Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

George Nelson Armstrong

Captain George Nelson Armstrong (1831-1906), sailed out of San Francisco in the 1870s-1880s on Pacific Ocean trade routes. He was the Master of the famous Ship Templar on its harrowing long voyage from New York to San Francisco (Sept 1878-July 1879).

August 2, 1879, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Templar in Quarantine

Ths ship Templar, whose remarkable voyage has given rise to ao much attention, has been taken in charge by the Health Offlcar and removed to Saucellto. Dr. McAllister stys there Is no material on board for the fever to work upon; yet all that can be done to put the ship in a sanitary condition — such as thorough fumigation, destroying the upholstery, boiling the clothing of the crew,and painting the cabins and the forecastle — will be done. This will taket some days, during which no communication will be allowed with those on board. Already supplies of medicines, provisions, and fresh waer have been furnished for their comfort.

Twice in the history of this city has the dreaded yellow fever made its appearance, and on Government vessels. The Jamestown and Ossipes arrived from Panama and the Mexican Coast, on which there had been a fearful mortality, but no case of the yellow fever has ever been known to have been contracted on shore.

August 7, 1879, Daily Alta Calfiornia, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Ship Templar Discharged from Quaranatine

A special meeting of (be Board of Health was held at the Mayor's office, yesterday, Mayor Bryant presiding, and present Drs. Shorb and Toland.

...Dr. McAllister reported tbe facts in relation to the ship Templar, under quarantine for yellow fever, all of which have been published in those columns; and then reported the treatment he had adopted, and concluded by stating that in his opinion there was no danger to be apprehended in discharging the vessel from quarantine.

Dr. Shorb also entered into a thorough explanation, concurring with the Quarantine Officer, and, after discussion, during which Mayor Bryant felt that trouble might ensue owing to the transportation of the dry goods which were on board tbe ship, the ship was ordered to be discharged from quarantine, the Mayor voting in the negative.

August 21, 1879, Daily Alta California

Heroism Rewarded
The Board of Underwriters Present Captain G. M. Armstrong, His Daughter Ellen, and Second Officer, T. N. Patterson, Late of teh Ship Templar, with Handsome Gifts of Money and Complimentary Letters

The Board of Marine Underwriters of San Francisco met yesterday afternoon, at 2 o'clock, at their rooms, to take some action in relation to recogclairag the efforts of Captain George N. Armstrong, his daughter Ellen, and Mr. Thomas N. Patterson, second officer, late of the ill-fated ship Templar, by which she was brought safely to port from New York.

Mr. Gustave Touchard was called to the chair, and said that he had a most pleasing duty to perform. The Baord of Underwriters had before been called on to reward brave commanders of vessels who had saved the property of their consignees, but in this case there was a young woman whose efforts had been of the greatest service. He referred in the most feeling manner to the loss sustained by Captain Armstrong and his noble daughter in the death of wife and mother, and also to the gallant second officer, Thomas N. Patterson. He then called on C. T. Hopkins, the Secretary, who read the following letters, and presented the persons with their gifts. They each responded in graateful words full of suppressed emotion:

The Testimonial to Captain Armstrong

Captain G. N. Armstrong, Late Master of the American ship Templar -- Dear Sir: On your recent voyage from New York to San Francisco, your ship was involved in a series of disasters rarely paralled among vessels not totally lost. Obliged to put into Rio de Janeiro for extensive repair, you were there bveset by the land pirates that infest that port with every temptation to connive at frauds and submit to extortion at the expense of your owners and underwriters.

But You Nobly Resisted

All these attempts, and repaired your vessel at reasonable cost to your principals and without profit to yourself. Leaving that port you were prostrated by yellow fever, which disabled yourself and daughter for many weeks, and caused the death of your estimable wife and ten of the crew. While scarcely conscious from the effect of the disease you repaired to tbe deck, and, at the point oft the pistol, compelled the mutinous remainder of your crew, who had headed the ship for Montevideo, to resume the voyage to San Francisco.

After rounding the Cape, you again resisted their demands, to put into Valparaiso, preferring to continue the voyage short of water rather than risk the expense and possible condemnation of your ship, by resorting to a second port of distress. After a long and disastrous voyage of one hundred and sixty one days from Rio, and three hundred and thirty days from New York, you brought your vessel safely into port, and delivered your cargo, in far better condition than was expected by the parties concerned. Under the circumstances.

The San Francisco Underwriters

Hav felt compelled to recognize the substantial services you have rendered them, and the bright example of honesty, perserverance, and courage you have set the younger members of your profession. They, therefore, ask your acceptance of the accompanying purse of $500, gold coin; and, conveying to you their best wishes for your health and future usefulness in yuour honorable professions, I have the honor to be, most respectfully yours,

C. T. Hopkins, Secretary

Recognition of Miss Armstrong's Courage

Miss E. M. Armstrong: The San Francisco Underwriters on the ship Templar, and property on board lately arrived here from New York, under the command of your father, Captain G. N. Armstrong, have instructed me to present you with the accompanying purse of $500 gold coin, as a testimonial of our appreciate of the services rendered by you in the navigation of that vessel while her officers were disabled by yellow fever.

It was Due to Your Knowledge

Of navigation -- so rare among women -- and exercised partly at a time when you were so ill as to have to be carried from your berth when an observation had to be taken, that the ship was able to keep her reckoning during many weeks. We recall but one other case wherein a woman's skill in navigation saved the ship -- that of Mrs. Patten, wife of the blind Captain of the Neptune's Car, some twenty years ago. That service was handsomely rewarded by the New York Underwriters, adn in like manner we wish to express to you our appreciation of your skill and devotion. Tendering you our best wishes for your future health and happiness, I have the honor to remain, yours respectfully,

C. T. Hopkins

Acknowledgement of the Second Officer's Services

Mr. Thomas N. Patterson, Late Second Officer of the Ship Templar -- Dear Sir: The San Francisco Marin Underwriters concerned in the ship Templar and property on board, have instructed me to convey to you their appreciation of the services rendered them by you on the recent voyage of that vessel from New York via Rio de Janeiro. After leaving Rio, the yellow fever broke out on board, disabling the Master for a long time, rendering the first officer unfit for duty for weeks before his death, and taking down more than half of the crew, several of whom also died. The remainder of the crew becaue mutinous, adn would ahve carried the ship into Montevideo, and afterward into Valparaaiso, in spite of the Master, sick as he was, had not his

Duties Been so Ably Discharged

And his authority maintained by yourself. At one time you kep the deck eighty hours without intermission, and it was due to you influence and efforts with the rest of the disaffected crew that the voyage was prosecuted during the Captain's illness. I am directed, sir, by the Underwriters to present you herewith with the sum of $250, gold coin, as a slight testimonial to your courage and fidelity to your duties as a ship's officer. Conveying to you the kind wishes of all concerned for your continued health and for a rapid rise in your honorable profession, I am, etc.,

C. T. Hopkins

The meeting then adjourned.

Captain Armstrong resided at Sailors Snug Harbor, New York in the 1890s until his death in 1906.


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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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