How did the lighthouse area get its name?
On the night of July 6, 1853, the clipper ship Carrier Pigeon ran aground 500 feet off shore of the central California coast. The area is now called Pigeon Point in her honor.
The Carrier Pigeon was a state-of-the art, 19th Century clipper ship. She was 175 feet long with a narrow, 34 foot beam and rated at about 845 tons burden. Launched in the fall of 1852 from Bath, Maine, the Carrier Pigeon was valued at $54,000 and started out on her maiden voyage on January 28, 1853. Out of Boston and bound for San Francisco, the Carrier Pigeon was under the command of Captain Azariah Doane. The ship and her cargo were insured for about $195,000.
The Carrier Pigeon made good time around Cape Horn and was enjoying a good passage when she was sighted off Santa Cruz the morning of June 6, 1853. As she continued northward, the Carrier Pigeon ran into heavy fog. By nightfall Captain Doane, believing he had veered far enough from shore, turned the ship eastward, back towards shore in the hope of catching sight of land. Without any warning, there was the sudden sound of splintering timbers! The Carrier Pigeon had ran aground just 500 feet off shore. The waves rocked the ship against the rocks, opening her hull wider and wider to the sea. Captain and crew were able to make it to shore safely. The following morning word of the disaster was sent to San Francisco and requests made for salvage ships to help rescue as much of the cargo as possible.
The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Active was sent to offer assistance and she was soon joined by the sidewheel steamer Sea Bird. The Sea Bird soon ran into its own problems and was beached near Point Año Nuevo to save her from sinking. Although another ship was sent to continue salvage operations, little of the Carrier Pigeon's cargo was saved. Eventually, the Carrier Pigeon which had been valued at $54,000 was sold, where she lay, for only $1,500!