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The Sinking Of The Brother Jonathan

by Jonathan Goodman 2 years ago in history
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Tragedy In The North Pacific

ANOTHER GREAT DISASTER.; Wreck of the Steamship Brother Jonathan. She is Lost on the Voyage from San Francisco to Oregon.She Strikes on a Sunken Rock and Sinks in an Hour.Reported Loss of Nearly One Hundred and Fifty Lives.ONLY SIXTEEN PERSONS KNOWN TO BE SAVED. PASSENGERS. CREW OF THE "BROTHER JONATHAN." BRIEF NOTICES OF SOME OF THE PASSENGERS.

This was from an article in the New York Times on August 26 1865 as it relayed the telegraph detailing the tragic sinking of the Steamer Brother Jonathan off of the Northern California coast.

The Brother Jonathan was a 220 foot paddle driven steamboat. Built in 1851 in New York, it was once owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt. (Offbeatoregon.com)

The story of the Brother Jonathan is one I have heard several times growing up just a short distance from the site of the wreck. While not as newsworthy or memorable as a wreck such as the Titanic, Brother Jonathan made its own name in Maritime history.

Brother Jonathan made several trips during the gold rush, when emigrants flocking to the goldfields chose to sail around the horn of South America rather than face the perils of the overland route and also saving time.

The steamer gained notoriety the first time when it delivered the message to Oregon, admitting it to statehood.

But Brother Jonathan would go down in history for a far different reason than it’s travels. At 10:00am July 30 1865, the steamer headed north along the coast, from San Francisco to Portland, carrying 244 people including passengers and the crew. It was also carrying miscellaneous goods including military supplies, railroad and mining equipment as well as a gold shipment.

The steamer was fighting gale force winds as it rounded the perilous St George Reef. The captain decided to turn around and head back to the port in nearby Crescent City, California.

A massive wave landed the steamer along the reef and snagged it on an underwater spire. The damage caused a mortal wound to the steamer which immediately began to sink. (Offbeatoregon.com)

The first lifeboat, carrying around forty people was just being deployed when a breaker went over the boat, turning it over and claiming the passengers.

The second lifeboat was crushed against the hull of the ship. In less than an hour, The Brother Jonathan had

sunk.

Of all of the souls on board, 19 survived the watery grave that claimed the rest. Brother Jonathan went to its rest along the Point St George Reef.

In the weeks to come, bodies began to wash up on shore. Local authorities worked hard to identify what remains they were able, so that families could be notified and the bodies claimed. The others

were laid to rest in a local cemetery.

Over a century later an independent company found the remains of the wreck. They recovered personal items and much of the bullion and gold. (delnortehistory.org.)

Many items can be found in the Del Norte County Museum. Among other items in the Bolen Annex is a restored light from Point St George Lighthouse which sits along that infamous reef.

Today a memorial to The Brother Jonathan is located on ninth st in Crescent City. Surrounding the flagpole in a circle are markers with the names of those lost on that tragic day. To the west of the memorial is an information board briefly detailing the wreck.

If you stand along the bluffs, you can hear the lonely call of the foghorn as it warns seafarers of their location along the coast. And if you look northwest across the waves on a clear day you can make out the tiny outline of Point St George.

Along the bottom of the reef, the steamer Brother Jonathan rests with only the memories of the past still aboard.

history

About the author

Jonathan Goodman

My name is Jonathan. I am a middle aged man with a lot of stories and thoughts. Whether it be humor or philosophical, I look forward to sharing those stories and thoughts with you.

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