Jim Denniston: John Vonderlin’s Favorite Pioneer

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

I’m beginning to think James Denniston is my favorite Half Moon Bay pioneer. Here’s four more newspaper stories about events related to him.

The first is a mention of him being given governmental permission to build a wharf. I believe this is the “Old Landing,” you mention in a story about him, and is the wharf shown on the 1863 Coast Survey map of Half Moon Bay I sent you ScreenShots of.

His rancho, centered on the location of  present day Princeton-by-the-Sea, was obviously an excellent flotsam and jetsam collection area given this newspaper mention in the September 25th, 1857 issue of “The Daily Alta.”

“A GOOD WHALING GROUND—Another huge whale came ashore a few days ago, on the ranch of  James Denisson,(sic) making it the third which has come ashore in the same place within the last eight months. This is larger then either of the others. It is of the species known as “humpbacks,” and measures sixty five feet in length. It is estimated it will yield forty barrels of prime oil.”

I found this mention amongst legal postings in the January 31st, 1858 issue of “The Daily Alta,” under the heading of “General File.” I wonder if his treasures from the sea from just a few months before went to finance this improvement, which was critical  to Half Moon Bay’s early development?

“Act to authorize James Dennison (sic) to build a wharf at Half Moon Bay, was passed.”

Just a few years later, he appears again in the troubled news of the day, in the July 16th, 1861 issue of “The Daily Alta.” Just months before the Southern states had rebelled and the attack on Fort Sumter had occurred.

“A CALIFORNIA CAVALRY REGIMENT—By notice elsewhere it will be seen that James G. Denniston has taken steps to form a Regiment of Cavalry in California, to assist in sustaining the Administration. A meeting of those favoring the purpose is called for Saturday evening, at the Mission Dolores. Under the tuition of Mr. Denniston, a regiment of calvary would reflect no discredit on our boasted horsemanship.”

And finally on August 3rd, 1868, “The Daily Alta,” had a short mention of what I believe is the Amesport Wharf. This helps to locate Denniston’s wharf as the one on the Coast Survey map.

“We learn that a new wharf is being constructed at Half-Moon Bay, which is to be one thousand feet long—and five hundred of which are already completed. The wharf is about one half way between Spanish – town (sic) and the present landing at Denniston’s warehouse. It is expected that coast steamers will stop at the new wharf.”

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