A Sketch of the Clipper Two Brothers
in The San Francisco Call, Jan. 10 , 1901
The Down Easter Two Brothers was once a well-known clipper along the coasts of the Pacific Northwest. She originally made runs between Boston and San Francisco with Glidden & Williams as her agent, and then was involved for nearly a decade in the European-Wheat trade between San Francisco and England. In her later years, She made regular voyages of coal, lumber and salmon up and down the Pacific Coast from ports such as Nanaimo, Seattle, and Portland to San Francisco.
Several other vessels also carried the same name, including smaller schooners, and the famous Nantucket whaler lost off the coast of Hawaii on the French Shoals in 1823. Her captain, George Pollard served as the inspiration for the novel, Moby Dick when his first command, Essex, was rammed by a sperm whale and sank.
The Two Brothers was built in 1868 Farmingdale, Maine and while few large clippers such as Two Brothers were built in Maine, more wooden sailing vessels were built in Maine in the 19th century than in any other state.
Import List From Boston for the Two Brothers-
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 23, Number 7759, 20 June 1871
After returning to his vessel, several attempts were made to decoy Captain Thurston ashore again, but he would not trust himself among the murderous gang. During this time he had some slight difficulty with the consignees of the Brothers regarding some matters relating to the vessel or cargo.On the 27th of August the clerk of the consignees was on the Brothers, and returned to shore with the captain's boat, stating that he would return next morning with the necessary clearance papers for her departure. About 10 o'clock on the same night he returned to the bark in company with eight other Mexicans from the shore. Captain Thurston welcomed the party cordially, suspecting no treachery, and they returned his friendly salutations.Captain Dickey, of the bark Harvest Home, then lying near the Brothers, was with Captain Thurston at the time. For a short time a friendly conversation was kept up, when suddenly, and in accordance witb a preconcerted signal, the Mexicans arose, and drawing revolvers, surrounded Captain Thurston, exclaiming:"You are a prisoner!"The captain seized a cutlass and struck at the nearest of the party. The first mate called up the crew and told them to fight for their lives. They seized cutlasses, belaying-pins, capstan bars anything that was handiest and a desperate struggle commenced. The Mexicans fired at the crew, but the characteristic worthlessness of the -"greasers" in a fight made their aim so bad that but two shots took effect, one passing through the steward's mouth and entering his throat, injuring him painfully but not seriously. One of the sailors was also wounded. The crew were making a good fight, but it was reserved for the second mate to distinguish himself by showing coolness and bravery that would have done honor to the veteran of many battles.He is the son of Captain Thurston, and is but 18 years old. When the fight commenced he took his revolver and endeavored to enter the cabin and aid his father. The Mexicans prevented him, and he turned and entered by the rear. One of the pirates was scuttling with Captain Thurston, and him he shot dead. Alarmed by the fall of this man, the others attempted to flee, panic-stricken, towards their boat. One was chased by Captain Dickey and shot dead by the second mate. Taking a position on deck young Thurston fired the four remaining shots in his pistol at the wretches as they endeavored to got over the boat's side, and each time one fell dead, making six victims to his brave heart and steady nerve.Of all the assailants but two escaped to the boat, and of these one bore a severe saber wound. The ringleader, the consignee's clerk, was killed by a sabra cut from Captain Thurston. Captain Thurston shipped the anchor, made sail and attempted to get to sea; but there was no wind, and the vessel lay motionless. Arms were then collected and preparations made to give the pirates another fight.Soon afterward two large boats filled with men were seen pulling out from the shore, and Captain Thurston concluded they were too strong for the means of defense at his command. He and his crew then abandoned the Brothers, and put to sea in the small boat without either water or provisions. They pulled thirty-five miles out, and on the nth were picked up by the bark Harvest Home, which had laid near them at the scene of the attack.Captain Dickey, of the Harvest Home, states what occurred after the Brothers was abandoned. The two boats seen by Captain Thurston pulled around her, and by firing on her found that she was deserted. They then rowed towards the Harvest Home and gave her a volley, which Captain Dickey returned with such good effect that they hauled off and returned to the shore. On the following morning, the nth of August, a large party of Mexicans came on hi two armed schooners, and went round the Brothers, firing upon her with a howitzer. They then boarded her and took her to the anchorage near shore. Captain Dickey waited to see no more, but went off to sea, first sending a report of what had occurred to the United States Consul at Manhattan. He picked up Captain Thurston and the crew, arriving at Galveston on the 6th inst.
At Harrison-street wharf the Two Brothers was wearing out the bales of hay used as fenders about as fast as they could be put in place, but she was neither doing nor receiving much harm. The little British Columbia bark Sparrowhawk was not so fortunate, as the large ship America parted one of her bow hawsers, and swinging out, the anchor which hung from her port cat-head caught the former under the projection of her stem at every rise of the sea, tearing the wood-work badly. At this wharf, ropes were not strong enough to hold the three ships named, and the cables were used. The America had a streak of plank off for repairs from stem to stern, exposing her top timbers, but fortunately the opening was high above the water-line.-Sacramento Daily Union January 27, 1875
The agents of the Bureau Veritas held a survey on the ship Two Brothers yesterday. Not a defective piece of timber was found in her, and she will obtain the 3-3 A 11 rate, the highest of the Bureau. Veritas.
