While doing research for Spurs for José, I found this excerpt about the true story that inspired Scott O’Dell's famous book:
In 1880, Dr. Absalom Stuart, a physician in Santa Barbara, wrote an article about the historic events that unfolded in the lives of Captain Nidever and a mysterious, effervescent little woman who lived on San Nicolas Island. The article, printed in "The Sanitarian" magazine, is entitled A Female Crusoe:
Captain Nidever is on the scene in Santa Barbara; he is a hard-working family man with a beautiful home. He is hunting otter. It is here that our tale begins in earnest....
Mr Nidever said in substance: "My occupation has been that of otter hunting. When I came here in 1835, I found two other Americans, Isaac J Sparks and Lewis T Burton, engaged in the same business .
"They chartered a schooner of twenty tons, burden-built at Monterey, called Peor es Nada (Better than Nothing), for a trip to the coast of Lower California on another expedition, leaving Santa Barbara about the first of May 1835. I did not accompany them.
"Not being as successful as those in charge expected, three months later the Peor es Nada put into San Pedro, the port or landing of Los Angeles, on her return trip. From San Pedro, she went to the Island of San Nicolas, about seventy miles southwest from San Pedro, and a little further southeast from Santa Barbara, for the purpose of removing the Indians then on the island to the mainland and returned with eighteen men women and children, as told me by Isaac J Sparks.
Unfortunately, due to bad weather the ship had to depart, leaving one woman behind on San Nicolas Island where she lived alone for eighteen years before being rescued and taken to Santa Barbara, where sadly, after a few weeks she died from unknown causes. It was this tragic story that inspired O'Dell's story.
For me, being married to a California pioneer, and knowing descendants of the rancheros, made O’Dell’s story more interesting. The rancheros came west as ship captains, otter hunters, or jumped ship in a strange land, not the play-it-safe kind of men. It is interesting to note that true events connected to my husband’s great-great grandfathers, Isaac J. Sparks and Captain William G. Dana, were the inspiration for both Island of the Blue Dolphins and Spurs for José.