HIRAM DONCASTER. – No one seems to operate so much in the capacity of a creator as the shipbuilder. The products of his brain and hand have a life of their own, are given a name, and have their own personality. Shipbuilding on the Sound is, moreover, an important business; and the masters of this craft are men of distinction. One of these is the man whose name appears at the head of this sketch.
He was born in Nova Scotia in 1838, and first came to this coast via Panama in the year 1856, mining in Plumas county two years, and pushing out with the stampede to the Frazer river mines in 1858, fighting Indians more or less the whole distance. After eleven years on the coast, he went back to the East on a visit of three months, and returning began work at his trade, or art, becoming a prolific builder of crafts of all kinds. He worked in San Francisco at the shipyards of Middlemas & Bool, Nova Scotians. At Port Ludlow, Washington Territory, he built the bark Forest Queen. At the mouth of the Umpqua he built the little steamer Swan, which made the first and only and probably last trip to Roseburg, on the violent Umpqua river. In San Francisco again he built the Steamer Enterprise, considered at the time the finest and fastest boat on the coast. On the Sound he built the schooner J.B. Leeds, which is still “alive.”
He was soon again in San Francisco, working for his old employers, who recommended him to the firm headed by Mr. W.L. Adams. He built for the establishment the following vessels; The bark Cassandra Adams; the team tug Holyoke; the barkentine Mary Wilkerman; the barkentine Retriever; and the single-deck ship Olympus, supposed to be the largest single-decked ship in the world, and the greatest success in her line afloat, capable of carrying one million, four hundred thousand feet of lumber. His next construction was the schooner American Boy, and following this the stern-wheel boat Louisa. Removing now to Port Ludlow, he built the steam tug Tyee and the barkentine Skagit. At Tacoma he has built the steamer Mogul, and the stern-wheeler Nellie Brown. A fleet has thus passed from his hands.
Mr. Doncaster is now permanently located at Tacoma, strictly devoted to his business, but exerting a strong personal influence, and is greatly respected in his city and throughout the entire state.