Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Mike Healy

Died: 1904

"This is a book of adventure that tells how one man shaped the Alaskan frontier at a crucial time in American history." --Vincent William Patton, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, retired.

"Diligent research and precise writing reveal the realities of race relations in nineteenth-century America, as well as the dangers, loneliness, and complex relationships of life at sea in that era."-- Bernard C. Nalty, author of Strength for the Fight: A History of Black Americans in the Military.History of Black Americans in the Military.

In the late 1880s, many lives in northern and western maritime Alaska rested in the capable hands of Michael A. Healy (1839-1904), through his service to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Healy arrested lawbreakers, put down mutinies aboard merchant ships, fought the smuggling of illegal liquor and firearms, rescued shipwrecked sailors from a harsh and unforgiving environment, brought medical aid to isolated villages, prevented the wholesale slaughter of marine wildlife, and explored unknown waters and lands.

Captain Mike Healy.

Captain Healy's dramatic feats in the far north were so widely reported that a New York newspaper once declared him the "most famous man in America." But Healy hid a secret that contributed to his legacy as a lonely, tragic figure.

November 16, 1885, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California


How His Conduct During the Late Whaling Season Is Appreciated.

The following flattering indorsement of a gallant officer of the United States Revenue Service has been sent to the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Alta takes pleasure in giving it a place in its news columns:

WHEREAS, We, the undersigned owners and masters of whaling vessels recently employed In the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans, are especially desirous of expressing our grateful appreciation of the many kindnesses and services rendered By Captain Michael A. Healy, Commander of the United States revenue steamer Thomas Corwin, to us and to the crews of eaid vessels during the whallng season just ended; Resolved, That we have under all circumstances found Captain Healy to be a brave and skillful officer and commander, a humane and Christian gentleman, and an honor to the country he serves; and that without his frequent and willing assistance many lives and much valuable property would have been lost during said whaling season.

Resolved, That these resolutions be sent to the honorable Secretary of the Treasury, and that a copy thereof be presented to Captain Healy, with our best wishes for his future. 
San Francisco, California, November 7, 1885.

    Messrs. J. N. Knowles, William Lewis, J. and W. R. Wing. Bowne & Co., Aiken & Swift, S. Foster & Co.. I. H. Bartlett & Sons, Jared Jernegan, Captains F. A. Barker, E. E. Smith, M. V. B. Millard, H. S. Hayes, T. L. Ellis, F. M. Green, J. G. Baker, Jr., E. A. Ludlow, William I. Shockley, E. B. Lapham, Philip H. Cook, L. C. Owen, Samuel P. Smith, George F. Smith, David B. Adams, G. B. Allen, Hiram Nye, J. B. Tobey, G. Gilley, M. A. Baker, W. H. Koon, A. J. Marvin, George W. Brown, John Thuman, A. C. Sherman, H. D. Colson, Lewis W. Williams, William B. Ellis, John Keenan, Thomas M. McLane.

December 4, 1889, Daily Alta California

The Gaelic and the Bear

Captain Healy of the revenue cutter Bear, and Captain Pearne of the steamer Gaelic, appeared before Collector Phelps yesterday to give their testimony regarding their misunderstanding last Sunday morning, when the Gaelic refused to heave to when signaled by the Bear outside the Heads. Captain Healy told of the efforts he made to get the Gaelic to stop, and Captain Pearne said that he did not hear the Bear's gun and supposed that the signal lights were those of a pilot boat. The matter will probably be dropped.

Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy:
From American Slave to Arctic Hero
Captain Mike Healy.

The true-life story of Michael A. Healy (1839-1904), a captain with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (a precursor to today's Coast Guard). Born a slave in Georgia, he ran away to sea at age fifteen, and spent the rest of his life passing for a white man, a fact that the U.S. Coast Guard did not learn until 1971. During his years of service, Healy enforced the law, stopped mutinies aboard merchant ships, battled illegal liquor and firearm smuggling, and rescued shipwrecked sailors. In 1896 he was brought to trial on multiple charges, and his punishment was to be put ashore on half pay with no command and dropped to the bottom of the Captain's list - yet he earned his way back to his former high position in the service by the time of his death in 1904. ~ Midwest Book Review.

March 12, 1890, Daly Alta California, San Francisco, California

Captain Healy's Case.

Last week the investigation of Captain M. A. Healy of the revenue cutter Bear was continued to yesterday, in order that more witnesses might be secured to testify to Captain Healy's cruelty to sailors in Ounalaska bay last year. When the case was opened yesterday H. W. Hutton, who appeared for the accusers, said that the witnesses had not arrived and asked for another continuance. Captain Healy's attorney objected to further delay, but Commissioner Phelps granted the request and set the case for next Tuesday.

