Saturday, November 27, 2010

Run Down by the Oakland -- November 27, 2010

From the 23-January-1899 San Francisco Call. WA Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.

Ferry Oakland, rebuilt from the riverboat Chrysopolis, sailed for the Central Pacific Railroad and later the Southern Pacific until it burned in 1940. I don't think Coulter did the drawings of the victims.


A Gasoline Launch Sunk and Two of Its Occupants Drowned in the Bay.

Neither Boat Saw the Other Until Too Late — The Launch Party Was Looking for the Bodies of Two Missing Boys.

Frank E. Orr.
J. Otis Wattles.
William Seabury.
Edward J. Finn.

Charles C. Finn.
Joseph Mathews.
Chris Gustafson.

The ferry steamer Oakland and the gasoline launch William D were in collision yesterday morning. The launch was sunk and Frank E. Orr and J. Otis Wattles were drowned, while Charles E. Finn, J. Mathews and Chris Gustafson had a miraculous escape for their lives.

The party in the launch were on their way to search for the bodies of William Seabury and Edward J. Finn, as they had heard that the skiff in which the young duck-hunters left Berkeley had been found bottom up.

TRAGEDY followed tragedy on the bay yesterday. Friday morning two lads, named William Seabury and Edward J. Finn, started out in a small boat from Bath Beach, West Berkeley, on a duck-hunting expedition. They were to have returned Friday night, and when they failed to do so their relatives got anxious. Saturday passed and still there was no trace of the young hunters, so yesterday morning a party from Berkeley crossed the bay and secured Henry Peterson's gasoline launch William D to search for the missing boys.

The William D was in charge of Captain Chris Gustafson, a licensed officer, and the party with him was composed of Frank E. Orr, a clerk with Monteleagre & Co.; Charles C. Finn of the John Finn Metal Works; J. Otis Wattles, a student at the Berkeley University and son of William S. Wattles, stock broker, 307 Montgomery street, and Joseph Mathews, formerly chief engineer of the steamship Rio de Janeiro, but now with Captain Metcalf in Lloyds' agency.

Mathews makes his home with the Seaburys, Finn is a brother of the missing boy and the others were personal friends of the two families. News reached them just before they boarded the launch that the boat in which the boys had set out Friday morning had been picked up bottom up and that there was no trace of either young Seabury or Finn. They decided to go on, however, and search the shore line from Bath Beach, West Berkeley, to Point Richmond, and in order to thoroughly examine every cove and creek they took along, in tow of the William D. one of Peterson's Whitehall boats.

The William D left the Folsom-street float at 8 a. m. and was headed for the north end of Goat Island. The Oakland, in command of Captain William Clairville, left the ferry slips at 8 a. m. and headed for Oakland. There was a light haze on the water, but otherwise it was clear and all the parties concerned say that Goat Island was clearly visible. The launch was quickest away and passed the Coast Survey steamship McArthur, which was at anchor in the stream, two minutes ahead of the Oakland. The ferry-boat gradually cut down the launch's lead, and, overtaking her just as she crossed, the Oakland struck her on the port quarter and capsized her.

Orr was sitting in the cabin of the William D reading the morning papers and Wattles had Joined him a few minutes before the collision took place. Finn and Mathews were on deck at the time and Gustafson was in the pilot-house steering. The latter knew nothing about the threatened danger until the launch was struck, and Captain Clairville says he did not see the William D until he looked down out of the pilot-house window, and then she was under his starboard bow. He blew the danger signal and reversed the ferry boat's engine, but it was too late to prevent the collision.

Just before the collision young Finn ran aft on the launch and called down into the cabin: "You'd better come on deck, boys; the Oakland is running us down." The words were hardly out of his mouth when the collision took place. Finn jumped from the William D into the Whitehall boat and then overboard. Mathews jumped clear of the launch and swam away. A few minutes later Orr and Wattles floated out of the cabin, while Gustafson made his way out of the pilothouse window. Both Orr and Wattles seemed to be Injured. The former made only a feeble effort to save himself, while Wattles did not seem to be able to swim.

