Passenger Lists: San Francisco 1800s


SS Independence

Arrive San Francisco

February 16, 1853
Captain Sampson 
From San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua


March 9, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

STEAMSHIP INDEPENDENCE. -- As a good deal of anxiety has been felt in regard to the safety of this missing ship, we have taken some pains to inform ourselves from experienced and practical men, and obtain their views on the subject. In the absence of facts, we must rely on conjecture, which, in this case gives no reasonable grounds for alarm as yet, for several very good reasons. First, she was considered capable of performing the voyage without more than the ordinary risk. Next, she was in good condition when last seen, or heard from -- and lastly, because there have been no heavy gales or storms which could have endangered the safety of any vessel along our coast since that time. It is very probably that she has broken a shaft or some portion of her machinery has given out, which has compelled her to put into Guaymas or La Paz, in Lower California, to remain there until her situation becomes known. The Sea Bird will undoubtedly bring intelligence of her on her return.

March, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Independence and Her Passengers.

--Lists have been published in this city, purporting to give the probable number of persons who took passage on this missing steamer, together with their names. The number so given has amounted to over 800. The Independence is incapable of accommodating more than 250 comfortably; but taking into consideration the great numbers who were at San Juan at the time of her departure, and the eagerness to get away from there, she might possibly have taken as high as 350. It is, however, worthy of remark, that quite a number of those whose names were published as probably on board of her, have since arrived, and are now in the city. We would therefore advise those who expected friends by her to keep up their courage, as it is by no means certain, either who were on board of her, how many, or that any fatal accident has happened to the ship, although nearly a month has elapsed since she was last seen.

March 16, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Great fears are entertained for the safety of the steamer Independence. Up to the hour of going to press, no intelligence has been received from her. She was last seen by the Golden Gate in the Gulf of California, and is now twenty-days over her time. She had on board about 450 passengers. The agent has chartered the steamer Sea Bird which left on the 9th for San Blas, touching in at all the intermediate ports and coves.

April 2, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Loss of the Steamer Independence

300 of the Passengers and Crew Lost!!
Causes of the Catastrophe

On the 16th of February, ult, the Steamer Independence, of the Vanderbilt Line, Capt. Sampson, during on her upward trip from San Juan del Sud to San Francisco, when off the south point of Margarita Island, and within three hundreds yards of shore, struck a rock and immediately commenced to fill with water. The accident befell the steamer early in the morning, between daylight and sunrise. Nearly all the passengers were quietly enjoying their repose, when they were suddenly aroused from their slumbers by the severity of the collision of the boat upon the rock. In the state of affairs, instead of confusion, excitement and alarm, the most complete calmness reigned supreme. Ahead was a high and precipitous mountain with cragged rocks, against the base of which the surf in its angry rage was beating, presenting anything but an interesting appearance. All around, the sea was running high and forbidding, yet with an awful and portentous future staring us in the face, unless the ship could be backed off and beached in a more prepossessing water than now. All was quiet and free from excitement.

Immediately the order to back her off was given, when she was withdrawn, and every energy and every effort made by the use of buckets to keep her from sinking. In this state of affairs, the passengers did much to relieve the ship from her sinking condition, working with willing hearts and strong hands to cause a bad matter to result as beneficially as possible. Despite the exertions of the hands and the passengers, it was found impossible to keep her from sinking and after running her not to exceed three quarters of a mile, increasing the volume of steam by more than ordinary means, on account of the water filling in up to her boilers and cooling them rapidly; she was headed for the beach, which she would have gained but for the layers of rocks, against which she finally struck. The water rushing forward previous to this second, checked the drafts through the chimneys, driving the flames out of the furnace doors and at once igniting the ship.

Up to this time the three boats remained hoisted and craned, not a thole pin in one of them and but three oars to as many boats. One of these was now made ready by Capt. Steele of New York, who, by the use of a jack knife and bits of wood made sufficient thole pins for one boat, had her lowered, and a few of the ladies in it and more men, preceded by the ship's surgeon, (who, no doubt thought his services would be more required upon the land in reviving the anticipated dying and dead, and believing in the truthfulness of "That he who fights and runs away, May live to fight some other day --" gained the shore. Now was the agonizing time -- The flames spreading rapidly, parents embraced their fond children, imperiling their cheeks with warm gushing tears; devoted husbands embraced their tender wives, meeting their lips in affection's sweet kiss, relying upon god and their own exertions for salvation from the fiery and watery abyss that yawned to receive them. Some men began to jump overboard, and by swimming hoped to gain the shore. The breakers running high, with a heavy sea, the act seemed inevitable death, as it proved to many an unfortunate soul. The remaining boats were lowered, and for want of management, were filled with more men than women, and succeeded in reaching the shore.

