Saturday, September 19, 2009

More shipwrecks. The Frolic





One of the more famous shipwrecks along the north coast of California was the wreck of the Frolic. The ship wrecked just off the shore of the present day Point Cabrillo lighthouse, just south of Fort Brag. She wrecked at 9:30 on the night of July 25th 1850. The Ship was Sailing 6000 miles from China to the Port Of San Francisco with a cargo intended to supply the booming gold rush. According to the book “Through the Eyes of the Elders”, published by the Laytonville School, and Penny Branscomb Comer, Elder Project Coordinator, the ship was “loaded with Chinese porcelain, silk and other exquisite goods”.

The reason that the ship was wrecked on a crystal clear moonlit night was because the charts that they had were not that accurate. That, and the long trip from china put them about one hundred miles north of their destination. After sighting the California coast line, they mistook the fires that the Indians used for clearing the brush and grass for civilization. The flat point of land that is Point Cabrillo was hid by a bank of fog. Unaware that they were right on the shore, they were just about upon the rocks before they could change course. The ship hit a rock with her stern and hung up on the rock. The Captain, Edward Faucon, ordered the ship to be abandoned.

The sailors made their way to shore, some of the lifeboats were wrecked on the shoreline. They were unable to find anybody on shore, and they started making their way south. The Captain and a few sailors took a life boat and started rowing south. The remaining crew walked to Fort Ross. They eventually made it to San Francisco, and reported the loss of the Frolic.

The wreck is famous for a variety of reasons. The ship was one of the more famous of the ships back in those times. It was a “Baltimore Clipper”. Baltimore Clippers were designed to make long fast voyages, haul precious cargo, and most important of all, it was designed to outrun pirates. Another reason that it became famous is the ship did not sink right away, and the Indians were able to salvage the cargo. For many years evidence of the cargo showed up in the form of the local Indians being seen wearing fine silk and having china plates. Archaeological digs still find pottery and other artifacts from the wreck. Divers salvaged pieces of iron and other remains of the frolic for years. The museum at The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse has many pieces in their collection.

From The National Park Service:
”Her master, Captain Edward Horatio Faucon was the same man Richard Henry Dana admired and had made famous as the captain of the Pilgrim in his 1840 classic, Two Years Before the Mast.”

“Her hold was packed tightly with ornately decorated camphor trunks, fine-colored silks, shiny lacquered ware, tables with inset marble tops, gold filigree jewelry, 21,000 porcelain bowls, candied fruits, silver tinderboxes, a prefabricated two-room house with oyster shell windows, toothbrushes, mother-of-pearl gaming pieces, ivory napkin rings, horn checkers, tortoise shell combs, silk fans, and scores of nested brass weights used by San Francisco merchants to measure their goods. Everything was made in China except 6,109 bottles of Edinburgh ale, brought along to inspire thirsty California gold diggers. Of all the cargo, the ale had come the farthest, nearly two-thirds of the way around the globe.”


Part of the cargo was jars filled with candied kumquats. Those must have been a very welcome treat for the Indians of that time. In the area of the shipwreck, at the locations of old Indian housing sites, they have found porcelain shards as recently as 1984, . Strangely the artifacts that have been found are some of the few remains of the Gold Rush era. Had they not been lost in a shipwreck, they would not be with us today.

One of the things of note, was that the frolic was well known as an opium runner. Some accounts that I have read speculated that they also had a load of opium on board to be sold to the miners. The ship had rot in it's hull and the new steamships were being developed. Some speculate that the ship was scuttled for the insurance money.

Whatever the reason, the ship went on the rocks with a $150.000.00 cargo. The Indian people salvaged it. The must have been a very wealthy tribe for a while. They have found evidence, far and wide, of their trading of the cargo to other tribes. My cousin Penny tells a story about a little baby that died, and the baby was wrapped in the finest of red silk. It was speculated that the silk was from the Frolic. Maybe she will tell us the story...

My poor memory might have embelished the story a little bit. Anyway, Penny has a story about a baby and some shipwreck cloth.









Frolic Cannon
Found, The Wreck of the Frolic.
The Frolic, 1850

33 comments:

ROSS SHERBURN said...

ERNIE,about 1960 there was talk about buried treasure or a ship wreck several miles north of SHELTER COVE.my dad dug some holes in the beach for a couple of guys,with his cat,looking for it.

ever hear about that one??

Ernie Branscomb said...

Roos
I know there is "Lost Gold" near Kings peak. I've heard many Bullshistory stories about it. But I'm lost as to the real story.

