Wednesday, August 19, 2009

North Coast Shipping

To make this story easier to follow, my comments will be in oxblood.

A little bit of the blood that I have coursing in my veins is the blood of a clipper ship Captain. My 3G Grandfather, Captain John Alexander Lockhart, was the Captain of the sailing ship “Hungarian” that brought miners and supplies around The Horn of South America and into the San Francisco Bay. As you know, much of California’s early history is filled with greed, conflict, racism and thuggery. There is no tale that can be told that doesn’t inevitably lead to a tale of a dirty deed. My desire to try to stick to the history, and leave the horror of man’s inhumanity to man inevitably leads back to it. There is no way to talk about early California without realizing that it was a brutal place. But, there is far more to California’s early history than the brutality, there are deeds of great personal honor.

The Captain of a ship was charged with the safety of his ship and the “Souls on Board”. To loose his ship was a disgrace, and quite often the captain would choose an honorable death and go down with his ship. The following is a story taken from the pages of the fort Bragg Advocate News:

Compiled from the pages of the Fort Bragg Advocate-News by Debbie L. Holmer
102 YEARS AGO — Aug. 10, 1907
- While going northward, thru a smooth sea, the passenger steamship "Columbia," bound from San Francisco to Portland, was rammed at midnight on Saturday by the lumber-laden steam schooner "San Pedro." The "Columbia" went to the bottom inside of eleven minutes, and of the 249 souls on board, it is known that 182 have been saved. Captain Doran bravely stuck to the bridge and went down with his vessel, his last words being "Good-bye, God Bless you." The 67 passengers of the "Columbia" may be alive as all of the "Columbia's" boats are not accounted for. The steamer "George W. Elder" arrived at Eureka Monday towing the water-logged "San Pedro" and bringing most of the survivors. Four life boats have been picked up at Shelter Cove, where the survivors who were in them are being cared for.

Then the inevitable horror:

San Francisco, CA Steamer Columbia Disaster, Jul 1907
Posted October 20th, 2007 by Cora Clear


Third Officer Accuses the Male Passengers of Failing to Assist the Rescued

Not a Child Aboard Wrecked Steamer Was Saved -
Company Official Makes Statement
Revised lists show that 97 persons were drowned when the steamer Columbia was sent to the bottom off the Mendocino coast early Sunday morning as the result of a collision with the lumber schooner San Pedro. Not a child on board the Columbia escaped death. A wonderfully graphic story of the disaster, in which the horror of it all stands out so plainly that one can almost experience it, is told by Mrs. O. Liedelt, one of the survivors, who reached San Francisco yesterday. Third Officer Hawso expresses the utmost contempt for the men who were in the wreck, declaring that they did nothing to aid the women. Sworn statements made to government officials by the crew of the wrecked steamer seek to place the responsibility for the disaster on the San Pedro, which, it is declared, did not respond properly to the passing signals given by the Columbia.

(Special Dispatch to the Journal)San Francisco, July 23.The most graphic story which has been told of the steamship Columbia disaster was brought to this city today by a woman, Mrs. O. Leidelt, one of the survivors, who arrived on the steamer Pomona from Eureka. Mrs. Leidelt was the only survivor from among the passengers on the ill-fated Columbia who came in on the Pomona, although the ship brought the members of the crew who were saved and who had managed to reach Eureka. When Mrs. Leidelt started down the Pomona's gang-plank, after the ship was made fast, she faced a great crowd of anxious friends and relatives of those who had been aboard the Columbia. Every passenger who had preceded her down the plank had been stopped by anxious ones who inquired, "Were you a passenger on the Columbia?". Not until Mrs. Leidelt debarked was an affirmative answer obtained to the questions, and at first the woman was so overcome by her emotions that she could not talk, and constantly murmured, "I don't want to talk. Please do not ask me to say anything."

