VallejoMare Island
Sonoma: ° Petaluma ° Fort Ross
CENTRAL & SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: ° Long Beach ° Los Angeles ° Monterey County ° San Diego County ° Santa Barbara ° Santa Monica ° The Channel Islands

Point Reyes

The early American settlers of the 1850s were impressed with the cool, moist climate of Point Reyes, providing near-ideal conditions for raising dairy cows. Abundant grass, a long growing season, and sufficient fresh water supplies promised productivity.

Point Reyes.Over the Coasts. Michael Collier.Unknown to the early ranchers, the expansive coastal prairie was most likely the byproduct of burning, weeding, pruning and harvesting for at least two millennia by Coast Miwok and their antecedents.

The Franciscan missionaries set the stage for the explosion of dairy in west Marin with the introduction of feral cattle in 1817. They established the San Rafael Asistencia, near San Francisco Bay, as an annex to Mission Dolores in San Francisco, serving as a recuperative center for ailing Coast Miwok and Ohlone natives. Secularization of the missions following Mexican independence from Spain led to land grant subdivision and the expansion of cattle ranching on the peninsula.

The advancing front of Americano ranchers brought to light poor record keeping, and the behavior of several Mexicano land grantees coveting and utilizing a neighbor’s adjacent parcel. As land was sold to the new immigrants, the title to the land usually became ensnared in litigation. During a five-year period ending in 1857, the San Francisco law firm of Shafter, Shafter, Park, and Heydenfeldt obtained title to over 50,000 acres on the peninsula, encompassing the coastal plain and most of Inverness Ridge. Unlike the small dairy operations pre-existing on the peninsula, these Vermont-native lawyer / businessmen saw the opportunity to market large quantities of superior quality butter and some cheese under a Point Reyes brand to San Francisco.

Record yields of butter and cheese came from the dairy farms at Point Reyes throughout the late 19th century. Herds of Devons, Jerseys, Guernseys, and later on Holsteins, numbering from 100 to 250 cows per ranch, catapulted the Point Reyes enterprise as perhaps the largest operation in the early years of the state. In 1867, Marin County produced 932,429 pounds of butter, the largest yield of butter in California. These huge amounts of butter were produced in an era when the finest restaurants served every good steak with a melting slab of butter on top.

Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay.

Point Reyes Lighthouse.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse (right) lens and mechanism were constructed in France in 1867. The clockwork mechanism, glass prisms and housing for the lighthouse were shipped on a steamer around the tip of South America to San Francisco. The parts from France and the parts for the cast iron tower were transferred to a second ship, which then sailed to a landing on Drakes Bay. The parts were loaded onto ox-drawn carts and hauled three miles over the headlands to near the tip of Point Reyes, 600 feet above sea level. Historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, 1870 Meanwhile, 300 feet below the top of the cliff, an area had been blasted with dynamite to clear a level spot for the lighthouse. To be effective, the lighthouse had to be situated below the characteristic high fog. It took six weeks to lower the materials from the top of the cliff to the lighthouse platform and construct the lighthouse. Finally, after many years of tedious political pressure, transport of materials and difficult construction, the Point Reyes Light first shone on December 1, 1870.

Keeping the lighthouse in working condition was a twenty-four hour job. The light was lit only between sunset and sunrise, but there was work to do all day long. The head keeper and three assistants shared the load in four six-hour shifts. . Lighthouse Keeper cleaning the Fresnel Lens Every evening, a half-hour before sunset, a keeper walked down the wooden stairs to light the oil lamp, the lighthouse's source of illumination. Once the lamp was lit, the keeper wound the clockwork mechanism, lifting a 170 pound weight, which was attached to the clockwork mechanism by a hemp rope, nine feet off the floor. The earth's gravity would then pull the weight, through a small trap door, to the ground level 17 feet below. The clockwork mechanism was built to provide resistance so that it would take two hours and twenty minutes for the weight to descend the 17 feet. And as the weight descended and the clockwork mechanism's gears spun, the Fresnel lens would turn so that the light appeared to flash every five seconds. In addition to winding the clockwork mechanism every two-hours and twenty minutes throughout the night, the keeper had to keep the lamp wicks trimmed so that the light would burn steadily and efficiently, thus the nickname "wickie."

Daytime duties for the keepers included cleaning the lens, polishing the brass, stoking the steam-powered fog signal and making necessary repairs. At the end of each shift, the keeper trudged back up the wooden staircase. Sometimes the winds were so strong that he had to crawl on his hands and knees to keep from being knocked down. The highest wind speed recorded at Point Reyes was 133 m.p.h., and 60 m.p.h. winds are common. The hard work, wind, fog and isolation at Point Reyes made this an undesirable post. Even so, one keeper stayed for about twenty-four years, a testament to his devotion and love of Point Reyes!