-Daily Alta California, Volume 28, Number 9694, 21 October 1876
Grain prices had dropped by 1878, and the Two Brothers
began hauling coal from Nanaimo & Seattle.
Source: The Daily Intelligencer, Seattle, January 18, 1878
A fully rigged ship similar to the Two Brothers loads coal from the Pike pier bunkers circa 1875
A birdseye-view of Ballast Wharf sketched in 1884.
A picture taken from roof the Occidental Hotel of Ballast Wharf and City Docks from an unknown photographer circa 1884.
A large pile of ballast is visable in the centre of the wharf.
Ballast Island circa 1880. An unknown clipper similar to the Two Brothers is docked at the wharve.
The native settlement is in the foreground.
The hop-picking season is at hand, and from far and near the people who earn an annual stipend from the fields are beginning to gather for their labours. If an artist or story writer could visit these scenes of busy and picturesque activity he would find abundant material for sketch work such as has given life to the cranberry marshes, the sumac gatherers and the strawberry pickers. Perhaps nowhere else in all the Pacific Northwest is there a more interesting group of figures than the Indians who gather annually at Ballast Island, on the Seattle water front, to cull the fruitful rows with which that section teems. So long have they been beaching their canoes in the late summer time along those coves and quiet nooks that the old settlers have come to look forward to their annual pilgrimage as a matter of course, and to accord them the same right-of-way in the hop fields that the Negroes are conceded among the cotton bolls of the South. The above cut gives a striking and life-like illustration of a group of these aborigines just landed from their canoes, which lie floating the water. The bowed figure and hooded head of the woman who bends over a steaming kettle, the recumbent form of the brave as he stretches his bare toes in the warm sand, the toddling papoose who turns his back and waddles away to play with sea shells, all these form a part of the Pacific Northwest that aught to be preserved in song or story or sketch, and the Post-Intelligencer takes pleasure in adding it to the store of marine and agricultural pictures which is has accumulated since its art department was established.
Today, little remains of "Ballast Island" except a small plaque that reads: "IN THIS AREA, ONCE PART OF THE BAY, VESSELS FROM PORTS ALL OVER THE WORLD DUMPED THEIR BALLAST. UNTOLD THOUSANDS OF TONS WERE UNLOADED INTO THE WATER BY SHIP'S CREWS, INCLUDING 40,000 TONS FROM SAN FRANCISCO'S TELEGRAPH HILL. THE ISLAND, LONG A GATHERING PLACE FOR INDIANS ON THEIR ANNUAL MIGRATIONS, WAS COVERED IN THE 1890'S BY CONSTRUCTION OF RAILROAD AVENUE (NOW CALLED ALASKAN WAY)."
Today, all that exists of Ballast Island is a lone historical marker.
In 1880, Captain William O. Hayden was placed in command of the Two Brothers. Hayden was born in Maine in 1840, and spent six years on the Atlantic coast before coming west. Eventually calling Tacoma home, he was well known along the coast commanding several clippers including the Rainier, El Dorado, Arkwright and Buena Vista. He is well known for bringing the historic tug Goliah from San Francisco to Puget Sound and spent a year on her introducing her to the waters which were to be her future home. Hayden commanded the Two Brothers transporting coal from Puget Sound and British Columbia for almost nine years before transferring to the ship Palestine, just prior to his retirement.
In 1888, the Two Brothers brought up a large 9000lb mooring anchor and chain from San Francisco to Commencement Bay (Tacoma Harbor), the purpose was to allow incoming ships a safe harbor for moorage while discharging their ballast before moving to the coal wharf. The Two Brothers was instrumental in bringing the anchor to the harbor, and thus was exempt from harbor fees for doing so.
Description of the mooring anchor brought to Tacoma by the clipper Two Brothers.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 14052, 19 February 1888
Two ships sit at dock next to the Tacoma coal bunkers
while three more ships lay at anchor in Commencement Bay in this photograph from 1888.
(Tacoma Library, General Photograph Collection: Image TDS-013)
On July 30, 1993 Robert Mester, with three others side scanning in Commencement Bay, found a very large and old Anchor.
This could very likely be the mooring anchor brought from San Francisco by the Two Brothers in 1888.
In March of 1994 photographs and measured drawings were shared with Archeologist James Delgado of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
The Anchor was retrieved sent to Texas A&M university for restoration, and now is in the Museum of History in Tacoma Washington.
The anchor still had 50ft of chain attached when it was recovered.
Each link was 9 inches long and almost 2 inches in diameter.
In late 1888, Hayden was succeeded by Captain McCartney as commander of the Two Brothers. In early 1889 the price of coal in San Francisco had risen to $10/ton for Seattle coal. A one-way run from Seattle or Tacoma to San Francisco could be made in generally less than ten days which was nearly half the time it took to reach Nanaimo.
The owners of the Two Brothers took full advantage of their "free mooring" in Tacoma, and began regular trips, shipping coal from Tacoma to San Francisco, Alameda and Oakland.
