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Army and Navy Academy

Army Navy Academy

Army and Navy Academy, a private military school for seventh to twelfth grade boys in Carlsbad, traces its history back over 100 years. According to a historical timeline provided on the academy’s website, that history began when Captain Thomas A. Davis founded the San Diego Army and Navy Academy with thirteen students in 1910. The timeline also notes that Capt. Davis founded his school not in Carlsbad but in Pacific Beach, at the old Balboa Hotel. So, what historical threads tie a modern school in Carlsbad to an old hotel in Pacific Beach?

In 1910 the Hotel Balboa (not Balboa Hotel) was the latest occupant of the former campus of the San Diego College of Letters, built to be the primary attraction of the new Pacific Beach subdivision established in 1887. The cornerstone of the college had been laid with great ceremony in January 1888, just weeks after lots in Pacific Beach were first put on sale, and the college opened with 37 students in September 1888. The college building was a large wooden structure designed and built by James W. Reid, architect of the recently completed Hotel del Coronado. However, the college was unable to repay construction costs and when Reid sued, and won, it was closed and the property, including the college building, was sold at auction at the courthouse door in 1891.

Over the next decade the college campus in Pacific Beach changed hands several more times and was used for such purposes as a Y. M. C. A. camp and summer school and, in 1901, as a hotel, the College Inn. In 1904, Folsom Bros. Co. first leased then bought the college campus intending to convert it into a first-class resort. Folsom Bros. renovated the buildings, improved the landscaping and sponsored a contest to name their new property. The winner received a $100 lot in PB or $100 in gold for suggesting Hotel Balboa. However, the Hotel Balboa also did not live up to expectations and Folsom Bros. sought other uses for the property. In 1909 a portion was subleased to the Pacific Beach Country Club.

Captain Thomas Alderson Davis had served in Puerto Rico as an officer in the 6th Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1907 he had established a military school in El Paso but in 1910 he visited San Diego, liked what he saw, and decided to stay. He leased the Hotel Balboa and on November 23, 1910, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy began classes there with a group of 13 cadets and with Capt. Davis as the only instructor. The academy grew rapidly; by the end of its second year it had added courses and faculty and claimed to have 73 students. Growth in attendance was accompanied by increased status; in 1914 the academy was recognized by the war department as a Class A school, which entitled it to the detail of a retired army officer to serve on the faculty at the army’s expense.

In 1921, after ten years in its rented quarters in Pacific Beach, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy announced that it was purchasing the Point Loma Golf and Country Club next to the new Navy and Marine Corps training centers on San Diego Bay. Capt. Davis explained that he expected proximity to these military training facilities would be of benefit to his cadets, particularly those interested in naval training. However, the move to Point Loma never happened; Capt. Davis was unable to obtain the terms he wanted for the Point Loma property and instead purchased the property the academy had been leasing in Pacific Beach. In 1923 Capt. Davis also purchased two blocks on the north side of the campus and in 1925 two more blocks on the west side.

Most of the cadets attending the San Diego Army and Navy Academy were residential students who lived on campus during the academic year. They had been accommodated in the original college buildings and then, as enrollment increased, in wooden cottages built elsewhere on the grounds. When enrollment continued to increase during the 1920s, passing 200 in 1924, these accommodations also became insufficient and the academy initiated a more ambitious building program. A mess hall capable of seating 300 was built in 1924, an auditorium and infirmary in 1927, and a three-story reinforced concrete dormitory in 1928. A swimming pool and four-story concrete dormitory were added in early 1930 as attendance grew to more than 400. In anticipation of continued growth, another pair of four-story dormitories were completed by the end of 1930. These rows of large concrete dormitories and the other new structures on the college campus site dwarfed the original college buildings and dominated the skyline of Pacific Beach for decades.

However, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy suffered along with the rest of the country as the Great Depression took hold in the early 1930s. Enrollment of cadets declined to under 200 and the academy found itself unable to repay the costs of its building program. In 1930 the academy received the first of a series of loans from the Security Trust & Savings Bank of San Diego, secured by a deed of trust to the college campus property, and in 1932 all the ‘furniture, furnishings and equipment of every kind and character’ belonging to the academy were mortgaged to the bank (including the knives, forks and spoons in the dining room and the band drum major’s baton). When the academy fell behind in repayment of these obligations, and was even unable to pay taxes on the property, the bank declared it in default and in 1936 announced its intention to sell the property.