Story Moved Men to Tears.
Clad in a dark brown ulster which had been furnished her by the relief committee at Eureka, and closely veiled, she made her way uncertainly through the crowd on the pier, seemingly still in a daze from the terrible experience through which she had passed. She was crying constantly, and her replies to newspaper men who besought her to make a statement of the affair were broken by sobs. When at last she was induced to talk she told a story so graphic that the hardened newspaper writers who listened to the recital were moved to tears. "I was asleep in my berth when the crash came," she said, "and the jar of the collision threw me to the floor. I managed to get out of the stateroom although I was too bewildered to know what I was doing, and made my way to the deck. I could only realize that something terrible had happened, and did not stop to collect any of my belongings, or to don my clothing.

Passengers in a Frenzy."
When I reached the deck, everyone was excited." Men and women and children were running about, screaming, and calling for friends and relatives. The dark hulk of the San Pedro could be seen floating away from the Columbia, and the rush of the water into our vessel made a noise that was heard above the din of the crazed crowd. The crew was at the boats, cutting and slashing at the lashings, and doing their utmost to launch them while the frenzied passengers ran everywhere begging to be saved. Some kneeled on the deck and said their last prayers, men clasped their wives in their arms, and mothers gathered their children about them. We waited for the end which, by intuition, we all knew was at hand. "Only the captain remained cool among all that number. He stood on the bridge, his arms stretched wide, and above all the other noises rose the roar of his voice, begging the people to be calm and to permit the launching of the life-boats and rafts. He was a heroic figure, standing there along on the bridge in the gloom and darkness of the night.

Fought like Maniacs to Be Saved."
But his entreaties availed very little. People fought like maniacs for places in the boats, and piled into them before sailors had loosened the falls. Those who could not find places in the boats about to be lowered jumped over the side into the sea, and vainly tried to reach pieces of wreckage and lumber from the San Pedro that floated all about the ship. Every once in a while, the last cry of some poor soul struck terror to the hearts of those still alive and looking over the railing we could see faces uplifted and arms extended toward heaven as someone sank for the last time beneath the waves. "The seconds seemed like hours in the pandemonium that raged, and I scarcely had time to think. Pushed and pulled and jammed about, I suddenly found myself near the rail, and looking down into the water saw one of the life-rafts close to the side of the ship, which by this time was listing heavily. There was nobody on the raft, and thinking only to save myself, I leaped over the side of the ship into the sea. How I got on the raft I do not know. I must have struck it in falling, for I injured my hip when I jumped. Down there in the water, looking back towards the ship, I saw other women jumping over the side into the sea. Some of them had children in their arms. Others were clasped in their husbands arms.

Women Leaped Into the Sea."
I saw two women make the leap into the ocean with their arms locked about one another's neck. In a moment, some of the women began to climb onto the raft. Some came from the water, others landed on the frail support as they jumped from the ship. One man helped a woman into the raft from the water, clung a moment to some of the side-lines, and then, with two words, 'Good Bye,' sank under the waves. "We drifted away from the side of the ship. Then came the explosion of the boilers. Just before the explosion, the Columbia's whistle began a terrific moanful screeching. Captain Duran had tied it down just as he shouted, 'Good bye. God bless you!' The explosion of the boilers seemed to heave the Columbia clear off the water, and the air was filled with flying bits of wreckage. then the ship settled by the head, and her bow disappeared under the waves, the wreck of the hulk gliding in after it. It was just like a porpoise settling into the water after he has made a leap.

Raft in a Whirlpool."
As the Columbia went under, the waters swirled about our little raft until it seemed that we were in a whirlpool with the waves breaking over us. We were all lying prone, clinging to whatever holds we could find. One poor woman could not cling to anything as she had two babies in her arms. There was one other woman on the raft, and she and I managed to support the mother with our free arms until suddenly, a moment after the Columbia had disappeared, a terrific wave swept over us. Our hold on the woman was broken, and she and her two babies were washed away in the angry waters. "The one woman who was left with me on the raft began to lose her strength. She shouted to me that she could hold on but a moment longer, and begged me to support her. I tried to encourage her, saying help was almost at hand, but she did not have the strength. With all my might I clung to her, but I was weak too.