ROSS SHERBURN said...

although it wasn't marked at the time,i'm pretty sure we took that KINGS PEAK road down to this little beach several miles north of shelter cove.my dad was logging up a canyon, from the beach.

thats about all i know too,would like to know more??? THANKS!

Ben said...

The story I have heard is that a Manila galleon wrecked somewhere north of Big Flat and that the Indians were ill treated by the surviving Spaniards. The Spaniards moved the treasure to the beach and the Indians attacked and killed them. They (the Indians) then hauled their treasure to a cave somewhere on King's Peak and stashed it. An earthquake covered the cave opening but a few local Indians know where it is and carry pieces of eight as proof. I have heard approximately this story many times. The fact that I always heard it in a bar has no bearing on its verity.
What the Indians treasured were barrel bands which they could make into knives. I wonder what they might have thought of gold.

Ernie Branscomb said...

It seems like modern science could find that large of a metallic anomaly. But, if I found it, I wouldn't say a word about it because the ownership would undoubtedly be questioned. Whenever a big gob of money shows up in the picture, somebody will lay claim to it, and lawyers will keep it in court until they end up with it all. (P.S.-- Actually, I do know a couple of honest lawyers. One of them made me promise not to tell. He said it would be bad for his reputation.) Anyway, what usually happens with large amounts of found money, they pay would be claimants to go away, and that way they avoid court and lawyers.

Gold is one of the easiest to sell underground. Nobody ever gets caught with extra money in Southern Humboldt Anyway.

ROSS SHERBURN said...

BEN,thanks for the story!would this beach you speak of,been north of SHELTER COVE? such as i have mentioned??? i don't know where big flat is? THANKS!!!

Hans said...

No- don't look at Big Flat! There's no treasure there-especially under that big old Madrone tree with the X carved on the trunk! It's cursed I tell you! Stay away!!

ROSS SHERBURN said...

i know where BIG FLAT is along the trinity river on 299w.

where is this BIG FLAT you speak of??? THANKS!!!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ross,
Ben must be out hunting arrowheads, so I'll answer your question. Big flat is about 12 miles north of shelter Cove, just under Kings Peak. The flat is surrounded by mostly shear bluffs. It has a rocky beach, and it is treacherous to land a boat there. It has a small dirt and grass air strip that a small can easily land on. There is a flat just north of that that has a house on it, but not much more. That flat is called “Spanish Flat”. Maybe named after the Galleon crew???, I don’t know. Does anybody know why they call it Spanish flat?

At one time there was a logging road built up the beach as far as Getchell Creek. (6 miles?) I think that Coombs Lumber built it, maybe Sherburn. A friend of mine and I rode his motorcycle to the end of the road, then hiked the rest of the way in. My legs were dead from walking in the sand and rocks when we got there. We spent a day there, then we returned the next day. On the way home, his motorcycle broke down and we had to push it back to Shelter Cove. I don’t think that I could do that today… Maybe I’m smarter, who knows?

P.S. I haven’t found the gold yet. You can tell when I do. I will be driving a ten thousand horse power monster truck with a Limousine cab, and with a hot tub on the rear deck. But. don’t worry… I’ll pay for my carbon offset units. That way I can still be an Environmentalist!

ROSS SHERBURN said...

thanks ERNIE,i'll google or mapquest that creek when i get home!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm only sure of one wreck off the shore of Big Flat. One of my cousin's and I drug a brass (copper?)bow stem from the rocks and brought it home. I don't remember how big it was but it looked like it was one of two pieces. Approximatly 8 feet long and around a hundred pounds.

I always thought that treasure you people are talking about was stashed South of Shelter Cove, maybe at Whale Gulch. It seems like the story said a bell was hung from a tree to mark the spot.

Oregon

Ben said...

I think Spanish Flat is north of Big Flat and it is the place I heard was the site of the wreck. Spanish Flat, get it? Barroom bullshistory continues with the story that the Spaniards (or maybe the Indians) were buried up to their necks on the beach just below high tide line.
The problem with all this is that the ships carried gold (actually mostly silver) on their WAY to Manila straight east of Acapulco with the trades. To return the ships, now filled with porcelain, sail north to the coast of Japan to find currents which brought them to the California coast. Hence the name Trinidad, often their first landfall. They then sailed south back to Acapulco. The galleons were made in the Philippines and they made lots. I forget how many. It was a huge enterprise and the California Missions were located in order to supply the returning ships. So maybe there is a cave on King's Peak loaded with blue porcelain. Big money.

spyrock said...

isn't that where they filmed the goonies?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ben is absolutely right. Any Galleon in the area of Spanish Flat would be very unlikely to have gold on it, because they would have been on a return trip from the phillipines and they didn't try to fight the great Pacific Gyre. (prevailing winds and currents) Any gold coin would have been incidental. China and beeswax was the most likely cargo, if they had any.
The Spanish "Conquistadores" were very much into looting the new world. One fifth of the Spanish treasury was New Spain silver.