March 15, 1905, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California

Terrible Experience Of Four Men in Fierce Storm
Two Are Injured in Thrilling Battle with Death on Water

Four San Franciscans who for hours had fought with death in a storm off the treacherous Mendocino coast and who had been given up for lost by relatives and friends, returned home this morning thankful that they are still alive. The four men ,were Emil Schneider and Charles A. Stowell of the United States Marine Hospital Service; Paul E. Squire, a druggist, employed at the Leipnitz drug store, and Julius Berges of the wholesale liquor firm of Berges & Domenicon. Sharing the same peril were the captains and crews of the tugs Henrietta and U.S. Grant of the Paladini fishing fleet.

During the thrilling experience two men were injured. Schneider, who took a turn at the wheel on the Henrietta, was hurled against the pilothouse by a huge wave and sustained painful bruises and a broken rib and the fireman of the Grant had an arm broken. The Grant had a mast snapped off in the gale, tangled and caught in her propeller, and she now lies in Drake's Bay awaiting repairs. The Henriettawas uninjured.

The party of four who went out to the fishing banks for a good time were away about fifty-three hours. When they got ashore yesterday they tried to communicate with their friends in this city, but the wires were down and it was not known whether they were dead or alive until they got back this morning.


Emil Schneider, who pluckily went back to his work in the branch of the Marine Hospital in the Appraiser's building after he had communicated with his relatives, tells a dramatic story of the trip. Here is his narrative, told in the way of a man who can face a crisis without losing his nerve:

"We started out Sunday morning at 4 o'clock on the fishing tug Henrietta. The weather was fine, and we stayed on deck enjoying ourselves until we reached the fishing banks twenty miles north of Point Reyes. At 7:30 o'clock in the morning, after the nets were out, the storm came up. Soon It grew so fierce that the boss fisherman ordered that the nets be pulled up. For a while, it was feared that they would have to be cut loose, but we persevered and finally got them in. It was a tough job. The haul of fish was a good one, but something else demanded our attention just then. The waves were running as high as the Spreckels' Building. We tried to keep in deep water, but it was too rough. Then we made for Drake's Bay. Between wind and wave we were in a bad way. I thought it was all off with us. Even the captain had no hope. I helped out at the wheel. A big wave hurled me against the pilothouse and gave me a busted rib.


"When we got to the bar it was breaking low and was worse than the sea. Captain Nelson wanted to make for deep water again, but the boss fisherman insisted on keeping the tug headed for the bay. Behind was the fishing tug U. S. Grant which trolls with the Henrietta. The Grant was struck by a heavy sea that snipped her stern mast, cleaned her decks, swept away the life boats filled her engine rooms with water and put out the fires. The gearing got tangled In the propeller and the tug was helpless. Some time during this trouble the fireman at the Grant got his arm broken. "We stood by the Grant. She drifted along, and after much difficulty both tugs got across the bar and into Drake's bay. It was two o'clock Sunday afternoon when we got there. It was too rough to launch one of our boats, and there we lay all night and until yesterday afternoon. Then four of us, drenched and weary, got ashore in a skiff. When we got to the lighthouse the register showed that the wind which we were up against blew at least a hundred miles an hour. That was the limit of the register. I was told that the wind was stronger but Just how much nobody knew. When we tried to communicate with our friends and relatives there was much trouble. The wires were down.


"To go back with my story a bit, we had a fine walk after we got ashore. I am told that we walked six miles, but it seemed more like sixty miles. We got to the Geary ranch, ami the people there treated us like white men, giving us not only food, but dry clothing. Then they put us in a wagon and took us dirty-five miles to Point Reyes. After a few hours' rest we got aboard the morning train, and now I can truthfully say that I'm glad I'm here. "The crew of the Henrietta Included Captain Nelson, Chief Engineer H. Meenan, an assistant engineer and five fishermen. Captain Nelson did great work. He was on deck all the time. He says that he never saw a storm like it, and he couldn't understand how we managed to live through it As for the Grant, he said, her survival was a mystery."


Paul E. Squire went around the Horn on the Oregon and was in service on that ship during the fight at Santiago, but he will forget those things before he will cease to remember his trip to the fishing banks. "The waves were mountains high," he said this morning. "I didn't realize the danger, but the captain and others aid. I was so sick that I didn't care what happened. No storm ever made me sick before. I used to boast that I couldn't get seasick, but that experience Sunday was too much for me. We were tossed around like cork. The Grant was worse off than our tug. Her mast went overboard her boats were swept away and her fires were put out. It was thought that the Grantwould have to be beached, but after her crew got the water out it was found that she wasn't leaking. It was a great experience, but one trip of that kind is enough for me."

Immigration.Merchants of Grain. Merchants of Grain: 
The Power and Profits of the Five Giant Companies at the Center of the World's Food Supply
Five Companies at the Center of the World's Food Supply.
Dan Morgan
Details how a handful of families have controlled the worlds grain trade for centuries. A great piece for families that till the soil, but one that is even more important to the people who live in the city; and have no idea of the power and control that these families wield. 
From Captain John R. Sutton: "I am a captain on Mississippi River towboats. I have pushed millions of tons of grain down the Mississippi River for years. But I never really understood the gobal impact of the world's grain company's until I read this book."

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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