In vain did Capt. Sampson and Purser Freeborn cry for these boats to return to the ship; in vain were warm appeals of Capt. Steele to induce the crew to return with them. After leaving the first time, only one, got off by the indefatigable exertions of Mr. Herron, the steward, returned. In the meantime, on board the ship, Purser Freeborn worked admirably as did Mr. Collins, the engineer and Capt. Sampson, as well as many of the passengers. Men of wealth were offering huge fortunes to be saved. Men and women, as the flames were spreading, screamed frantically, the former smiting their breasts, the latter tearing their disheveled hair. The scene beggars description. Wealth and poverty were on an equality, and sank together to rise no more.

Females could be seen clambering down the sides of the ship, clinging with deathlike tenacity to the ropes, rigging and larboard wheel. Some were hanging by their skirts, which unfortunately, in their efforts to jump overboard, were caught, and thus swung, crying piteously and horridly, until the flames relieved them from their awful position by disengaging their clothes, causing them to drop and sink in the briny deep. Mothers, going to meet their husbands, threw their tender offspring into the waves, rather than to see them devoured by the fury of the flames, and trusted to fortune and chance to take their bodies to the shore. O! but the shrieks and cries of the true and confiding companions and relatives, as affection's and friendship's ties were about to be sundered, are beyond human description. Many an eye spoke the gentle goodbye, though the lips moved not. Oh! how horrible were the lamentations of the dying as they were contending between hope and a watery grave! As I passed through the surf, how horribly sounded the piteous moans for help! All around me were the sinking bodies of the passengers and crew of the steamer Independence.

O God! What a situation to be in! Planks, spars, trunks and coops, covered with human beings struggling energetically for life, some wafted to the shore, others out to sea, some sinking, others being miraculously preserved. Here I saw females and children providentially rescued -- then lost! Here was a kind husband who had sworn before God to protect her whom his soul loved, struggling for her safety; there was a father bearing his affectionate son to safety to the shore, looking around but to see the wife of his love dashed from the position in which he had left her, by mad and unthinking men jumping upon her and driving her to the bottomless deep.

On the shore what a scene! At a time when money had no value, could be seen the sacrilegious pillaging and plundering the dead -- old men and young men were stripping the bodies of clothing, securing the contents of their pockets, and actually quarreling, yea fighting over a corpse for the plunder! But this is too horrible; suffice it to be said that in less than an hour from the fatal collision, not less than 150 of the 400 souls on the Independence had found a watery grave. The balance were driven ashore on a lone, barren isle, destitute of every essential of life. Over two hundred souls cast away upon a deserted and forbidding isle, many oppressed and heartbroken with grief, others completely exhausted from their exertions in the water, and some famishing for the want of water with which to slake their thirst and this, too, with no present hope of relief, furnishes anything but an inviting picture. We could have done much better had there been any water of a drinkable character to be found. Here and there were men at the fissures in the rocks, catching water in spoons, which it would take a minute or two to fill. This being brackish only increased thirst. Fortunately, Mr. Freeborn thought of condensing water, and Mr. Collins quickly set about arranging his boilers for the work. By this plan we were enabled to obtain about a pint of water in seven minutes, which was considerable relief, but not sufficient to satisfy thirst.

After living in this manner for three days, we spoke the ships Meteor, Capt. Jeffries, Omega, Capt. Fisher, James Maury, Capt. Wheldon, and the barque Clement, Capt. Lane, who no sooner than advised of our situation, dropped their work in the Bay of Magdalena, tendered us the hospitalities of their ships, sent us food and water and rendered us all the assistance, which generous, noble and gallant men could. In the meantime, Capt. Sampson was out hard at work for relief, and succeeded in bringing a schooner, which being quite small and inconvenient, the ship Meteor, which her whole-souled Captain, was hired to bring us to San Francisco, whither we have arrived after a passage of some four weeks from the Isle of our wrecking.