April 5, 1890, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Captain Healy's Conduct.

The Report of the Naval Board of Inquiry Exonerates Him From Blame.

Washington, April 4th. The report of the special committee appointed by Secretary Windom to investigate the charges of cruelty and intoxication made against Captain Healy, commander of the revenue steamer, Bear, was received at the Treasury Department today and referred to Captain Shepard, Chief of the Revenue Marine Division for review. The committee find that the conduct of Captain Healy in punishing three seamen from the bark Estrella was justifiable under the circumstances. In regard to the tricing up of several of the crew of the bark Wanderer the oommittee reports that the evidence showed that the men were mutinous, that the vessel was in an exposed condition, and all reasonable efforts were used to persuade the men to resume their duties, and they refused to do so. The committee find that the charge of drunkenness is wholly unsustained, and say:'

"The testimony shows that Captain Healy has been a particularly intelligent, zealous and efficient officer in the discharge of difficult and perilous duties in tbe Arctic, and that he is humane and kind to his men and to shipwrecked sailors and unfortunates whom he has relieved and who have been in many instances thrown upon his personal bounty."

August 13, 1890, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Cruise of the Bear. 
Captain Healy Reports the Cutter's Movements to July 3d.

Unalaska Bay, Alaska.
Unalaska Bay, Alaska

Washington, August 12th. The report of Captain Healy of the Bear, dated Port Clarence, Alaska, July 3d, was received at the Treasury Department to-day.

He left Ounalaska on June 17th, and arrived at the Island of St. Paul on the 20th, where he was advised that a schooner, supposed to be a sealer, had been seen on the 15th, but had not since reappeared at St. Paul. The scarcity of seals at the usual places was noticeable, and especially their not being present in the usual numbers. The breeding rookeries were almost uninhabited by them, and it was feared that the company would not be able to secure their quota of 60,000 during the year. At Cape Naviain, which he reached on the 23d, he gathered together over fifty natives who were instrumental in the succor of the Napoleon's men, who were lost in 1885, and the preservation of Vincent, the sole survivor, and he distributed to them presents sent by the Government in recognition of their acts. He believes this act ot the Government will spread among the natives along the coast and have a good effect when other vessels are wrecked. The census of the St. Lawrence Island was taken on June 30th. Arrived at King's Island on the 2d and boarded twenty-five whaling vessels found there. Afterwards Census Agent Kelley took the census of the natives on the island.

Captain Healy was informed by Captain Smith of the whaling schooner Mary H. Thomas, from San Francisco, that on June 29th his colored steward, Richard Price, had stabbed William Noonan, a seaman, and threatened the life of the first mate. Price was arrested and confined in irons in a wretched dungeon, but on request of Captain Smith and of Price himself, Captain Healy consented to receive him on board the Bear, and at once put him to work. Noonan is rapidly recovering.

On July 2d the schooner Oscar and Hattie of San Francisco left that port for Cape Prince of Wales and Point Hope, with houses tor the establishment of schools at those places.

At the request of Commissioner Sheldon Jackson, Captain Healy took on board four carpenters, who were transported to the same place. In conclusion, Captain Healy reports all well on board theBear.

April 14, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

He Declines to Discuss the Assessment of Revenue Officers
Will Not Affirm or Deny the Truthfulness of the Statements

Captain Healy of the revenue cutter Bear was reticent when approached for an interview on the subject of the $112 assessment, alleged to have been made on the officers in the revenue cutter service to defray the expenses of the passage of the Frye law through Congress. The new law provides for the retirement of revenue cutter officers on a pension after a certain age, or after they have been in the service a given time.

The Hamilton Club, which is composed of active officers in the service, was recently notified of an assessment of $112 to each member, and there is a howl in the ranks as a result. C. T. Shoemaker, who is treasurer of the organization, sent out the notice from Washington. This is the point that Captain Healy felt delicate about discussing.

Like the other officers interviewed he would not affirm or deny that the assessment had been made. He did say, however, that the officers in the service had contributed $5 each to defray the legitimate expenses attending the passage of the bill. "I have heard these stories," he said, "and they have been started by a man who should not really be in the service. This was a private matter and should have been kept a secret, but this person, whose name I will not mention, is discontented, and is endeavoring to injure the service to gain his own selfish ends.

The captain would not express an opinion as to whether the $20,000 demanded would be raised by the officers, and for the good of the service thought the whole matter should be dropped. The Bearsails for Bering Sea on Monday.

