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Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Peter Simon Murchison


Brothers: Captain Neil Donald Murchison, John M. Murchison 
(Because first names were not used in Shipping Intelligence, it may be that all three Murchisons were sailing the West Coast between San Francisco and points north during the late 1800s, early 1900s Captain Neil Donald Murchison was also a Master Mariner and lived in San Rafael, California.)

Captain Peter Simon Murchison followed the Murchison tradition as a ship captain, but left Prince Edward Island, Canada for the growing city of San Francisco, California.

Peter Simon Murchison met his wife and raised his family. Their lives were honored with attention in the social pages as well as the shipping columns. Raised in Point Prim, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Peter took up the family tradition of sailing. Like his father, he quickly became Captain and Master Mariner, which gave him the privilege of leading transcontinental commerce.

As a young captain, he lost a vessel, the John Currier in Washington with details related in the Prince Edward Island papers. Captain Peter relates the horrific details of his efforts to save his young brother who was clinging to a line in rough seas before being lost. Captain Peter also lost a son to the sea about 15 years later. Of his 15 siblings 8 of whom were brothers, he lost 5 brothers and a brother-in-law to the sea.

The 1881 - 1901 census records of Prince Edward Island documents the decline of the household and becoming a home of orphans raised by spinster aunts and widows living in the house of Peter's parents who have both passed away by 1901.

Captain Peter is often listed by name and his wife's social events are mentioned.

February 12, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Sailed: Monday, February 11 Schnr Fannie Adele, Murchison, Eureka

May 4, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco

Sailed: Bktn Uncle John, Murchison, Seattle

February 10, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Washed Off the jibboom in a Gale of Wind.
Working the Disabled Vessel Through the Heavy Seas and Watching for the Lost Seaman.

The schooner Fannie Adele, Captain Peter S. Murchison, which sailed from this port for Humboldt on the 5th inst., returned yesterday with her headgear a wreck and without her second officer. John M. Murchison, the brother of the captain, who fell overboard and was drowned on the night of the 7th inst. in latitude 38 north and longitude 125 west. About midnight, while the wind was blowing hard and the sea very high, the martingale was carried away, causing the jibboom to spring up, slacking the stays and placing the vessel in a dangerous predicament.

While out on the boom making fast the broken gear, Mate Murchison was struck by a sea and washed from his place on the boom. The captain threw him a line as he floated past the schooner, which the luckless seaman caught and held to with a firm grip.

Every effort was made to heave the schooner to, but the wreck forward and the strong gale that was humming around the close-reefed sails made it impossible to check her speed. The crew tried to haul gently in on the line, but the vessel, rising and falling abruptly in the rough seas, jerked the rope through the drowning man s hands, and finally it was wrenched from his grasp and he drifted out of sight. They could not lower a boat in the wild waves, but lay all night near the spot in their disabled condition, keeping the almost unmanageable schooner from broaching to and watching for the lost officer.

Mate John M. Murchison was a native of Prince Edward Island, unmarried and was about 21 years old. He was well known and very popular along the water front, having sailed in and out of this port for several years.

June 12, 1896, San Francisco Call

BORN: MURCHISON - in this city, June 11, 1895, to the wife of Captain P. S. Murchison, a son.

December 30, 1899, San Francisco Call

Shipping Intelligence
CLEARED: Schr J. H. Colman, Murchison, Hilo; J. D. Spreckels & Bros. Co.

August 14, 1906, San Francisco Call

TACOMA, Aug 13 --The American barkentine Planater, Captain Murchison, was towed to sea today from Port Gamble, lumber-laden, for San Francisco.

October 8, 1906, San Francisco Call

Returns to Port Townsend Waterlogged and in Badly Damaged Condition

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash., Oct 7. The barkentine Planter, Captain Murchison, which left Everett eight days ago, bound for Manila, returned to port today waterlogged and in a badly damaged condition as the result of a storm encountered off the Columbia River. As the storm increased in violence the rigging began going by the board and the Planter soon became unmanageable. In the height of the gale it was iscovered that the vessel was leaking. The pumps made no headway against the lnrushing waters and her hold rapidly filled, flooding the forecastle, cabins and galleys. The ship's stores were under water, and while the crew were trying to work their way back to the straits it was necessary to secure provisions from below with the aid of a net.