Here men asked the cause for this destruction of human life, this waste of property, this sundering of the ties which God had put together, and we answer by stating the facts as we have them from persons knowing the, and whose statements are now in our possession. For the truthfulness of these statements, we have the veracity of our twenty-five men, who saw what we have narrated.

With these rocks laid down upon the chart, with warnings in the books to keep away from the entrances into Magdalena Bay, on account of the strong currents there; or without this knowledge previous to coming near the Island, when the breakers could be seen for a long time, and the rocks themselves for a considerably space -- and sufficient at least to have averted the accident, as good men will swear -- does it not come irresistibly home to the mind of everyone, that the Captain, who would stand upon the wheel house of his ship, and permit her to be stove in upon rocks, plainly to be seen, is either insane or one of the earth's most heartless creatures

That he was insane no one will say, would to God we could. That the act was deliberate and intentional, can and we believe, will be successfully established.

--E. Drown

The Loss of the Steamship Independence. 1853.

Later newspaper reports indicate that 242 passengers and 41 crew were saved and 117 passengers and 15 crew were lost, including the wife of Ezra Drown. Following the printing of General Drown's statement, 150 passengers and crew signed the following:

We the undersigned surviving passengers and crew of the steamship Independence, authorize Ezra Drown, Esq. to subscribe our names to an article for the public press to be prepared by him, in which he may charge the loss of the steamship Independence on the 16th of February 1853, to the carelessness, mismanagement or willfulness of Capt. Sampson. Captain Sampson was quoted as saying that he dismissed the rocks as whales.


Not listed.


The March 9, 1853 Daily Alta California lists the following as departing New York on the steamer Northern Light on January 20th and boarding the steamer Independence

Abbott, Joel 
Aberle, David
Argall, Wm. 
Arnott, Jacob
Ayres, Mrs. M. S. 
Babcock, Wm. S. and Holiday C.

(NOTE: October 10, 2010. Correction sent in: Daily Alta California had names listed as Babcock, Wm. S. and Harry C. Other articles refer to "H.C. Babcock." Holiday Columbus Babcock born January 26, 1829 in Hamden, Delaware County, New York; died November 7, 1905 in Santa Ana, California)

Bacon, Wallace 
Bacon, Wm.
Baker, D. M. 
Baker, Elijah 
Baker, P. 
Barber, Morris
Barker, D. M.
Barker, E.
Bateman, W.
Baum, Jacob
Baxter, Freeman
Baxter, Mrs. F.
Bean, Hiram C.
Bechard, John
Beck, N. 
Bell, William
Bellows, C. D.
Bignall, Wm. K.
Bishop, Daniel F.
Block, E.
Bloomfield, Mrs. A.
Bochard, J. 
Bordon, Wallace
Bordon, Wm. L.
Bowen, Alex C.
Brown, Wilkinson
Brewington, R. M.
Brown, Alex
Brown, John
Bruce, Henry
Buffum, E.
Burgess, Thomas
Byars, Daniel H.
Caldwell, J.
Cameron, B. F.
Carmichael, A.
Carter, Peter
Chase, W.
Chauncey, M.
Childs, Sandford
Cohn, B.
Cole, James Mudge 
(His Letter Home)