By this time the steam launch from the McArthur had arrived on the scene and a boat had been lowered from the Oakland. Mathews and Finn went to the assistance of Orr, and Gustafson started after Wattles, who was floating away. "Come back," yelled the sailors in the boat. "Come back and get aboard," but Gustafson only yelled back, "I know what I'm about. Save the other fellows." With powerful strokes he made his way to the drowning man, and had just put out his hand to grab him when he went down for the last time. Gustafson swam around for a few minutes, but, seeing no sign of Wattles coming up again, he swam back and was taken aboard the McArthur's launch.

Orr and Finn were already in the launch, while Mathews had been taken aboard the Oakland. Orr was in a very precarious condition, and Finn was more dead than alive, so the launch was headed at full speed for Mission street wharf. On reaching there Gustafson ran to the Harbor Receiving Hospital, and told the driver of the ambulance of the accident. Drs. Fitzgibbon and Sweeney were in bed, but at once got up, and Dr. Fitzgibbon started out in his bare feet, but was stopped. When Orr was brought in the doctors were sure he was dead, but nevertheless they went to work on his body and everything known to medical science was done tn resuscitate him, but without avail. The right side of the dead man's head was bruised and his hair and clothes were all greasy, evidently from the gasoline that had washed back from the engine room into the cabin.

Finn was undressed and put to bed. He was then given a stimulant and about 11 a.m. was able to dress himself and go home.

Contradictory stories are told about the collision. The people who were on the William D state positively that the Oakland ran them down. The captain and mate of the ferry-boat say the William D ran into them.

"I was called to the telephone last Saturday and asked if I could spare a launch for Sunday morning," said Henry Peterson yesterday. "The message came from Captain Seaburys' house in Berkeley, and I agreed to have the William D ready for them at 7:30 o'clock Sunday morning. At the hour named four men put in an appearance and said they wanted to go to Pinole to search for two young fellows who had gone duck hunting and had not returned. Just then one of them was called to the telephone, and he came back saying the boys' skiff had been found, but that there was no trace of the hunters. After a conference they decided to go first of all to Berkeley, see the men who had picked up the skiff and find out the best place to look for the bodies. To assist them in their search they took along one of my Whitehall boats. They left here at 8 a. m., and the last time I saw the launch she was steering a course for the north end of Goat Island."

"All I know is that I escaped by the skin of my teeth." said Captain Chris Gustafson. "There was a light haze on the water, but I could see Goat Island distinctly and I steered a direct course for the north end of the island. As to how the accident happened I haven't the faintest idea. One thing I can swear to -— I had a clear course and there were no whistles blown. The first thing I knew was that something had turned the William D on her side and the water was rushing into the engine-room. I was nearly smothered for a moment, and then I remember grabbing the window frame and the next instant I was on the surface of the water. I saw the paddle-wheel of the Oakland coming down, and making a dive, I got under it. Then I saw Mr. Wattles making a very poor struggle for his life, and, thinking he was hurt. I went to his assistance. Poor fellow, he went down for the last time as I was putting out my hand to help him. I then swam back and got into the McArthur's launch, after which we raced for the wharf with the injured men."

"It was a little hazy when we left our slip on the 8 a. m. run," said Captain William Clairville. "I could see Goat Island, however, but did not see the launch until she was down on us. I cannot for the life of me understand how she came to run into us or how any one of the people aboard escaped. The first time I saw the little boat was when I looked down out of the pilot-house and saw her under our starboard bow. I turned to the mate, who was with me in the pilothouse, and said, "She is. getting very close. 'Too close,' said he: 'we'd better go astern.' With that he blew the danger signal and rang up full speed astern in the room. As soon as they got the danger signal on the launch she seemed to swing right into us, and struck the Oakland just forward of the paddle box. Luckily our paddles began to go astern and the wash from them threw the boat away from the Oakland, or else everybody on board would have been killed."

