Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

George Caleb

February 3, 1883, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

A Vessel in Distress Seized as a Smuggler.

San Francisco, February 2 -- The Alta publishes a letter from George Caleb, master of the schooner Adriana, of San Francisco, dated La Paz, Mexico. The writer complains that in December he anchored in distress, with a cargo, drifted and leaking, in the bay near La Paz; was seized by Customs authorities, taken to La Paz, thrown into jail, and refused legal advice or communication with the American Consul. The vessel is detained under suspicion of smuggling, with no present prospect of release. The Alta vouches for the character of Capt. Caleb.

June 6, 1883, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

A Sentence of Unusual Severity

La Paz, Mexico.

Washington, June 5th. -- Some time since Capt. George Caleb of the United States schooner Adriana was arrested at La Paz, Mexico, and tried by the Mexican authorities upon a charge of smuggling. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years' imprisonment and the schooner confiscated. Representative Rosecrans of California recently wrote Secretary Frelinghuysen, calling attention to this case, and suggesting that it was a proper subject for diplomatic inquiry. Mr. John Davis, Acting Secretary, made the following reply.:

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, June 24 — Hon. W. S. Rosecrans -- Sir: I have the honor to reply to letters addressed by you to the Secretary in relation to the case of Captain George Caleb of the schooner Adriana, at La Paz, Mexico. The case of Captain Caleb has had the earnest attention of this Department since the news of the seizure of the Adriana and imprisonment of her crew was first known here, and every effort has been made in their behalf through the United States Legation in Mexico and Consulate at La Paz. The Department has only recently been in possession of the judicial sentence in the case, condemning the captain to five years' imprisonment and the vessel to confiscation. A prima facto case of guilt appears to have been made out, but the urgent protests and denials of the unfortunate man, and the apparent severity of imposing a maximum sentence in his case, while the alleged Mexican accomplices have been allowed to escape, has strongly elicited the sympathies of the Government in Captain Caleb's behalf, and the President has directed that competent officers of this Department be despatched to La Paz with instructions to make a full investigation of the case on the spot. United States Minister Morgan also has been directed to watch the proceedings in appeal which have been instituted, and to afford Captain Caleb all proper aid in his defence, and employing counsel, if necessary. Adding that the investigation at La Paz will be conducted by Horatio N. Beach, late United States Consul at Puerto Cabellok, an officer on whose impartial judgement this Department places reliance, I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

John Davis, Acting Secretary.

September 13, 1884, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

What the Department of State Has to Say About It.

Some two years or more ago George Caleb, master and owner of the American schooner Adrienne, was imprisoned at La Paz, Mexico, for smuggling, and at the same time his vessel was confiscated. The term for which Caleb was sentenced was five years, but after seventeen months of confinement he escaped and returned to San Francisco, since which time he has been trying to secure the recognition of his claim for damages against the Mexican Government, he claiming not only that his conviction was unjust, but that he was actually imprisoned without the form of a trial. It has been complained that the State Department refused to act in this case, but this the Acting Secretary denies in the following letter in answer to inquiries addressed him from this city:

I have acknowledged the receipt of your letter of the 27th ultimo in relation to the complaint of George Caleb, Esq., recently imprisoned in Mexico on the charge of smuggling. In reply I have to inform you that the case in question has received and is still receiving careful attention. A special agent was sent to La Paz to investigate the case for the information of this Department, and a very extended correspondence has taken place between this Department, the United States Minister at Mexico, the Consul at La Paz and members of the Senate and House of Representatives in relation thereto. The Department is at present waiting for a certified copy of the record of the proceedings of the Court which tried, convicted and sentenced Mr. Caleb, the issues being now shifted from the question of his release to that of his possible right to damages. I am, sir, your obedient servant,

John Davis, Acting Secretary.

October 15, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Afloat and Ashore

Captain Caleb, of the brig Tropic Bird, which left for Humboldt on Thursday last, will resign his command in that port in favor of the chief mate. The Tropic Bird is chartered for a trip from Humboldt to Ensenada, but Captain Caleb thinks he has had sufficient experience with Mexican officials to stay out of that country. When he was master of the schooner Advance, trading on the Mexican coast, owing to a mistake in his manifest, his vessel was seized and confiscated and he was arrested and kept in prison for twelve months. Captain Caleb is the owner of the Tropic Bird.

December 25, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Tropic Bird Abandoned at Ensenada

A curious story comes from Ensenada by the City of Topeka, Captain Rogers, one of the Mexican international line which arrived yesterday. The City of Topeka anchored off Ensenada on the 21st inst. A strong northeast gale was blowing at the time and during the night the steamer dragged her anchors somewhat. Next morning Chief Officer S. H. Williams was surprised to see astern a boat containing six men.

They told the mate that they had abandoned the brig Tropic Bird which had carried away her port cable and dragged out to sea. The mate invited the men aboard and then lowering the quarter boat took two hands with him and rowed out to the brig. On boarding her he found not a soul aboard except the traditional black cat which spit savagely at the mate as he ascended the side. One of the sailors, however, threw pussy overboard and ended her career. Mate Williams payed out some 15 fathoms of extra chain for the starboard anchor which was still dragging and this brought the vessel up in 13 fathoms of water about four and a half miles southwest from Ensenada.