August 9, 1907, Friday

The Currier was driven ashore on August 9th by a fierce gale that came up during a fog. Before the Commander could make out his bearings his ship had been piled up on the rocks. The crew and the passengers were gotten off safely and the following morning when the fog lifted the crew took off all the ship's stores and the baggage of the passengers and crew. It was estimated thirty days supplies were on hand but Captain Murchison given command of the party by tacit understanding ordered everybody on two meals a day. No warning was given, but it was thoroughly understood anyone stealing supplies would be shot. As a result there was no pilfering.

August 24, 1907, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Vessel is Total Loss

Portland, Oregon: A dispatch receivd by the merchants' exchange says the American ship John Currier is ashore at Nelson's lagoon. The vessel will be a total loss. The crew is safe.

The 236 foot 1945 ton wooden ship  John Currier stranded on a sand bar near Cape Rozhnof near Nelson Lagoon at 1:30 a.m. Friday August 9, 1907. She had departed Nushagak August 4, 1904 with a crew of 105 and 140 other employees, bound for Astoria, Oregon. There were 110 white men. 120 Japanese and Chinese and the wife and five children of Captain Murchison in the party.

She also had a cargo of about 2,200 tons of canned salmon worth $125,000. At the time of the tragedy there was a strong inshore current, fresh westerly wind, thick fog and rough sea. The ship was full of water two hours after striking. All hands were landed in ship’s boats August 9th. The vessel was worth $20,000 and had no insurance.

According to Captain Murchison the Currier was driven ashore on August 9th by a fierce gale that came up during a fog. Before the Commander could make out his bearings his ship had been piled up on the rocks. The crew and the passengers were gotten off safely and the following morning when the fog lifted the crew took off all the ship's stores and the baggage of the passengers and crew.

Ten days after the party landed on a coast so bleak and barren that there was neither shelter nor food supplies, the Currier dashed herself to pieces on the rocks. From that time until the revenue cutter McCullock appeared, September 11, not a ship hove in sight. Immediately after landing, two members of the crew were sent away with an Indian guide to seek help, and this company intended to set out again just as the revenue cutter McCullock appeared on September 11th. TheMcCullock transferred her passengers to the Thetis which brought them here. A bread line on theThetis was formed at meal hours.

The John Currier broke up in a SW gale September 10, 1907.

September 24, 1907, San Francisco Call

Shipwrecked Persons Are Rescued by Cutter
McCulloch Saves 243 From the Ship John Currier

San Francisco Bay. 1899.

Topographic Map. San Francisco Bay. 1899.

WASHINGTON. Sept. 23. A message was received at the treasury department today from Captain Munger, commanding the Bering sea fleet of revenue cutteres, dated at Unalaska, saying that the cutter McCulloch had rescued 243 persons from the ship John Currier, which was wrecked on August 9 in Nelsons lagoon, Unimak Island, Bering sea. All of the rescued persons were transferred to the cutter Thetis on September 16, and the Thetis had discretionary orders for landing at either Seward or Seattle. The rescue was timely as the food supply saved from the Currier was getting short and the place where the wreck occurred was a desolate and barren shore.

Captain Murchison and crew were sent to San Francisco, the fishermen and the Orientals to Astoria, Oregon.

The revenue cutter Thetis arrived here today with the survivors of the American ship John Currier, wrecked in Nelson's Lagoon, Bristol Bay, on August 9th. There were 110 white men. 120 Japanese and Chinese and the wife and five children of Captain Murchison in the party.

BARSKA Anchormaster 15-45x50 SpyscopeBARSKA Anchormaster Telescope.

BARSKA Anchormaster Spyscope.

High power viewing with zoom magnifications from 15x to 45x and large 50mm objective lens in a polished brass scope on a mahogany floor tripod.

• Fully coated achromatic lenses for brilliant images structured in a refractor design with helical focusing rings
• Internal image-correcting lens provides right-side-up images for the naked eye.
• Brass arc mounts allows the scope to move smoothly in all directions.
• Stands on a mahogany tripod with extendable legs and polished brass joints.

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 Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers, and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Copyright © 1998-2017. All U.S.A. and International Rights Reserved. D. Blethen Adams Levy.

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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