News from 1888: Oceanic I sinks City of Chester

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
MAB Notes: 1. In the days following, the death toll was fixed at 13
passengers and three crew of the City of Chester. 2. This article accounts
for a bit over two columns out of the seven columns of material which
appeared in the Alta the day after the collision. The rest, including
statements by the two captains, can be read here.

Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 23 August 1884
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

The City of Chester Run Down By the Oceanic
Heartrending Scenes That Were Witnessed by the Survivors
The Captains of Both Vessels Say They Gave the Proper Signals to Avert the
Threatened Danger

Since the burning of the steamer San Vicente, in December last, whereby
twelve persons lost their lives, no event has caused such a profound feeling
of horror in the community as the fatal collision off Fort Point yesterday
morning between the Occidental and Oriental steamer Oceanic and the Pacific
Coast steamship City of Chester. So utterly incomprehensible was the
disaster, the Chester having left the dock hardly an hour before, that it
was some time before people could force themselves to believe in the sad
calamity. Those reported as missing, and whose loss cannot be doubted, are
the following :

G. W. ANDERSON of Oakland.
MRS. MEECH, San Diego.
MRS. S. E. PRATER, San Diego.
MRS. C. H. HANEY, Eureka.
J. C. HAMPTON, Virginia City (of the firm of Gage, Shattuck & Co. of San
MRS. J. C. HAMPTON, his wife.
C. T. DAVIS, of Springville.
MISS JOSIE BREWER, niece of the above, aged five.
J. GREER of Napa.
ROBERY FULTON, a waiter.
ADAM RICHMOND, a water-tender.
ED. R. CHAMBERS, Chief Steward.

The City of Chester left Broadway wharf at 9 o'clock yesterday morning, for
Eureka and other ports, with the following list of passengers and crew:


The fog was then very thick, but no fear of accident disturbed the minds of
the passengers, who, as usual, remained on deck while the steamer was
passing along the front, commenting on the shipping, which loomed up
indistinct through the fog. Captain Wallace appears to have kept his vessel
at a low rate of speed, "feeling his way," as he expressed it, to the Heads.
The whistle was kept going regularly. As the Chester got out into the stream
the fog seemed to grow denser and denser, and when nearing Fort Point the
hoarse foghorn of another steamer was bourne to the ears of the listening
Captain of the City of Chester. Captain Wallace replied with his whistle and
then the other steamer, which subsequently proved to be the Oceanic,
whistled twice, this being the signal that she had starboarded. According
to all accounts, not denied by Captain Wallace, he responded with two
blasts. A little later the Oceanic again whistled twice and was once more
answered by two blasts from the Chester.

Right here the confusion seems to have occurred which resulted in an awful
tragedy. According to the statements of Captain Metcalfe of the Oceanic and
Captain Meyer, the pilot, that vessel had starboarded, and stopped soon
after the first two whistles. The helmsmen of the Chester, Samuel Halton and
Ben Spenser, both maintain that they received no orders after the first
whistle of the Oceanic was heard to alter their course. The latter also say
they could not see very far ahead, while the passengers and crew say that
they could see all the way from fifty to five hundred yards ahead. Some of
the passengers go so far as to say that the Oceanic could be plainly seen
fully five hundred yards off. The statements on this point are very
conflicting. However it may be, it is certain that the two vessels were
soon so close that collision was inevitable. Then ensued one of those
frightful occurrences which try the bravest hearts.