In August 1936, the San Diego Union carried a special announcement from Col. Davis (he had received an honorary ‘Kentucky Colonel’ commission from the governor of Kentucky in the 1920s), founder and for 25 years president of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, that he and his brother, Maj. John L. Davis, Jr., vice president and commandant, had resigned their positions and would no longer be associated with the academy in any way. He could be contacted care of Davis Military Academy in Carlsbad. An article in the same paper added that the Davis Military Academy had leased the Red Apple Inn in Carlsbad and that school would open in September, 1936.

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The Davises were joined in Carlsbad by several other members of the administration and faculty from the Pacific Beach academy, including Charles Bain, Raymond Ede, Samuel Peterson and Maj. William Atkinson and his wife Virginia. Many of these original staff members later rose to high positions at the new school, including two future presidents, and several buildings on the campus are named in their honor.

At the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Pacific Beach, an active-duty army officer who had been professor of military science and tactics took over as commandant. The academy retained its high rating and recognition by the war and navy departments, meaning that graduates were entitled to admission to the military academies at West Point and Annapolis. 150 students had enrolled for the academic year beginning in September 1936 and 20 of the original 30 faculty members would return.

The academy did begin classes in September 1936 but in March 1937 the property in Pacific Beach was sold to the John E. Brown College Company, which announced that it would be renamed Brown Military Academy. The change in name and ownership was apparently popular on the Pacific Beach campus; the 1937 graduating class voted unanimously to be graduated from Brown Military Academy and to have its insignia on their rings. Col. and Maj. Davis consented to the sale with the stipulation that they would be allowed to transfer the name, San Diego Army and Navy Academy, to their new school in Carlsbad.

In December 1938, a little over two years after founding the Davis Military Academy in Carlsbad and a year after it had reacquired the San Diego Army and Navy Academy brand, Col. Davis resigned and returned to his former school in Pacific Beach as assistant to the president of John Brown Schools. He was named president of Brown Military Academy in February 1940, resuming his role, after a brief interruption, as head of the first military academy he had established in San Diego. Maj. Davis took his place as president of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad.

Col. Davis retired from Brown Military Academy in 1954 and in February 1958 John Brown Schools announced that the academy would relocate to Glendora to make way for commercial development of its Pacific Beach campus. Most of the 475 cadets and 90 faculty were expected to make the move, although some faculty joined former headmaster Louis Bitterlin in opening San Diego Military Academy in Solana Beach (San Diego Military Academy closed in 1977 and the site, on Academy Drive, is now Santa Fe Christian Schools).

In June 1958 Col. Davis, then 84 years old, was honorary reviewing officer at the final commencement exercise at Brown Military Academy in Pacific Beach, where he had founded San Diego Army and Navy Academy 48 years earlier. Shortly thereafter, many of the academy buildings, including the former Hotel Balboa, were demolished and replaced with a shopping center, Pacific Plaza, which opened in 1960. A plaque outside the Great Buffet restaurant in Pacific Plaza commemorates the ‘West Point of the West’ which formerly occupied the site.

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The large concrete dormitories remained standing until 1965 when they too were demolished and replaced with an apartment complex, now the Plaza condominiums, in 1970. The Brown Military Academy campus in Glendora was itself was closed in 1968.

End of Browns

Today the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad is still located on the site where Col. Thomas A. Davis established Davis Military Academy in 1936 in the former Red Apple Inn. In 1937 it assumed the name of the academy Col. Davis had first founded in 1910 in Pacific Beach but dropped the ‘San Diego’ from its name in 1943, the same year that Maj. Atkinson, the former bandleader at the Pacific Beach academy, began a 30-year tenure as president. In 1948 Army and Navy Academy also began a building program which has never really stopped. The latest addition to the campus is a new sports center, opened in 2013, where a sign reminds passers-by that it all began over a century ago.

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Original 1887 PB Map

The San Diego History Center library in Balboa Park is a rich source of historical information, not only original documents from the early days of San Diego and a huge collection of historical photographs but also a knowledgeable staff. One day I asked their map expert if she knew about a map of the Cloverdale subdivision by H. K. Wheeler from the 1880s. She didn’t, but a few minutes later she returned and said that H. K. Wheeler had ‘rung a bell’ and would I be interested in another map by H. K. Wheeler, this one of the Pacific Beach subdivision from 1887. What she showed me was a large (18 X 20-inch) photocopy of a much larger (9 X 10-foot) map which she said was rolled up and stored on top of a shelf in the storage area behind her desk. I had seen early maps of the Pacific Beach subdivision, including the map that was generally considered the original PB subdivision map (Map 697, recorded in January, 1892), but this map was significantly different and seemed like it could be a kind of ‘missing link’ in Pacific Beach history.

