WNP519 - The George Louis & Bessie Everding shipwrecks
Nicole: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of Western Neighborhoods Project. Your weekly dose of friendly neighborhood history.
Chelsea: Ahoy, Captain!
Nicole: Ahoy, first mate Chelsea Sellin!
Chelsea: Happy Shipwreck Week! It's here!
Nicole: Just pretend I'm wearing a captain's hat and we are on a sea, seafaring vessel that is totally watertight and in no danger of, of going under in this roughly one hour program we're about to embark on.
Chelsea: I think the spirit of Shipwreck Week says that our vessel is supposed to go under.
Nicole: Okay. Well then call me Gilligan.
Chelsea: I feel like we've been talking about Shipwreck Week for almost a year. I can't believe it's finally here.
Nicole: Mostly. I can't believe it's October. [00:01:00]
Chelsea: True. So, I thought, you know, this being the kickoff to Shipwreck Week, then maybe we should share with everyone how we even got this idea in the first place.
Nicole: Oh, I think that's a great idea. No one can remember whose idea it was.
Chelsea: I think it's best that way. That way no one can lord it over the other person. It’s our idea.
Nicole: Kind of like San Francisco History Days, RIP, which Woody came up with, but like, you know, that sort of got lost in the shuffle. And you know what? That's probably for the best.
Chelsea: I think so.
Nicole: So, I know that our radio listening audience is on like kind of a delayed schedule here, but just for, for history, for history's sake, what is Shipwreck Week Chelsea?
Chelsea: Well, Shipwreck Week, so we had the idea, it was last year, I think it was the end of last year, it was December when we were in like the depths of planning for the next year. And I remember we were at the [00:02:00] office together and we were doing some research and we were looking at some shipwreck images on OpenSFHistory. Which we have many. And we realized that both the Lyman Stewart and the Ohioan wrecks happened on the same day, October 7th, which I thought was kind of funny. And then the Coos Bay wreck was on October 22nd. And so, it was kind of like, oh, like, why are all these shipwrecks in October? Like, is there some sort of environmental condition that, you know, makes this increase in shipwrecks at that time of year? And now that we've actually done a bunch of shipwreck research, I would say no, it's a kind of a coincidence. But the idea of it, it became our idea to dedicate a whole week in October to shipwrecks. Kind of like the Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, you know?
Nicole: Yeah, except there's no sharks, and we are in no way affiliated with the Discovery Channel.
Chelsea: No, but, you know, Shark Week is awesome, so we were just like, oh, we'll do it like Shark Week, [00:03:00] but it'll be Shipwreck Week. And thus, Shipwreck Week was born.
Nicole: Absolutely. And so, yeah, it's not like October is particularly perilous for ships in the San Francisco Bay or just outside of it, but, and also, we have nothing to do with Fleet Week, which is alarmingly close to our Shipwreck Week celebration, but completely by accident.
Chelsea: I remember not realizing that until we actually were getting quite close to October. I was like, oh no, what did we do?
Nicole: You know, you know how SFO airport isn't supposed to talk about plane wrecks. It's probably kind of a bummer way to follow up. Fleet Week, but also maybe it's the most natural.
Chelsea: I think Fleet Week has no idea who we are. But maybe if we keep, if Shipwreck Week is awesome, and I think it's gonna be.
Nicole: Oh, yeah.
Chelsea: Maybe we'll do this every year and then maybe someday Fleet Week will hear about us.
Nicole: You know what? I just got a text this morning from a friend of mine who does programming at the [00:04:00] Balboa Theatre and on October 16th, he's doing a shipwreck theme to his, his like, sort of B-list movie theatre programs that he's doing. And I was like, oh, that's late. But, but you know what? I appreciate you.
Chelsea: You know, there is something about October. Shipwrecks are in the air.
Nicole: Absolutely. So, we're starting off Shipwreck, this is the first day. Saturday, October 7th. First day of Shipwreck Week. It goes through the 14th, which is actually eight days of programs. It’s not seven, but it’s close enough.
Chelsea: It was your idea to do two podcasts.
Nicole: It was my idea to do two and it lines up historian math, a week long. That's like a baker's dozen of programs. But anyways, and we're starting off with some like deep dive history about two shipwrecks that Chelsea picked out from guardians, nope, Shipwrecks at the Golden Gate. [00:05:00]
Chelsea: Yes, Shipwrecks at the Golden Gate, which is an amazing book, kind of like THE book on San Francisco shipwrecks written by James Delgado and Stephen Haller. And it's been out of print for a while, but I heard a rumor the Western Neighborhoods Project has a bunch of copies that we're going to start selling during Shipwreck Week.
Nicole: Oh Chelsea, that is no rumor. We absolutely bought half of Steve Haller's remaining stock of books that he had in his garage. How do I know that from his garage? I don't really. But a lot of weird stuff fell off the boxes and we brought them inside my house.
Chelsea: Well, it's a great book. If you're at all interested in shipwrecks, then I'm pretty excited toctually get my own copy. Cause I don't even own one.
Nicole: Same they're hardbacks and they're still like bound in plastic. So, like this is…
Chelsea: Brand spanking new!
Nicole: Yeah, mint condition. And who knows, if you come to the Balboa Theater and you buy an extra ticket or like the fancy ticket, you can just get it [00:06:00] signed by Steve Haller. Which is pretty awesome, right?