"O, God! I Can't Forget That."
"Gradually she slipped off the side of the raft. I leaned over, still holding to her until my strength gave out, and I had to let go. The poor soul died before my eyes, and I could not save her..O,God! I can't forget that! I will never forget that! Who she was I do not know. I can only realize that she drowned and I could not help her. "Now and then I caught sight of other rafts, and boats, and finally we drifted near the San Pedro, and a boat took the raft in tow. It seemed hours after the Columbia sank when we came alongside the lumber schooner, and we climbed up her side- it was a terrible climb. "The men tried to help me, but I was so weak, and felt so very, very old and broken that I thought I could never get up the ladder. It had been so long since I had leaped from the Columbia on to the raft. It was very cold, and we were clad only in our night robes, and then the waves kept breaking over us constantly. On the San Pedro, we were sitting on pieces of lumber, part of what remained of the deck-load the ship had carried. The San Pedro was down by the head, and the deck was almost awash. Suddenly a wave carried away the lumber on which we were sitting, and it was only by a miracle that we were not washed off into the sea.

Survivors Washed Off the San Pedro."
A few moments later there was a second great disaster on the San Pedro. The rear mast of the ship snapped close to the deck, and as it fell it carried several of the survivors of the Columbia horror back into the water from which they had just been rescued. The boats were still out, and one or two of those who were swept overboard when the mast fell were found a brought back, but of the others we saw nothing more. "All this time the fog hung about us. There was not even the relief of a clear sky. All was darkness and misty gloom, and the sensations were terrible, for we did not know whether or not the San Pedro would hold together.

The officers did their best to cheer us though.
"And then the day broke, the light coming on gradually, and penetrating slowly through the cloud of mist and fog that seemed wrapped about us. As the sun rose, it came up a dull, bloody red, and hanging low in the skies, it cast a ruddy glow over the swishing waves on which floated all manner of wreckage, and which in turn washed over the wreck of the Columbia, and the last resting place of God alone knows how many souls. "As the day broke, we could see who had been saved, and who had been lost. Oh, that sight!

It was awful to look about the deck of the San Pedro, and see men and women and children, nearly all half naked or clad only in their night clothes, to see the frenzy still on their faces, to see the horror and the sorrow for loved ones lost, and to know that only a few hours before we had been a happy, merry party, ever so much larger, on the Columbia. Everything was desolate and dismal, and we could do nothing. Then the Elder came up. We were transferred to that ship, where we were cared for and taken to Eureka."
(By Associated Press)SAN FRANCISCO. July 23
- Three of the officers of the Columbia who arrived here today on the steamer Pomona made statements under oath to Inspectors of Hulls and Boilers - Bolles and Bulger. Second Officer Richard Agerupp said: "At 12 midnight, Saturday, July 20, I relieved First Officer W. F. Whitney on the bridge of the Columbia, being 68 miles to the north of Point Arena by the ships log and steering N. W. 3-4 N. by pilot-house compass. Captain Doran was also on the bridge, as the weather was foggy, but he went down to his room for about two minutes. Then he returned to the bridge again. "About 12:15 a.m. Sunday I heard a whistle on the starboard side and I reported to the captain, who said he had heard it too. We kept our whistle going regularly, and so did the other steamer. The sound apparently still came from the starboard bow, which proved later to be the case, for about 12:20 we saw the other steamer's headlights and her red sidelight, about two points off the starboard bow. We were going full speed ahead as shown as shown by the indicator on the bridge. The captain ordered me to blow two blasts. While blowing the second blast the other steamer answered with one blast. The captain then ordered the engineer 'full speed astern;' His order was answered from the engine room and the captain himself blew three whistles. Soon after the steamer collided with the Columbia and struck her about 30 feet from the stern on the starboard side. This was about 12:22 as I looked at the clock. "Captain Doran shouted: 'What are you doing man?' and told the other steamer to stand by us as she was loaded with lumber. "Captain Doran whistled down to the engineer on watch to learn if the ship was making any water. I went down to the engine room and asked the first assistant engineer, M. Burpee, if there was any water making. He said there was not. Returning to the bridge I reported to the captain. Just then the watchman came on the bridge and reported that the water was streaming in forward. "The first officer came on the bridge and the captain ordered him to take the bridge and for me to take off the head covers and get the boats ready for hoisting. By this time the ship listed to starboard and started to go down by the head. Several men were by this time getting the boats over. "The captain ordered me to cut the after life rafts adrift. While doing this I heard the whistle blow and looking around saw the bridge nearly under water. I saw there was no time to spare, so I threw a life buoy overboard and jumped over the stern into the sea. As I struck the water the Columbia disappeared and the suction brought me down with it. I got to the surface and about 30 minutes later was picked up in No. 10 boat by one of the quartermasters."