The Rush and the ear, 1895.

The Rush and The BearSan Francisco Call, April 1895

November 25, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco

Lieutenant White's Charges Against the Commander Said to Have Become Public Gossip.

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash., Nov. 24. From officers cognizant of the difficulty existing between Captain Healy and Lieutenant White of the revenue cutter Bear the nature of the charges prepared by White against his commander has become public gossip among revenue officers. For many years the two officers were the best of friends, and White was made navigating officer. In performing his duties Healy had occasion to reprimand the lieutenant severely.

White claims in his charges that the commander acted as if he were inebriated, and upon that representation induced a number of officers to sign the statement preferring charges against Captain Healy, his commanding officer. Several wardroom officers who have sailed under Healy say that he is a gruff, whole-souled disciplinarian, and his constant object has been to enhance the capabilities of his subordinates. This is his sixteenth consecutive voyage to the Arctic.

December 1, 1895, San Francisco Call

The Veteran of the Revenue Cutter Service Denies All the Charges Against Him.

Revenue Cutters.

WASHINGTON, D. C, Nov. 30.-Captain M. A. Healy of the United States revenue cutter service has sent to the Secretary of the Treasury his reply to complaints made against him by twenty-five officers of the revenue marine service. He enters a denial to each complaint. In the list of complaints filed Captain Healy is charged with drunkenness, neglect of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer and and a gentleman, lack of discipline, favoritism and various other offenses. These complaints are now being put into specific charges, and when formally filed with Secretary Carlisle in regular form, a board of revenue marine officers will be convened at San Francisco to make an investigation of the charges and submit a report.

Upon the report and findings of this body Secretary Carlisle will take definite action. The board will be announced, it is said, within the next ten days. Captain Healy is 58 years old, and has for a number of years been engaged in cruising in the northern seas, where he is said to have contracted his bad habits, partly because of the rigorous climate. Much sympathy is expressed for him in official circles here, where he bore an excellent character as a sturdy sailor and an officer of good judgment.

In 1896, Healy was brought to trial on charges ranging from conduct unbecoming an officer to endangerment of his vessel for reason of intoxication. As punishment, he was put ashore on half pay with no command and dropped to the bottom of the Captain's list.

February 28, 1896, San Francisco Call

The Captain Healy Case.

The evidence in the Captain Healy case is now all in, and Judge Advocate Reynolds presented the side of the prosecution yesterday. The findings of the court-martial will now be submitted to the authorities at Washington for approval. The charges against Daniels and others will not be taken up at once.

March 17, 1896, San Francisco Call

Findings in the Healy Trial

Washington, D. C. March 16 -- The findings in the court-martial of the revenue-cutter service, held at San Francisco, were received at the treasury to-day. They are very voluminous and may not be promulgated for a month.

April 24, 1895, San Francisco Call

Captain Healy Convicted.
But There Are Extenuating Circumstances That Will Probably Lighten His Punishment.

WASHINGTON, D. C, April 23 The Call correspondent learned to-day with a reasonable degree of certainty that Captain Healy of the revenue cutter Bear has been convicted of charges made against him by brother officers, an account of which was first published exclusively in The Call on September 3 last. The testimony comprises 1800 written pages, and it was a work of considerable magnitude for Secretary Hamlin to review it, but the task has been completed, and the facts are now before Secretary Carlisle.

Although Captain Healy will be convicted, his sentence is yet a matter for consideration. It is urged in mitigation that he has been a very able and valuable officer and that his misconduct was caused by liquor. It is also urged in extenuation that he acquired the liquor habit in the Arctic seas, where it was essential to health and comfort to indulge moderately in strong drink.

June 17, 1896, San Francisco Call

His Marriage Contract With Lucretia Carpenter Is Annulled
Both Parties to the Ceremony Are Either in Hawaii or on the Way There.

Judge Hunt yesterday annulled the marriage contract between Frederick A. Healy, son of Captain Healy, late of the revenue service, and Lucretia May Carpenter. So ends a romance that began in the winecup and ended in a divorce court.

Young Healy was a few months ago studying law in the offices of Henley A. Costello. He one day received a letter from a couple of Chicago friends who were about to visit San Francisco, and secured a leave of absence for a few days in order to show the strangers about the City. Healy is a convivial chap, and so evidently are his friends, for it was testified yesterday that all were more or less intoxicated during the stay of the Chicagoans.

On Friday evening. March 27 of this year, Healy became acquainted with Lucretia Carpenter.

