Vessels lost at Sea, Harbors or Rivers of Washington

Out of the large number of vessels which have come and gone in the thirty-four years since the Orbit sailed up to Olympia, few comparatively have been wrecked. I have mentioned the loss of the Robert Bruce by fire in Shoalwater Bay, and the brig Una on Cape Flattery, both in 1851. In 1852 the northern Indians reported the wreck of an unknown vessel on the coast of V. I., with all on board lost. 1

In the winter of 1852-3 the brig Willimantic, Capt. Vail, was driven ashore at Eld Island, at the entrance to Gray Harbor, but she did not go to pieces. After vainly attempting to launch her toward the sea, she was dragged across the island and launched on the other side. 2

Davidson’s Coast Pilot, 171. In Sept. 1853 the brig Palos was wrecked on Leadbetter Point, at the month of Shoalwater Bay. Passengers saved, but the Capt. drowned.

In 1854 a Chilean bark was wrecked off Cape Classet by becoming water-logged; 14 persons drowned, 1 saved, but died of exhaustion at Steilacoom. 3

In this year, also, the steamer Southerner was wrecked near the mouth of the Quillehnyte River. Hist. Or., ii. this series. H. Y. Sewell, of Whidbey Island, went across the mountains to the wreck to save the mail, was taken prisoner by the Indians, and held for some time, but succeeded in his undertaking. He was the first white man to cross the Olympian range to the coast so far north. 4

The schooner Empire, Capt. Davis, loaded with oysters, struck on a spit at the north entrance of Shoalwater Bay, where she remained fast and perished.

Swan says that the Empire and Palos were both lost through carelessness, and were the only vessels wrecked at this entrance up to 1856. 5

The Hawaiian bark Louika, Capt. Willfong, went ashore on San Juan Island in July 1855. She was a total loss. 6

The Major Tompkins, wrecked off Esquitnault Harbor, Feb. 25, 1855, has been noticed. No lives lost. 7

Also the Fairy, the first steamer in any trade on the Sound. She blew up at her wharf at Steilacoom. 8

The steamer Sea Bird was burned on Fraser River, 14 miles above Langley, Sept. 10, 1858.

The Traveller, a Sound steamer, was lost in 1858, with five persons on board, by foundering. 9

In 1859 the schooner Caroline was upset on her way into the Sound, near the Lummi Islands; no lives lost. 10

In Jan. of the same year the brig Cyrus, at port San Juan, was wrecked in a gale, and became a total loss. 11

The ocean steamer Northerner, Capt. Dall, running between S. F. and the Sound ports with the mails, was lost by striking a sunken rock two miles below Blunt reef, opposite Cape Mendocino, Jan. 5, 1S60, and 36 lives lost. 12

The American clipper ship Northern Eagle, valued at $60,000, was burned in Esquimault harbor in Sept. 1859. She was en route to Puget Sound to load with lumber for Melbourne. Loss from $100,000 to $150,000. 13

On the 10th of May 1860, the ocean mail-steamer Panama, Capt. Hudson, went ashore on Point Hudson, at the entrance to Port Townsend harbor. She was worked off at high tide, and continued to visit Sound ports as late as 1876. 14

Before the erection of the light-house it was not unusual to hear guns fired in the night as signals of distress, or to awake and find some good ship beating upon the beach, at the mercy of the remorseless surf. On such occasions the settlers would rally and assist in getting the seamen on shore, and saving property from the wreck for the benefit of its owners, or aid in getting the ship off, if possible, without fee or reward. Many is the ship-master who has had abundant reason to thank the Dungeness farmers for assistance in dire necessity.

In May 1859 the bark Mary Slade, from Steilacoom to S. F., was wrecked near Mendocino, and became a total loss; no lives lost.

In March 1862 the schr Polo was capsized in a squall near San Juan, and Capt. Maloney and all her passengers and crew, except two, drowned. 15

The schr Restless soon after capsized and drifted on Maylor Point, Whidbey Island, where it was broken up.