Captain McCartney successfully brought load after load of coal into San Francisco without any major mishaps, and it was discharged as fast as he could bring it in. In January, 1890, the ship encountered a heavy squall off Cape Flattery which carried away the head gear but the Two Brothers weathered through the storm and made it safely to port. Her good fortune continued in February when she was under tow along with four other vessels, and they encountered a dangerous ebb-tide. However, she was fortunate to be slightly in tow ahead and inboard of the Fairchild, a bark which was being towed in closest to the rocks, when they vessels rounded Fort Point, the Fairchild which was closest to the shore, got caught in a large tide rip, which gave her a big sheer inshore. She hit hard bow first on the rocks, which started her stems and forward planking to begin leaking. Eventually several tugs were able to pull her off and bring her to safety but the damage was substantial.
Daily Alta California, 24 February 1890
On March 24, Captain J. McCartney's wife gave birth to triplets, two sons and a daughter.
In July 1890, Captain W.O. Hayden, who had been in command of the Palestine retired, and Capt. McCartney resigned command of the Two Brothers and succeeded Hayden, transferring to the Palestine. The first mate of the Two Brothers, Windrow, took over command. Shortly after Windrow took command, on March 6, 1891 while at Tacoma, an unfortunate Swedish sailor named Steve Halmond fell overboard, and although he was rescued from the frigid water, hypothermia had caused him to catch a severe cold. He died at sea on the return voyage to San Francisco.
For the next eight years, Windrow made continuous voyages carrying coal from Seattle, Tacoma and Nanaimo without any serious incident.
In 1895, the Maguire Act was passed and became a United States Federal statute that abolished the practice of imprisoning sailors who deserted from coastwise vessels. The act was sponsored by representative James G. Maguire of San Francisco, California. Before this legislation, a right to leave the ship existed only for a seaman who "correctly" believed his life to be in danger. This law extended the right in cases where the seaman feared physical abuse from other shipboard personnel. The original package called for an improvement of a seamen's forecastle quarters, a ban on violence by officers, a two-watch (four hours on , four off) system, with legal holidays, and prohibition of advances, allotments, and wage attachments.
San Francisco Call, 20 March 1895 — "WAR ON THE WATER FRONT"
Striking unionized sailors demanded an increase of $10/month in pay and union crews to be shipped on board all vessels in San Francisco.
At the time of the strike, the Two Brothers had just arrived in port and was planning to head to back sea for another load of Tacoma coal, but the striking sailors meant that she was in need of a crew. Captain Windrow refused to meet the demands of the Union claiming that it was unaffordable for the ship to do so. As a result, many of the ships in port were looking for non-union or "scab" crews, and released their unionized crews from duty. The result was a stand-off between sailors and ship owners. The Steam schooners on their highly profitable passenger routes acceded to the demands of the union, and were willing to pay $45/month. The reason for this according to Secretary Walthew, was the owners have always allowed the captains to get their crews from where they pleased, in consequence of which no supply of steam sailors have been kept on hand.
San Francisco Call 26 March 1895 --
During the sailors' strike Captain Windrow refused to take on unionized sailors
citing the cost of wages was problematic.
A day later, the Two Brothers set sail with a "mixed" scab crew of six Japanese and four Cape Verde Island natives,and it was business as usual. The strike was short lived, by May the sailors' union had agreed to meet the demands of the ship owners, as most ships had began shipping with "scab" crews, and after only a couple months, the unemployed union sailors began to owe the boarding house owners and there was substantial pressure from all sides to get the men working again. The ship-owners had prevailed, Two Brothers once again shipped with a Union crew at $25/month.
San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 163, 22 May 1895 — CALL THE STRIKE OFF
The George Skolfield was a wooden Maine built "Down Easter" slightly smaller in tonnage size, but very similar to the Two Brothers.
Along with the Two Brothers, it was one of the first large sailing vessels to join the Alaska Packers Association Fleet in 1899.
In spring 1898, the Alaska Packers Association began negotiating the purchase of several of the old wooden sailing vessels, and the Two Brothers was in their sights. Captain Windrows decided to head east to visit his family and vowed to return, and Captain Wilson succeeded him in command. At the time, the Klondike and Fraser River gold rush was in full swing, and most of the available ships were being chartered to travel to the northern gold fields. Although still in good condition, the wooden sailing vessels were reaching the end of their service life, but were still ideal for carrying bulk cargo such as canned salmon, lumber and coal. Instead of pointing her bow for the Klondike, the Two Brothers capitalized on high freight prices as a result of a shortage of coal, and she regularly continued to haul coal throughout the rest of year, and into the New Year from the Wellington coal bunkers at Departure Bay, Nanaimo to San Francisco.
The discovery of gold in the Yukon lead to a massive
amount of ships and men headed north.
This effectively created a shortage of coal along the coast.
(San Francisco Call, Jan. 23, 1889)
The Wellington Collierys coal bunker and wharves at Departure Bay, Nanaimo, B.C. 1899.
Credit: NOAA's Historic Fisheries Collection Photography: Stefan Claesson
Gulf of Maine Cod Project / National Archives
In spring of 1899, the Alaskan Packers Association owned the Two Brothers, and many of the remaining available sailing ships and placed her in the salmon fleet to carry supplies, and fisherman to the Pyramid Harbour cannery in Alaska. The ships sailed north with coal as ballast carrying men, nets, small sailboats, and gear. The plan was to return with their holds chock-full of cases of canned salmon.
A can label from Alaska Packers Association Canneries in Alaska.
Alaska State Historical Collections: ASL-MS108-7-11
Alaskan Salmon Fleet of 1899. San Francisco Call March 18, 1899
The list of ships in the 1899 Alaska Packers Association Fleet.