Chelsea: I'm going to get my signed.
Nicole: Heck yeah, I'm getting mine signed. So anyways, let's move into the history portion of this history podcast.
Chelsea: Yes. All right. So, we're going to start off with my shipwreck, simply because it happened before your shipwreck.
Chelsea: All right. So the, the, the ship that sort of caught my attention in the book is the George Louis.
Chelsea: The George Louis was a 60-foot-long two masted schooner built in San Francisco in 1863. Please do not ask me what the difference is between a schooner and other masted ships. I don't know.
Nicole: You know what? I meant to Google that because, because mine's a schooner too. You know what? While you're, while you're talking, I'm actually going to Google it.
Chelsea: Great! So, this schooner, the George Louis, in the 1860s, mostly it was sailing between San Francisco and Sacramento. I found several newspaper articles that mentioned that [00:07:00] it's carrying merchandise for the Central Pacific Railroad. One voyage in particular caught my attention in 1866. The ship specifically was headed to Alcatraz carrying 37,000 bricks!
Nicole: A lot of bricks.
Chelsea: Yeah, well, you know, Alcatraz has got a lot of buildings on it.
Nicole: And, you know, before you get any further, I have figured out what a schooner is.
Nicole: It is a sailing ship with two or more masts, typically with the fore mast smaller than the main mast and having gaff rigged lower masts. But also, in Australia, it means a tall beer glass.
Chelsea: Oh, that's fun. I'm going to start using that.
Nicole: We need a schooner with a schooner etched into it.
Chelsea: On it. I agree.
Nicole: We should definitely make those. Okay, please continue with George Louis.
Chelsea: All right, back to the George Louis. Carrying all its cargo between San Francisco and Sacramento on one voyage, they had a cargo of [00:08:00] peanuts.
Nicole: Ooh, bricks and peanuts!
Chelsea: Not at the same time. Unless you want your peanuts shelled, I guess. Anyway around 1869, the, the voyages change and the ship stops going up to Sacramento and it starts doing the lumber trade. And that makes total sense because I mean, Nicole, what happened in 1869?
Nicole: Oh, goodness. I don't know.
Chelsea: A quiz. That's when the transcontinental railroad was completed.
Chelsea: Oh, so a lot of the things that a lot of the things that could only go to Sacramento by boat now could come across the country on a train. So, the shipping traffic had to adjust. So, the George Louis starts kind of doing the lumber trade up and down the Northern California coast to places with glorious names like Fort Ross, Stillwater Cove, and Fisk's Mill. Many of these are what are known as doghole ports. Do you know what a doghole port is?
Nicole: I do [00:09:00] not know what a doghole port is.
Chelsea: Neither did I, and you know what? The name was real weird, so I couldn't wait until I got home. So, Fort Ross actually is not a doghole port, because it has an actual wharf. But most of these other places, they don't have actual wharves. That's why they're called doghole ports. So, you know, as you know, and many of our listeners know, the whole coastline from Sonoma northward, it's really rugged, right? But that's where the lumber industry is flourishing in the 19th and 20th centuries. So, to transport that lumber was really difficult and doing it by sea was better by land. But still, like, there's not really places to build proper wharfs where they're, you know, cutting down on these trees. So, the local lumber industry adapted, and it had a fleet of very small, maneuverable schooners, like the George Louis. And they were building all these sawmills along the shore, and right at places where you could just kind of like temporarily anchor a ship. And they became known as doghole ports. And according to Deborah Marks, who is, was the Maritime Archaeologist for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, [00:10:00] they were so named because, quote, “they were so small and exposed that mariners joked they were barely large enough for a dog to turn around.” It's not the best joke I've ever heard, but you know what, the name is catchy.
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely.
Chelsea: So, there's this whole like network of chutes and cables that would extend from the bluffs, where the lumber was, down to the ships that waiting in these little coves. And some of those dog hole ports later became established communities that locals know of today, like Bodega Bay and Mendocino. So, the George Louis, it's doing all this lumber trading in the warmer months. In the winter, it's going to Mexico, like we all should. According to the newspapers, it's taking assorted cargo to places like Guaymas and La Paz and Mazatlan. So fast forward through the 1870s to, you know, the main event, the reason we're all here, the shipwreck. March 8, 1882, the George Louis leaves San Francisco. It's headed to Timber [00:11:00] Cove, which is a dog hole port. Probably didn't really have hardly any cargo on board, because it would have been going to Timber Cove to load up with lumber. There was only four people on board. The captain, Captain Erickson, and three crew members. And then disaster strikes at 3:45 p.m. So, this is from the United States Life Saving Service Annual Report for 1882, quote, “while beating down through the Golden Gate against a fresh northwesterly wind, misstayed and went ashore under the cliffs near Fort Point.” That's another word I had to look up, misstayed. It sounds bad, but I was like, what does this mean? Please note, we are not nautical people.
Nicole: Oh my gosh, yeah, that should be the disclaimer for everything we do at Shipwreck Week.
Chelsea: So, from what I can tell, if a ship misstays, it's because when the ship is changing course, it loses all forward momentum, because it's headed straight into the wind, and then it's, you're completely unable to steer the ship.
Nicole: May I say, I emotionally [00:12:00] identify with that term right now for reasons we won't get into on this podcast.
