Shadows of the Past
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Twenty years after the Mexican War of 1846, whaling companies bound on schooners and ships from San Francisco to Baja California stopped in San Diego for food and water (see Fig. 11). Some of those vessels visited San Diego in the 1830s and 1840s, observing California Gray Whales in the harbor and out on the offshore kelp beds. Although based in San Francisco, most of the mariners on those ships hailed from maritime centers in New England and the South Pacific. Multi-ethnic crews on those vessels comprised the whaling companies. Bonded by kinship and mariner camaraderie, those men carried on a 400-year old tradition of building houses, kitchens, warehouses, oil-rendering or 'tryworks' ovens, boat houses, carpentry, and blacksmith shops to carry out a seven-month season's work.

Unlike the ethnically segregated communities of Old Town and New San Diego, the Ballast Point Whaling Station of the 1860s and 1870s was distinctively multiethnic with dark complexioned Portuguese-Americans, Chinese, Irish-Americans, and European-American sailors and their families. At least one Native American woman from Santo Tomas, Baja California, lived in this community. Three Chinese individuals worked for the whalers and sold fish in Old Town and New San Diego. This unique community bought supplies and sold gallons of oil in Old Town and New San Diego, but kept their business affairs to themselves. They lasted for twenty years, and then simply melted into the maritime neighborhoods of La Playa and North Island, or slipped away unnoticed to Baja California. The people of the Ballast Point Whaling Station are important because their maritime history enabled an early multi-ethnic group to work together in an otherwise segregated and racially biased and intolerant Victorian California.

The primary residential communities on Point Loma between the Mexican War of 1846 and 1900 were located at Ballast Point and La Playa on the bay side of Point Loma. Ballast Point is a small cobblestone spit that extends east of Point Loma into the mouth of San Diego Bay. Extreme high tides and storm waves often covered most of Ballast Point, except for a slightly elevated rise at the eastern tip that formed an island during high tides. A Chinese fishing camp and American merchant whaling community resided at that eastern island, which was connected to Point Loma by a narrower spit of cobblestones and sand at a slightly lower elevation. Several whalers' shanties and a blacksmith shop were built on top of the crumbled ruins of the 18th to 19th century Spanish and Mexican Army cannon battery, Fort Guijarros (see Fig. 8 and 10).

One mile to the north, a half-mile wide point of land projected one-eighth of a mile into the bay to form La Playa. At this location, the Spanish built an 'embarcadero' or landing for merchant ships and later, the Republic of Mexico constructed an adobe customs house. Under license with Mexico, British hide industry firms built wooden cowhide warehouses and Russian scientists built a brick oven. A shantytown of scrap and driftwood homes, boathouses, craft shops, and auxiliary buildings surrounded the old Spanish embarcadero and Mexican customs house. Through the 1870s, La Playa became a diverse community of mixed ethnicity. Chinese fishermen and boat builders arrived in the 1880s, to be replaced by Portuguese and Italian fisher folk in the 1890s. By 1900, most of people at Ballast Point and La Playa vacated Point Loma to live across San Diego Bay in New Town.

Economic and Ethnic Diversity

The first permanent community recorded for Ballast Point following the Mexican War was a loose confederation of American merchant whaling companies residing there during the 1857-1858 winter season. These squatters simply moved in and built the community on Ballast Point (May 1986:73). Each family-owned company involved comingled investments of funds and equipment. Whaling crews recruited from San Francisco may have included ethnic African and Chinese, who served on South Pacific whale ships in the 1840s and ended up in California during the Gold Rush (Nichols 1983:75; Henderson 1975:51; May 1986). At least one of the whaling companies on Ballast Point included Portuguese-American whalers from New England. These ethnically diverse mariners moved north to La Playa in 1873 and then across the bay to North Island and New Town in the 1880s.

Research on the economic status and ethnic diversity of the mariners at the 19th century Ballast Point Whaling Station began in 1981 with the discovery of an historic kitchen midden covering the ruins of Fort Guijarros (May 1982). An 1896 Map produced by the Army Corps of Engineers showed a rectangular building located on top of the old Spanish fort. The building was identified as the Blacksmith Shop, adjacent to a square marked Whaler's Shanty (Ibid.). Historical evidence placed the Packard and Johnson Companies on Ballast Point through the 1 860s, along with smaller outfits owned by Levi Tilton, Dan Flanders, William (Billy) Price, and Thomas J. Higgins (May 1986:73-91). A local San Diego citizen recollected that...

I have always thought a wonderful story could be made of it . . . The whalers were all New Bedford men and came from West Tisbury, Cape Cod. There were two companies. Two brothers Packard and others named Johnson, on Ballast Point. The Packards had a little shack about the middle of Ballast Point and lived in it; but the Johnsons had a much larger establishment, a big building on the shore near Fort Rosecrans. This was used as dormitories for the whalers (Davidson 1930:10).