Wheeler PB Map 5

Central portion of 1887 subdivision map of Pacific Beach by H. K. Wheeler. (SDHC #1669)

The most striking feature of the 1887 Wheeler map is how similar it is to what Pacific Beach has become in the intervening century. The entire area from the ocean to about Rose Creek and from the tips of Mission Beach and Crown Point to the Mt. Soledad foothills was divided into a grid of city blocks by north-south ‘streets’ and east-west ‘avenues’, most of which exist today and some of which have even kept their original names (Grand, Thomas and Reed Avenues). There was even a four-block area in the center of the community that was then set aside for a College Campus and which today is the Pacific Plaza shopping center. There were over 400 city blocks, most of them in the same location as they are today and many with the same block numbers.

In the 1887 Wheeler map the north-south streets were numbered, from First Street (nearest the ocean) to Seventeenth Street (near Rose Creek), with a somewhat wider street named Broadway (now Ingraham) between Eighth and Ninth. The east-west avenues included the much wider Grand Avenue, which was also to be the right-of-way for a railway to San Diego. Avenues north of Grand were named for states, except for College (now Garnet) Avenue, which ran by the College Campus. South of Grand the avenues were named for officials of the Pacific Beach Company and other local real estate operators; Thomas, Reed, Gassen, Hubbell, Hensley, Platt, Metcalf, Hale, Collins and Poiser.

In the 1892 map, however, the grid of city blocks was limited to a central slice of Pacific Beach, between Reed Avenue and Alabama Avenue (now Diamond Street). The streets and avenues in this area were the same as on the original 1887 map, and with the same names, but the newer map reclassified most of the area between today’s Diamond and Loring Streets, and between Reed Avenue and what became Pacific Beach Drive, as rural ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres. Most of the streets did not continue into these rural areas and many of avenues that had appeared on the original map in these areas had been eliminated. Most of the area north of Loring and south of PB Drive was no longer included on the map at all. The 1892 map retained about 125 of the original 400-plus city blocks platted in the 1887 map, while adding about 75 new acre lots.

Map 697, Recorded January 1892

Map 697, Recorded January 1892

The Spring 1976 issue of the Journal of San Diego History contained a paper by Zelma Bays Locker titled Whatever Happened to Izard Street? Pacific Beach and its Street Names. From 1954 to 1967 Mrs. Locker had been the librarian in charge of the downtown San Diego Library’s California Room, a repository of local and regional historical archives, and after her retirement from the library she served as a director of the San Diego Historical Society, which became the San Diego History Center. She also lived on Yarmouth Court in Mission Beach, on the ‘outskirts’ of Pacific Beach, so she was well qualified to write an academic article on Pacific Beach history.

Mrs. Locker’s article was primarily about the street names that exist in Pacific Beach today, particularly the alphabetical series of north-south streets (Bayard, Cass, Dawes, etc.; Allison Street, the first in the series, has since been renamed Mission Boulevard). In 1900 the city of San Diego decided that all street names had to be unique, and since there were many other communities of San Diego with numbered streets or streets named for states, those in Pacific Beach would have to be renamed. She was unable to find any historical record of how the streets were renamed and her own research led her to conclude that the only underlying theme for these names was that they were all statesmen who would have been familiar to the public in 1900 (even though some of the names were misspelled, e.g., Everts Street was apparently named for William Evarts and Fanuel for Peter Fanueil). The street between Haines and Jewell, originally Broadway, was renamed Izard Street in 1900 after a revolutionary war patriot, but the phonetics of this name did not ‘set well’ with residents and eventually it was changed to Ingraham.

