Lake County History Chapter 90: The Pirate of Lake County

Captain Richard S. Floyd, the sea captain, whose same ship commandeered Abigale William’s belongings, in 1862, heard the call to arms when he was seventeen. When President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to force the Confederacy back into the Union, Floyd, more sympathetic to the Confederate cause, enlisted in the Confederate Navy.

Two years before the Civil War began, Floyd graduated from Annapolis. When the war began, he was assigned to a fast new Confederate battle cruiser. His decision to join the South, and the bizarre series of events that followed Richard Floyd’s career, led to the saving of Lake County’s beautiful Clear Lake. He helped keep Clear Lake from becoming the stagnant marshy plain it had been a million years before.

Richard Floyd was assigned as an officer to the CSS Florida, a Confederate cruiser. Its job was to sink Northern Merchant vessels. The Florida did its work with enthusiasm. During the next two years, the Florida crisscrossed the Atlantic and captured sixty ships.

Try as they might, the Union hunters were always a pound short and a day late finding the Florida… until late 1864. That is when, despite the prohibition of International Law to attack an enemy in a neutral port, the Union battleship, USS Watuchusetts, found and rammed the Florida. With not enough force to sink the rebel ship, a furious gun battle ensued. Finally, the Florida was forced to surrender.

The ship was towed to sea and, amid cries of outrage from the Brazilian government for the Union’s trespass, the Confederate killer ship was rammed again and sunk at last. By then, it was so late in the war the argument over the breach in International Law became mute.

There is more to the story.

Returning home to Georgia, Richard Floyd was met with death and destruction. He left, first to Mexico and then to San Francisco, where he met John Fraser, a carpenter, and boat-builder. John Fraser became a life-long friend and a man with whom he would eventually work with to help James Lick, to build the greatest Observatory in the world.

Floyd, referred by his friend Fraser of work in Lake County, went to work at the Sulfur Bank Borax Mine. When he was offered a job to operate a mail packet from San Francisco and Hawaii, he took the offer.

On one of his trips, he met and married Cora Lyons, daughter of Henry Lyons, a wealthy Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. When Justice Lyons died, he left his wealth to Cora. Richard Floyd brought his bride To Lake County. They built a mansion, the largest in Lake County, that they called Kono Tayee.

Floyd helped create a series of ferries on Clear Lake. During that time, he met Charles Lick, the wealthiest man in California. With Lick’s persuasion, Floyd took on the building of the Lick Observatory, a doorway to the stars and a greater understanding of our universe.

Next Episode: The Slave Girl


To enjoy and learn more about Author Gene Paleno’s books, visit Gene’s website; http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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