Later the City of Topeka dropped down to the brig and towed her up to the buoy where she was made fast. R. W. Jackson, third mate of the steamer, was left by the sailors to take charge of the vessel.

The Tropic Bird is the property of Captain Caleb who took her up to Eureka to load for southern ports, and left her there placing the mate, Captain Connor in charge. It appears that the captain and mate were both ashore on the night of the 21st and the six sailors finding that the vessel was drifting out to sea got scared and took to the boats. As she had only a few tons of ballast and several thousand feet of lumber on board, they were afraid to make sail and so thought they would let the old craft take her chances. Captain Rogers of the Topeka and his officers will probably claim salvage. The brig is about 172 tons burden.

January 6, 1888, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

A Brig Libeled.
The Questioned Right to the Reward in a Salvage Suit.

J. D. Murray and August Ellert yesterday instituted libel proceedings in the United States District Court against George Caleb, W. J. Stone, G. S. Montgomery, John Doe Williams and the Mexican International Pacific and Gulf of California Steamship Company. Caleb, Stone and Montgomery are owners of the American brig Tropic Bird, and the steamship company were charterers and had control of the American steamship City of Topeka. The complaint says that on December 18ththe brig broke from her anchorage in the harbor of Ensenada, Mexico, and was drifting out to sea under a strong northeast breeze. The libellants were seamen on the City of Topeka, and they, together with Williams, put off to the drifting vessel in a small boat, and boarding her, brought her to a safe anchorage. The owners of the brig subsequently settled with Williams and the steamship company for $600. Plaintiffs claim that they should have received the salvage, whereas they have received nothing. They assess the value of the brig at $7500.

January 18, 1888: Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A..

Murray Got Nothing:In the United States District Court yesterday a proclamation was made, allowing respondents ten days to answer in the libel suit of J.D. Murray vs. George Caleb, et al. Murray puts in a claim for salvage on the American brig Tropic Bird, which he claims to have rescued as it was drifting to sea from the port of Ensenada, Mexico, last December. Murray was an employee on board the steamship City of Topeka, and the owners of that vessel took the credit of the rescue and accepted $600 as compensation in full.

February 8, 1888, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

A Salvage Suit

In the case of Murray et al against Caleb et al for salvage on the Tropic Bird, the exceptions of the Mexican International Pacific and Gulf of California Steamship Company were sustained, the company having been incorporated under the laws of the State of California.

December 30, 1896, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Death Claims the Veteran Navigator at San Diego.
Was the Only Survivor of the Wreck of the Clara R. Suttil.
Served Time in a Mexican Prison for an Alleged Infraction of Revenue Laws

SAN DIEGO, California, December 29.— A queer old character died this morning at the County Hospital. He was George Caleb, formerly captain of a Pacific Mail steamer and a man with an excellent war record. His age was 62 years.

In 1860 Caleb landed in California and engaged in shipping. He was the owner of the bark Clara R. Suttil, which foundered off this coast twenty-one years ago. Captain Caleb got away in a small boat with four sailors and suffered terrible privations. Their food and water gave out, and Caleb, being smaller than the others, was fixed upon as a victim whose flesh should keep the others alive. He got up in the bow with a revolver and said he would kill the first man who crossed a certain mark. Later two of the men became crazy and jumped overboard, and the other two succumbed. Caleb, reduced to a frightful extremity, dined after they had died. He was picked up by a steamer, more dead than alive, and was the only survivor of the wreck.

During the war Caleb commanded a supply-boat in Southern waters, most of the time under Farragut. At the battle of Mobile he did gallant service and was injured by a shell. He served for three years and then returned to California. He ran sailing vessels down the lower coast and made money, but through unscrupulous associates lost it.

In 1884 he was arrested at La Paz and his schooner, the Adriana, confiscated for an alleged infraction of the revenue laws. Caleb served eighteen months in prison and afterward entered a claim against the Mexican Government, which is still pending.

Caleb in 1888 sailed the brig Tropic Bird, of which he was owner, to Ensenada and there lost it through a series of misfortunes and swindles. The old man saw many adventures during his thirty years of seafaring, and was engaged in writing his autobiography when he died.

The Authority to Sail.The Authority to Sail: The History of U.S. Maritime Licenses and Seamen's PapersThe Authority to Sail.
Robert Stanley Bates, George Marsh (Editor), John F. Whiteley (Forward) (Batek Marine Publishing, 2011; Nominated in 2012 for a Pulitzer Prize)
This book depicts important aspects of our maritime history as a result of original research done by the author, Commodore Bates, the holder of an unlimited master's license who has enjoyed a distinguished fifty-year career in both the Coast Guard and the American Merchant Marine.

The U.S. Coast Guard issues all Captain Licenses for U.S. Ports.
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.

Get Your Captain's License. Fifth Edition Get Your Captain's License. Fifth Edition. Charlie  Wing.
Charlie Wing
Considered the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to prepare for the U.S. Coast Guard captain's ratings exams required for anyone who takes paying passengers on a boat, and useful for serious boaters who want to save money on insurance. 350 pages of seamanship and navigation tutorials. More than 1,500 questions and answers from the Coast Guard exams. Includes an interactive CD-ROM with all 14,000 questions and answers in the USCG database, so you can take an unlimited number of practice exams

The Project

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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