In a far corner of what was once a large ranch vegetable garden, along the lane that leads into the Main Ranch on Santa Cruz Island, stands a 19th-century wooden seed house, painted white with yellow trim. Long ago, it was used for storage of gardening tools and supplies. Against one wall is a cabinet full of small drawers identified with labels, some in Italian, as to the types of seeds within.

On April 27, 1990, Joe Karl, a staff member of the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s office, was inspecting the ranch in search of old pesticides, when he came across an unusual and tightly sealed copper box tucked away in the seed cabinet. Inside was no pesticide, but rather cremated human remains. Thus began an interesting journey of discovery.

Among the powdery white “cremains” were several non-bone items — metal nails, staples, and screws, undoubtedly parts of a coffin. Something dark — a large garment snap. Several teeth, obviously false ones. And an eternity ring made of platinum and very small diamonds, presumably a wedding band. Based upon the snap and the ring, we believe these are the remains of a woman. But who was she, and why was she in the seed shed on Santa Cruz Island?

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