Justinian Caire and Santa Cruz Island: The Rise and Fall of a California Dynasty

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University of Oklahoma Press, Feb 14, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 240 pages
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One of the fabled Channel Islands of Southern California, Santa Cruz was once the largest privately owned island off the coast of the continental United States. This multifaceted account traces the island’s history from its aboriginal Chumash population to its acquisition by The Nature Conservancy at the end of the twentieth century. The heart of the book, however, is a family saga: the story of French émigré Justinian Caire and his descendants, who owned and occupied the island for more than fifty years. The author, descended from Caire, uses family archives unavailable to earlier historians to recount the full, previously untold story.

Justinian Caire and Santa Cruz Island opens with Caire’s early life as a San Francisco businessman and his acquisition of Santa Cruz Island, where he created a ranching kingdom based on sheep, cattle, and wine. Frederic Caire Chiles examines the business practices of the Justinian Caire and Santa Cruz Island companies, documenting the island’s economic ups and downs and the environmental impact of ranching in those days. Above all, he looks at the family’s daily life on the island from the mid-nineteenth into the twentieth century. This epic contains tragic elements, as well. What began as a profitable ranch and an idyllic retreat ended in the family divided by bitter litigation and the forced sale of the island. Family diaries and letters enable Chiles to tell the story of an intensely private clan and its struggle to hold an island dynasty together.

The history of Santa Cruz Island has never been told so thoroughly or so well. Replete with intimate portraits and high drama, this California story will move readers as it informs them.


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Foreword by Marla Daily Preface
Chumash Limuw Becomes the Island of the Holy Cross
The Justinian Caire Family
The Caire Years on Santa Cruz Island Begin
Buildings and Water Systems
Out Ranches
The Struggle for Profitability
Death and Disappearance
Daughters against Mother
First Defeat in the Courts
A Fight to the Finish
2 Distant Thunder
Partition and Downfall
The Cherini Era Begins at the East End 23 The Cherinis Search for Profitability 24 The Last Days of Ranching on Santa Cruz Island

Diyersification into Wine
The Yision Completed 9 The Enterprise Continues
11 New Blood in the Family
11 The Life and Times of Pietro Carlo Rossi
The Legacy of Justinian Caire
The 1996 Earthquake the Fire and the Fate of Santa Cruz Island 14 The Stolen Will
Changing the Cuard 25 The Caire Legacy Disappears and the Carey Stanton Era Begins
Enter The Nature Conseniancy Appendix 1 Chronology 19101952
Superintendents 18751937
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (2013)

Frederic Caire Chiles is the author of Justinian Caire and Santa Cruz Island: The Rise and Fall of a California Dynasty. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of California–Santa Barbara and divides his time between London, Italy, and California.

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