News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.

A Tough Life at Sea

Daily Alta California, July 23, 1851


By the arrival of the schooner Odd Fellow, from the Ladrone Islands, we have received an account of the massacre of a captain and part of his crew, by the natives of a small island, known as McCoskell's, belonging to the group of the Ladrones. The particulars were written for us, and subscribed to by Mr. George Dawson, who was second officer under command of Captain Luce. The occurrence mentioned took place on the 17th of January last.

The sperm whaler Boy of Warren, of R.I., arrived off the island of McCoskell, and was boarded by two men in a canoe, who, in reply to a demand for provisions, informed Capt. Luce, master of the ship, that the Island only afforded green turtle, and that the native were hostile to strangers, advising him not to land. Capt. L., however, ordered a boat to be got in readiness, and calling for volunteers, was joined by four of his crew, and accompanied by one of the strangers, who were sailors, and had been stopping on the island for two years. He gave orders to the first officer to send a boat for him in the morning, and pulled ashore.

Polynesian Islands.

The ship lay off and on, and the next morning a boat was sent for the Captain, in which was the other stranger, and also two natives, who had paddled off to the ship. On nearing the shore, the natives assembled on the beach, refusing to allow the boat to land. They were all armed with spears, and beckoned their comrades to join them from the boat, which they did. The sailor resident was then about to follow, when one of the natives warned him to remain in the boat. They refused to hold any communication whatever with the crew, and Mr. Dawson, who went in command of the boat, rejoined the ship and related his adventure.

(Map: Polnesian islands of the Pacific. 1840)

Mr. Merry, first officer, then provided the ship's crew with arms, and the boat was again sent ashore, under a white flag. The men lay on their oars within a cable's length of the beach, where the natives continued to assemble, armed with spears, and threatening an attack if an attempt was made to land. Joseph Percy, the companion of the sailor who accompanied the Captain ashore the previous evening, endeavored to gain some particulars from the natives concerning the fate of the Captain and party, but was refused all information; and having stated his belief to the second officer that they had been killed by the natives, a fire was opened upon them from the boat. The relief party continued outside the reef until a signal from the ship recalled them.

Mr. Merry waited until dark off the island, when, receiving no tiding from the unfortunate, he bore off for Ascension.

The names of the seamen who landed with Capt. Luce, were James Mackay, James Sweeny, William Taylor and Edward Rion. There is no doubt that the whole party were massacred by the natives, who perhaps suspected from the absence of their two comrades on board the vessel during the night that they had been killed or detained as prisoners.

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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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