Within the context of a global whale fishery which began in the late 16th century and continues today on a limited scale, the 28-year industry on Ballast Point in San Diego, California is a good example of the continuity of pre-mechanized maritime traditions which lasted for more than four centuries. Ballast Point is more significant as the sole known example of a well-documented shore whaling station in the United States (May 1987; 1988:2).

The social history of the families and their community on Ballast Point can be used as a model of similar industries known as early as the 17th century in New England and as late as the 20th century at Monterey, California. The unique aspect of Ballast Point lies in the survival of architectural features and archaeological deposits that have either been destroyed elsewhere in maritime sites or not yet discovered or reported in the archaeological record (May 1987).

Ballast Point has survived the ravages of modern construction only because of the unique history of the Point Loma Military Reservation as originally 'pueblo lands' of the City of San Diego. As the site of a former Spanish and Mexican artillery battery, Ballast Point and the ruins formed a natural landing and base of operations for visiting sailors following the Mexican War in 1846. After the Army Corps of Engineers evicted the whaling companies in 1873 to begin military construction, earth fill eventually covered the Spanish barracks and kitchen.

The top of the artillery battery was leveled to ensure a clear field of fire for the American batteries. When Congress cut the funding in 1874, the whaling companies moved back to occupy Ballast Point and reuse the old tryworks ovens to render oil from California Gray Whales. By 1886, the whale herds were nearly extinct from over fishing. When the Light House Service arrived in 1890 to construct the Ballast Point Light House, the former whaling company buildings were vacant. The Army returned in 1898 and reused the old whaling company buildings for housing and storage until the area was eventually covered with soil in the 1930s.

By the time author Winifred Davidson wrote the 'Loma Lore' column for the San Diego Union in 1930, all that remained were the remnants of two old trywork foundations and blacked, grease-saturated soil. That same year, Assistant Light House Keeper Radford Franke hauled-in tons of yellow sand from road construction on Point Loma to cover the whalers' debris (Franke, Personal Communication).

Historical Record

The written record of the Ballast Point Whaling industry has been traced to 1857, when brothers Prince William and Alphaeus Packard arrived in San Diego (May 1986:75). The twins were born in Massachusetts in 1815 to a Portuguese father and English mother. No record is known of the brother's prior 42 years (Wentworth n.d.; Scammon 1874:23). The 1860 Census of Industry recorded that they had $3,000 worth of equipment and a crew of ten men. Alphaeus and his Native American (Baja California) wife, Magdalena, lived on Ballast Point. The smaller companies, such as those operated by Tilton or Price, joined forces with each other between October and May during the peak whale runs. From season to season, the composition of this community changed. Almost no record exists of the names, ethnicity, or economic status of the whaling company crewmembers.

When the Packard brothers arrived at Ballast Point in 1857, it was vacant and La Playa was a ghost town (Dana 1964; Davis 1969:16-17; Smythe 1907:103, 202). The hide houses described by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before The Mast were in ruin and the Mexican Custom House and Army Quartermaster warehouse lay abandoned (Ruhlen 1967:10). The Blecker General Store sat out over the shallow water on stilts, near the Tidal Gage (Smythe 1907:2). Mired in the shallows of mud, the dismantled wreck of the Clarissa Andrews served San Diego as a coal depot (Ibid.). Captain J.C. Bogardt operated an office for the Pacific Mail Steamship Line in a cabin on the wreck.

It was at the tumbled ruins of La Playa that the Packards met George P. Tebbets, who on February 16, 1856 killed a Right Whale off San Luis Rey and tried-out 600 barrels for trade in San Diego (San Diego Union, February 16, 1856). Tebbets encouraged the Packards to develop an operation on Point Loma. To be closer to the kelp beds off the western shore, the Packards moved one mile south to Ballast Point to establish their whale blubber-melting tryworks oven on the beach. There they built boat yards, warehouses, a carpentry shop, at least one blacksmith shop, a kitchen, and driftwood shanties for their families. By February 5, 1858, the Packard Whaling Company had killed twelve and recovered five California Gray Whales for a harvest of 150 barrels of oil worth $2,000 (San Diego Herald, February 5, 1858).

Soon the Packards were joined by other whaling families. Captain Miles A. Johnson and his cousin, Henry James, hailed from the traditional whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Another cousin, James Johnson, came from New York (Wentworth m.d.) The Johnson family operated whaling stations at Cape Colonet and San Martin Island in Baja California. They also brought five employees and $3,000 worth of materials. Henry James Johnson lived on Ballast Point with his common-law wife, Saturinia Carravaya, and their children John, Sara, and Filbury. Captain Miles A. Johnson was a former sea captain and leader of the Johnson Company. These family operations enabled co-investment of money and equipment, which made these mobile operations quite workable.