Cook, E. G.
Cook, Z., Jr.
Corey, W.
Cox, Peter
Crotts, James (or J. Cross)
Cross, L. B.
Cullan, Charles R.
Daley, B. 
Davidson, Samuel
Davidson, Wm.
Davis, G. F. (or George T.)
Davis, John
Day, L.
Dexer, L. P.
Dickey, B. F.
Dickey, Mrs.
Douglass, Robert H.
Doyle, W.
Drake, Ezekiel, R.
Drown, E.
Drown, Mrs. E. (Eliza Drown)
Earnhart, H. 
Felt, James D.
Felt, Lauren P. (or L. S. )
Feuamien, P. R. (Next to impossible to read)
Figet, M. 
Finch, Wm. H.
Findley, D.
Fisher, Aaron 
Fisher, C.
Fleming, James
Ford, Hiram
Freet, Michael
Fuller, Loomis P.
Garrett, Edward
Gorton, Harvey
Gattrell, T. M. 
Gillis, J. 
Gilmore, Andrew
Gilmore, Coris
Gilmore, Frederick
Gillmore, S. D. 
Gilmore, T. M. 
Gitting, Robert
Gliss, J.
Gorton, Jos
Granniss, C. D.
Gray, Lemmel L.
Green, Joseph
Greenband, Joseph W.
Greenfield, H. S.
Grotts, J.
Guignon, J.
Hale, J. O.
Hale, Oliver
Hall, C.
Hall, E. N.
Hall, J. F.
Hall, Mrs. C.
Halstead, J.
Halstead, J. T.
Hardman, L. 
Hardy, C. C. 
Harvey, F.
Harrington, L. 
Hatch, R. 
Hatch, W. B.
Hemphill, Abram
Hixon, J.
Holmes, W.
Howe, G. W.
Howland, C. M.
Howland, T. J. 
Howland, John
Howland, Mrs.
Howland, S. C.
Imrie, William
Ingles, Mrs. Elizabeth 
Ingles, G. W.
James, J.
Jeffers, James G.
Johnson, J. G.
Kimball, G.
Kittredge, Asa
Knox, R. A.
Lackeny, Miss M.
Lapeer, Geo. W. 
LaPierre, G.W. (per History of Santa Clara County, CA 1881, page 582, provided by a reader on 11/09/2009) 
Leadley, John H.
Lebillister, W. (Might be W. Lebalister)
Lewis, J. P.
Light, E.
Light, Evelett (Possibly Mrs. E. Light)
Light, Jas
Light, Mrs. F.
Lincoln, A.
Lincoln, L. 
Lincoln, W. 
Manning, Edward K.
Mavin, E. C. (Also printed as E. C. Marvin)
Masterman, John
McCandless, W. 
McDonald, Matthew
Mendoza, J. (Also noted as J. Mendoze)
Mittmiore, James H.
Morris, G.
Morse, Wiley
Mosher, H.
Mosher, R.
Mott, Harper
Moulton, W. S.
Muffin, Francis
Muffin, G. W.
Muffin, Mrs. F.
Murphy, Daniel
Murphy, John
Murphy, Mrs. Mary Ann
Myers, Jacob
Nellis, E.
Nelson, J. D.
Newell, Edward H.
Newell, William
Nichols, David
Nichols, James A.
Nolan, L.
O'Neal, Thomas
Orr, W.
Owens, Davis
Parchard, Henry
Parker, Aaron
Parker, Michael
Parmenter, James C. (or J. C. Parmater)
Paul, S. S.
Pell, H. W.
Penny, Andrew
Perkins, George
Peterson, Charles P. (or C. P. Paterson)
Pierce, Mrs. W.
Pierce, W. (also noted as Mr. and Mrs. W. Peirce)
Potter, Samuel S. 
Pruden, S. 
Rearim, J.
Reinbelt, Richard (or Reinbolt, R.)
Reynolds, A. B.
Richardson, Abiatha
Richardson, Isaac
Richmond, H. E. 
Richmond, Mrs. H. E.
Robbins, Samuel
Roberts, Henry J.
Scofield, Mrs. W. E. 
Scofield, William E.
Scott, Allison
Scott, Wm.
Searls, W. A.
Seward, A.
Smith, H.
Smith, I. P.
Smith, Ira
Soward, A. 
Sparhawk, J. F. 
Stanley, Lieut. F.
Steele, J.
Stephens, Samuel
Stevens, W. W.
Stevenson, L. C.
Stockdale, R.
Stokes, W. G.
Stone, John
Strauss, H. (Also printed as H. Straus)
Sullivan, Mrs. Fanny
Sutton, L. C. 
Sweet, Lorenzo
Tallon, James 
Tayler, Caleb W.
Taylor, Henry
Taylor, Robert
Taylor, Simon
Tessenden, P. R. 
Thayer, Cyrus 
Thieme, John
Turner, A. B.
Turner, A. W.
Tyler, C. W. 
Van Saun, William
Vaughn, T. S. (Might be T. S. Vaustan)
Ward, B. F. 
Ward, C.A.
Weatherington, Alex
Weatherington, Jos
Weaver, Jacob
Weddell, Miss A. J.
Weddell, P. M.
Welch, Mrs. Ann
Westoff, J.
Wheeler, Henry
Whitney, Warren
Williams, John 
Willoughby, J. R.
Wilson, Thos M. 
Zinn, H. C. 
278 in the steerage

The list below is from the Sacramento Daily Union, March 9, 1853. It is here for comparison purposes as discrepancies exist between the lists, including names on the Alta list that are not on the Union list.)Passengers on Steamer Independence, March 9, 1853.