Chelsea: So, if you're having a bad day, we'll just tell people Nicole has misstayed.
Nicole: I’m sorry, Nicole can't come to the phone right now. She has misstayed.
Chelsea: So, the ship is unable to steer, that's why it went ashore at the cliffs right near Fort Point. Now, the Golden Gate Park Life Saving crew, who, you know, the men of the Life Saving crew usually would go out and help at a shipwreck, they, because it's at Fort Point, and they're down in Golden Gate Park, they can't see that it happens. The wreck is seen by Captain John Low at the Point Lobos Signal Station, which today is located roughly above the Lands End parking lot. And he sends his son, John Low, Jr., to alert the Life Saving Station in Golden Gate Park, and then he hurries down to the wreck of the George Louis. So, by the time the Life Saving crew and John Low, Jr. show up, about 5 p. m., Captain Low has already helped the ship's captain, Captain [00:13:00] Erickson, and two of the crew members to climb up the rocks to safety. However, the remaining crew member, the cook, was very badly injured while trying to make the ascent, and he is still stranded at the foot of the cliff. So, John Low, Jr., who was about 14 years old at the time and so, therefore the youngest and smallest of all the men on site, he volunteers to go down to the cook and attach a line to him so that the others can haul him up the cliff. So, John Low, Jr. is lowered over on this line for a distance of about 780 feet, which I'm afraid might, so I just don't even want to think about that.
Nicole: Oh no, my worst nightmare.
Chelsea: Anyway, they safely get both the boy and the cook back up. The cook can't walk, they take him to Captain Low's house which is probably either inside or adjacent to the signal station. And he spends a day there recovering until he could be taken into San Francisco proper. Meanwhile, the ship breaks up overnight and the George Louis is pretty much entirely gone by the next day, but everyone lives.
Chelsea: I also found in, you know, there are a couple of [00:14:00] newspaper stories on this shipwreck. The San Francisco Examiner's story said that, quote, “Mr. Sutro of the Cliff House ably seconded Mr. Low.” I was not able to verify this at all, but I really like the idea that Adolph Sutro might have been there on the cliff trying to help out. It seems unlikely.
Nicole: He does not strike me as a rugged, outdoorsy type.
Chelsea: Me either, but you know, I just had to include that. It was, it was a little, a little too much fun.
Nicole: Listeners, if you spend any significant time researching on old newspapers, you'll realize how loosey-goosey newspapers are with, like, factual accuracy. Which maybe won't surprise you, given what we know about news in contemporary times, but nonetheless.
Chelsea: Some things just don't change.
Nicole: Yeah, human beings are human beings, no matter what year it is.
Chelsea: So, I wanted to dig into kind of two details from this shipwreck story. The first is the Point Lobos Signal Station. [00:15:00] Very dedicated listeners to this podcast, probably already know about it, because we covered it way back in podcast 86.
Nicole: The ye olden times of the podcast.
Chelsea: Also, maybe you know it by another name. It's also goes by the Merchant's Exchange Lookout and the Marine Exchange Lookout. So, it has several names. The purpose of the signal station or the lookout or whatever you want to call it, the person, the man inside, you know, like John Low, they would watch for approaching ships through a telescope. And then they would announce the arrival of that ship by relaying the information to downtown San Francisco so that, you know, all the stevedores and the tugboats and everyone could get ready to unload the cargo and passengers. Because, of course, this is all in the era before we have, you know, wireless transmissions and radio and ship to shore and all of that. The way our good friend John Martini has described this is that the signal station was part of a notification network through which information could be quickly exchanged between interested commercial groups. Hence the station's original name [00:16:00] of Merchants Exchange Lookout. So there used to be several of them, and the Point Lobos Station was the westernmost station. So that means it's kind of, you know, the first step in this network. And then the next station was on Robb Hill in the Presidio. And then the final station was downtown on Telegraph Hill. And, you know, until 1853, they used semaphores. But then they had a telegraph line put in that directly connected the Point Lobos station to downtown. So those stations in the middle weren't really needed anymore. So, you know, by 1882, when John Low is the one working there, this telegraph line is what he would have been using. What is the Merchants Exchange? Like, it's a building downtown that I think a lot of us know, but like, what really is it? It's kind of this clearinghouse for information about shipping and commercial news. I actually found out there were many Merchants Exchange over the years. Sometimes there was more than one operating at the same time, kind of competing against each other. But you would join, it was a membership organization. And then, you know, one of the perks of memberships was you'd go to their downtown office and there was a reading room and you could, you know, [00:17:00] peruse all the newspapers from the East coast and from Europe. And, you know, you know, men and their cigars would gather and meet and do all their backdoor scheming.
Nicole: Sounds great.
Chelsea: In 1911, the president of the Merchants Exchange, James Rolph, this would be right before he became mayor, he united all of the city's various commercial organizations together into one group, which is the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. And so, the ship reporting function of the Merchants Exchange, like where the signal station is that we've been talking about that became known as the Marine Department of the Chamber of Commerce. So that's why that building has had so many names.
Nicole: And now is completely abandoned.
Chelsea: Yes. And so, I should say that the building that's there right now that is abandoned, that was built in 1927. So, the building from the time of the George Louis shipwreck was actually at least a couple buildings before that. That might be something worth digging into. I don't know the full history of how many buildings have been there.
Nicole: Oh, I know someone who does.
