The Sea Captains
Captain James H. Blethen, Jr.
Born 1844, New York; D: March 19,1904 (or 1906), San Francisco
James H. Blethen, Sr. and his sons, James H. Blethen and Eugene O. Blethen, were connected with the shipping of California from the days of '49. James Sr. and Jr. were Master Mariners who captained steamers during California's Gold Rush days and into the turn of the Century.
James H. Blethen, Jr., was born in New York in 1844. Apparently his parents were divorced and his father, James H. Blethen, Sr., married Henrietta Emelia Osborne in March of 1850, then sailed to San Francisco in 1851 as captain of a Vanderbilt ship.
The younger Blethen is on the passenger list of the SS Daniel Webster, which left New York in the fall of 1855. He crossed the Isthmus to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, where he joined his father, Captain of the SS Sierra Nevada for the trip to San Francisco. He was about 11 years old at the time.
Captain Blethen, Jr., is next mentioned in Langley's San Francisco Directory of 1864, wherein it is noted that he sailed as second officer on the Opposition steamer Moses Taylor, with his father, James H. Blethen, as captain. The mentions of the younger Blethen generally did not include "Junior," and, thus, some confusion surrounds listings of the Blethens in the 1860s and 1870s. However, it seems apparent that the Senior Blethen was the more prominent sea captain and sailed deepwater steamers in international waters, whereas his son was lesser known and plied California s coastal waters as noted in listings below from the Daily Alta California.
Captain Blethen, Jr., had been Captain of the tug S. L. Mastick to San Diego, but left that tug in charge of Captain Thomas, and remained there to take command of the steamer Alexander. No sailing notice appears in either late December, 1869, or in January or February, 1870.
February 22, 1870, Alta California, San Francisco Shipping Intelligence,
ARRIVED, Feb. 21---Steamer Alexander, Blethen, 78 hours from Santa Cruz Island; 700 sheep to J. Baca & Co. This voyage may have been with the North Pacific Transportation Company which was the only shipping line advertising steamships to Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Simeon and San Luis Obispo in the 1970 Daily Alta California listings. MEMORANDA, Per Alexander---20th inst, off Point Sur, Steamer Kolorama, bound south.
Alta California, February 23, 1870, Shipping Intelligence,
SAILED, Feb. 22---Steamer Alexander, Blethen, Midway Island.
Alta California, March 1, 1870, Shipping Intelligence,
ARRIVED, Feb. 28th---Steamer Alexander, Blethen, 2 days fm Santa Cruz Island; 1025 sheep, to N. Baca & Co. MEMORANDA, Per Alexander---Feb. 27th, at 11:30 a.m. passed Steamer Vaquero 25 miles N of Point Arquela for San Diego.
Alta California, March 3, 1870, Shipping Intelligence,
SAILED, March 2---Steamer Alexander, Blethen, Santa Cruz Island.
Alta California, March 8, 1870, Shipping Intelligence,
ARRIVED, March 7---Steamer Alexander, Blethen, 2 days from Santa Cruz Island; 1,100 sheep, to P. Bacca.
Alta California, March 10, 1870, Shipping Intelligence,
SAILED, March 9--Steamer Alexander, Blethen, Santa Cruz Island.
Alta California, March 18, 1870, Shipping Intelligence,
ARRIVED, March 17--Steamer Alexander, Blethen, 2 days fm Santa Cruz Island; sheep, to P. Bacca & Co. IMPORTATIONS, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND--Per Alexander--830 sheep, 70 bales wool.
In April of 1871, while the younger Blethen continued on the Pacific Coastal routes, his father sailed from Mission Street Wharf in command of the Steamship Nevada, the pioneer of Webb s Australian Line, under the control of the Colonial Governments of Australia and New Zealand for transportation of the mails.
November 9, 1879, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
DIED: BLETHEN -- In this city, November 7, Julia C., wife of James H. Blethen, Jr., a native of Chicago, aged 31 years and 6 months.
July 4, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California
Hackett's Case - Inspectors Removd and Others Appointed.
James Hackett, one of the men arrested for smuggling opium on Wednesday, and re-arrested on Thursday for conspiracy, yesterday put up a deposit of $4,000 in lien of bail. He was lodged in jail on Thursday night, and yesterday asked to be accompanied by an officer to a place where he could obtain the amount of the required bond. The request was granted, and instead of being taken to a bank, as the officer supposed he wanted to be, be asked to be taken to the Safe Deposit Company's vaults. On his arrival there he went to his safe, where there was plenty of money, took out $4,000 and was escorted back to the office of the United States Commissioner, where he deposited the $4,000 and was released. He remarked to an officer of Customs that he could put up forty times the amount of the bond, and the officer did not dispute him.
Collector Hager dismissed the following Inspectors, who were on board the Gaelic when Hackett and Delay smuggled the opium from the stern of the steamer: Henry Webb, James F. Bay, Bobert M. Corcoran, John T. Palxer and Edward McLaughlin.
J. W. Blethen, Jr., whose information led to the seizure of a large quantity of opium on board theGaelic, has been promoted from a night inspectorship to a day inspector. (Editor's Note: Presumably this is J. H. Blethen, Jr., who was a port inspector following in his father's footsteps.)
Delay, who is imprisoned at Alcatraz, is liable to "squeal," as the word goes, and what he knows about smuggling is supposed to be sufficient to fill a very large volume.
The places of Webb, Palmer and Corcoran have been filled by John Critcher, Wm. J. Shipman and Edward V. Atkinson.
January 9, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
MARRIED. BLETHEN-COMISKEY : In this city, January 2, Jas. H. Blethen, Jr. and Mary E. Comiskey
March 26, 1888, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
BORN: BLETHEN - In this city, Mrach 18, to the wife of James H. Blethen, Jr., a daughter.
August 2, 1889, San Francisco Bulletin, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
The ship Kennebec arrived in port on Wednesday with a cargo of coal from Departure Bay. Yesterday the Customs Inspectors boarded her. While attending to his duties, one of them, James H. Blethen, Jr., fell down the chain-locker and received a number of bruises and concusions. He was brought ashore and removed to his home in a carriage.
By 1890, James H. Blethen, Jr., was listed as a Custom House Inspector in Langley s Directory. One or both of the Blethens were Chief Wharfingers on San Francisco s docks in the latter part of the 19th Century. He was also at one time "captain of the watch" at Meiggs Wharf, and was noted as holding "various positions of trust along the front."
He died in San Francisco on March 19, 1906.
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