Santa Cruz County History - People

A Walk Through Time: Joseph Roberts
by Janet Krassow and
by Randy Krassow

Born in 1829 to a seafaring family at Falkirk, Scotland, Joseph Roberts was a natural sailor and journeyman. His life was marked with exciting adventures and travels across the world.

At the age of 15, Roberts packed his sea bag for what was supposed to be a six-year journey of sailing, exploration and discovery. In 1848, while aboard an English merchant vessel sailing the South Sea islands, the crew's food supply became dangerously low. A group of sailors boarded the ship's dinghy and headed toward a small, fertile island. Upon reaching the island's outer reef, Roberts noticed that his bare feet would not fare well on the reef's jagged edges, and returned to the ship. His lack of shoes probably save his life, as the crewman aboard the dinghy that returned to the island were captured and reportedly eaten by a tribe of cannibals that inhabited the island.

Roberts' adventures didn't end with the cannibals. A few months later, he went ashore by himself on another South Sea island whose natives were known to be more congenial. While ashore, the ship sailed away without him and for eight months he lived among the natives as both a king and god. Because of his fair skin and red hair he was looked upon with great reverence -- lucky for him because it later became known that these natives also practiced cannibalism.

Soon an American ship visited the island and Roberts left for San Francisco, arriving two years later. After trying his hand at mining during the gold fever, Roberts left San Francisco and settled in Santa Cruz, where he settled down and married and raised a family. Roberts died quietly in his sleep on March 5, 1895.

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