Grand Avenue and the avenues named for Thomas and Reed were apparently unique within the city in 1900 and were not renamed, but the avenues on the 1892 map north of Grand were renamed, again in an alphabetical sequence, for gemstones or minerals, from Agate to Hornblend (again with misspellings; Felspar Street for Feldspar and Hornblend for Hornblende). When the ‘acreage country’ north of Diamond was re-subdivided again in the early 1900s, restoring the avenues that had existed on the original 1887 map between what had become Agate, Beryl, Chalcedony and Diamond, these ‘new’ avenues could not be incorporated into the alphabetical gemstone sequence. Some, like Turquoise, Tourmaline and Sapphire were named for gemstones anyway, but out of sequence. Mrs. Locker could not account for the names of others, such as Law, Wilbur and Loring, or for Missouri Street, which she called a ‘real puzzler’. She wrote that it was not on the ‘original 1887 map’ and was first named in Hauser’s Subdivision in 1904 (actually it had been named in F. T. Scripps’ Ocean Front subdivision in 1903). She added that there had been a Missouri Street in University Heights since 1888 but that it was now 32nd Street.

Missouri Street was a puzzler for Mrs. Locker because she was unaware of the actual original 1887 subdivision map by H. K. Wheeler, the ‘missing link’ in PB’s historical record. She wrote in her article that the first subdivision map of Pacific Beach was platted and the land put on the market in October 1887 by the Pacific Beach Company, but curiously enough, the original map was not filed with the County Recorder until January 2, 1892, a fact which would have a later bearing on some street names. Actually, the first subdivision map was platted in October 1887 (although lots were not put on the market until December) but the map that was filed on January 2, 1892, Map 697, was not the original but an amended map of a smaller and more rural subdivision. The original 1887 map did include a Missouri Avenue, between Alabama and Idaho Avenue (now Chalcedony Street). Missouri Avenue was deleted from the 1892 map to make way for a row of acre lots, including Acre Lot 49, between Alabama and Idaho. John and Julia Hauser purchased Acre Lot 49 in 1903 and in 1904 they filed a plat of Hauser’s Subdivision of Acre Lot 49 which basically returned it to the configuration on the original 1887 map; two city blocks separated by a street named Missouri (apparently, the Missouri Street in University Heights had already been renamed and no longer represented a conflict at that point).

Map of Hauser's Subdivision

Map of Hauser’s Subdivision

Although it may be true that the 1887 Wheeler map itself was never recorded, over a hundred deeds to Pacific Beach property were recorded prior to 1892 and some of these deeds include legal descriptions which could only have been derived from the original Wheeler map. For example, Matilda O’Neil was granted a deed in April 1888 for Block 295, between Gassen and Hubbell Avenues. Gassen and Hubbell Avenues appeared on the original Wheeler map but neither were still listed on the 1892 map. F. W. Barnes bought lots 21-28 of Block 166 in March 1889; Block 166 was shown on the original Wheeler map but not on the 1892 revision where it had been incorporated into Acre Lot 64 (Barnes then bought all of Acre Lot 64 in 1892). Other deeds from this period include specific references to the ‘official map of Pacific Beach, made by H. K. Wheeler, 1887’, or similar terms. On the other hand, no acre lots were sold prior to 1892. Acre lots did not exist on the original subdivision map and first appeared on the revised Map 697. Thirteen acre lots were sold in just a few months after Map 697 was recorded.

The 18 X 20-inch black-and-white copy of the original 1887 Pacific Beach subdivision map by H. K. Wheeler at the History Center had markings on it which suggested that the original had been used to keep track of or to display the extent of lot sales. The map was extremely detailed; each of the city blocks showed the individual lots on that block and some of these lots were ‘marked out’, presumably indicating that they had been sold and were no longer available (some of the ‘marked-out’ lots were also apparently pasted over, perhaps indicating that the sale had fallen through and they were again available). The marked-out lots generally corresponded to lots for which deeds had been recorded in the County Recorder’s office.

Eventually, the History Center library staff let me see the original map; they lifted it down from its shelf and laid it out on one of tables in the library. The map was in two halves, each of them five feet wide and nine feet long and rolled up together. When unrolled each completely covered one of the large library tables. At this scale each city block was over 1 ½ inch wide and nearly 3 ½ inches long. Within the blocks, what had appeared to be black markings on the black-and-white copy turned out to be either red or blue, with red predominating in the west half and blue in the east half. According to library protocol I wasn’t allowed to photograph the map, but I was able to write down most of the block numbers with red or blue marks and later found that the blue lots generally matched lots endowed by the Pacific Beach Company to the San Diego College Company, to be sold by the college to raise funds for operations (these lots didn’t sell well and the college closed after a few years). The red lots matched lots purchased by private buyers. There actually were small pieces of paper pasted over a few of the lots, apparently to ‘erase’ the markings beneath them if a sale fell through.