The two vessels approached each other rapidly to certain destruction for one
or both and no means of escape possible. The passengers on the Chester
stood there, with white, set-faces and staring fixed eyes waiting for the
crash which was to announce their doom. In another moment that crash came.
The high, sharp bow of the hugh [sic] China liner struck the City of Chester
about the fore hatch on the port side. She cut into the sides like a knife
through paper, tearing away the upper works and sending the cabins and
woodwork flying in all directions. The two vessels did not immediately
separate. They remained together for quite a time, the nose of the Oceanic
buried in the hull of the other vessel. Then a scene of wild confusion and
excitement took place. A panic took possession of all on board the Chester.
Passengers and crew made a wild rush for the Oceanic. Shrieks and cries for
help and half-uttered prayers resounded from all sides. With these were
mingled the horrid sounds of tearing timber and snapping bolts, and above
all the loud frenzied orders shrieked out by excited officers. The people
clambered up the bows of the Oceanic like cats and over the sides. Captain
Wallace, like the undeniably brave sailor that he is, remained by his ship
to the last. Standing on the deck, he endeavored to stem the tide of
safety-seeking passengers and crew. A glance at his disabled vessel showed
him there was no hope. He gave his orders to lower the boats. Second Mate
Lundine and a few of the men who stood by the vessel, lowered the working
boat---the only one launched safely from the Chester. The passengers and
crew of the Chester are a unit in declaring that the Chinese crew of the
Oceanic showed little energy in saving life. Had they been white sailors,
instead of coolies, all on the Chester might have been saved.

In. a few minutes after the collision the Chester went down. She had
gradually filled with water until the decks burst up, and then with a sudden
trembling the stern tilted in the air and the steamer plunged head first out
of sight. As the cold water reached the heated boilers they exploded with
loud reports and helped to break up the hull. At the time the Chester
disappeared she was so close to the Oceanic that her fore yard struck the
bows of the latter. The captain and several of the crew and passengers went
down on the ill-fated vessel. Captain Wallace had a miraculous escape from
drowning and was eventually picked up. The scene at this time was
heartrending. Wreckage of every kind strewed the water, to which
unfortunates were clinging momentarily expecting death. Numbers managed to
cling to ropes which had been thrown over from the Oceanic, and were thus
hauled on board. The lifeboats of the Oceanic, one of which was manned by a
portion of the crew of the Chester, picked, up many more, and as by this
time the disaster had been perceived from the shore, boats ot every
description had arrived on the spot and were rendering all the assistance
possible. The exact time of the collision was 9:50 and the steamer sank in
fifty fathoms of water.

The confusion on the Oceanic among its 1105 passengers was very great. The
damage to the big liner was, however, comparatively small, being confined to
the denting of a few bow-plates. The steamers which went out to the scene of
the disaster were the Hercules, Milien Gri[?]ith, Millie, Annie, all of
which recovered great quantities of bedding, wreckage and other effects. No.
3 lifeboat of the Oceanic picked up Edward Chambers, chief steward, of the
Chester, who died soon after his rescue. The body was taken to Broadway

This wharf, which on the departure of the steamer had been crowded with
relatives and friends of the passengers laughingly bidding them good-bye,
was now crowded with those same friends and relatives, but in a very
different mood. The women were in tears, and the men full of grief. Each
boat as it passed the wharf was greeted with agonizing inquiries. To these
no answer could be given save that the facts would be furnished later on.
This was but poor consolation to the waiters, and when the Etna arrived at
the wharf with Captain Wallace and other survivors they were besieged with
questions. At Goodall & Perkins' office the scene was also very sad. This
place was also besieged and business brought to a standstill for several
hours. When Purser Charles Debney, who had been picked up by a boat and
placed on the Oceanic, came ashore, a list of the missing was made out. At
first some twenty-five were reported lost. Later this was reduced to
sixteen, and in the afternoon it was ascertained that ten were missing, all
of the City of Chester. None were lost from the Oceanic. Mrs. C. H. Haney's
body was recovered in the afternoon. She was going to Eureka with J. J.
Loggie, a relative. The deceased was a widow and lived in Eureka, where
she had a married son and another boy of sixteen living here. Mrs. J: C.
Hampton was rescued, but died on the Oceanic about an hour after. Her
husband's body was not recovered. The daughters of Mrs. S. E. Prater heard
of the death of their mother on being dragged on board the Oceanic. One of
the sisters was in the water over an hour. The two daughters of Mrs. Prater,
Mrs. Emily Christman and Miss Prater, were brought ashore late in the
afternoon and taken to the Russ House, where medical attendance was
summoned. Both ladies are injured internally, and Miss Prater has some
severe external bruises on her neck and shoulder. Her condition is so
precarious that the doctor has enjoined the greatest quietude. The three
ladies were from San Diego, and were traveling without any male protector.