ARM BROKEN BUT HE SWAM TO SAFETYSAN FRANCISCO. July 23 - To his own prowess as a swimmer, John Swift, ex-fireman on the Columbia, can attribute his safe arrival on the Pomona this morning. With an arm broken in two place, he swam to some wreckage after the Columbia, sank and clung there until taken aboard the George W. Elder. Swift, with John Roach, was working in the Columbia's fire room when the crash occurred. Roach went on deck to find out what had occurred and to lend a hand in clearing away the boats. Not until Roach yelled down the ventilator that the ship was in great danger, did Swift know what had occurred. He scrambled up the iron stairway of the fire room and had hardly reached the deck when the vessel gave a lurch and the whole starboard side went under water.

Fortunately, he had come out on the port side, where, in the darkness, he did not know what to do. Before the enormity of the disaster dawned upon him there was another lurch, a wave swept him from his feet, and the next minute he was swimming in the water. "I don't remember what happened after the until I came to, floating about in the water. It was perfectly dark. I did not have a life preserver on and I don't know how I managed to keep afloat all that time. I tried to move. My left arm hurt terribly. Then I noticed it was limp and realized it must have been broken. I swam to a piece of timber floating by. I clung there until the Elder came along and picked me up.
SAN FRACISCO. July 23 - Chief Engineer J. Y. Jackson told the story of his personal experiences in the wreck. He said: "I was in my stateroom when the crash occurred and I scrambled into a few clothes and came upon deck. All was confusion and turmoil. The roar of the water as it poured in the hole of the Columbia's side was deafening. Then desperately swimming I caught a rope thrown from the deck of the San Pedro. From there I looked back at the Columbia, just in time to see her plunge beneath the waves. As she sank I could dimly see many men dash across the deck toward the San Pedro; the next moment the fog had hidden the dreadful scenes. "I am sure that many steerage passengers did not leave their staterooms as the interval was so short between the time she struck and the time that she sank that the men on watch in my department had no time to get to the deck, and those that did jump overboard were sucked down by the dreadful vortex created by the sinking vessel. "When I rushed about the deck it seemed to be deserted but I knew that many were about me, for the screams and cries were awful. I thank God that I am safe, but would willingly have given my life as Captain Doran did, to save those that perished. "I did not realize that the vessel was going to sink as soon as it did and I believe Captain Doran was of the same opinion."

SAN FRANCISCO. July 23 - The cool head of Second Steward A. Marks of the Columbia, saved many lives when the Columbia sank. As soon as the ship struck, the steward ran into the "glory-hole" where his men slept and ordered them to their posts. The men were well drilled and wasted no time in their duty of waking the passengers. They ran through the cabins assigned to them dragging the people out of bed and adjusting their life preservers for them. This accounts for the fact that all those who were on deck had life preservers on them. When the waiters were about half through their work on the starboard side the vessel gave a heavy list and all those who still remained in their staterooms on that side of the boat were doomed. The vessel filled to the deck and the doors of their cabins were jammed so that they were unable to break their way free before the vessel up-ended and dived to the bottom. The starboard deck was filled with half dressed people when the fatal list came. Those who were already on the deck were able to climb to the port side and cling there until the last plunge was made. The vessel went down without a noticeable suction but the passengers found that they were unable to remain on the surface of the water, although buoyed up by the life preservers. Many assert that they sank as far as 80 feet before they began to rise.
SAN FRANCISCO. July 23 - C. Murphy, a waiter, one of the survivors of the Columbia, who arrived here today said: "When the San Pedro struck us, the shock awoke me right away. The next moment, the Second Steward, Marks, called us to our fire drill posts and I ran to the deck on the starboard side toward the stern where my post was. When I saw the San Pedro I knew what was up. I was pretty sure she was sinking, so I ran into every cabin, shaking the people in the bunks and dragging out their life preservers. "I remember putting life preservers on eight women on that side. Everybody was cool but nobody knew what to do. They stood around dazed and let me put the straps over their shoulders just like children without asking any questions or trying to help themselves. I would not let them stop to dress. "The boat laid on her right side until she sunk. When we were all clinging to the port rail, hardly any of us with any clothes on, the captain stood on the bridge and looking down on us and said: " 'Well, boys, I did all I could for you, and I can do no more. She's a goner. Goodbye.' "

