Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Charles Stewart Friis

September 2, 1884, Daily Alta California San Francisco, California

Shipping Intelligence Arrived

Brig John D. Spreckels, Friis, 17 days from Kahului; 6585 bags sugar to J. D. Spreckels & Bros.

June 8, 1889, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Heavy Gale Encountered by Ships on the Way From Honolulu
Steamer Sailings to Panama Change Next Month
Repairing the Front. A Sealing Schooner Sold.

The German bark G. N. Wilcox arrived yesterday, 146 days from Bremerhaven, via Honolulu twenty days. A very heavy gale was encountered on the passage from Honolulu. Captain Rasch reports that on June 4th, in latitude 39 3 N., longitude 125 3 W., they had a heavy N. N. W. gale which lasted thirty-six hours. It was accompanied by a heavy confused sea. The vessel was hove to for ten hours. The bulwarks on both sides were stove in and the decks filled with water. Everything movable on deck was shifted and the cabins flooded. Oil in bags was used with splendid effect during the thirty-six hours to smooth the heavy sea. The barometer at the height of the gale registered 29.60.

The American ship Alexander McNeil, which also arrived yesterday, twenty-three days from Honolulu, encountered the same heavy gale as the Wilcox. Captain Friis of the McNeilreports that on the 4th, when in latitude 38 degrees 30 N., longitude 133 degrees 20' W., he had a northerly gale which, lasted for over two days. The barometer was down to 29.80. The port main topmast backstays lanyards were carried away and the stays had to be set up to the bitts further aft.

Next month the Pacific Mail Steamship Company will despatch only two steamers monthly to Panama. This is done every year at the close of the coffee season. This month the San Juan sails on the 22d instead of 23d as reported. The Grenada will sail on the 13th and the Colima on the 29th...

Mare Island and Vallejo California.

The United States man-of-war Adams is ready for sea, and will come down from Mare Island in Vallejo on Monday to await sailing orders. It is expected that the Oceanic steamer Australia will be ready for active service again by July 19th. The new funnel has been pat in and' the mizzenmast stepped and men are engaged in painting her outside.

In about two weeks time the Berkeley ferry boats will be able to go to their new slip between Clay and Washington streets, which will be finished in that time. While this improvement has been progressing Stewart street wharf has been utilized for ferry purposes.

. . . A crew were signed for the schooner H. L. Tiernan, which sails to-day or to-morrow for the Marshall Islands. A crew were also signed for the ship Lucille for New York.

Carquinez Strait north east of San Francisco.

Fair weather was experienced by the steamer Oregon, which arrived yesterday from Portland. She had a number of passengers, among whom were Attorney Dement, law partner of Senator Mitchell, and his father. Major Dement, a retired officer of the United States Army. Part of the cargo of the Oregonconsisted of 1000 tons of wheat, to discharge which the steamer will have to go to Port Costa (Carquinez Strait; map right). It is being consigned to Balfour, Guthrie & Co.

March 18, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

FRIIS: In this city, March 16. 1895. Captain Charles Stewart Friis, beloved husband of Kosa Friis, and father of Arthur C, Hector A., Mary, Florence and Kate Friis and Mrs. Captain G. H. Brokan, a native of Denmark, aged 73 years 1 month and 19 days.

Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited 10 attend the funeral tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 o'clock p. m., from Masonic Temple, corner Post and Montgomery streets, under the auspices of Mount Moriah Lodge No. 44, F. and A. M. Interment Masonic Cemetery.

May 12, 1895, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, California

The Strange Romance in the life of Captain Friis of San Francisco.

In a neat little cottage, marked by an unusually high bush of mignonette, on the Sanchez-street hillside, lives the widow of the late Captain Charles Friis, master mariner. The most interesting legacy left her by the old sea captain is the belief that her husband was connected with the royal house of Denmark, and that if he had received those rights to which his alleged paternity entitled him, his life would have been passed in the palaces of the kingdom on the north rather than upon the decks of South-sea traders.