Chelsea: [00:18:00] I bet you do.
Chelsea: So of course, you know, aside from reporting incoming ships, the station was also a safety service to look out for vessels in distress, like the George Louis. A little tidbit about how that worked was an 1875 newspaper article in the Daily Alta said that John Low had an assistant and that they had to keep watch from sunrise until 10 p.m. It sounds kind of boring except for the part where you have to, you know, lower someone over a cliff. And usually the lookout and his family lived at the station. So, who is John Low? He's kind of interesting. He was born in Scotland in 1835. I think he came to San Francisco in 1851. I found evidence of someone who I think is him who came in 1851. He was certainly here by 1856 when he married his wife, Jane Beanston. They had at least seven children and, you know, the census records over the years show him as being a boatman and a sea captain. It was about 1875 that he became the marine reporter at the [00:19:00] lookout station and he was involved in not one, but two major shipwrecks in 1882. Oh, there's a bonus shipwreck hidden in my shipwreck story. So, in June of 1882, like just a few months after the George Louis, this was a kind of a big, big deal, the screw steamer Escambia, it capsized just off the San Francisco bar. John Low witnessed it. The ship was top heavy. It hadn't been loaded properly. And there was like a bunch of panic as the crew and the passengers were trying to get off the ship. And so, out of the 24 people on board, only 4 of them survived. 20 of them perished, unfortunately. And because the ship was a British ship, there was an inquiry with the British consular court. And John Low was called as a witness, of course, because he had seen the whole thing from the lookout station. And he talked about, you know, how he didn't see any distress signals and how the ship had gone down, quote, “to dig for clams.” And then he was chastised in the, in the court for his levity. [00:20:00] Anyway, the court ended up acquitting the Escambia's captain, which completely undermined John Low's testimony that the ship had not been properly loaded. And the president of the Merchants Exchange went to the San Francisco Examiner with a statement defending John Low saying that on the morning following the sad affair, his son patrolled the beach and found the engineer unable to walk. He carried him to a place where he was resuscitated and he then gave him clothing to make him comfortable. It is not the first time that this boy has rescued lives at the Point Lobos station. So, they don't mention his son by name, but I kind of assume it's John Low, Jr.
Chelsea: Who we know had helped with the George Louis shipwreck. There was a lot of back and forth in the press about the poor treatment of John Low, and the verdict was actually reversed in August of 1883.
Nicole: Justice prevails.
Chelsea: Yes. So, Captain John Low, that's not just a nice title, it's a real title. He really was a ship captain. He owned several ships throughout, throughout his entire life. The one that I [00:21:00] particularly was interested in was built in 1891. The San Francisco Call and Post had this item in the newspaper. “A new schooner rigged craft will be launched from Dickey's Way at the Portrero tomorrow. The new vessel has been named the Nettie Low and, in addition to her sails, will be provided with a gasoline engine of 15 horsepower. She will run between this port and Point Reyes, and Captain John Low, formerly of the Jennie Griffin, the owner of the new craft, will command her.” So, as you might guess from the name, this new ship, the Nettie Low, was named after his daughter, named Nettie. And this is so delightful. This ship in particular was designed for carrying dairy produce between Point Reyes and San Francisco. And it was known as the Point Reyes Butter Boat.
Chelsea: I wish we had a butter boat today.
Nicole: Do you think there were butter sculptures on that butter boat or…
Chelsea: I hope so.
Nicole: Into making sculptures? That is something we need to bring back. Although maybe it's still [00:22:00] very alive and well in the Midwest somewhere.
Chelsea: It is alive and well. I read several articles about butter sculptures from the Iowa State Fair this year.
Nicole: There it is. Yep. As I suspected.
Chelsea: It's definitely alive and well. So, John Low died on June 29th, 1898. And the ship Nettie Low passed to a couple of his sons who all had taken after their father. And then, in February of 1900, the Nettie Low capsized, which the term used is called turned turtle. Which is kind of cute.
Chelsea: It capsized off the Bolinas coast due to strong winds. Everyone on the ship made it off alive, but the ship was lost. The captain was Thomas G. Low, who was John Low's son. And then John Low, Jr., he from the George Louis shipwreck, he was engineer on that ship. And so, all the crew got ashore in a lifeboat. And then John Low rode off on a horse to Bolinas to get help. So apparently his role is always like riding off to get help for the shipwreck.
Nicole: [00:23:00] Oh man, riding to Bolinas on a horse would be super fun. I'm down for that. I mean, not if you're panicked because a ship has just wrecked, But…
Chelsea: Although he, it seems like he had maybe done this many times.
Chelsea: Thus ends the story of the Georgia Louis. And the John Low and John Low Jr. families, two bonus shipwrecks, shoved into that major shipwreck story.
Nicole: Which brings us to the Bessie Everding portion of the podcast. Which sounds like the name of a milk cow but it was not. Although it might be somewhere, but it's not in this specific story. So similar to you, Chelsea, in the research of my shipwreck, I came across many, many other shipwrecks connected to the people. Which I have not included. But I was like, 1, this must have been an extremely dangerous thing to do for a living because it didn't seem like shipwrecks were uncommon. Right?