Research into tax and voter records revealed that approximately thirty men lived and worked at the Ballast Point Whaling Station with the Johnson and Packard Companies. While all worked at one time or another as hands on the primary companies, Daniel Flanders, John Jenkins, Thomas Lambert, William C. Price, Levi Tilton, and Enos Wall operated their own ventures. With the exception of Price, who was born in Ireland, all the others came from New England. Lambert and the Packards were Portuguese descent.

Judge Benjamin Hayes visited La Playa and Ballast Point on January 20, 1861, while traveling with friends to the Point Loma Lighthouse (Hayes 1929:557). Hayes reported both shore and ship whaling on that particular day. Captain W.W. Clark's whaleship, Ocean, operated just offshore:

The ship's men cut up the whale from a staging alongside, of which they stand with their spades--- the fish being afloat. In which there is a great saving of time and labor, as compared with the process of those on land, who bring the fish ashore at the flood; cut, turn it over. And there it remains, an annoyance to them, until some tide may happen to carry it off to another point. I must confess the smell on shore. . . was anything but pleasant (Hayes 1929:557).

Hayes also described the Packard Whaling Company operation. They reported having recovered 450 barrels with a projected yield of 1300 (Ibid). The previous year, in 1860, they produced 900 barrels. Each barrel contained 31 and 1/2 gallons of oil. The 1860 Products of Industry Census also listed the Johnson Whaling Company and Tilton Company.

The beach operations and layout at Ballast Point remain a mystery, only partially solved by archaeological investigations (May 1986; 1987). An article in the 1986 Journal of San Diego History drew from analogies from New Zealand and Australia (May 1986). Other known stations include elaborate communities in Red Bay, New Foundland in the 16th century and the Northwest Coast in the 19th century. The Portuguese-American whaling stations at Monterey and Carmel were small communities of whitewashed cabins adjacent to garden patches of corn and pumpkins, where the families kept pigs, sheep, goats, and cattle in corrals (Scammon 1874:250). Presumably, the residential areas on Ballast Point were similar. Typical of Portuguese whaling operations, the smelly tryworks and warehouses were somewhat distant from the homes, though small overnight shanties were often located adjacent to the tryworks (Clarke 1954:325, 338).

Of the 23 known whalers who operated on Ballast Point between 1858 and 1886, ten came from New England, two from New York, one from Ireland. The rest did not register their birthplace (Great Register of Voters 1877; Wentworth n.d.). Hammett and Martin Comacho could have been Portuguese, but their birthplace is not known. Their names leave no clue as to the other whaler's ethnic origins. Indeed, names are not positive indicators of ethnicity.

Interestingly, John Jenkins (Pennsylvania), William C. Price (Ireland), and Enos A. Wall (Maine) all worked as assistant lighthouse keepers on Point Loma. Additionally, the 1863 Tax Collector reported a Chinese family in 1863 and Lucy Wentworth documented Juk and Ah Sing as fishing on Ballast Point in 1868 (May 1986). The 1870 Census lists Ah Low as the Chinese cook for the Packard Company.

Although no records have been found for these operations, legal records of lawsuits document something of the property. District Court Case #108, May 29, 1865, memorialized the Packard Whaling Company's failure to pay a $743.22 meat bill. The case lists 43 casks of oil, worth $12,470.00 in San Francisco, as seized by Sheriff James McCoy (May 1986; Robotti 1962:84). Other property included the whaling sloop, New Hope, whale boats, harpoons, tubs of rope, empty barrels, and cases of food (Wentworth n.d.: 3; Hensley 1952; 610). McCoy seized the following:

Three bomb lances, one swivel gun in a box, eight harpoons, one tub of towline, one coil of cable rope, one coil of towline, three coil secondhand rope, one hundred gallon cask, two whaleboats, six oil tubs, one grinding stone, two mincing machines, thirteen oars for whaleboats, two boat masts, five harpoons with poles, and one box of harpoons nailed up (McCoy 1869).

Perhaps the most revealing information from this litigation is the fact that the Packard Company operated a second station in Baja California:

The sloop New Hope arrived with passengers and oil from the island of San Martin, and soon the party will commence their whaling operations in this place. Their summer's whaling has not amounted to much, but they have more than cleared their expenses (San Francisco Bulletin, October 22, 1867).

Close proximity in this small community led to intermarriage, further cementing family ties:

The great event of the week, and in fact the month here, has been the marriage of Captain William C. Price, commonly known as Billy Price, and Mrs. M. R. Wall, daughter of one of the first Americans in San Diego (Enos A. Wall)...Everyone and his wife and family attended the ball which was given on the night of the 5th, and dancing was kept up til sunrise (San Francisco Bulletin: May 27, 1867; November 30, 1867).