It is said that Captain Friis was an illegitimate son of Frederick VII, the last ruler of the house of Oldenburg. And the immediate predecessor upon the throne of Denmark of Christian IX, the reigning monarch.

To collect sufficient evidence to prove the bar sinister is the present mission of Sanchez-street widow. She is actuated, however, not so much by a desire to prove that the man whose wife she was for over thirty years had the blood of kings in his veins, as by the hope of securing a portion of an estate which she understands awaits in Denmark the claims of the heirs of the man who was known as Captain Friis, master mariner.

Much mystery attaches to the early career of the old sea dog. He died in this city last March in his seventy-third year, after a lingering illness. His remains now rest in the plot of Mount Moriah Lodge in the Masonic cemetery. Friis was a Mason of high degree, being a member of the Scottish Rite and of the Knights of the Croiz. A man action but of few words, he was peculiarly reticent about his parentage and his youth and during all the intimacy of three decades of married life, he never told his wife who his father was. Her belief in his royal connection, therefore, is based principally upon remarks that he occasionally made that his veins held blood as good as any in Europe; upon the story told in the delirium that attended his fatal illness, his resemblance to members of the Oldenburg line, said the statements of Danes who had known Friis for years. Whether he was the son of a king or not, the South sea trader certainly led a most eventful life, the incidents of which are well worth the telling.

He was a man of commanding presence, over six feet tall and of a bold and intrepid nature, His wife’s first acquaintance with him was about 1863 in Australia. At that time the English Government was form in a military expedition for the suppression of the natives in New Zealand. Mrs Friis was then a bright and pretty English girl. Her father was engaged for the expedition, and white aiding hem in arranging for the departure, she met a dashing young follow named Stenalt, who held the position of quartermaster in the column. He was evidently very much impressed with the young lady, but the early sailing of troops for New Zealand prevented him from paying her much attention. Several months after the expedition had been settled in its new home most of the wives and families of the men left Australia to join them. Among these was Quartermaster Stenalt.

Australian Homestead. 1910.

The Government gave to each of the Australian soldiers a certain portion of land for a homestead, and those who composed the expedition came for this reason to by known in New Zealand as the "military setters". A few day after the arrival of the young Australian girl she was accosted on the main street by a stalwart man in uniform, whose gold braids showed him to be an officer. It was Stenalt. He at once commenced to press his suit. The maiden was coy and also afraid of the wrath of her father, who with others in the settlement, disliked Stenalt because of a certain air of superiority which he assumed over his fellows. Not withstanding the opposition of the father the quartermaster waged his affair assiduously. He was sided by the girl’s mother, who rather admired his determination, and the result was a marriage at Tarinaki, where the persistent quartermaster took the pretty Australian immigrant for his wife.

Two years later Stenalt sold his government land, and not caring to return to Melbourne, were the prospects were not very alluring, he set sail for Tahiti with his wife and got employment upon Stewart’s plantation.

During these two years Miss Stenalt learned that her husband had been in many and queer corners of the globe, and that he was a man of more education then is usually acquired by one in humble station. He spoke Danish, French and German fluently and was a competent navigator. He told her he was a Dane by birth, had attended academics in France and Germany, and before going to Australia had sought fortune in Madagascar and Africa.

To questions as to his father, he would only say; "Oh, my father is dead, so there is nothing to say of him." Taken in connection with subsequent development it is a noteworthy coincidence that Stenalt, or Friis as he was afterward known, appeared in the English colonies in the year of his death of Frederick VII of Denmark. That King expired suddenly in his castle of Glucksburg, in Schleswig.

South Pacific Islands.

While connected with Stewart’s plantation at Tahiti, Stenalt had an adventure in which his conduct showed he was no ordinary man. He sailed from Atimaonu as mate of the three-masted bark Moaroa, Captain Blackett. The vessel took a cargo of cotton to Auckland, and upon her return cruised among the Gilbert Islands to secure native laborer for the plantation. This was in the summer of 1869.