Nicole: Oh, these dudes went down or these ladies, cause although [00:24:00] I guess we're not supposed to call ships like by certain pronouns anymore, which makes complete sense, but also, romantically, I enjoy that we have always done so historically. And so, you, and plus they're named after a lady. So, you will hear me refer to my wreck as she many times in this podcast, and I apologize ahead of time for that.
Chelsea: I like how women are considered bad luck on a ship, but so many ships are named after women.
Nicole: Well, I was going to let that one lie. And Chelsea, you actually picked this wreck for me, because it involves a cat and everyone who's ever seen anything or heard anything I've ever done, you all know I love cats. So, let's just dig into it. Now, according to Shipwrecks at the Golden Gate, the schooner Bessie Everding was built in San Francisco in 1876 for the Pacific Coast lumber trade that extended up the [00:25:00] coast to Oregon, maybe even Washington. I didn't really look it up to be honest. She cost $12,000 to construct and was registered at 70 tons, around 78 feet in length, around 20 feet, feet in beam and a depth of hold of about six feet, five inches. So, she could pack in six feet of stuff. And because I am who I am, I may, immediately became obsessed with who is Bessie Everding was. And I'm pretty sure I tracked her down. I found an Elizabeth Bessie Campbell, who was originally from Nova Scotia and married a teacher-slash-lumber man, who is my dream boat. Let's be honest. I'm picturing him as this, like, a bearded gentleman who likes to read poetry and wears a lot of flannel. Like, if this describes you, listener, if you're single, give me a call. Anyway, nope. Vehemently shakes head. Chelsea vehemently shakes head. [00:26:00] Anyways, moving on. This teaching lumber man was named Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Everding. Most people just called him John. And he was a businessman who specialized in the movement and sale of all kinds of products over the course of his career. Now, I found a lot of records for him. He's variously listed as a factory owner, grain merchant, produce dealer, director and president of a coal mining company, feed store merchant, and by the time the 1880 census is taken in San Francisco, he's calling himself a commission merchant. The census also gives us sort of a peek at his family, and he was married to Bessie, of course, and the couple had 4 children, including 9-year-old Bessie Everding, which places her birth well before the construction of our schooners. I think the schooner is named after young Bessie.
Chelsea: We can go with that.
Nicole: Yeah. Now, are you also asking yourself, like I did, what the heck is a commission merchant?
Chelsea: It's like a merchants [00:27:00] exchange. I was like, I know what this is, but do I really know what this is?
Nicole: Yeah. So please allow me to explain a little bit. Y'all have no idea how many things we've had to Google so far in just prepping for Shipwreck Week. Maybe you do, since we actively Googled something on this podcast. But anyways, according to the Cornell Legal Information Institute, the term “commission merchant” means “any person engaged in the business of receiving an interstate or foreign commerce, any perishable commodity for sale on commission for, or on behalf of an, of another.” End quote. And you know what? You need to be a commission merchant in the late 19th century? Schooner, you need a schooner.
Chelsea: Both the glass and the ship.
Nicole: Both. Yes. You had to drink beer and buy a boat. So, while I didn't find a primary source, that definitely identifies John Everding as the owner of our schooner, my historian’s intuition says there's a good possibility he's our guy. [00:28:00] And J. Everding and Company was around in the Bay Area for a really long time, mostly selling starch and soap products. But, like, shipping a lot of other things. He was, he's from Hanover originally, which is like, I think on the border of, please help me with this geography, on the border of like, Germany-slash-England.
Chelsea: See, German geography is hard because it changed a lot, especially in the 1800s.
Nicole: Well, he's listed as German, but technically, like, when he was living in Hanover, it was controlled by Great Britain. So, like, technically he's English, but from Germany. There were a lot of conflicting sources, depending on what I was reading.
Chelsea: Hanover the city is a larger region as well. Yeah, today it's like kind of in the north middle of Germany.
Nicole: Yeah. Anywhosit. He sold a lot of like German soap. So, if you were in the market for [00:29:00] German soap.
Chelsea: What is German soap?
Nicole: I don't know, but here we are. So, he sold all these things from offices on Clay Street, which had a lot of commission merchants working out of there for a, for a time. And when he died in 1916 from injuries sustained in a fire, obituaries remembered him as a 92-year-old California pioneer and the oldest living member of the San Francisco Produce Exchange and the old Merchants Exchange, which, of course, we all know became the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Chelsea: Ding, ding, ding!
Nicole: Yeah. Chelsea and I didn't coordinate that. It just lined up really great, cause that's what history does.
Chelsea: Sometimes, we're so good at like cross promotion. We're just, naturally gifted at it.
Nicole: Yes. When I think of us, I think marketing is, is where, where we excel. Anyways, like I have a lot more Everding history to share, but maybe I'll just hold that in reserve for [00:30:00] when you come to the Riptide on, or find me in a bar and are like, I would love to know more about the John Everding story.
Chelsea: You heard it here, folks. If you want to hear more about the evidence, you've got to come down to the Riptide on October 10th.