The History Center card catalog entry for the photocopy (M1669) indicates that the original map was stored in the archives but not cataloged because of its ‘unmanageable’ size, and that the photocopy was supplied in 1987 by Mr. John Fry of Pacific Beach, who obtained permission to make the copy (John Fry is the long-time president of the Pacific Beach Historical Society). When I asked John about the map he could only recall trucking something up to Kearny Mesa where they put it on a wall and took a picture of it, so the provenance of the map and its accession to the History Center in Balboa Park remains a mystery. A photo in the center’s photo collection of the Pacific Beach Company’s downtown office in 1888 includes a large map of Pacific Beach, but the details of that map do not match the 1887 Wheeler map.

Outside the Pacific Beach Company office, 1888.

Outside the Pacific Beach Company office, 1888. (SDHC #3797)

One thing that does seem certain is that Zelma Bays Locker, despite her years at the California Room and the Historical Society, never saw the actual original 1887 Pacific Beach subdivision map by H. K. Wheeler.

The Collins and the Petrel

The Collins - Wallace monument at Mount Hope.

The Collins – Wallace monument at Mount Hope.

Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego contains the graves of many early residents of the city, some marked by notable monuments. One monument is particularly notable for its intimations of tragedy; a young mother, her two children and another young lady share the same death date. Carved in a side panel is an explanation; Frances J., Mary E., and John C. Collins, and Margaret G. Wallace ‘drowned by capsizing of yacht Petrel, near Roseville, Sept. 1, 1890’. The name of the husband and father, John W. Collins, with a death date a year and a half later, is also carved in the monument.

Epitaph on Collins - Wallace monument

Epitaph on Collins – Wallace monument

The Collins family had come to San Diego from Wyoming in 1887 where J. W. Collins and D. D. Dare had been in the banking business. In January 1888 they opened the California National Bank with prominent local citizen William Collier as president, Dare as vice-president and Collins as cashier. In early 1890 a subsidiary, the California Savings Bank, was also opened, with J. W. Collins as president. The Collins family lived, appropriately, on Bankers Hill, in the magnificent Victorian home at the corner of First and Kalmia streets now known as the Long – Waterman Residence. J. W. Collins had purchased the house from John Long in June 1890 and sold it to Jane Waterman in November (Jane Waterman’s husband, Robert Waterman, was then governor of California and owner of the most profitable gold mine in San Diego County; his term as governor expired two months later and three months after that he himself expired at his new home and was also buried in Mount Hope Cemetery).

The Long - Waterman Residence

The Long – Waterman (and Collins) Residence

The Petrel was built in Boston and had reportedly won five races there before being brought to San Diego on the bark Wildwood in July 1888. That fall she competed in a series of races on San Diego Bay which apparently captivated the public, receiving front-page coverage in the San Diego Union. The Petrel, a sloop, and the Volunteer, a catboat, winners of their respective classes in a San Diego Yacht Club race, then raced each other in what the Union called one of the most exciting races ever sailed on the bay. The Volunteer won, but the winning margin of 14 seconds over a fifteen mile course was considered so trifling that the honors were said to be even.

The Petrel then faced off against the catboat Teaser in what was to be a series of three races. The Petrel was a sloop, ‘built for speed’, and could carry, in addition to a mainsail and jib, a club gaff topsail and jib topsail and a spinnaker for running before the wind. To balance all this canvas the Petrel also carried five tons of lead ballast. She was 25 feet long overall with a beam of 9 feet. A catboat like the Teaser had only a single mainsail and a wider beam. To compensate for these differences in class the Teaser was granted a time allowance 5 ½ minutes for the first race; conditions for the second race would be based on the results of the first. There would be no other restrictions on sail or ballast.

In their first race the Petrel crossed the finish line nearly 7 minutes ahead of the Teaser, winning even after taking the 5 ½ minute allowance into account. In the second race, held a month later, the Petrel won easily but it was not considered a fair race owing in part to light winds. The third race was apparently never held; in August 1889 the Union complained ‘What is the matter with a race between the Teaser and the Petrel? These crack little yachts should make a gallant race and all San Diego would turn out and watch the struggle for supremacy’.