Captain Price was Point Loma lighthouse keeper at the time of the wedding. He left the Packard Whaling Company in 1869 to join with Captain Eli Saddler on the whaling schooner Emma Hayne to establish a satellite station at Punta Banda in Baja California. This station also included a Packard Whaling Company satellite, which the New Hope visited regularly to replenish supplies and transfer whale oil to Ballast Point. All the while, the Packard Company continued its operations on Ballast Point and shipped oil to San Francisco.

The Captains Packard appeared to be doing a 'boiling' business. A gentleman, whose name we forget, is the cooper for the whalers, and seems to have a busy time of it. The season has proven to be better than any known for years. We enjoyed the explanation given us by the 'old salts' of the use of bomb guns, pivot lances, and other deadly machinery for the capture of whales, and relished muchly everything except the intolerable stench arising from the decomposing carcasses of whales and boiling oil (San Diego Union, January 1, 1869).

Individuals working at the whaling station invested their earnings in the San Diego economy (County Recorder, Land Transfer Books 4, 5, 6). Unfortunately, they were not able to acquire Ballast Point and had to pay rent to Ephraim W. Morse, who managed the land for former U.S. Army soldiers who had purchased it in 1850.

Isadore Matthias invested in both the Johnson and Packard Whaling Companies in 1869 (San Diego Union, May 5, 1869). His infusion of capitol brought two whaleboats, officers, and eighteen mariners to Punta Banda. The officers for the reorganized company included Captain Alphaeus Packard, George A. Wentworth, A Saddler, Enos A. Wall, and Fred Sisson. There was also a compliment of ten mariners and three whaleboats at Santo Tomas. The other crew of Captain Prince William Packard, George Johnson, William Tomas, Hammett and Martin Comacho took eighteen men on two whaleboats to Punta Banda. Captain Miles A. Johnson and his cousins remained at Ballast Point to manage the warehouse and Point Loma operations. Under Matthias' s supervision, this newly reorganized company transshipped supplies, men, and oil on the schooners Summer Cloud, Toccao, and Emma Hayne, and the sloop New Hope. They recovered 21,888 gallons (recorded in gallons by Matthias) in 1870-1871 (San Diego Union, January 9, and November 16, 1871) and they added twenty-one mariners and four new whaleboats in December of 1871 and chartered the schooners Lark and Dolphin to join the fleet. The company employed a total of 75 men by 1872.

The Matthias Company received 1,190 barrels of whale oil from the Baj a California stations and shipped 1,555 barrels to San Francisco in the 1871-1872 season. This dropped dramatically to 362 barrels from Baja and 192 barrels to San Francisco in the 1872-1873 season (San Diego Union, Shipping Reports). The success of the whaling meant severe destruction of the whale herd and change in migratory paths of the survivors.

The coup de grace to the whaling operations on Ballast Point came not from the endangered whale population, but from the Department of War. The Army Corps of Engineers was negotiating with the civilian owners of Ballast Point to build a coastal artillery fort (May 1985a). With little warning, the whalers were evicted in 1873. They moved either to La Playa or North Island. From North Island, the Packard Whaling Company continued its satellite operations at Santo Tomas, where they shipped 2,038 barrels of oil in 1876 (San Diego Union, March 20, January 25, 1876). The Packard Company diversified to include California Gray Whale baleen, salted fish, and seal skins. The last recorded shipment of 3,953 gallons of whale oil in 1878 seems to hallmark the end of that company, for the final records indicate Captain Alphaeus Packard turned to farming in Bernardo, California.

Suffering from mental illness, Captain Miles A. Johnson signed Power of Attorney over his property to James Johnson and shipped on a schooner to Baja California. Captain Henry James Johnson sold his New Town and Middletown properties and changed to a career as an officer with the Pacific Mail Steamship Line (May 1986).

Ironically, Congress terminated funding for construction of a 15-gun artillery battery on Ballast Point in 1874 (May 1985). A single caretaker remained to prevent the whaling companies from permanently returning, but archaeological evidence substantiates renewed use of Ballast Point for whale oil rendering as late as the 1880s. Most of the whaling operations in that time period operated from North Island, where Captain Enos A. Wall joined with Captain Plummer at Whaler's Bight until he died on December 31, 1884 at age 66 (San Diego Union, November 11, 22, 1883; January 3,5, 1884; May 1986). The last whaling company to operate out of San Diego was owned by Thomas J. Higgins, who in 1884 formed Higgins & Scranton to carry on with the Plummer and Wall Company (San Diego Union, January 17, 1884).

After the Army left Ballast Point in 1874, the historical record reveals little information about the return of whaling companies to Ballast Point. An 1886 sketch of Ballast Point by Edward H. Davis depicts two warehouses that were mapped on 1890 Light House plot plans also. Archaeological investigation of the east end of Ballast Point near the former warehouses in 1991 and 1992 demonstrated that the whaling companies did resume their operations in the 1880s. An 1890 Lighthouse photograph taken from San Diego Bay looking west to Ballast Point shows no whaling operations at that time. Excavations documented only a scatter of whaling company pottery and glass on the beach at that time period.