April 26, 1853, New York Times, New York

List of Passengers Lost

W. Argall, Wis. 
Mrs. Ayrs and child 
Wm. Adler, Tenn.
W. Abraham, Eng.
J. Abraham, Ohio
E. Abraham, Ohio
A. Carmichael, Ohio
Miss Julia Ranecum, St. Louis
Wm. Brown, Mass
J. Baum, N. J.
W. Bateman, Ohio
M. M. Berwin, Tenn.
J. Allen, Texas
A. A. Carrington and Wife, Ark.
-- Chauncey, St. Jose
C. J. Coots, boy, St. Louis
E. Collins, Eng.
Mr. and Mrs. A. Carne and child, Eng.
Jno. Morris, Albany
Mrs. Hall and child, Ill.
Mary and Maria Ingolls, O.T.
Johnson, Boston
J. T. Jeffries, Ohio
T. Jones, New York
R. A. Knox, R.I.
J. C. Kolp, Cincinnati
Morris Kemp
Asa Kittridge, Ill.
J. Kelley, New Orleans
J. M. Larco, Valparaiso
S. P. Leman and 2 chil., Miss.
J. P. Luce, Conn.
Martha Lackey
Geo. E. Light, New York
O. Hale, Mass
Mrs. Howland, 3 boys, Wis.
Wm. Leonard, New York
R. Mosher, New York
John Waterman, Mich.
J. Myers, New York
E. C. Marvin, Penn.
Mary Murphy, Boston
Mrs. M. Muffin, New York
W. H. McCandless, Ohio
W. S. Moulton, Mass
Henry C. Zin, Ind.
T. M. Wilson, Penn
Ventroff, Ill.
David Nichols, Geo.
W. Newel, Ill. 
E. Willis, Ill.
T. O'Neal, New York
T. Oberless, New York
Wm. Pied, La.
A. Penny
S. Pruden, New York
G. Berwin, Tenn
M. Berwin, Tenn.
Philip Baker, Mass
E. Baker, Mass
-- Bewington, St. Louis
S. Barnum, Ohio
W. Bignell, Mich.
J. G. Hatch, Texas
J. Light, New York
G. W. Boswell, Illinois
Mrs. E. Brown, Iowa
Wm. Doyle, New York
R. Davy, England
H. Ford, Michigan
M. Frost, Germany
A. Bignell, Michigan
E. Block, Albany
Barbara Whiteman, N. O.
P. Francis, England
E. Garrett, Ohio
Griner and wife, Cincinnatti
Charles Grannis, Illinois
Hartman, New York
James Rearson, N.H.
Mrs. T. Robinson and three children, St. Louis
H. J. Roberts, Wis.
A. Reynolds, N.J.
A. Sparkawk, N.H.
A. Scott, Ohio
W. A. Schofield, Penn.
John Schmidt, Mo.
John Stevens, Wis.
Simeon Taylor, N. H.
J. B. Tarr, Mo.
Chas. Teats, Cincinnati
Robert Taylor, Boston
C. O. Taylor (child), Mo.
James Tallon, St. Louis
Benj. Ward, Mich.
Asa Watson (boy), St. Louis
B. M. Weddell, Ind.
Chas. A. Ward, New York
John Williams, Ohio
Ann Welch, Boston

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . .114

List of Crew Lost

Martin O'Hare, storekeeper
Maria Wilson, stewardess
C. Anthony, 1st cook aft. gal.
Charles --, 3d cook a ter galley
J. Glen, 2nd cook, fw'd galley
J. Tulley, assis't butcher
C. Jewell, fireman
Peter Lein, coal passer
Wm. Smith, seaman
John --, seaman
Wm. Brook, pantryman, 
Thos Jones, 2nd pantryman
William Leonard, waiter
J. McNelly, waiter
Edward Kelley, waiter --15

Total Lost. . . . . . . . .129

List of passengers saved from the SS Independence.

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