By 1890 the racing frenzy had apparently cooled, or at least was no longer front page news in the San Diego Union, but the Petrel remained at Hunt’s boatyard on the bay where her owner, John Young, took her out sailing most Saturdays. On the last Sunday in August Captain William P. Hay, a local shipping agent, approached Mrs. Collins at the United Presbyterian Church and remarked that he intended to take Mrs. Hay for a sail on the bay Monday if he could get a suitable yacht. He asked Mrs. Collins if she would like to join them and when she replied that she would Capt. Hay told her to meet him at Hunt’s boatyard at 10 o’clock in the morning and to bring her children Mary and Johnny and a picnic lunch. Capt. Hay also invited Miss Maggie Wallace, the pastor’s daughter, and she also accepted. Mr. Collins was away at the time, on a business trip to San Francisco.

At about 8 o’clock Monday morning, September 1, 1890, Capt. Hay telephoned Mrs. Collins to tell her that he had secured the Petrel, ‘a yacht well known in San Diego waters’, and that everything was in readiness for a delightful sail on the bay. Mr. Hunt brought the Petrel in from her mooring and the party sailed away about 10 o’clock. Conditions on the bay were not ideal; according to the Union there was a pretty stiff breeze blowing and ‘white caps flashed like puffs of steam from a million factories’. Hunt was concerned enough to suggest to Capt. Hay that he take in some of the sail but Capt. Hay replied ‘Oh, I guess not. I’m a pretty good hand at sailing anyway. I guess she’ll go all right’.

About noon a group of Portuguese fishermen at Roseville, on the west side of the bay near Ballast Point, saw a yacht sailing down the channel. Suddenly they saw that ‘a gale had struck the cloud of canvas’ and the yacht suddenly careened, tipped her nose and went straight down. The fishermen jumped into boats and pulled out to where the yacht had gone down but found no trace of the yacht or her occupants so they returned. A German fisherman returning to the bay later reported that he was startled to see a woman’s body floating in the water and he began to retrieve it when another body came to the surface nearby. This shocked him enough that he released the woman’s body and departed, ‘abandoning the drowned persons to the mercy of the sharks and fishes’ and ‘incurring much public censure’. Rumors of a disaster reached San Diego about 3 o’clock and search parties converged on the scene but found nothing that evening except for a coat which was identified as belonging to Capt. Hay and a fruit jar and other items which may have been part of a picnic lunch. The Union reported the following morning that all that was certain was that the party of six had drowned and no bodies had been recovered.

In the immediate aftermath and in the absence of any real evidence of what had occurred, the Union reported the speculation of other members of the waterfront community (all of whom were also apparently called ‘Captain’). A Captain Kehoe said he had seen the party depart from Hunt’s boatyard and that he would not have gone out in that yacht with such a sail in so strong a gale. She was not safe under so much canvas and only the most experienced sailor should have attempted it. ‘A boat built as she was will tip very easily, and she had so much lead in her that once full of water she was bound to go down like a stone’. The Petrel’s owner, Captain Young, said that he had only agreed to allow Capt. Hay to use the boat because he understood that another experienced Captain would also be aboard, and that it would not be safe for one man to take out a party of women and children.

The next day searchers hired the tugboat Santa Fe and returned to the site of the sinking. A weighted line was dragged along the bottom and soon snagged an obstacle which was raised far enough to identify as the sunken yacht. When it had emerged far enough for its mast to be lashed to the tug it was brought back to the docks where a crane would be used to raise it out of the water the following morning. Meanwhile, the body of Mrs. Collins had been found floating in the channel. A message was dispatched to friends of Mr. Collins in San Francisco conveying as many particulars of the calamity as necessary and requesting them to break the intelligence to Mr. Collins so that he might receive it as gently as possible. Apparently this was done and word was received that he would be in San Diego on Wednesday evening.

The Union also began a campaign to place some of the blame on what it perceived to be the inadequate efforts of the first responders, who were conspicuously identified as foreigners. The Portuguese, who had actually witnessed the accident and responded immediately but found no survivors or wreckage, were now said to have made no effort whatever to rescue the drowning and drowned, nor to locate the sunken yacht. ‘They are a churlish and unsentimental lot, to be sure, but even the most superlative boorishness is not accepted by the people as sufficient reason why they should have manifested such supreme and inhuman indifference to the fate of the party’. The German fisherman who had attempted to recover the body of a women but then released her upon the appearance of another corpse was ‘not a popular individual at present’. The Union inferred from his description that it was probably Mrs. Collins that he had begun to recover and that the second body was one of her children, based on the fact that ‘he intimates as clearly as his incomprehensible stupidity will permit that it was the body of a child’. ‘Who knows? Perhaps there might still have been a spark of life in that mother or her child; perhaps they had not been long in the water; perhaps had they been towed at once to shore resuscitation would not have been impossible’.

