The Black Cat Farm of Eliza Island
Eliza Island is the first stop we make on our San Juan Islands cruise to Friday Harbor aboard the Island Commuter 2. Now home to over 100 summer homes on the 141 acre island with only five year-round residents, this island has a storied history. Named after the daughter of Spanish Expedition Commander Francisco De Eliza in 1791, an interesting part of its history is the Consolidated Black Cat Company of James F. Wardner. Wardner’s resume is long and varied: rabbit raiser, miner, orange grower, pig farmer and owner of a cat ranch. His goal was to raise the felines on the isolated island and sell their pelts for $2 to compete with the sale of seal and otter furs that were so popular at that time. He even brought in a cat rancher by the name of Sam Weller to feed the cats and take care of them until their pelts were needed.
Needless to say, the ranch did not survive (although the number of unlucky cats before retirement is unknown) and the only remnant of black cats seen near this northern port is the eatery “Le Chat Noir” in Fairhaven.