The Boathouse of San Miguel Island

There was once a time when any one of the Channel Islands was occupied by residence. Of course the string of islands just off the Southern California coast has since been established as a national park and Catalina is the only island where full-time residents are allowed.

However a handful of people lived on San Miguel Island and others in the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s. One family who lived in the island during the first decade of the 20th century was John Russell. He and his wife served as resident managers on the island and lived in a house on the mesa above San Miguel Island’s Cuyler’s Harbor.

A book on the history of California’s Channel Islands explained materials salvaged from shipwrecks on the island’s shores were used, in part, to build the house.

“The materials for the house were salvaged from shipwrecks and the cargos of lumber schooners that had ended up on the rocks of San Miguel Island,” author Frederic Caire Chiles stated in his book, “California’s Channel Islands: A History.”

“In 1905 Russell hauled redwood lumber from the cargo of the J.M. Colman, wrecked the previous fall just inside Point Bennett at the west end of the island,” the entry on San Miguel Island continued. “The house was built double-walled to withstand the winds and sand that blew almost constantly, sometimes reaching one hundred miles per hour.”

A few years later Pres. William Howard Taft, with ownership of the island in dispute, ordered San Miguel to be reserved for the purposes of erecting a lighthouse.

Source: “California’s Channel Islands: A History” by Frederic Caire Chiles

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