El Paso, Tex. - Misses Edna Bessie Wallace, sisters, were El Paso school teachers who had been in attendance upon the National Educational Association convention at Los Angeles.

Colorado Springs, Color. - Miss Katrina Hayden was a school teacher of this city who had been in attendance at the National Educational Association convention, in Los Angeles. Her parents reside at Cripple Creek.

Denver. - Miss Mary Persons was a Denver school teacher. She was traveling in company with Miss Alice Watson, another Denver teacher who was saved. She was 50 years old.

Decatur, Ill. - Mrs. George E. Kellar, and her three daughters, Thelma, Effie, and Grace, were residents of this city. Mr. Kellar is a secretary of the Decatur Racing Association and is one of the wealthiest stockmen in Central Illinois.

Omaha, Neb. - Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Winslow, of Omaha were well known here.

Litchfield, Ills. - W. H. Truesjale was a musician from this city.
SAN FRANCISCO. July 23 - The revised list of those who are missing as the result of the steamship Columbia disaster shows that 97 persons were drowned.

Cabin Passengers MissingA - Miss R. Anderson, Franklin AulfB - W. J. Bachman, Miss Alma Bahleen, Mrs. J. Benson, Miss A. Bernal, Mrs. Jane E. Best, Gertrude Butler, W. E. Butler, Mrs. W. E. ButlerC - Mrs. R. B. Cannon, Miss Clarana Carpenter, J. W. Carpenter, L. Clasby, Mrs. L. Clasby, Marion Clasby, Steven Clasby, Miss A. B. Cornell, Mrs. A. F. Cornell, Miss Lena CooperD - L. L. Drake Jr., J. C. DurhamF - Mrs. K. FagaldeG - Miss Mabel Gerter, Mrs. Blanche R. Gordon, Mrs. A. GrayH - Mrs. A. Happ, C. H. Harrington, Miss A. Hayden, L. E. HillK - Miss Alma B. Kellar, Miss Effie B. Kellar, Miss Grace F. Kellar, Mrs. G. A. KellarL - Florence Lewis, E. Liggett, Ray Lewis, Mrs. B. LippmanM - Lewis Malkus, Mrs. Lewis Malkus, Julia Matek, L. Mero, John B. McFadyen, Miss Margaret McKearney, Chew MochN - Miss Louise G. Nake, Miss Nellie A. NakeP - Miss Mary Parsons, J. E. Paul, Mrs. J. E. PaulS - Miss Frances Schroeder, Miss Cora Shult, Miss Sarah Shult, G. A. Smith, Mrs. William H. Soules, George Sparks, J. D. Springer, Miss Elsie May StoneW - Miss B. Wallace, Miss Edna Wallace, Mrs. S. Waller, William Waller, Miss W. White, G. F. Wilson, C. A. Winslow, Mrs. C. A. Winslow, Mrs. H. P. Winters, Roland Winters, Miss H. WrightY - J. K. YoungTotal - 72

Steerage Passengers MissingFrank Giune, M. Mayo, C. W. Merill, John Miller, J. Premus, E. Silva, Mrs. E. Silva, A. Spieler, B. ViantsTotal - 9