Nicole: You know, we joke, but listeners do find me in the wild of San Francisco and they do ask follow up questions completely out of the blue. It's pretty funny. And I never know what they're talking about, cause I immediately forget what I talk about in the podcast after it's done. But anyways, getting back to our schooner, as we talked about, the maritime life is rough and ready and, you know, she had some close calls throughout the 1870s and the 1880s. Also, in the 1880s, there was a lot of like, seamen's labor unrest and the union went on strike a couple of times and like, sometimes her crew would come into port and like, immediately, like, leave. So, there's a lot more history there, obviously, too, but we're not going to get into it. Captains we see connected to the [00:31:00] Bessie Everding are S.B. Peterson, Charles Klinker, one of my favorite names on the podcast, someone named Johnson who's never given a first name, another man named Jorgensen who's never given a first name. So like, you know, a lot of Scandinavian folks connected to the maritime trade at the time. And I think S.B. Peterson is at the helm when she's actually built in 1876. Although again, a lot of Scandinavian names rolling around. But our Peterson, Soren Baltzer Peterson, was originally from Denmark and he comes here, you know, around the gold rush. By 1880, his occupation is listed as a commission merchant and he's living with his family atop toney Rincon Hill. So, this was a really fancy neighborhood at the time. It doesn't exist anymore because we built the Bay Bridge, literally right on top of it. And all these beautiful mansions were demolished in the 1930s. [00:32:00] So wedding announcements for his daughter referenced him also as a, and I quote, “well known in shipping and commercial circles and a pioneer of 1850.” End quote. And as I was going through a bunch of this research, man, newspapers, like even way back in the day, like in the 1880s, love to be like, ooh, he's a pioneer. He's really old. And he's been here for a long time. Came, came around the straights to California. So, we've been playing up this history for a really long time. And when he died in 1905, he was remembered as a former director of the Alaska Packers Association and a trustee of the Merchants Tugboat Company as well. And his sons actually went on to manage really successful canning companies. So, the family was kind of a big deal here in San Francisco. S.B. Peterson purchased a half interest in the schooner on private terms, which I don't know what that means. [00:33:00]
Chelsea: It's like when a lawsuit gets settled for undisclosed terms. Private terms.
Nicole: I don't know the phrase “private terms” just seemed like kind of like saucy to me, but maybe that's just where my head's at these days. Anyways, he, he meant to use her in the coasting trade. And he bought her in August 1888, which was not long after the death of his wife in February. And this is totally an aside, but I really want to make space for his wife here. Cause Mary was a really impressive woman. She was a prominent member of the Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief Society, as well as a founder and faithful officer of the Crocker Old People's Home.
Chelsea: I like how that's the official name, Old People's Home.
Nicole: Sometimes it's just called the Old People's Home. But yeah, like the Lick Old Lady’s home. Yeah. James Lick. Like, I understand why we don't use that terminology anymore. But also, [00:34:00] it's really funny and I wish we could keep doing it. Anyways. Anyways, the Petersons actually remained connected to the home after her death. Their daughter, Mattie Peterson Simmons, or Simons, took over her role as treasurer and then S.B. Peterson performed those duties after Mattie's untimely death from pneumonia in 1890. So, this family really gives back, you know, they're really a deep part of their community here in San Francisco. Anyway, unfortunate timing, August 1888 to buy a controlling interest in the Bessie Everding, because she wasn't really long for this world. On September 1st, 1888, she sailed for San Francisco from Bowen's Landing, carrying a $1,600 cargo of 42 cords of firewood and 2,200 railroad ties and with Captain Jorgensen in charge of the schooner. According to a submerged cultural resources report, she anchored off the San Francisco bar on the evening of September 9th, 1888. [00:35:00] And here's how the Chronicle from September 11th recalled the situation. She arrived “outside the heads” in thick weather, Sunday night, but Captain Jorgensen “resolved to sail in.” So, here we go. Fate's a comin’ The Bessie Everding ran close to Fort Point where there was, and I quote, a “mush of fog,” which is the best description of fog in San Francisco I’ve ever heard
Chelsea: We're going to have to start using that. Also, I like how the fog is really thick and he's just like, nope, we're sailing in.
Nicole: Look, Captain Jorgensen didn't have a great track record. We're going to get into this later, but anyways. So, it was so thick, it was actually impossible for the crew to figure out her position. So, they decided to anchor. They're like, no, you know what? I know what Captain Jorgensen said, but like, this doesn't feel good.
Chelsea: Oh, he's at it again.
Nicole: So unfortunately, so they throw the [00:36:00] anchor over, but the newspaper said the chain parted and the massive iron sank to the bottom. So, whoopsy doops. They throw out a kenge anchor, which I tried to look up what this is, and it's probably misspelled in the newspaper account. [Ed. note, probably a kedge anchor] But anyways, their backup plan was thrown out and that didn't hold. So, she just starts to drag, I quote, “at the mercy of wind and tide. She slowly drifted to her fate.” End quote. So, you know, crew’s just like, well, here we are. We have no idea where exactly we are. We're just like drifting at this point. And Captain Jorgensen was like, well, nothing else we can do here. So, he prepared to abandon the Bessie Everding in case she struck something. Gathered the whole crew on deck where they, and I quote, “breathlessly awaited the inevitable.”
Chelsea: Good grief.