Archaeological Record

Whaling period archaeology has been found at two sites on Ballast Point, both of which offer educational opportunities for the national monument. The kitchen midden on top of the ruins of Fort Guijarros is included within CA-SDi-12,000. The east end of Ballast Point near the former warehouses and tryworks ovens is recorded as CA-SDi-12,953. Artifacts, field notes and maps, photographs of artifacts, and historical photographs remain available at the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation at Building 127, Fort Rosecrans Historic District, Naval Base Point Loma. Loan of artifacts must be made by arrangement with the Navy.

CA-SDI-12,000. Whaling deposits exposed on top of the Fort Guijarros ruins were excavated in eight large block areas subdivided by grid units. Archaeological investigations between 1981 and 1995 revealed one large shell midden feature with 19th century whaling material which lay directly on top of the ruins of the 1796 cannon battery (see Fig. 8). Apparently, the whaling companies took advantage of the man-made mound of rubble to build a blacksmith shop and residential shanty elevated above the storm surf, high tide, and well drained from coastal rains.

The following is a summary of those relevant block excavations at CA-SDI-12,000 (see Figs. 12,13,16,17). These are taken from the field notes that are now housed at Building 127, Fort Rosecrans Historic District, Naval Base Point Loma:

Field I. Whaler's Kitchen Midden. The 1981 investigation revealed a shell and food bone-rich midden that ranged from 5 to 35 centimeters deep. Within that deposit of greasy dark brown sand, thousands of fish bones, saw-cut livestock and marine mammal bones, marine shell, and coral cobbles were associated with whale vertebrae, dark green wine/ale/cider bottle glass, white ware ceramics, clay smoking pipes, cut turtle shell, strap and sheet iron, iron square nails, and brass ship nails. Return excavations in 1985 and 1987 confirmed this information.

Field II. Isolated artifacts. The 1982 excavation directly west of Field I produced only a few isolated artifacts. This portion of the site had been bladed by Army Quartermaster construction crews during the construction of a beach road in the 1930s.

Field III. Whaler's Kitchen Midden. The 1982 field block extended the dig of the beach in front of the Fort Guijarros ruins to expose more of the whaling kitchen midden. The shell midden appeared to be a single feature that continued in the sidewalls to the north and east.

Field IV. Whaler's Trash Scatter. The 1983 excavation 120 feet west of Field I was dug into the 1898 Army Battery Wilkeson earth embankment. This excavation revealed an 1860s schnapps bottle on top of a gravel base. The gravel lay below an 1874 Army drain and on top of a pre-1835 Spanish/Mexican trash pit.

Field V. Chinese Trash Scatter. The 1983 excavation 100 feet north of Field I exposed the old beach eight feet below current surface. Asian brown-glaze ceramics date from the Chinese fishing camp adjacent to the whaling period (see Figs. 12,13).

Field VI. Whaler's Trash Scatter. The 1986 investigation 200 feet north of Field I exposed original beach at six to eight feet below the existing parking lot. Saw-cut food bone on the beach dates from the whaling period.
Field VII. The 1984 excavation was located 1.5 meters west of Field IV. No whaling period artifacts or features were encountered.

Field VIII. The 1989-1995 investigation revealed two significant whaling period features:

Whaler's Kitchen Midden. On top of the fort rubble and sloping at a 60-degree angle down to the beach (near Field III), excavation exposed a five to 30 centimeter thick layer of marine shell midden. The material was similar to that found in Field I, except the quantities was different and no clay smoking pipes were recovered.

Blacksmith Shop. Separated by 6.5 meters of Spanish architecture, the south end of a feature marked on the 1896 Army Corps of Engineers' Map as Blacksmith Shop extended into Field VIII. More of the structure, as well as the Whaler's Shanty, lay under existing Building 539. Although reused by the Army, pockets in the floor yielded a pistol ball, white clay smoking pipe fragments, white earthen ware, and square brass ship nails.

CA-SDi-12,953. The eastern end of Ballast Point formed an island at least four times wider than the cobble spit that connected this area to Point Loma. Archaeological investigations in 1988-1989 concentrated on the west half at the Ballast Point Search & Rescue Station operated by the Coast Guard. Fieldwork in 1991 - 1992 examined the central area where the 1890-1957 Light House formerly existed. Both investigations uncovered portions of the Ballast Point Whaling Station and an adjacent Chinese fishing camp (see Figs. 14,15).

