The Hermits of Anacapa Island

ANACAPA ISLAND — Anacapa Island, the small volcanic rock off the Oxnard/Port Hueneme coast and part of the Channel Islands National Park, was once home to not one but two “hermits,” one of which was dubbed as the rock’s unofficial mayor.

Charles “Charlie” Johnson spent most of the 1930s living on Anacapa Island. He arrived on the island in 1931 and remained there until his death in 1939. Johnson was the island’s “mayor” during his time there, governing the lighthouse and managing its staff.

Also living on the island at the same time was Raymond “Frenchy” LeDreau, who spent 28 years residing at Anacapa.

A book surveying the history of lighthouse in Ventura County featured a brief section on Johnson, quickly summarizing his life and influence.

“Prior to his self-imposed exile, [Johnson] was an avid fisherman, served as a steamship skipper on the Great Lakes, and was a veteran of the Spanish-American War,” an entry in Rose Castro-Ban’s “Lighthouses of the Ventura Coast” stated. “As the mayor, he always made it a point to greet any fishing parties and would row his skiff alongside them, spin a few yards, and barter for a few bottles of beer.”

LeDreau, meanwhile, was already living on the island when Johnson arrived. He moved onto the island in 1928 and remained there until a major injury forced him to leave in 1956. LeDreau, according to the National Park Service, “was an educated man, apt to discuss literature and sing an aria in a tenor voice.

“During prohibition he made money by watching over caches of liquor stored in many of Anacapa’s caves by rumrunners and bootleggers,” a National Park Service blog on the history of Channel Islands residents.

Frenchy Cove, where LeDreau built huts and interacted with visitors, is named after the former island resident.


Sources: National Park Service, “Lighthouses of Ventura County”

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