Passenger Lists: San Francisco 1800s


Around the Horn in the 1800s.

SS Union


July 1851
Captain James Marks

July 21, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco


The Union, which left San Francisco July 1, with 250 passengers and $270,000 in gold dust, went ashore on the 4th inst., about 300 miles south of San Diego and will prove a total loss. The passengers and specie were saved, as well as the baggage and provisions. She lies in lat 29 45 N, long 115 50 W, 60 miles distant from San Quentin in a northwesterly direction, She stranded inside of an outer sand ledge, striking heavily, lying about 1-1/2 miles from the shore at high water, a heavy surf breaking over her, rendering approach dangerous.

July 21, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Loss of the Steamer Union

We communicate the following particulars relation to the loss of the steamer Union, as calculated to relieve anxiety which naturally would be felt by those who had friends among the passengers.

The steamer sailed hence the morning of the 2d inst., and had a very fine run until the 5th, on the morning of which day at 3:30 A. M., the weather being very foggy, the vessel struck heavily upon a reef, distant one-half mile from the shore, near Point Beja, about 60 miles to the southward of the Bay of St. Quentin, and after beating over a portion of the reef, became stationary on hard sand, and distant 300 yards, at high tide from the beach. Preparations were at once made to land the passengers, a task at once difficult and dangerous, owing to the heavy breakers. By 10 A M. all the passengers were safely landed, and on the same day a supply of provisions, and also the specie, amounting to $270,000, were brought on shore.

A somewhat mutinous spirit having been manifested by a few disaffected persons, prompt and effectual measures were at once taken by a few of the passengers to preserve order and discipline, and sustain the authority of Capt Marks; and a guard of thirty men were placed over the treasure.

On the morning of the 7th. Dr. Hewett, U.S.A., who had kindly and ably volunteered bis services, started for San Diego, distant 400 miles, over a mountainous and rugged road, with intelligence of the disaster, and to secure the necessary relief. Upon the arrival of that gentleman at San Diego, after an arduous ride of four days, without sleep or rest, finding it impossible to secure at that place the means of transportation, and the Tennessee fortunately making her appearance in the course of a week, he at once embarked on board, hoping to meet some of the steamers of the 15th from here and inducing them to touch in at San Quentin and take off the 330 passengers. Capt. Totten, in the true spirit of a sailor and gentleman, promptly acceded to the wshes of Dr. H. in maintaining a vigilant lookout for any vessel bound down ward, and had a boat in constant readiness to place him on board of any of the steamers, neither of which was however seen.

It gives as great pleasure to state that upon a representation of the facts to Capt. C. Knight, the agent of the P. M. S. S. Co., that gentleman promptly, cheerfully, and in great generosity of spirit consented to dispatch one of the company's vessels to take off the passengers and specie as soon as practicable. We avail ourselves of this opportunity in behalf of Captain Marks and the owners of the "Union," to express to Dr. Hewitt, the deep obligation incurred by the tender of services in conveying the intelligence of the disaster. and his disregard of toil and danger in effecting the journey alone from the wreck to San Diego, as well as for the good judgment displayed in all the steps taken by him to furnish relief to the passengers and crew, all of whom were in good health and amply supplied with provisions.

Dr. Hewett speaks in warm terms of the courage, skill and energy exhibited by Capt. Marks and Mr. Berry, the first officer, from tbe first moment of the disaster and throughout the perilous landing of the passengers and treasure and make very favorable mention of the Chief Engineer, whose name has escaped his recollection, in compelling the firemen to return to their duty which they had neglected in a moment of panic.

At the time Dr. Hewitt left, the vessel had broken in two amid-ship and was fast becoming embedded in the sand. 

Respectfully yours. Haven & Co.
Agents for steamer Union

Great Shipwrecks of the Pacific CoastShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Great Shipwrecks of the Pacific Coast.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Author Robert Belyk examines ten significant maritime disasters that occurred during one of the most turbulent eras in the history of travel. Real-life drama endured by those caught in the terrifying midst of disaster at sea and the causes behind the tragedies. Well researched, the shipwrecks accounted for here include:

  • 1854: the Yankee Blade runs aground. Twenty-eight passengers lose their lives.
  • In 1865, only 19 of the 204 passengers and crew on board survived the wreck of the Brother Jonathan, whose owners had been more concerned with maximum profitability than with the safety of their passengers.
  • 1875: The old side-wheeler Pacific rams another passenger ship off the coast of Cape Flattery, Washington. Two hundred and seventy-seven people perish when her rotting hull gives way.
  • 1906: The Valencia strikes a reef off the Washington coastline. Before dozens of dazed onlookers on the shore, the ship goes down taking 117 passengers and crew with her.
  • 1907: The Columbia disappeared under the ocean surface in just eight minutes after ramming another passenger ship. Her poorly maintained iron hull simply gave out, leading to the deaths of 87 passengers.

Beyond the Golden Gate: A Maritime History of California
Maritime History of California.Beyond the Golden Gate.A Maritime History of California.
Timothy G. Lynch
Noted maritime historian Timothy Lynch looks at the history of the Golden State through the prism of the maritime world: how the region developed and how indigenous people interacted with the marine ecosystem. And how they and others - Spanish, English, Russian, American - interpreted and constructed the oceans, lakes and river networks of the region.

The waterways served as highways, protective barriers, invasion routes, cultural inspiration, zones of recreation, sources of sustenance: much as they do today. He presents how the Gold Rush transformed the region, wreaking havoc on the marine environment, and how the scale and scope of maritime operations waxed and waned in the decades after that event. In all, the delicate balance between protection and utilization is paramount.

Written as part of a project with the National Park Service and the Organization of American Historians, Beyond the Golden Gate is an immersive look at the maritime history of California. Benefitting from hundreds of primary sources, dozens of captivating images and reflective of the latest trends in the field.

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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