ROSS SHERBURN said...

i think the GOONIES was filmed near ASTORIA,OR.

Robin Shelley said...

Apparently, England is the place to be hunting for treasure these days. Did you see the story today about the find on somebody's farm there? Holy cow!!!

Anonymous said...

JIMMY TRAINA had many TREASURES,but he was about twenty miles inland????

Anonymous said...

The only Traina I know is Stapes, aka Tonie.

Oregon

Anonymous said...

Ernie, I don't think your counter is broke.
I am retired and have much time to check these things out.

Anonymous said...

Ernie, I was looking at the photo of Benbow lake you have posted. I was remembering how much fun we had on the lake with your boat and the pretty girls. I started counting and that was over 45 years ago.

ROSS SHERBURN said...

i took swimming lessons at BENBOW LAKE,about 50 years ago! OMG!!!!!!!


WHERE'S ERNIE?

Anonymous said...

Ernie's a big-shot so think he gets paid days off. Kinda like school teachers and postal workers. You know, when the wind blows you get a day off,,,,,,,,,,,,with pay.
Ernie is only a big-shot because he is a good person, why he should get paid for that is a mystery.
I think he is sitting back to see whom will hang themselves on his blog. Did I mention he has a since of humor.

Anonymous said...

Did I ever mention that I don't know how to spell. Where the heck is suzy when I need her.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ernie doesn't get paid days off. They cost a bunch. Ernie was gone for two days. (What the heck am I doing? I'm talking in third person, brain removed.)

I got my Just Desserts Friday. I was hanging from a big bag of hot air over Shasta. I'll do a post about it later. But, Janis took the pictures, and I have to think of some way to blackmail her into giving me some to do a Post from.

Ernie Branscomb said...

"i took swimming lessons at BENBOW LAKE,about 50 years ago! OMG!!!!!!!"

I'll bet that you took swimming lessons from Rae Mathews

Anonymous said...

The story Ern is talking about is one handed down from our GGgrandma Lockhart. She was a seamstress on the coast and GGgrandpa Lockhart was a carpenter there.
The story is remembered as follows, however believable. I think it's beautiful."

Grandmother lockhart was friends with the Indians, and one young girl inparticular took a liking to her. She would visit grandmother from time to time always admiring a piece of red silk that was displayed in her house. During this time grandmother and the girl learned to communicate fairly well. Some time later the Indian girl became pregnant and was having a difficult time with her delivery. Knowing that Grandmother was a midwife, one of the Indians asked if she would help them. Unfortunately, it was too late and the baby girl was still born.
This is the most unbelievable/amazing part....
The Indian girl allowed grandma to take the baby back to her house. She made a tiny red silk dress for which she dressed the baby. Grandfather built a tiny little box to place the baby in and they returned the baby to the Indian girl. Grandmother said the Indian girl could not believe her eyes, but stood weeping as she looked at her. Grandmother knew how much her kindness meant.
(The silk for it's fine quality was believed from the wrecked ship, the Frolic.)
Cousin

Anonymous said...

I also read somewhere about one of our "Sally Bells" looking for treasure in the caves off the coast. However, I don't think she found it. I think the cave could only be accessed during low tide.
Cousin

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Cousin!

Your telling of the story is better than I could have. It is much better coming from you.

ROSS SHERBURN said...

ERNIE,the name RAE or RAY MATTHEWS sure rings a bell! but somehow i'm thinking this person was a logger,then went into the concrete business???? you are making my BRAIN hurt again!!!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Rae Mathews was the lady that taught swimming at Benbow Lake. When it was raining, she taught swimming at her indoor pool up on Maple Lane. She had deep and wonderful history in Garberville. She was married to Bob Mathews, a logger, famous in his own right.

spyrock said...

thanks ross, it was astoria. i saw the end of it today about how one eyed willies jewels saved the goonies house from foreclosure.

ROSS SHERBURN said...

ERNIE,could you mention some more about the MATTHEWS sometime? THANKS!!

anon said...

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