The massive fleet consisted of over forty ships, half were sailing vessels.
(San Francisco Call -March 15, 1899)
On April 9th, the Two Brothers left San Francisco for Pyramid Harbor with supplies and men for the cannery. She arrived without incident at Pyramid Harbor on May 2nd. In September, the Two Brothers and the rest of the fleet returned to San Francisco. The Two Brothers and the Simtram were involved in "cleanup operations", that is they traveled to each of the cannery stations along the coast, and collected left over cases that the other vessels had to leave behind. At each station, there is usually a few hundred cases leftover to be picked up.
The Two Brothers sailed into San Francisco bay on October 15th. The entire fleet of forty vessels brought back about a million cases, and 20,000 barrels of salmon which was considered an average catch for the season. The largest cargo was carried by the W.H. Macy which brought down 70,722 cases. The Two Brothers returned with 50,083 cases.
The Two Brothers then went back to coastal trading for the next six months, carrying coal from Comox, B.C. to San Francisco on several runs and then traveling to Grays Harbor and Port Townsend in early 1900. She set sail on April 8, 1900 for Pyramid Harbor with the rest of the Alaska Packers Association Fleet of 1900. By 1900, the Alaska Packers Association owned forty-one vessels. In that year, a large amount of vessels also headed north for the gold fields. As many as fifty-three vessels left for the north, most of them with the Salmon industry. It was expect that between 8,000-10,000 men would be employed in the canneries and on the vessels. The transportation companies had expect to land as many as 25,000 gold seekers in Nome before the spring was over. It was a debate amongst seaman as to which would bring the most money. The Alaskan Salmon trade was a reliable source of income, and had proven itself over the last few years. The Gold Rush was a high-risk, but could provide a lifetime of wealth over a short period of time. The debate carried over into seamen's and fishermen's wages, and many of the ships were hard pressed to fill their crews once word got out of a shortage of men. In past seasons, ships had traditionally been able to fill their crews at $75 or less per round trip voyage to the canneries which was a four month endeavour and received 1 cent per fish. But with the added pressure from the gold fields, the salmon industry began to feel the labour pinch. The newspaper reported that the "job is a sinecure as every cannery vessel is doubly manned and the sailors have watches of four hours on and eight hours off. During the fishing seasons the sailors were allowed 1 cent for every fish they caught and as a result every man had a check for $350 to $500 coming to him at the end of the cruise that generally lasted four months and never ran into a fifth. On the vessels and at the canneries the men lived well and in consequence, while other concerns sometimes found it hard to get men, the Alaska Packers could pick and choose." (source: San Francisco Call, April 7, 1900).
However, in 1900 it was different, several of the vessels had a hard time obtaining crews, and captains were offering an advance of $5/month for sailors. The newspaper reported that most sailors were holding out and demanding as high as $80 and up to five cents per fish for the season. In the early days of the Salmon Industry, the fisherman had divided themselves amongst ethnic lines, on a journey to Alaska on an Alaska Packers Association cannery ship in 1926, Max Stern of the San Francisco Daily News, reported that fisherman-- mostly "Latins" and Italians from Monterey and San Francisco's north bay area, which today is commonly referred to as "Fisherman's Wharf", and "Scandinavians" from the Columbia River and Puget Sound -- "Do not mix any better than oil and water." Because of rivalries amongst the fishing crews, the "Finns, Icelanders, Russians, Norweigans, Swedes, Danes, and Dutchmen" took the port side, while the "Italians, Portuguese, and Sicilians" occupied the starboard side of the forecastle.
Even more virulent was the animosity between the "Euro-American" fisherman and the Chinese cannery workers, who made the trip to Alaska below deck in cramped, unsanitary forward quarters, which was known as the "China hold".
The segmentation of the fisherman was not only organic but also as a result of economic fisherman unions and agreements. While the Alaskan Fishermans Union (AFU) wasn't established until the 1902 season, the makings of the unions came into being with the establishment of canneries in the 1870's.
Since the 1850's when the first Scandinavians came west they began to create homes. At the time in Washington and Oregon, land was free for the taking provided certain requirements were filled.
The Pacific Northwest was an ideal destination for Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants. There was free land that was covered with timber for them to claim. Seasonal work opportunities were available all year. There was salmon fishing in the spring and summer. Work was available at logging camps the rest of the year. In 1866 the Hume Brothers started their cannery on the north shore of the Columbia. At first they had difficulty convincing people their canned salmon was good to eat and that they could pack it safely. When they improved their canning practices, they were able to sell more salmon; the word spread, and the salmon packing industry suddenly took off. Canneries sprang up all along the Columbia and workers were needed to bring the fish into the canneries.
The Finnish fishermen were experienced at fishing in boats in the rivers and lakes in Finland and were very successful at this work. They sent word to their relatives about the opportunities waiting for them in fishing and soon a rush of immigrants from Finland came to join the Yugoslavs, the Greeks, Norwegians and others in the industry. By 1874, there were thirteen canneries, 600 fishermen and 2,000 cannery workers, numbers which would double a decade later. They had small double ended boats, about 25 feet in length, with a small spirit rigged sail. When running down wind, the sails gave the boat an appearance of a butterfly, and soon the Columbia river fleet carried the nickname, the "Butterfly Fleet". They used traditional "gill nets" to catch their fish. Both drift gillnets and setnets have long been used by cultures around the world. The Finnish inherited the technology from the Vikings and Norwegians. Using these small sailboats, they faced enormous risks. Scores died every season. A massive storm in 1880 brought that year’s death toll to over 250. While Scandinavian communities existed throughout Washington, Oregon and even into British Columbia, it was at Astoria, on the Columbia River where the majority of them settled. It became famously known as the "Helsinki of the West".
