Rising from the waters of the Pacific off the Southern California coast, Santa Cruz Island captures the imagination. Once home to a large Chumash population, in the 19th century it became a self-sufficient island rancho. As with all islands of beauty and size, it attracted people from the coastline.
But as author John Gherini tells us in his prologue, "The attractions of the island, however, routinely led people into conflict, wrapping it in a shroud like its morning fog. The modern history of the island would witness the passion to own it, to protect it, to use it and to fight over it."
For the first time, a thorough history of Santa Cruz Island's tumultuous past is provided. In pre-Columbian times it was a source of wealth to the indigenous peoples - the place where they made their shell bead money. During the Spanish-Mexican period it was a smuggler's haven where fur hunters avoided customs officials.
As a land grant, it passed through the hands of Andres Castillero and William E. Barron and eventually was purchased by Justinian Caire. The island flourished under the direction of Caire and his family. It was a secluded paradise off the Santa Barbara Coast, with extensive sheep and cattle holdings as well as an esteemed winery.
Seeds of conflict were sown by Justinian Caire's will when the island was divided between family members. The Stantons, the Rossis, the Gherinis, the National Park Service, and The Nature Conservancy all were involved over time. The tortured legal and family disputes are recounted for the first time in this important new work.
Island ranching, hunting and recreation, and environmental challenges are described in detail. Recent historical events involving the establishment of the Channel Islands National Park are explored as well.
The book is published by University of Oklahoma Press.
I went to Santa Cruz Island about 25 years ago with a group from the University of California Berkeley. I thought it was a great place and wished I could live there. It is just off the coast of Santa Barbara in the Channel Islands. When I saw this book I just had to read it.
Gherini covers the formation of the islands to the life of the Chumash people that lived on the islands for at least a thousand years. The author discusses the history, culture, wars and languages of the Chumash of Santa Cruz Island.
Gherini describes the period under the rule of Spain and Mexico when the Islands were a haven for smugglers and illegal hunters of the sea otter fur. When California became part of the United States, the Island was acquired by William E. Barron who later sold it to a Frenchman, Justinian Caire. The Caire family owned the island for many years until it was taken over by The Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Service. I found the legal battles by the Caire family reads like a legal novel. Three times they went all the way to the California Supreme Court, no wonder many of the descendants became attorneys.
The author is an attorney and a direct descendant of Justinian Caire. The book is well written and researched. Gherini had access to all the family papers and documents and has created the most complete history of the Island to date. The book contains photographs and maps and is a worthy addition to ones library. David Caster did an excellent job narrating the book.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This narrator can make red paint drying on a Kansas barn sound like a suspense thriller. Speaking of which, I'd love to hear Mr. Casler narrate one of those.