Coast Guard, Ballast Point Search & Rescue Area. Test excavations in the parking lot and lawn of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Station at the eastern end of Ballast Point revealed a 20 centimeter thick charcoal layer with greasy sand associated with five distinct cultural features. The field strategy involved gridding the entire area into 220 possible excavation units and a sample dug to sterile cobblestones. A sample of 27 square meters were excavated. As features were encountered, more test units exposed the total features:

1. Burned Tile Feature. A 20-30 centimeter thick burned feature yielded a .45-70 bullet casing, brass pins, a horseshoe, and other objects from the 1860-1880 whaling station. The burn may have been either a fat-lean pot used to render whale meat oil or a tarring pot used to waterproof sailing lines.

2. Tile Platform. A platform of reused broken Spanish tiles set two meters apart on a side formed a crude floor. A plume or wedge-shaped ash deposit extended away from the platform edge, as if refuse had been thrown from an opening. Clay smoking pipe fragments, white earthenware, and brass ship nails tie this feature to the whaling era and suggest that the structure was probably a shanty.

3. Tryworks Oven. The foundation of a double firebox oven feature and surrounding charcoal/ash deposit was described by Winifred Davidson in 1930 in the San Diego Union. Large and small brass ship nails, 1850-1880 ceramics, and clay smoking pipe fragments were found around this feature. In 1989, the Navy commissioned Ogden Environmental Services to relocate this entire feature to the lawn east of Building 601 to save the tryworks oven for educational interpretation.

4. Whaler's Shanty Refuse. The plume or wedge-shaped ash feature north of the edge of the Tile Platform is debris from short-duration residential occupation of a whaler's shanty. Among the recoveries were saw-cut food bone, white porcelain Proesser shirt buttons, white clay smoking pipe fragments, .45-70 bullet casings, and brass boat nails.

5. Ballast Point Whaling Station and Chinese Fishing Camp. Backhoe trenching 50 to 100 feet east of the Ballast Point Search & Rescue area of CA-SDi-12,953 revealed large trash deposits near the mapped location of the pre-1886 warehouses. Also recovered were trash features associated with Asian kitchen and barbering activities. The following archaeological tests revealed relevant features:

Trench 1. Chinese Fishing Camp. Backhoe dirt yielded Asian brown-glaze vegetable and soy sauce jar sherds, two opium pipe fragments, and clay smoking pipe fragments.

Trench 2. Chinese Fishing Camp. The backhoe cut through the 1890 Assistant Keeper's House foundation to reveal a rich trash pit below:

Chinese Kitchen Trash Pit. Embedded under the 1890 Assistant Keeper's House foundation mortar were Asian Celadon rice bowl sherds and dark green liquor bottle sherds. The following sequence of soil layers were recorded below from the mortar down:

Locus 3. Lighthouse Building Crawlspace. A 10-20 centimeter thick sand layer marked Locus 3, which was inside the crawl space of the 1890 Assistant Lighthouse Keeper's House foundation.

Locus 3A. Lighthouse Garden. Located outside the foundation, Locus 3A was sandy loam mixed with tan garden dirt.

Locus 3B. Pre-1890 Beach. Located directly under foundation, Locus 3B storm deposition smeared Celadon bowl sherds, pismo clam shells, and rusted metal over the surface of Ballast Point prior to the 1890 construction of the foundations.

Locus 4. Chinese Trash Pit. Measuring 30-50 centimeters thick and over a meter wide, this thick dark gray to black greasy charcoal deposit contained Asian brown-glaze vegetable jars, Bamboo and Celadon rice and sauce bowls, Double Happiness bowl sherds, one Asian Fu plate, English Blue Shell Edge plate sherds, an iron fork, iron ladle, iron strap, bundled copper wire loops, cut Caucasian gray hair (identified by the County of San Diego Sheriff Crime lab), English mustard bottles, case gin and schnapps bottle glass, dark green wine/cider/ale bottle glass, and clay smoking pipes. The Shell Edge plate sherds, Double Happiness bowl sherds, and Asian Fu plate date this deposit to the early 1860s.

Locus 4, 4A/5. Old Beach Level. Beach sand below Locus 3A received the label Loci 4/4A, but relabeled Locus 5. This included more Asian ceramics, including a Celadon spoon.

Trench 3. Chinese Trash Pit. Just five meters southwest of the Kitchen Pit, backhoe Trench 3 exposed a pocket of Asian and European artifacts. Recovered from the sandy feature were dark green wine/ale/cider bottle glass, English mustard bottle glass, an unusual gray Bamboo bowl, Asian brown-glazed vegetable jar sherds, a brass pin, fish bones, and splintered food bone (see Fig. 14).

Trench 4. Old Beach. No significant archaeological materials were recovered in Trench 4.

Trench 5. Old Kitchen. Near the 1890 Light House Service map designation of "Old Kitchen," a burned ash lens yielded an oar lock, a clear glass bottle flask, a ceramic ale bottle neck, and other objects from around 1885.