"We had run about 750 yards from our slip and the boat had not gathered full headway when the accident occurred," said First Mate J. H. Douglas of the Oakland. "I noticed that the launch was getting very close to us, and spoke to the captain about it. I then blew the danger signal and reversed the engines, but before we could gather sternway the William D struck us. The paint on our hull forward of the paddlebox was scraped off when she struck us, and I think that was all the damage done the Oakland. We got our boat out as quickly as possible and did everything we could to save life; when we could not do anything more to help them we resumed our run and reported the disaster on our return to this side."

Joseph Mathews was found at Captain Seabury's home and gave the following account of the accident: "I was in the cabin at the time the collision occurred. It was shortly after 8 a. m. There were five of us on the launch, viz., Frank E. Orr, Charles C. Finn, Otis Wattles, myself and the engineer, referred to as 'captain.'

"The steamer Oakland struck us with her starboard wheel and knocked all the roof of the launch off. We were all thrown into the bay. The stern of the launch was, however, above water, and I swam to it and held on there until I was picked up. A boat was lowered from the Oakland and also one from the revenue cutter. The Oakland's boat picked up Orr and the revenue cutter's boat picked up Finn. Orr was taken to the Harbor Receiving Hospital, but died a few moments afterward. Otis wattles was not seen after the collision and his body was not recovered.

"With regard to the hopes of picking up William Seabury and E. J. Finn, they are becoming slendered every moment. Mrs. Seabury is prostrated by anxiety and sorrow. Several boats and launches are out along the Berkeley shore near Point Richmond looking for any traces of the lost boys."

Charles C. Finn, one of the five in the launch, related his experience as follows: "Mr. Mathews engaged the launch and telephoned to me to start for San Francisco by the 7 a. m. train. I asked him the name of the launch, so that if I missed Mr. Mathews on the train I should know what launch to inquire for, and he told me William D. We had started only a few minutes from Peterson's wharf at the foot of Folsom street when we saw ourselves in danger of being run down by the steamer Oakland, which left the city wharf at S o'clock. I was on the stern of the boat, but was not sure at first that we should be struck. I called to the engineer (Peterson's man) and cast off the Whitehall towing astern of our launch. I jumped into the Whitehall, but when the paddle-wheel of the steamer struck us I thought I should be crushed by it, and dived down. When I came up I saw a life buoy one of the passengers of the Oakland had thrown overboard and got hold of it. The revenue cutter's launch picked me up, however, and the steamer's boat picked up Orr. Frank Orr had been away from Portland for about eight years. He came to California at the time of the Midwinter Exposition and had charge of the concession department. He had been in the employ of Monteleagre Brothers, the California street commission merchants and coffee dealers."

The news of the terrible disaster reached Berkeley in the course of the morning and spread rapidly through the town. When it was learned, in addition, that the scow in which young Seabury and Finn started had been found near Alcatraz sympathy for the bereaved families was felt on all sides. Otis Wattles was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Wattles of 2235 Dana street and was very popular among his friends. He was about 18 years of age. He attended the Lick School in this city.

At the homes of the other two boys, Edward Finn and William Seabury, scarcely any hope is entertained for their return and the families accept the conclusion that they must have perished.

A report was spread at first that the scow had been found without the oars and rowlocks. This gave some hope that the boat had possibly drifted from its moorings, leaving the two boys stranded and unable to obtain assistance. The report, however, could not be confirmed and it was later learned that both oars and rowlocks were with the boat when it was found, but had been removed by the man who found it before being turned over to the authorities.

Captain Clalrville and Mate Douglas are two of the oldest and most experienced men in the ferry service. Captain Clairvllle was for years mate of the Piedmont, and some time ago was raised to the rank of captain. Douglas has been on the boats almost from the beginning of the service, and is one of the trusted men of the employ.

During the afternoon Peterson secured wrecking appliances and sent the launch Amy out to grapple for the sunken boat. The tide had evidently carried the William D away, as up to dark no trace of her could be found. The search for her will be carried on again to-day, and the men at work on the job hope that they may also recover the body of Mr. Wattles.

No comments: