Michael White: Smuggler in Alta California

Now folks, you’ll recall that we were speculating, based on what John Kielbasa wrote in the Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County, whether or not Michael White, aka Miguel Blanco, was a smuggler. Ain’t no “maybe.” He was a self-confessed, unrepentant smuggler to the bone

Michael White’s oral history continues:

“Then Mr. [Richard] Charlton, the English Consul, had a Brig called the Dolly —he employed me to bring her to this coast as a trader, and to buy horses and send them there. My agreement with him was that if I could better myself here in California I was to stop.

I first went into San Francisco (which was not then a port of entry), where I bought two fine otter skins in exchange for a barrel of whiskey; there was an American ship belonging to Gale lying in port getting off hides. I was taking my barrel on shore in the night, and there was a man under the hides belonging to the ship whom I had not seen.

Just as the purchaser got the barrel on a pack horse, the man under the hides jumped up, the horse started, the barrel fell, stove its head in (presumably meaning the barrel’s head), the purchaser went after his horse, and I went off on board. I had the otter skins on my vessel—he lost his whiskey and I saved the skins.”

[Time out, y’all. Raven Jake was born at night, but not last night. Señor Blanco, do you really expect us to believe that you had no idea that some fella was hiding out under those hides and that he just randomly jumped out and attacked your purchaser for no reason at all? I ain’t buyin’ it…]

The next morning the sailors went after the hides, saw the whiskey and got drunk. In a short time I could see 10 men drunk and fighting. I stood there and laughed, but knew well it was no time to stay there. I up anchor and started for Monterey, stowed away all the costly things where they could not be easily discovered by the government officers.

Entered there and a Custom House officer was put on board of me to prevent my smuggling. He was José Castro, who afterwards was so prominent in California history. As soon as we got off Punto de Pinos, José Castro came to me and said “Well, mi capita´n, with the little that the Government gives me, and the little that you will give me, will make me a pretty good salary, won’t it be so?” I answered yes, and we understood one another. He never saw me smuggle. Whenever I had anything of that kind to do, he went down into the cabin and attacked the bottle of liquor. We were very good friends from that time to the day of his death.

I left the Brig in Santa Barbara and sent her back to Sandwich Islands [Hawai’i], with 60 heads of horses. That was in 1828 in the month of August, don’t remember the day.”

There’s a little footnote to that, in that White’s buddy H.D. Barrows wrote, “In 1828, as captain of his own vessel, the Dolly, he [White] engaged in the coasting trade, visiting Bodega, then occupied by the Russians, and from thence coming to San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Pedro and San Diego, and then back to Santa Barbara, where he went ashore to stay. Here he bought sixty-four horses, which the Dolly, in charge of the mate, took to the Sandwich Islands.”

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~ by ravenjake on December 28, 2009.

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