The sloop Comet, running between Penn Cove and Utsalady Mills, a distance of 10 miles, disappeared with all on board, supposed to have been sunk by ice. 16

A large British ship was wrecked on Race Rocks, in the Strait of Fuca, and a heavy cargo of goods lost, in the winter of 1862. 17

The British ship Fanny and Hawaiian bark Rosalia were wrecked on Discovery Island, at the entrance to the Canal de Haro, in the spring of 1868; no lives lost. 18

The schr Growler was wrecked in the spring of 1867, and such of the crew as escaped were slain by the northern Indians. 19

The schr Champion was wrecked at Shoalwater Bay in April 1870. 20

The sehr Rosa Perry was cast away at the entrance to Shoalwater Bay, Oct. 2, 1872. The crew were rescued by the lighthouse tender Shubrick. 21

The Walter Raleigh was lost near Cape Flattery in the winter of 1872. 22

The Nicaraguan ship Pelican was lost at the west end of Neah Bay in Jan. 1875; no lives lost.

The American ship Emily Farnum, Austin master, struck on a rock off Destruction Island, Nov. 18th, and broke up.

Two men were drowned. About the same time the schr Sunshine was found bottom up, off the mouth of the Columbia. She had 25 persons on board, all lost. 23

The bark David Hoadley ran ashore on Rocky Point, in the Straits, Dec. 4, 1880, and was lost.

The steam tug-boat Resolute exploded her boiler in North Bay, 15 miles from Olympia, Aug. 19, 1868; six lives lost. 24

The most shocking calamity in the way of shipwreck which has ever happened in Washington waters occurred in the loss of the old and unseaworthy ocean mail-steamer Pacific, Nov. 4, 1875. She left Victoria in the morning, and in the evening, about 40 miles south of Cape Flattery, she collided with a sailing vessel and went down in less than an hour, with 275 souls on board. Two persons only were saved. The two saved, who were picked up from floating debris 36 and 48 hours after the wreck, were a quartermaster, name unknown, and a Canadian, Henry Frederick Jelly. The loss of ship and cargo was estimated at $125,000, and the treasure on board at $88,000. 25

Since this disaster three large steam-colliers, belonging to the Central Pacific R. Co., have been wrecked the Mississippi, burned at Seattle; the Tacoma, going ashore at the mouth of the Umpqua; and the Umatilla, running on the rocks at false Cape Flattery, all within the years 1883-4. The two lost at sea were doubtless lost through the wrong policy of the company in employing captains unacquainted with the coast. The escape of vessels from shipwreck for many years on the Sound, where there was no system of pilotage established, and lighthouses were wanting, is worthy of remark. Pilotage has never been deemed important, owing to the width of the straits and the depth of water; but lighthouses have been urgently demanded of congress by successive legislatures.Citations:

  1. Hancock’s Thirteen Years, MS., 234-5.[]
  2. Swan’s N. IV. Coast, 43;[]
  3. Or. Statesman, April 11, 1854.[]
  4. Horse’s Wash. Ter., MS., ii., 58.[]
  5. Northwest Coast, 365.[]
  6. Ebey’s Journal, MS., iii., 73, 81.[]
  7. Olympia. Pioneer and Dem., March 3, 1855.[]
  8. Id., Oct. 23, 1857.[]
  9. Olympia Pioneer and Dem., March 12, 1858; Morse’s Mash. Ter., MS., iv. 60.[]
  10. Ebey’s Journal, MS., vi. 126.[]
  11. Or. Statesman, Jan. 25, 1859.[]
  12. Steilacoom Herald, Jan. 20, 1860; Ebey’s Journal, MS., vi. 260.[]
  13. Steilacoom P. S. Herald, Oct. 8, 1859.[]
  14. Ebey’s Journal, MS., vi. 306. Says C. M. Bradshaw, in Wash. Ter. Sketches, MS., 69-70:[]
  15. Ebey’s Journal, MS., vii. 81.[]
  16. Wash. Scraps, 19, 131.[]
  17. Or. Statesman, Dec. 22, 1862.[]
  18. Seattle Intelligencer, March 30, 1868.[]
  19. Portland Oregonian, May 18 and June 30, 1867.[]
  20. Seattle Intelligencer, May 2, 1870.[]
  21. Olympia Transcript, Oct. 12, 1872.[]
  22. S. F. Call, Dec. 14, 1872.[]
  23. Olympia Wash. Standard, Dec. 11, 1875.[]
  24. Olympia Pac. Tribune, Aug. 22, 1868.[]
  25. S. F. Call, Nov. 9 and 11, 1875.[]

Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top