Trench 6. European Whaler's Trash Pit. Located very close to the north wall of a warehouse marked on an 1886 sketch and present in an 1890 photograph, Trench 6 hit a large marine shell midden feature complete with harpoon parts, whale bones, and 1231 white ceramics. The Trench 6 units included a deep trash pit in Units 5 and 6 which showed no stratigraphic break as it extended over the area marked by the other Trench 6 units. The trash pit in Units 5 and 6 measured 210 centimeters north-south by 185 centimeters east-west and 92 centimeters deep. A total of 194 ceramic sherds were recovered. These included plate, platter, mug sherds, dark green wine/ale/cider bottle glass, English mustard bottle glass, splintered food bone, fish bone, clay smoking pipes, porcelain doll fragments, ceramic marbles, and many kilos of marine shell (see Fig. 15). These artifacts date from 1862 to 1886.

The historical and archaeological evidence recovered concerning Ballast Point provides facts evidence for interpreting economic and ethnic behaviors in this dynamic community. The monument could develop educational displays and programs to explain these behaviors as elements in the greater Point Loma area at the time the lighthouses operated on Point Loma. The personal, domestic, and industrial artifacts can illustrate those behaviors.

The following are summarized conclusions:

1. Domestic Kitchen Behavior. Kitchen refuse in the form of white ceramics, annular mixing and serving bowls, forks and ladles, beverage bottle glass, mustard and other sauce bottles, weapon ammunition debris, and clay smoking pipe fragments from the Whaler's Shanty probably was deposited on the downhill side of the former Fort Guijarros ruins, which extend west of Building 539.

2. Blacksmith Behavior. Blacksmith refuse in the form of coal, coal clinkers, metal slag, cut bar stock, discarded metals, broken tools, and dark charcoal-rich soil probably was deposited on the downhill side of the former Fort Guijarros ruins, which extend west of Building 539.

3. Boat Yard Behavior. Boat yard repair and maintenance debris in the form of brass ship nails, copper sheet, red and green paint drops, lead weights, chain link, and fisheries gear probably were dropped among the kitchen and blacksmith refuse west of the former Fort Guijarros ruins.

4. Personal and Domestic Behaviors. Trash pits and privy holes were back-filled with kitchen, domestic, and personal trash from the whalers. Artifacts include buttons, buckles, pocket change, jack knives, shoe parts, undergarment hooks, and toy marbles.

5. Personal Behavior in Domestic Settings. Married families lived with some of the whalers and would have deposited female artifacts (blouse buttons, shoe buttons and hooks, under garment hooks, ornaments, cologne bottle glass, and ornamental ceramics) and children's recreational items (marbles, doll parts, dice, dominoes, wheeled and cast iron toys).

Relationship of Ballast Point and La Playa to Other Communities

The relationship of the 1858 to 1886 European-American whaling and Chinese fishing camp on Ballast Point to the greater Point Loma and San Diego Bay communities is deeply integrated. Ancient maritime traditions enabled Portuguese, English, Chinese, African and other ethnic groups to live and work together in close quarters on ships (May 1985a; 1985b; 1986; 1987). Those same traditions played out on Ballast Point, which enabled a diverse group of men and their families to live and work whaling and fishing trades in close proximity. Interaction manifest in Asian ceramics in the European whaler's trash pit and European items and Caucasian cut hair in the Chinese refuse pit support this level of interaction. Differences in economics and selection of goods are also manifest in the refuse pits.

When the Army arrived in 1873 to evict the whaling and fishing community on Ballast Point, those mariners simply moved north to La Playa or east across San Diego Bay to North Island (May 1986). A booming Chinese ship building boat yard at La Playa would create numerous large redwood junks to be used in the emerging abalone industry. Later, some Chinese moved to New Town to form residential and commercial operations. The European mariners turned from whaling to farming, freight hauling, and other activities in New Town.

As the Anti-Asian sentiment grew elsewhere in California, those early Chinese fishermen simply moved south to Baja California and shifted to collecting abalone to be sold in San Francisco by syndicates (McPhail 1977; May 1986). New Chinese families moved to New Town to provide labor for railroad construction and agriculture. The Anti-Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 drove Asians from fishing and the abalone industry to low paying jobs in the laundry and house servant industries. The Chinese of New Town became insular and withdrawn. There is no record of the Ballast Point Chinese by 1882.

Alphaeus and Prince William Packard took to the Baja California seas to continue hunting whales well into the 1890s, but also purchased land in Temecula and San Pasqual to farm during the summers (May 1986). Prince William vanished from the historical record after 1897, but Alphaeus continued farming and accepting mail at the Bernardo post office until about 1900. The Johnson family simply vanished from the historical record.

Ballast Point became Army and Light House Service property in the 1890s. Other than wave-washed sherds of Chinese Celadon bowls, Pismo clams and the black-smeared sand of the whaler's tryworks ovens, no evidence of the mid 19th century community survived. When the Chinese boat yard closed, La Playa became a ghost town of vacant buildings and piles of discarded goods. Italian and Portuguese fisher folk moved into La Playa in 1886 and bought homes in the Roseville subdivision created by Louis Rose (May 1985b; 1986). This community would slowly grow to become the largest tuna fishing community in California by the mid 20th century. The multi-ethnic communities of Ballast Point and La Playa served as springboards for early maritime industries in San Diego.