The Columbia River "Butterfly" Fleet - c.1900
Photo: Oregon Historical Society/OrHi 4167
Before the anti-Chinese driving out campaigns exploded in the 1880s, Chinese immigrants did the unpleasant work of processing and canning the salmon. White fishermen organized the first unions partly out of racism. The goal of excluding Chinese workers led to the formation of an exclusionist mutual aid association in 1874 and then a successful union in 1880.
In 1876 the fishermen in Astoria could not agree with the canneries on a price they were to be paid per fish. At that time they were paid per fish, not by the pound. The cannery operators noted that in the few short years that canneries had been in operation on the Columbia, that the average size of the fish they were getting from the fishermen were smaller and smaller. They said they were losing money on the fish. The fishermen complained and they went on strike, refusing to fish. This happened again in 1880 after they had formed the Columbia River Fishermen's Protective Union. The Finns then were the largest ethnic group in this organization. Disputes continued to rise, but in 1896, the most serious occurred. A couple strike-breakers were shot, more violence was threatened and the Astoria businessmen asked for help from the Oregon National Guard who arrived in Astoria, maintaining a presence there and breaking the strike. Gradually the fishermen found they had to go back to fishing in order to survive. But the striking fishermen got even with the canneries by organizing, pooling their resources and building a cannery of their own in 1897. Finns bought 172 out of the 200 original shares of the Union Fishermen's Cooperative Packing Company.
Meanwhile, further down the coast in California, Italian Fisherman had also banded together in San Francisco, in 1876, when they created the Italian Fisherman's Union. In Italy, fishermen's unions had existed since Roman times. These unions were known as Piscatores, and existed in great numbers in Rome, Ostia, Pisae, and other points on the sea and near the mouths of the Italian streams. Fish were held in high regard by the wealthy, and in early Roman times, the fishing business was extensive, and the unions yielded considerable political control. In the latter part of the 19th-century, new immigrants were flooding in to the United States from southern and eastern Europe. Plagued by internal unrest, peasant uprisings and disastrous failure in the attempt to establish an African empire in Ethiopia, Italy made a significant contribution to the flow of immigration westward, and it eventually became known as the Italian diaspora. The new immigrants were primarily of rural peasant stock, and the majority settled near the industrial centers of the northeast and Midwestern United States. However, a large number made their way to California, drawn in part by the climate and geographical similarity to their own homeland.
During the 1880s and 1890s almost ninety percent of Italians entering California came from an agricultural or maritime background. From 1900 to 1910 the number of Italians arriving annually almost tripled, rising from 22,707 in 1900 to 66,615 in 1910. The majority of these immigrants were Ligurians from the coastal sections of northwest Italy. Those from the coastal fishing villages along the gulf of Genova and the Ligurian sea found that California presented them with an opportunity to practice their hereditary vocation of fishing. The first settlement of Italian fishermen in California developed in the bay area around San Francisco. It is estimated, that as early as 1870 these fishermen were providing ninety percent of all fish consumed in San Francisco.
These Italian fisherman brought the "old-world" traditions with them to California. The Italians took great pride in their fishing skill, and it was multi-generational family affair, a fleet of boats ran the length of "Fisherman's Wharf". Most of the boats and nets they brought and built were similar to those developed over centuries in the Mediterranean fishing fleet. The small lateen-rigged sailboats were patterned after the craft that the Italian fishermen knew in the old country with double-ended hulls long, narrow and deep enough to provide good stability in open waters. White and green was the prevailing color of the tiny boats, and the name of a patron saint usually appeared on the hull. One type of net used by the Italians was the paranzella, a close-meshed net that was dragged along the bottom by two boats. Another type used was the trammel net, a net having outside panels of large mesh between which were placed one or more panels of smaller mesh. This type net was often used among the rocks close inshore to catch fish that do not readily take the hook.
The Italian fishing fleet at Fisherman's Wharf (Meiggs Pier)
circa 1900. Photo: J.B. Monaco Source: Shaping San Francisco Digital Archive
The Italians were as colorful as the boats they sailed and were heard singing in the fog shrouded waters of San Francisco Bay, primarily as a means of communication, as one could not see a companion boat but could hear it was close by.
In the spring of 1900, the rivalries became apparent along the wharves with the Scandinavians holding out for the better paying ships, but the Italians were proud of the their fishing heritage, and believed that they could make up for any lost money through their fishing skills. The Scandinavian "hold-out" provided them an "in" to the Salmon fishing industry, and with the opportunity to earn 1-2 cents/fish presumed there was good money to be made in the Salmon industry. In their opinions, while gold could be had at risk in the Yukon for great fortune, the Salmon industry represented silver riches ripe for the taking. The Italians seized the opportunity, and many of them signed articles on-board vessels headed for Alaska. The newspaper reported that with most of the Italian fishermen, who were responsible for 90% of the ground fish heading north, it could lead to a market shortage and high cod prices, "nearly all the Italian fisherman will go north on the salmon fleet this year and that rock cod, sole and tom cod would be very scarce in the markets" (Source: San Francisco Call, April 7, 1900).