"The story of the murder of the captain and crew by the natives is best told as written in the bark had 159 Kanakas on board, but no water. Captain Blackett made arrangements to ship these natives to Tahiti. J. B. Lattin came on board at the same time as a passenger for Tahiti and we engaged an interpreter at 20 piasters a month. This man who had lived for some time in the Fiji islands, came on board with his wife. When we had shipped the natives and got a quantity of powder from the Annie, we stood for Hope Island, which we reached on Monday, July 12th, at 5 P.M. Two large canoes came along side with thirty seven Kanakas, all of whom remained in board. On the 13th nineteen Kanakas and six woman came aboard. On the 15th we set sail for Byron Island which we reached on the 16th. When passing the island we took on board sixty eight Kanakas and then made sail for Tahiti.

"July 17, 1869 began with calms, Byron Island bore north northeast six miles. At 5 o’clock the captain gave permission to all the natives to go on deck. He distributed among them shirts and tobacco. The deck was crowded, nearly 500 men being assembled on it. The men of the watch were aft preparing plank to make a partition between the hatchway and the poop when all of a sudden the Kanakas rushed aft and attacked my watch. I was near the door of the cabin and saw a Kanakas kill Mons Lattin with an ax. The body was thrown near the main rigging. I seized a carbine and ran to help the captain, put it was too late, he had received a stab in the back and another in the body and had fallen quite dead close to the door of the cabin. Besides the stabs, the captain had also received a frightful wound from an ax. At 7am I retreated to the cabin and there I met the second mate and steward with a gun. The steward in trying to save the captain had been wounded in the right shoulder, but I did not then know it, for he did not tell me, fearing to discourage the men. We defended the cabin against all the Kanakas and I am convinced we would have retaken the vessel at once had we been well armed.

"At 9am tow of the starboard watch succeeded in making their way to us from the forecastle by detaching the planks of the partition. They had been attacked by the Kanakas, but as the entrance to the forecastle would admit only one man at a time the watch defended them selves so well with cutlasses that the Kanakas drew off. Three more of the starboard watch soon joined us. Toward 11 o,\’clock the second mate insisted on calling for the interpreter, who was at time bound by the Kanakas in the cabin on deck. I warned him that the natives had the interpreter’s double barreled gun, but he did not heed me and was shot dead. When the Kanakas saw him fall they gave a diabolical yell on deck. I was determined to retake the vessel, but it was not so easy, with only two guns and a revolver that would not go off. Then I decided on a desperate effort. It was to blow up the deck amidships and in the midst of the confusion which would follow to make a rush in the smoke and regain the bark.

"We had obtained from the Annie forty five tin boxes, each containing half a pound of powder. I poured the powder from thirty four boxes in to a barrel and having placed mats and sail cloths below it to protect the 'tween decks.

I laid a train with some more tins of powder from the barrel to the main passage to the deck. Then I gave orders for all to go as far aft as possible so that they might reach the deck immediately after the explosion. I did not what would happen to me, but I was confident and never so calm in my life. After having seen the men in safety and offered a short prayer for my wife and children I set fire to the train, throwing myself at the same time on the 'tween decks. The explosion followed and I was nearly stiffed with the smoke. I then went on deck, where I found the men and the interpreter, who had been freed by his wife. I did not see a single Kanaka, but the sea was covered with black heads making for the island. Thank god, the ship was completely in our hands."

Canoes in Tahiti.
Transport of Goods by Canoe in Tahiti
Society Islands, Polynesia

The log then recites how the mate and those who remained of the crew repaired and trimmed the vessel sea best they could and made sail for Tahiti, where they arrived safely. The captain and second mate were buried on the day after the fight.