Educational Opportunities

The historical and archaeological materials associated with Ballast Point and La Playa offer numerous educational opportunities for Cabrillo National Monument. The U.S. Light House on Point Loma served as a lookout position for spotting whales and William Price doubled duty as a lighthouse keeper and whaler. He integrated his operation with many of the other small companies on Ballast Point. The whaling operation involved an ethnically diverse community of old mariners with roots in New England and the South Pacific and carried on 400-year-old traditions.

Exhibits using black and white line drawings created for publications on the Ballast Point whaling industry could be reproduced for large stand up exhibits at Cabrillo National Monument. Photographs of similar whaling stations could be used to show typical operations. Sample artifacts could be borrowed from the U.S. Navy for exhibits depicting both Chinese and European personal and domestic activities on Ballast Point. These could include Asian Celadon and Double Happiness bowls, Asian cut shell scraps, British and American white ironstone ceramics, clay smoking pipes and English wine/ale/cider bottles.

Photographs of the Chinese junk building operation at La Playa could be used to depict the majesty of this important early fishing industry in San Diego. An artist could be retained who would depict hypothetical scenes, such as had been done by fine artist Jay Wegter for the Ballast Point Chinese fishing camp. The interactive relationship of those early Chinese with the Packard and Johnson whaling companies could be presented to break stereotypes of segregation that really did not exist until the end of the 19th century. Questions could be posed to challenge why segregation occurred and what can be learned from these early communities.


In conclusion, Ballast Point and La Playa offer important historical and archaeological evidence for the multi-ethnic communities that existed on Point Loma between 1846 and 1900 (May 1987). The artifact and field note collections are housed in Building 257, on Naval Base Point Loma. Cooperative arrangements could be negotiated with the Navy to use these materials in educational operations on the bay side of Point Loma.


Clarke, Robert
1954 Open Boats Whaling in the Azores; the History and Present Methods of a Relic Industry. In Discovery Reports. Volume 26: 2-10.

Dana, Richard Henry
1964 Two Years Before The Mast. Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press.

Davis, William H.
1969 Dream of Glory. In San Diego Daily Sun, 13(1887) 129, Reprinted, Journal of San Diego History, 13(2).

Hayes, Benjamin I.
1929 Pioneer Notes From the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, 1 849-1875. Los Angeles: Private Printing.

Henderson, David
1972 Men and Whales in Scammon's Lagoon, Baja California Travels Series. Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop.

May, Ronald V.,
1982 The Search for Fort Guijarros: An Archaeological Test of a Legendary 18th Century Spanish Fort in San Diego. In Fort Guijarros, Tenth Annual Cabrillo Festival Seminar. (1)10:1-22.

1985a The Fort That Never Was on Ballast Point. Journal of San Diego History. (36)2:121-136.

1985b Schooners, Sloops and Ancient Mariners: Research Implications of Shore Whaling in San Diego. Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly. (21) 4:1-24.

1986 Dog Holes, Bomb-lances and Devil-fish: Boom Times for the San Diego Whaling Industry. Journal of San Diego History. (36) 2:73-90.

1987 The Maritime Tradition of Shore Whaling: Research Implications From Ballast Point in San Diego Bay. Fort Guijarros Quarterly, 1(3): 6-14.

Nichols, Thomas Leo
1983 California Shore Whaling, 1854-1900. Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Geography, California State University, Northridge.

Robotti, Frances Diane
1962 Whaling and Old Salem. New York: Bonanza Books.

Ruhlen, George
1967 San Diego Barracks. Journal of San Diego History, 12(2): 1-2.

Scammon, Charles M.
1874 The Maritime Mammals of the North-western Coast of North America, Described and Illustrated Together with an Account of the American Whale Fishery. New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons.

Smythe, William E.
1907 History of San Diego, 1542-1908. San Diego: The History Company.


San Diego Union
San Diego Herald
San Francisco Bulletin

Government Documents

Great Register of Voters, 1877
U.S. Products of Industry, 1860
U.S. Census of Industry, 1870

Archives Documents

Davidson, Winifred
1930 Loma Lore, San Diego Scrapbook, Over Size Book, San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives.

Hensley, Herbert
1952 The Memoirs of Herbert C. Hensley, History of San Diego, City, County, and Region, Through the Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Recollections of the Author, Compiled and Edited by Him Over A Period of Three Years, 1949-1952. San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives.

McCoy, James
1869 Letter of Record, December 22, 1869. San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives.

Wentworth, Lucy Brown
no date. Notes, San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives.

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Last Updated: 06-Apr-2005