Healy was intoxicated, and soon proposed that Miss Carpenter accompany him on the rounds of the town. She consented, and the two left in a carriage. Nothing more was seen of them until early next morning, when they announced that they had been married. They had in some manner secured a marriage license and were joined in wedlock at about 11 o'clock.

Healy became repentant as soon as he became sober, and at once left his bride and sought the advice of his friend, Barclay Henley. He told Henley the story and expressed a desire to be sent on a sea voyage. Henley secured passage for Healy on a barkentine bound for Hawaii and then brought suit for the annulment of the marriage. The wife made no objection, so Judge Hunt, after hearing the testimony of several witnesses, annulled the marriage.

It is said that Lucretia Carpenter is now in Honolulu or on her way there to see Healy.

August 8, 1897, San Francisco Call

He Early Left St. Michaels for the Goldfields.

Klodike Gold rush.

Captain Healy, the former commander of the United States steamer Bear, was at St. Michaels when the first miners came down irom Klondike with their bags of gold. This was on June 20, and the veteran commander did not lose a moment's time, but at once set forth for the diggings. He wrote that he might possibly come down on the Portland, the last steamer leaving there, to arrive here in November, but that if he found the stories of the miners fully corroborated as he went up the Yukon he might stay through the winter.

It is believed the captain has a good show for a fortune, especially as he got on the ground early and before any of the delegations of fortune-hunters from San Francisco or any other place on the coast could start. If he has reaped a fortune he will not need to care whether the Government reinstates him to official place.

May 29, 1900, San Francisco Call

Captain Healy on the McCulloch.

Captain M. A. Healy has received orders from the Secretary of the Treasury to take command of the revenue cutter McCulloch, vice Captain Coulson.

Captain Healy has been on waiting orders these last four years as a result of the courtmartial proceedings instituted when he was in command of the Bear. The McCulloch sailed for Seattle yesterday. She will take a cargo of stores to St. Michael for the Nunlvak, the United States patrol boat for the Yukon. Returning to Seattle she will take to Nome the officers of the Alaskan court.

August 31, 1904, San Francisco Call

Death Calls Captain Healy, Noted Mariner

Captain Michael A. Healy, one of the best known navigators of the Pacific, ended his long and eventful career shortly after 10 o'clock last evening, when he passed, quietly away at the Waldeck Hospital. Captain Healy had been sick for some time, but his condition did not take a serious turn until a few days ago, when he was advised to go to the hospital. A failing heart and a general breaking down of what was once a robust constitution hastened his end.

Few mariners who have traveled up and down the coast could not boast of an acquaintance with Captain Healy, who, for many vears, commanded the United States revenue cutter Bear and rendered valuable service in the northern waters, where his duty as guardian of the fishing industry and sealing interests caused him to remain for months at a time. He was a native of Georgia, 65 years of age, and was educated in France. When fifteen years old he ran away to sea and traveled over the entire world In the merchant service, where he rapidly rose from a cabin boy to the position of captain. In 1867 he entered the revenue service as a third lieutenant and was made a captain about 1884, finally retiring In 1903, after fifty years of nautical experience.

At Washington he was regarded as one of the best informed mariners on the coast and during his many years in the north he was frequently called upon to exercise his judgment in matters of national and international importance that gained for him a worldwide reputation.

Captain Healy is survived by a widow and one son, Frederick A. Heaiy, a well known newspaper man. Since his retirement from the revenue service Captain Healy has resided with his wife at the Occidental Hotel, where he was a daily habitue of the lobby. The news of his death will be received with a feeling of deep regret by a large number of friends along the entire northern coast and by the natives of Alaska, who looked upon him as their protector through many trials and tribulations. The funeral, for which the date has not yet been set will take place from St. Ignatius Church.

Captain Healy was a brother of Aichbishop Healy of Portland, Me., and of the Rev. Father Patrick Healy, former president of Georgetown College.

Sixty-seven years later, in 1971, the U.S. Coast Guard learned that Healy was born a slave in Georgia who ran away to sea at age fifteen and spent the rest of his life passing for white.

Map San Francisco Bay 1850.

Relief Map of San Francisco Bay Area showing the entrance through the Golden Gate.

Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy

From American Slave to Arctic Hero (New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology)
Dennis L. Noble retired from the U.S. Coast Guard as a senior chief petty officer and is the author of Rescue of the Gale Runner. Truman R. Strobridge's many positions in the federal government included command historian of the joint-service Alaska Command and also the U.S. Army, Alaska, and he has coauthored two books with Noble.

The Sea Chart

The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational ChartsThe 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. 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.

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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