Nicole: And the Chronicle went on to say, and I quote again, “they had [00:37:00] not long to wait for soon the deep and sullen roar of the breakers fell in their ears.” End quote. So, all these dudes are just standing on the deck, like, you know, like with all their stuff, like, well, oh. I think I hear the coastline. They wait a little bit longer than they just give up. They lowered a small boat and all six crew members get on board and they start rowing for the shoreline. Luckily, it's like actually a pretty calm night, so they were able to make it to shore. And the Chron said the Bessie, that Bessie eventually went ashore about one mile below the Cliff House and she pitched forward and was battered by the waves, which like rolled her farther onto land. So, a patrolling surfman from the Golden Gate Park Life Saving Station noticed like firewood and railroad ties washing up. And as he walked south of the station, he heard the meow of a cat to seaward. He was a cat [00:38:00] towards the ocean. He flashes his lamp, he saw the dim outline of a vessel in the breakers, and he ran for help. And when the Life Saving Station surf boat reached the wreck, they found, surprise, surprise, that the Bessie Everding was completely abandoned, except for the cat. Y'all, they just left the cat.
Chelsea: And it's not like they were in a rush because, right, the news article saying now they're just like waiting for the inevitable on deck.
Nicole: They just never, either never thought to, or like, whatever, it's so messed up. I'm so mad.
Chelsea: They saved the cat though.
Nicole: Like good grief. Yes, the cat did get off the, but like this life saving people went and saved…
Chelsea: Please know, I would never have given you a story where the cat died.
Nicole: Thank you for that. I appreciate you. But this is, this is actually something that went kind of viral on Instagram, which is something I'm on too much of. But like, you know, I guess it's like around in the 19th century, like they had cats aboard to like, eat mice and things like [00:39:00] that. But sometimes they would give them little ID cards. And so, it'd be like, you know, mugshot picture of the cat. And there was like, the little paw print was in it too.
Nicole: Like kitty passports. Anyways.
Nicole: I’m not sure…
Chelsea: It’s the same thing for sailors for, for, like, like merchant seamen. Before photographs, they would have documentation that would like give a physical description and in particular describe their tattoos so that that's how you could tell who was who.
Chelsea: So, we gotta do the same thing for the cats.
Nicole: God bless the person who was like, we should start tracking these cats. Anyways.
Chelsea: They sound like bodega cats, but they're ship cats.
Nicole: Oh yeah. I bet they're swarthier. Just something, something tells me that like, ship cats have lived a tougher life. But maybe that's wrong.
Chelsea: Well, the Bessie Everding cat certainly had it.
Nicole: Yeah, because no one's looking out for it. Good grief. Anyways, a message was sent to San Francisco, which Chelsea just explained to you how that happened. [00:40:00] And Captain Jorgensen arrived at Ocean Beach with the ship's cook the next morning. Only two dudes were like, I'm going to go check this out on September 10th. And yep, they're, they found her at the foot of Lawton Street on Ocean Beach. And they were able to recover some personal effects. Like thousands flocked to Ocean Beach to view this wreck. This was a whole thing. Like imagine a time without TV or, or, or even really like reliable radio. Right? Imagine a time when you're like, what, there's a shipwreck at Ocean Beach. You're going to make the journey out to see this.
Chelsea: I mean, if today someone was like, a ship has wrecked out on Ocean Beach, I think we'd all go out there.
Nicole: Yeah, but we'd all go out there because you've got to get it for the Gram, right? There would be, like, so many photos. Be like, ha, L-O-L, selfie with a shipwreck. Actually, they did that then, too.
Chelsea: Yeah. Also, I like how they basically are just leaving their litter on the beach. [00:41:00]
Nicole: Oh, man. Yeah, absolutely. So, anyways, we're kind of running long now. So, the wreckers went to work on the stranded vessel and she was eventually stripped of like sails, rigging, other useful things. They salvaged about half of her cargo and then she was literally abandoned to just break up in the surf and given up as a total wreck. She was insured for about $5,000, although her cargo was not, which is kind of a bummer. And when she wrecked, she was valued at about $6,000. So, I guess that's not like a huge loss for S.B. Peterson. But I did find, hilariously, Captain Jorgensen had like a tendency to be like, well, I think we should abandon ship. Like he was involved in a bunch of other shipwrecks. And like about half of them I found, like he actually went to, he was put on trial as well for like, you know his involvement in one of them. And I was like, yeah, I'd put this dude on trial too. Half the time he's like, can't be, can't be helped. We should just get off this thing. [00:42:00] Which I kind of respect, because I think I might do the same thing, but also I didn't choose to captain a ship. So, so, that whole myth of the captain must go down with his ship is not the lifestyle that Captain Jorgensen prescribed to.
Chelsea: No, just the Titanic.
Nicole: Cat be damned. That cat's on its own, but the rest of us are getting out of here. And sadly, the real Bessie Everding didn't survive much longer than the schooner that was named after her. Local papers mentioned she was afflicted with a serious illness starting in January 1889, and she eventually died on March 16th, 1889. Burial records note that she died of a brain tumor, which must have been a wild experience in the 1880s, when there was literally nothing they could do to help you. And she was interred in Laurel Hill Cemetery, eventually reburied in Mountain View Cemetery in 1940. So, you can go visit [00:43:00] Bessie Everding and we…
Chelsea: Should do. We should go out there and have a drink out of our schooner glasses.
Nicole: Oh, can't wait to look for that on Etsy later. So that concludes our tale of two shipwrecks in the Golden Gate, actually two, two plus shipwrecks because Chelsea included bonus shipwrecks in her shipwreck story.
Chelsea: Yes, and hopefully ones you haven't heard of, because some are more well known, because there's a bunch of photographs that exist. And I've never, I don't think there's any photographs with these, at least none that I've seen. So.