"Having affixed fifty bright to each" wrote the mate, "we wrapped them in flags and at 5 o’clock as the sun was setting we offered up prayers for the dead and all being present, weeping like children, we launched the bodies into the deep."

Stenalt did not remain at Tahiti long after this adventure. He secured passage for his family on a vessel on which he went as sailing master and came to San Francisco. In the city he found the road to fortune a difficult one. He engaged in many speculations, most of which proved unprofitable, but finally secured a good berth with the Spreckels line of packets, he had sailed for this house for over fifteen years prior his death and was one of the best know men in the south seas.

When Stenalt arrived in the city he told his wife that thereafter they would be know as Friis. She naturally asked for an explanation and was told by her husband that he had assumed the name of Stenalt merely for the purposes of the New Zealand military expedition. His true name, he said was that by which he wished to be known here.

Some years ago the eldest daughter of Captain Friis was visiting a Danish family named Edemann at Honolulu. In one of the rooms of the residence hung a large group picture of the Danish royal family. Mr. Edemann ask Miss Friis if any one in the group reminded her of her father? The young lady immediately pointed to a face which bore a remarkable to the old sea captain. The host smiled and said; "You do not know who your father is?"

Further he would not go.

Mrs. Friis has written him since her husband royal family of Denmark but it there is I would like to know it. He was a very reticent man and though I frequently asked him he never told me anything about his parents. He never spoke of his father at all except to say that he was dead. Whenever he spoke of his mother, it was in the most loving terms. He once told me that in his youth he was a page at the court of Frederick VII of Denmark, and that he had been banished because he and eight young men engaged in a plot to run off with a lady of the court. In his delirium, before his death, he again spoke of King Frederick. After he regained consciousness he questioned me very closely about what he had said during his ravings. When I ask him then if he were an illegitimate son of the King, he denied it, saying, "No he was my uncle".

"When I first know him his name was Stenalt. When we came here he called himself Friis. His confirmation papers written in Danish, under date of? 24, 1852 give him the name of Carl Jobsun Frederick Kolle, son of Jacob Cornelius Kolle, and Marian Wuheimia Molau.

"We were told that his mother’s family came from a place in Saxony. That information is giving the Moisus of New York City, with whom we have been in communication. We know that one of the Moisus had a daughter who married a Danish prince, but we have not yet been able to trace any direct connection between the royal family and my husband."

That Captain Friis was held in high esteem is shown by the fact that he was the special guest of Admiral Irwin while the latter was at Honolulu with the Charleston. The Admiral presented him with one of two ash receivers made of the bell metal of the great white cruiser, the Honolulu papers in commenting on the hospitality extended to Friis by Admiral Irwin, said that the two gentlemen had been schoolmates in Europe. Mrs. Friis has written to the Admiral, asking for knowledge he had of her late husband. The widow discusses the romance of the life of Captain Friis with reluctance. She fears to place her hopes to too high, but if Quartermaster Seenalt, Captain Friis, Johann Frederick Kolle, or whatever may have been the name of the man who blew up the Kanakas was really a descendant of kings, there is a patient little woman on the Sanchez street hillside who would like to know.

Article from San Francisco Chronicle re Captain Charles Stewart Friis, 1895.

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The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational Charts
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The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. John Blake looks at the history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation. This handsome work contains 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by thirteenth-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as eighteenth-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.

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Note: Other countries have different regulations, i.e. the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), conducts certification for Britain and Ireland. As of 2011, they did not recognize the USCG certification; certification through their courses was required.

Master Unlimited is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of a vessel any gross tons. The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws. All persons on board, including officers and crew, other shipboard staff members, passengers, guests and pilots, are under the captain's authority and are his or her ultimate responsibility. The STCW defines the Master as Person having command of the ship.

The Sea Chart
The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational ChartsThe Sea Chart.
The Sea Chart.The Sea Chart.
John Blake
The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. Herein is a history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation. 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by 13th-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as 18th-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.

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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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