With the Italians willing to head for Alaska at a slightly cheaper rate than their Scandinavian counterparts, Captain Wilson without hesitation signed 21 Italian fisherman aboard the Two Brothers. The men had signed articles, as both sailors and fisherman to perform "regular ship's duty, both up and down, discharging and loading; and to do any other work whatsoever when requested to do so by the captain or agent of the Alaska Packers' Association."" on an agreement to be compensated a sum of $50 and two cents per fish.
The Alaska Association Packers Fleet for 1900.
Source: San Francisco Call, 18 March 1900
The Pyramid Harbor Cannery at Chilcat Inlet Alaska, 1892.
The Two Brothers arrived in Alaska safely on May 9th with the rest of the large fleet. The Italians quickly found that they were not making the haul of fish that they had anticipated, and discontent spread. The Italians complained to the cannery managers that the equipment that had been supplied to them was faulty, the nets were rotten and had holes, and this meant that they were caching far less fish than they had bargained on. Since a big portion of their pay is based on their Salmon catch, they demanded a raise for the cruise north.
The managers of the cannery replied that there was no reason for them to complain, that the nets and equipment were adequate and the cannery had an equal in the fishermen's success, for if the fishermen caught less fish than it also impacted the company's profits. The Alaska Packers Association had invested $150,000 into the cannery at Pyramid Harbor. The fishermen went back to the fishing grounds, but they continued to bring in less fish than they had expected. Finally, they were fed up and on May 19th, gave a ultimatum to the cannery managers, unless they were paid this additional wage they would stop work entirely, and return to San Francisco. On May 22nd, the cannery managers faced with the dilemma of a shortage of labour, quickly conceded to the Italian fishermen's demands and promised the raise once they returned to San Francisco. They requested a shipping commissioner to be brought from Northeast Point, as witness to the contract amendment, and the superintendent told the fisherman that ultimately he was without authority to enter into any such contract, or to in any way alter the contracts made between them and the company in San Francisco.
It was business as usual, and the Two Brothers returned to San Francisco in October, 1900.
The Two Brothers returned to San Francisco from Alaska on
October 6, 1900 with a boat full of canned Salmon (source: San Francisco Call, 06 Cotober 1900)
Carrying 47,600 cases of Salmon, the Two Brothers returned safely to port with a large fleet of ships arriving in San Francisco from both the canneries and the gold fields. When the fisherman came ashore to collect their pay, they asked Captain Wilson for the $100 that had been promised by the cannery superintendent, and Captain Wilson just about fell over laughing his guts out, the ensuing chaos erupted into a near mutiny.
A mutiny nearly occurred on the Two Brothers when the men
went ashore and drew their pay. (source: San Francisco Call, 07 October 1900)
The matter was to eventually set precedence in the 9th Circuit in the United States District Court, which ruled that they men had signed on for $50, and it was unfair of them to "ransom" the cannery managers into offering a higher wage, when a contract was already signed and agreed to in San Francisco. Furthermore, even if the cannery managers had the ability to alter the contract, the claims that the fisherman had been given faulty gear was dismissed, as the Alaska Packing Association had invested significantly into the Pyramid Harbor Cannery, it did not appear reasonable to the court that the association would want to see diminished profit by a willfully doing anything which would decrease the amount of fish caught. They court ruled that would be contradictory to their enterprise which required that "fishermen should be provided with every facility necessary to their success as fishermen, for on such success depended the profits the company would be able to realize that season from its packing plant, and the large capital invested therein. In view of this self-evident fact, it is highly improbable that the company gave the fishermen rotten and unserviceable nets with which to fish. It follows from this finding that fishermen were not justified in refusing performance of their original contract. "
The plight of the fishermen become folklore, and it was well debated throughout the decades, should the fisherman have been bound to their original agreements or were they just in asking for more pay? Exactly who was the exploiter and who the exploitee? There has even been folk-songs written about the incident.
Folksong: Sailing To Pyramid Harbor -
This song is about the labour dispute of twenty-one sailors and fisherman,
who headed North to the Alaskan canneries in 1900 on the ship Two Brothers.
Sockeye and the Age of Sail:
This is a great video that outlines the general history of the Alaska Packers Association --from the ships and men,
to the canneries such as in Point Roberts, and Blaine, and Alaska
By December 1900, the Two Brothers was back on its usual coasting routes, and arrived in Tacoma. It took on a load of coal and then was headed across the Pacific towards Lahaina, Hawaii. It sailed into a heavy gale, which did considerable damage, nearly dismasting her, once she was through the gale, and in calm water, it had became apparent that the damage was worse than it was thought. She was 350 miles Southwest of San Francisco when it was discovered that she was leaking badly, at a rate of 13 inches per hour. The men worked hard at the pumps, and there was no choice but to sail her back to San Francisco for repairs.
She made another quick run to Seattle, and then once again joined the Salmon Fleet and headed north to Bristol Bay Alaska on April 14th. She arrived as usual in early May 1901.
"Ship Two Brothers Making Port From The Canneries And Grain And Coal Laden Vessels Departing.