At the dock the Petrel was raised and although it had been expected that one or more of the bodies would be found on board the only vestiges of the picnic party were three parasols, those of the women on board, a small jar of jelly and a few other articles. The yacht itself had received comparatively little damage and could soon be repaired, although the Union speculated that her owners would probably ‘not be compelled to refuse many requests for her service hereafter’. Also, an accident like this would revive her past record; ‘before she came to this coast she carried a party of four to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean and at another time a party of eight and that in a race in Pacific waters a year or more ago she dipped enough to create consternation among her occupants and compel them to bail her out with hats’. The search for the other bodies continued; the bay in the vicinity of the sinking was dragged, and cannon were fired over the water and dynamite dropped into the bay in the belief that this would raise drowned bodies.

Although it was at first intended for Mrs. Collins’ funeral to be held at her late home, at the corner of First and Kalmia, it was deemed more appropriate to hold it at the Presbyterian Church, where friends and relatives gathered to pay their respects to the only recovered victim of ‘the most horrifying calamity that ever happened in the bay of San Diego’. After the service Mr. Collins and Rev. Wallace entered a closed carriage and the cortege moved away to Mount Hope Cemetery.

The bodies of the other victims turned up over the next few weeks. Mrs. Hay’s body was found floating in the surf about three miles south of the Hotel del Coronado on September 5. Her beautifully engraved gold watch had stopped at 11:39, presumably the very instant the capsizing had occurred. Also found nearby were two straw hats, one black, evidently the headgear of an elderly woman, and one white with a black-headed shawl pin thrust through it ‘in the fashion that ladies usually pin their hats to their hair’. The one was thought to have belonged to Mrs. Hay and the other to Miss Wallace. These findings were cited as evidence that the bodies would probably be found south of the bay, but on September 9 searchers dragging the channel found the body of William Hay almost on the spot where the yacht had disappeared.

On September 17 fishermen recovered a body of a child about two miles south of the head of Point Loma and returned it to San Diego. This turned out to be the body of Mary Collins, which was soon conveyed to Mount Hope. Miss Wallace’s body was found by a fisherman inside the bay on September 25 and a graveside funeral was held at Mount Hope. Finally, on October 6, the body of 9-year-old Johnnie Collins was found off Ensenada and after the necessary permits had been obtained from the Mexican consul and the Collector of Customs the body was returned and also interred at Mount Hope.

A few weeks later the news was that Dr. Bowditch Morton had bought the ‘famous yacht Petrel’ and proposed to have her put in first class order. He claimed to not have the least fear in using her when she is in proper repair. He would cut down her sails, put in airtight compartments and reduce the ballast.

Three years later, on October 26, 1893, a Captain Maitland of the British ship Valkyrie took two friends for a little cruise in the Petrel. In the stream, abreast the Santa Fe wharf, in a choppy sea caused by an ebbing tide and west wind, a sudden squall struck the sail and almost capsized the sloop. Capt. Maitland slacked the line and righted her but the boom swung around and struck the water and ‘in a twinkling the treacherous old craft was lying on her side, with Capt. Maitland and his friends in the bay’. The Union noted that there had been doubts expressed about Capt. Hay’s seamanship in the Collins tragedy but since Capt. Maitland’s seamanship could certainly not be called into question this accident demonstrated that the craft herself was unseaworthy and luckless. ‘The Petrel is regarded as a hoodoo along the waterfront. She has been remodeled and trimmed since the Collins tragedy, but she is built upon the wrong plan and won’t stand up if she has half a chance to lie down’.