Nicole: No. I mean, they're pretty early. So.
Nicole: But also, the news, like these weren't like, these weren't exciting shipwrecks.
Nicole: They were just like regular shipwrecks. So, the news was like, and a ship wrecked near the Cliff House. Anyways, moving on. Which is crazy. I, can you imagine like a shipwreck happening today in the news, being [00:44:00] like, well, blah, blah.
Chelsea: I mean, we react very differently, especially much more concerned for the environmental damage that happens. Which you never read about in these old accounts.
Chelsea: Obviously, these schooners don't have a gasoline or anything like that on board, but still, again, just like, let's just leave everything on the beach. Never mind those nails.
Nicole: I mean, that's not, I think that's what they do with like military ships is they just like take them out to a deep part of the ocean and they sink them. And they use them as, it's after they like remediate all the toxic stuff.
Chelsea: Yeah, that's a little different. No chance of like stepping on a rusty nail.
Nicole: Oh yeah. Yeah, that's true. No chance of stepping on a rusty warship now, but anyways, to just bring it back around Fleet Week, ha ha, we did it. So, [00:45:00] that was a mighty three hour tour. And now I think it's time to get into some listener mail. And Chelsea, first of all, as the woman who answers 98% of our emails, how does one send us listener mail?
Chelsea: Well, you can send us an email, a firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can come at us on social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Tell us about all the nautical terms we got wrong. Go ahead. I'm here to learn.
Nicole: Come at us on social media should be the tagline of all social media. So, after listening to episode number 515 about our Clement Street pubs, in which we talk about the Plough and the Stars, our dear friend Kevin was excited to share that he lived near one of the French families that owned one of the dry cleaners that preceded the bar. He [00:46:00] said, and I quote, “the Baylacqs lived around the corner from us on Kirkham. Frank, the pater familia, took a great liking to this little red headed kid and would greet me with a big hug and a kiss. We didn't really know the family, but we'd see them all the time. I never knew for sure if they were the same French laundry family. Now I do thanks to the WNP podcast.” End quote, Kevin also shared, “looks like we'll be joining you for ShipWRECKED,” on October 12th at the Balboa.
Nicole: Because he had literally sent this email in and purchased tickets like right after each other. Because, and I know that because, they all come into my inbox one after the other, the notification of a ticket sale and the podcast email.
Chelsea: That's awesome. We look forward to seeing you, Kevin.
Nicole: I love Kevin. He's wonderful. And he's also a longtime member of Western Neighborhoods Project. So maybe we should get into all the [00:47:00] benefits of membership and donating.
Chelsea: Well, you get our, I am completely biased in saying this beautifully done quarterly membership magazine. A labor of love if there ever was one.
Nicole: True story. Sometimes margaritas.
Chelsea: Plus, you get discounts on events and other exclusive perks. Plus, you know, just the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting your neighborhood history organization.
Nicole: Every time we say that I'm reminded of the guy who took our, our team photos when I was in Little League. He would say, one, two, three, and a fuzzy pickle, instead of saying cheese and…
Chelsea: That’s weird. No one wants a Fuzzy Pickles, a pickle that you shouldn't eat.
Nicole: It's absolutely not an okay thing for like an older dude to say to a group of young girls. And anytime I hear the word fuzzy, that's what I think of. So now you all can think of that [00:48:00] listeners, this traumatizing story from my youth. Anyways. Your membership also supports all the stuff we do and you get access to for free, like…
Chelsea: Like this podcast!
Nicole: This podcast! And this podcast. So I, I think you should join, but if you don't like to join things, you can also just give us money by clickety, clickety, clacking the big orange button at the top of any page on any of our websites, outsidelands.org, or OpenSFHistory.org.
Chelsea: And when we say give us money, we mean a tax-deductible donation.
Nicole: Oh yeah, give us your tax-deductible money. Which you can also tell your employer to match if you are lucky enough to work for a large enough company that does that sort of thing. Which is not WNP. So, and you know, why should you give us money? Well, maybe you'd [00:49:00] like to know what's up with WNP.
Chelsea: Well, I mean, they already know what's up with WNP. It's Shipwreck Week! All shipwrecks, all the time, except for tomorrow, Sunday, October 8th, when we will have a moment of silence for all of those who perished on the sea.
Nicole: Yes. So, I hope we do see you at something. There are four in-person events, some are free, some are, some are charging minimally for, but the big one is our end of year fundraiser at the Balboa at ShipWRECKED. We really need you to be there to help support us so we can make it to next year.
Chelsea: Also, it's going to be real fun. We're going to talk about shipwrecks. We're going to look at shipwrecks. We're going to have actual film footage of shipwrecks.
Nicole: And John Martini and I will be on stage drinking whiskey. So, what could go wrong? Nothing. Nothing at all. So with that in mind, I think we should let you know what the preview is for next [00:50:00] week. So Chelsea.
Chelsea: Well, I will not be here next week because my time on this podcast is always fleeting. We have a special guest from San Francisco Maritime to help us close out shipwreck week. So.
Nicole: Yep. Until then I'm your captain, Nicole Meldahl.
Chelsea: And I'm your first mate, Chelsea Sellin.
Nicole: And this has been another episode of Outside Lands San Francisco. Thanks for being with us history friends.
Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.
Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at [00:51:00] OpenSFHistory.org.