The Ship Came Down Before a Northwester And Then The Wind Chopped Around to Southwest and Brought Her In" -
San Francisco Call Sept.24, 1901
The Two Brothers made port with 32,200 cases of Salmon. The newspaper reported that she was brought in by a Southwest breeze. The "Two Brothers is one of the best known vessels on the coast and generally makes a good run.. Adverse winds lengthened out the passage from Bristol Bay and she was 26 days on this occasion."
For the remainder of 1901 and into early 1902 she made her usual trips for coal from Tacoma, and Nanaimo, although the coal bunkers had now been moved from Departure Bay to Oyster Bay, which was renamed Ladysmith Harbour.
In spring of 1902, the Two Brothers was again part of the Salmon fleet, but this was to be her last run north to the canneries. The older wooden vessels were being replaced by iron hulled ships, and the APA had purchased or chartered all of the remaining star line of sailing ships: Star of Russia, Star Of France, and Star Of Italy from James Corry and Co. in Belfast Ireland, who had replaced all of their sailing vessels with passenger steamers. In time, the Alaska Packers Association would rename most of the other iron-hulled sailing vessels to the "Star" designation. For example, the Bark Euterpe (named after the Muse of Music) was renamed the Star Of India, and the Balclutha was renamed Star Of Alaska. In four of these ships, Balclutha, Euterpe, Star Of France, and Star of Italy, the APA only had partial ownership until 1904. The ships were used in the lumber trade when "off season" from the salmon fleet. Pope and Talbot owned slightly more than half the shares in the ships, (2,158/4,300) and used them to carry lumber from the Puget Mill to the continent of Australia, and other corners of the globe. However, after 1900 the freight prices for lumber had declined in world markets and only seven trips were made outside of California in 1901. Pope and Talbot had switched from foreign markets to domestic ones.
The Alaska Packers Association Salmon Fleet in 1902
(Source: San Francisco Call, 1 March 1902)
There was a little excitement at the pier prior to departing on March 28th, when the Two Brothers was in port in San Francisco preparing to leave for Alaska. It was a beautiful sunny California spring day and a dozen or so Japanese fishermen had decided to lay out and sunbathe on the gangplank leading up to the ship. The plank was old, and under the strain it gave way sending four of the fishermen hurtling into waters of the bay. The remaining occupants quickly scrambled to safety but were scarred and shaken in the process. Captain Andersen quickly jumped into action, and unfortunately broke a very valuable whip when assisting one of the Japanese that could not swim to a friendly piling.
Captain Thomas Wilson was joined by his wife, and the Two Brothers left San Francisco for Chignik Bay, Alaska on April 4, 1902.
The Chignik Bay Cannery and Harbour with cannery ships in the distance circa 1912
The cannery ship Star of Alaska (formerly Balclutha) at Chignik, Alaska c.1911
The iron-hull ships replaced the wooden downeasters, and soon they were all renamed with a "Star" designation.
The Two Brothers arrived in San Francisco from Chignik Bay on 24 September 1900 with 46,000 cases of salmon, a good haul. Although still sea worthy, she was consider an "old timer" and was laid up in Alameda, California along with the rest of the Alaska Packers Association ships. The wharves became know as a "forest of masts", as after each salmon season the clippers were moved over for storage and maintenance.
The "Forest Of Masts And Spars" along the Alameda Wharves.
After returning from Alaska in October, the ships were moved over for repairs and storage until the next season.
The lumber industry had become dependent upon San Francisco as the main port of domestic import from Puget Sound and Oregon to California. A vessel in the domestic trade returned to the mills about every three months, in comparison, a trip to a foreign port (including the Atlantic seaboard) meant the vessel was usually gone for a period of six to ten months. In the 1890's the Klondike Gold Rush had put pressure on the availability of men and vessels, creating a tight waterborne shipping situation, thereby diverting much of the freight to railroads. As a result, rates had made it cost prohibitive to ship lumber locally by sea. In order to stay in business, the lumber mills created line yards, where rolling stock was loaded and brought via railway from mills in Oregon to points in the California valley. The Southern Pacific Transportation Company dropped freight prices for lumber from $6.00 to $3.10/ton in 1900.
The effect on shipping was dramatic, Puget Sound mills during the 1890's had averaged over thirty-five shipments per year to points in California other than San Francisco . In 1900, they had dropped to nine, and in 1901 just seven. Never again did the amount of cargo shipments carried by sailing vessels for non-San Francisco outlets reach the level of the 1890's
In San Francisco, the lumber carriers docked at the Vallejo Junction and Valona yards, which was owned by the Port Costa Lumber Company. They company was a "union of all the Oregon pine lumber interests of the coast. This class of lumber will be a specialty.The yards at Valona will be the distributing point for all points on the coast" (Source: Pacific Rural Press 19 February 1887) They built a long wharf which the sailing vessels unloaded directly onto.
At the time. the docks there were the "main source for Douglas fir from Modesto to Bakersfield" which came from the mills in Puget Sound and Oregon. When the cargoes were unloaded, the lumber was sorted on decks, and lengths and sizes were assembled for shipment by rail to various yards inland.