Officers and Crew MissingP. A. Doran, captain; W. F. Whitney, first officer; C. Christensen, quartermaster; H. C. Dupree, first assistant engineer; Max Claus, second assistant engineer; C. Peterson, skaman; W. T. Anderson, water tender; Alexander, water tender; Ed Larkin, oiler; J. Maddison, oiler; A. Schneider, baker; Frank D. Davis, second cook; E. R. Drayer, pantryman; J. G. Alley, waiter; R. J. Alley, waiter; A. L. Blocker, waiter;Total - 16

The above story was taken from: Daily Nevada State Journal, Reno, NV 24 Jul 1907 and posted by Cora Clear.

I intend to tell a few more tales of North Coast Shipping in the next few posts. The stories of the “Tall Ships” clear down to the “Dog Hole Schooners” excite me more than I can say. I think it must be in my blood. Much more to come, but chew on this for awhile.


Ben said...

Ernie... What a story! I've been reading about the wreck of the Brother Jonathan on the reef off Crescent City. The cause of building the most dangerous lighthouse in history U.S. history, at least.) General Wright the commander of the western U.S. Army was lost in that one as well as an Army payroll he was transporting. There were no survivors. Brother Jonathan Rock is the name of the fatal reef.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ben, I hope to do a post on the Brother Johnathon story. I have an angle on the story from the prospective one of the descendants of one of the lighthouse keepers. I'm not sure of the story, but I know the descendant is willing to share it with us. He and his father took a helicopter ride and visited the lighthouse. I don't know all of the history of the north coast, but I know all the people that do. It makes it more fun for me to get the story from someone else anyway. It's like going out to dinner, you get to eat somebody else's cooking. I enjoy stories from other prospectives, I already know all of mine.

Ernie Branscomb said...

When you read the names it is apparent that it was predominantly women that died. I wonder why that would be? Too many clothes? According to one witness, it was because the cowardly men did nothing to save them. They allowed women and children to die while they saved themselves.

I wonder if today’s women would fare any better. Today’s woman is much more adapted to worrying about taking care of herself than her ancestors were. Credit was given to the Captain for directing the evacuation efforts, up until the point the ship went under.

Eleven minutes doesn’t even give a person time to think.

kymk said...

Wow, my heart squeezed in my chest when I read that. What a story! One of my ancestors, Henry Earnhart, was on a ship that wrecked coming out to the gold fields. The descriptions told by the survivors are so emotionally gripping that I'm not sure I breathe while I am reading.

Bunny said...

Sorta like reading SoHumBorn. Come back sohumborn, I really miss you. Write about anything! Just let us read something please.

Ben said...

Ernie... I'm up on the Brother Jonathan because Dave Kirby loaned me a great book on the lighthouse at Seal Rock and its construction. Sentinel of the Seas is the title by Dennis Powers. A fine writer tells a story I was completely unaware of.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ben, everytime that I read something about the Bro John I find out something new. I'm putting a post together but work comes first! (Yeah, Right)

Ernie Branscomb said...

I just bought a book about "Ships of our Ancestors". By: Michael J. Anuta from Amazon. My 3G grandfathers sailing ship “Hungarian” is pictured in it, but it has the date of Manufacture in 1859. I know that there was a ship “Hungarian” manufactured before that in the 1840’s????
So the plot thickens…

I was so anxious to get it that I paid for two-day shipping. They said that they had six new books in stock. That was last Monday. Today I got a notice that they have some real good news for me… They will be able to ship it on the 29th.

We are kinda’ at these peoples mercy. Not so long ago it was considered unscrupulous to lie about what you had it stock just to make a sale. Now I run into it from quite a few of my suppliers. Several times I’ve asked them flatly whether or not they really had something or if they “had it at another location”. I caught them so off-guard they confessed that they do that quite often to ‘take care of the customer”. They know that if they don’t have it in their hand, that people will go somewhere else. Lying Bastards!

Robin Shelley said...

I've run into the same thing on Amazon, Ernie... no fun at Christmastime!

Anonymous said...

Robin, it is September already! You should have all your Christmas shopping done for this year.