John W. Collins had been out of town on September 1, 1890, and had not been directly involved in the Petrel disaster, but he was soon to be involved in a tragedy of his own making. In January 1891 he had become president of the California National Bank (and relinquished the presidency of the California Savings Bank). On November 12, 1891, customers were surprised to find the bank closed, with a note on the door explaining that ‘owing to continued shrinkage in deposits and our inability to promptly realize on our notes and accounts, the bank is temporarily closed’. The next day the subsidiary California Savings Bank also closed. A day later a national bank examiner assumed charge of the California National Bank and announced that the results of his examination would be forwarded to the comptroller of the currency and any further information would have to come from Washington. A few weeks later, based on his report, the comptroller of the currency appointed a receiver to oversee operations of the bank with a view to resumption of business within three months.

The resumption of business never occurred. On February 25, 1892, J. W. Collins was arrested at his rooms at the Brewster Hotel on a charge of embezzling and appropriating to his own use $200,000 of the funds of the bank. Bail was set at $50,000 and ‘in order to not create any excitement by Mr. Collins appearing on the street in charge of an officer’, he was confined to his rooms at the Brewster in custody of an officer while his friends attempted to secure the bond. On March 3, when the bond had still not been raised, a United States Marshal was sent to bring him to Los Angeles until his preliminary hearing. While the authorities waited outside Collins went into his bedroom as though to pack his valise. A shot rang out, officers burst into his bedroom, which was empty, then into the bathroom, where they found him stretched on the floor alongside the bathtub, blood pouring from his mouth and a smoking revolver in his hand. A doctor was summoned and pronounced him dead.

The Union accompanied the front-page news of Collins’ suicide with an editorial recalling the Petrel disaster; ‘The crash of the bullet that closed the chapter of the life of J. W. Collins yesterday afternoon was the last act in the tragedy that wiped the unhappy man’s wife and children out of existence two years ago on the bay. Even the most implacable enemy of Mr. Collins must admit that, embezzler of other people’s money though he may have been, the memory of his drowned babes and his wifeless home must have been strong upon him in that desperate extremity when he determined to escape further misery by the avenue of the suicide. The capsizing of the Petrel, the failure of the bank, the suicide of Mr. Collins – they make up the most tragic story ever chronicled in the history of San Diego county’.

On March 5 the body of John W. Collins was buried alongside his wife and children at Mount Hope. On April 4 the report of the receiver of the California Savings Bank revealed that it had been a front, operated as a ‘mere receiving depository’ of the California National Bank. Cash had been transferred from the California National Bank or simply entered in the books when necessary to make a good showing on reports. The July 1892 report of the receiver for the California National Bank was even more shocking, revealing that Mr. Collins had embezzled nearly $800,000 from the bank. ‘Although there have been published from time to time the most sensational statements regarding his methods of doing business and conducting the affairs of the bank, nothing has caused such undisguised astonishment as the facts brought to light yesterday’, the Union reported. ‘Just what methods Mr. Collins employed to bring about such a condition of affairs it is impossible to even conjecture. It will be apparent, however, to everybody in the least conversant with banking rules or business customs that they must have been decidedly irregular, if not actually criminal’. D. D. Dare had also looted about $400,000, making the total amount chargeable to them nearly $1,200,000, a staggering sum in the 1890s (Collins’ mansion at First and Kalmia had cost him $17,000). The Union concluded that ‘What has become of this vast sum of money is not known and probably never will be. Mr. Collins is dead and Mr. Dare is enjoying a secluded life in some obscure spot in Italy. Neither are in a position to explain, and probably would not if they could’.

The affairs of the defunct bank were unwound in dozens of legal actions over the next decade. A final auction of the bank’s assets was held in 1899; notes and other securities with a face value of over a million dollars were sold for $3350. San Diegans were occasionally reminded of the California National Bank fiasco when news of D. D. Dare filtered back from Europe; in 1894 he was said to be a portrait painter in Athens, Greece; in 1914 he applied to have his indictments withdrawn so that he could return to his beloved California, but his request was denied; in 1922 he was reported to be in Constantinople, Turkey, supporting himself selling prayer rugs. His indictments finally were dismissed in 1926, but by then he was thought to have died in Greece.

According to the San Diego Union, these reports called to mind a remarkable theory which was current in San Diego at that excited time and which received some credence; that President Collins, who was supposed to have killed himself after his arrest at the Brewster Hotel had actually escaped and joined Dare in Europe. A plaster cast was said to have been given to an undertaker who was ‘in on the deal’ and that this was buried as Collins’ body.  Whatever lies in his grave, John W. Collins’ memory is preserved along with the Petrel victims on their monument at Mount Hope.