In addition to trips for coal, the Two Brothers had occasionally travelled to lumber mills in Comox, and Gray's Harbour in the winter months between her voyages north to the Canneries. In 1903, she was laid up in Alameda and was replaced in the Salmon fleet by faster steamships and the newer iron hulled "Star Line of Clippers". She did not join the "salmon fleet" in the spring but instead sailed to Oregon, travelling up the Columbia river during the spring freshet for lumber at Vancouver, WA.
She spent two months in Vancouver loading lumber at the wharves, her goal was to bring back 1,500,000 feet of prime Oregon lumber to San Francisco. After she was loaded, it became apparent that the water levels had dropped during the dry summer months, and there was now not enough water to float her over the bar fully loaded. The Two Brothers drew 18 feet of water, but the water levels in the Columbia had dropped to a depth of only 16 1/2 feet, leaving her stuck in the Columbia river muck.
In September, dredging began in hopes to get the Two Brothers through the bar, but the mighty Columbia River silted over as quickly as they could dredge it. However, Captain Wilson remained optimistic, and had surmised that by removing some of the lumber cargo and ballast to lighten the load, and shifting the lumber in her hold to one side, she could be heeled over on a list which would help reduce her draught. He calculated that by using these measures he could get the draught down to just nine feet, and she would carry over the bar light.
In the end, it took two tugs and nearly a month of wrangling to drag her through the bed of the Columbia River to St. Helens. She anchored at port for three weeks while the lumber that was removed was brought down on barges, reloaded and stacked high on her decks. Furthermore, to complicate matters while she was swinging at anchor it was discovered that she had managed to spring a leak, possibly from all the dragging and shifting of ballast to get her over the bar, and the pumps needed to be manned. A good effort was made to make a repair, but the source of the leak could not be found.
By now it was approaching the end of October, and the winter weather and heavy gales were fast approaching. The crew feared the vessel was not seaworthy, and asserted that in the attempts to move her down the river her cargo of lumber had been improperly stowed and the Two Brothers now carried an insuffecient quantity of ballast which made her "cranky and unsafe" in heavy weather. On November 3, She reached Astoria, and with the efforts to move her down the river, the Two Brothers was now only carrying 220,000 feet of lumber in her hold, and 550,000 feet of lumber between the decks, and the claim was made that the leaky vessel was top heavy.
In light of this, the steam schooner Charles W. Nelson had been arranged to tow her and the crew from Astoria to San Francisco. However, when the Nelson arrived in Astoria, the wind was freshening, and a heavy gale was approaching, the crew of the Two Brothers refused to go with her out into the storm. On account of their refusal to work the vessel the Two Brothers remained in port beacuse the Charles W. Nelson was incapable of handling her in rough seas without at least some crew aboard the Two Brothers.
On September 5th, the Charles W. Nelson with a cargo of 726,000 feet of lumber that she had loaded at Westport and thirty-six passengers and crew left Astoria for San Francisco. When she was two hundred miles down the coast off Heceta Head, she encountered a fierce gale.
In the boiling sea, the deck load worked itself loose, and the stantions which were securing the load gave way. The tearing of the stantions ripped up the deck which opened seams that allowed sea water to pour in from waves that were breaking over her deck fore and aft. The crew and passengers were forced to abandon ship, and were buffetted about for two days until the tug Sea Rover, which was headed to Astoria to take the Two Brothers to San Francisco, came upon them and picked them up.
The Steam Schooner Charles W. Nelson was consigned to tow the
Two Brothers from Astoria to San Francisco. The crew of the Two Brothers refused to head out to sea,
claiming she was top heavy and would not withstand the coastal gales.
The Nelson shortly afterwards foundered in heavy seas off Heceta Head.
One of the officers from the tug Sea Rover commented:
I am convinced that the loss of the Nelson can be attributed solely to the immense deckload which she carried. A terrific gale was blowing and the seas were running as I have never seen them before, and I have traveled up and down this coast for many years. In such a storm it Is almost impossible to prevent a deckload such as the Nelson carried from 'working,' as mariners call it, and the Nelson's load proved to be no exception to the rule. Her crew worked heroically, but with such a sea on it was impossible to prevent the load from slipping, and first one stanchion was torn out and then another. The deck seams opened and the water poured Into her hold, washing about between decks and rendering the steamer all the more difficult to handle in a boiling sea.She was becoming water-logged rapidly and finally the commander of the Nelson gathered his passengers and the crew about him and told them to prepare to take to the boats. The calm demeanor of the captain instilled, hope and confidence in the passengers and crew and the preparations for abandoning the vessel were carried on coolly and systematically, with the result that when everything was ready, the passengers were first placed in the boats and the crew followed. The boats were cut loose from the steamer and the crew manned the oars, keeping the boats in the track of coasting vessels in the hope that they would be picked up. All during the night the boats were buffeted about by the sea, the waves breaking over them and drenching those in them.It was a frightful night and the sufferings of the shipwrecked persons were terrible. The storm did not decrease during the night and daybreak found the boats, which had kept closely together all night, out of sight of land and not a vessel to be seen. All during Friday and during the night the unfortunates kept watch for a friendly sail or the smoke of a steamer, but not one appeared to raise the hopes of the party. Hope was rapidly deserting them when we sighted the boats and bore down upon them. It was with great difficulty that we got them aboard our vessel. Not long after the Titania was sighted, and the passengers, who numbered nine, and the Nelson's crew, were transferred to her and taken to San Francisco.