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Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Born Bristol England, 1841 
Died 1903

Francis W. Gatter left England about 1857 as a sailor engaged in "packet service" between England and various ports.Francis William Gatter.

In 1861 he was aboard the ship, Good Hope, near Ft. Sumpter in Savannah, Georgia, the day before the American Civil War started. The merchant ships were offered the opportunity to join the Southern Navy or get out of the harbor immediately.

Francis stayed on his ship and return to New York where he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. The US Navy Log indicates that he served from May 1851 through December 1852.

However, after signing up, he found out he would be on a little gun boat for one year, but men were offered three year enlistments on the big ships. He literally traded places with a "three-year" sailor by the name of John Henry.

Oakland Real Estate for Sale 1800s.

They traded their sea bags and complete identities - names and all. So Francis served for a year under the name of "James Henry" until he was mustered out because of ill health.

He immediately resumed using his old name, Francis Gatter, but retained his "new" place of birth, New York. Also, he revised his birth year by three years, again for unknown reasons.

During the late 1800s, Francis Gatter traveleld as Captain of different coastal ships up and down the West Coast.

February 25, 1876, Daily Alta California, San Franccisco
Shipping Intelligence: Arrived Feruary 24, Bark Atalanta, Gatter, 16 days from Port Gamble; lumber and laths to Pope & Talbot.

February 23, 1877, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Shipping Intelligence: Arrived Feb 22 -- Bark Atalanta, Gatter, 17 days from Seattle; 1400 tons coal, to Pope & Talbot.

February 14, 1878, Daily Alta California
Shipping Intelligence: Arrived Feb 13, Bark Atalanta, Gatter, 29 days from Port Gamble; 550 M ft lumber, 100 M laths, to Pope & Talbot.

May 25, 1879, Daily Alta California
Shipping Intelligence: Arrived May 24, Bark Atalanta, Gatter, 13 days from Port Gamble; 185 piles, 350 M ft lumber, to Popu & Talbot.

September 1, 1885, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Along the Wharves

Port Townsend advices of August 22d say: The bark Emerald, Captain Gatter, which sailed from here December 23d with a cargo of lumber bound to Valparaiso, arrived this morning from Talcahuana. The old ship looks as fine with her fresh coat of paint as if she had just come from a shipyard. The crew have eight months' pay due them, which they will receive when they are discharged in a day or two.

Captain Gatter's name change came to light when in 1890 he applied for an "invalid Navy pension" and his previous exploits became known and he confessed all.

The family lived first in San Francisco and then in Tacoma, Washington, eventually settling in Oakland, California across the bay from San Francisco.

(Note: Oakland, California, was home to many sea captains during the 1800s.)

The Sea Chart

The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational Charts
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. 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 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; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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