There is hardly any doubt that J. Greer is drowned. He had assisted his
daughter, Miss L. Greer onto the bows of the Oceanic, and she tried to
persuade him to follow her. The old gentleman, however, went back for some
things, and before he could get back the Chester sank. One little baby girl,
whose name is not known, was picked up, and is now on the Oceanic. There
was an affecting scene on that steamer when Charles Spratt restored the
little child he had rescued from the wreckage to its agonized mother. The
happy lady burst into tears, and fell on her knees before him, thanking him
wildly all the time. Several of the survivors are seriously ill from their
experiences. Mrs. Davis, the stewardess of the Chester is in a very critical
condition. Mrs. Carrie Brewer of Martinez is also seriously ill.

In order that some idea may be formed of the relative size of the two
vessels it may be well to state that the Oceanic is an iron steamer, 440
feet long, and of nearly 4000 tons burden. Her commander, John Metcalf, is
one of the oldest captains on the China line. The steamer left Yokohama on
the 8th of August, and had made one of the fastest trips on record, her time
being about fourteen and a half days. She carried about forty white
passengers and over one thousand Chinese passengers. Her crew consisted of
seventy-four men, all of whom were Chinese. The officers, all of whom are
white, are as follows:

Captain, John Metcalf; first officer, George F. Tilston; second officer,
James Swan; third officer, George E. Bridgett; fourth officer, L. O. Eckles;
chief engineer, William Allen; second engineer, A Brolly; third engineer, C.
Vivian; fourth engineer, C. Smart; fifth engineer, Thomas Mirk; sixth
engineer, Walter Bridge; purser, Charles S. Arthur; freight clerk, H. P.
Greene; surgeon, Dresbach Smith; carpenter, R. Weston ; boilermaker, James
Weaver; oilers--William Hart, W. Mooney and John Grant; storekeeper, H. H.
Chisholm; steward, J. C. Broughton; stewardess, Marie Boldy; steerage
steward, A. J. Leslie; butcher, John Tatum; steerage watchman, Frank Teller;
quartermasters--M. Neill, J. Athies, R. Perry and J. P. Davison.

The City of Chester was a much smaller vessel than the Oceanic, being
something over 1100 tons gross. She was a fine, staunch vessel, however, and
has been employed with singular success in the Coast trade. She was built at
Chester, Penn., in 1875 for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, and
formerly ran to Portland. She subsequently passed into the hands of the
Pacific Coast Steamship Company, and has been running to Eureka. Her
dimensions were: length,202 feet; beam, 33.2 feet; depth, 15.9 feet; net
tonnage, 785.23; gross tonnage, 1106.21 tons. She was valued at $150,000,
and was insured in San Francisco companies for half that amount. She had
200 tons of assorted cargo in her hold, valued at $4000; uninsured. An
attempt will be made to raise the ill-fated steamer.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, 28 August 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

What the Masters of the Oceanic and City of Chester Say
The Tide-Rip Theory Presented by Captain Wallace---Some Interesting Evidence

The formal and official investigation into the cause or causes of the recent
disaster whereby the City of Chester was sunk and many lives lost, was begun
yesterday both by the British Consul and the United States authorities.
The Federal Officials Hear Testimony From Her Crew

Yesterday afternoon Government Inspectors Hillman and Talbot began
their investigation into the loss of the City of Chester. Captain Thomas
Wallace, Master of the ill-fated vessel, testified at length. The
statement he made the day following the disaster (which has already been
published) was read. In reply to questions, Captain Wallace said that the
Oceanic was fully 500 feet distant when he first sighted her. When the
collision occurred the Chester was about 300 feet off Fort Point, just
abreast of the single pile that is all there is left of the old Presidio
wharf. The Captain testified that after coming into the fog bank the whistle
was kept going at intervals of less than a minute. Continuing, he said:

"I heard a whistle to seaward and then two whistles. I answered the two
whistles with two whistles. She again blew two whistles, which I answered.
We were going about seven knots, while whistles were blowing under slow
bells. When I saw the Oceanic I rang bells to reverse the engines, and I
knew we were backing water by the vibrations of the vessel. It was certainly
not over two minutes from the time we saw the Oceanic until she struck us.
It seemed to me like a moment, but it must have been fully two minutes. It
was not more than five minutes after we were struck before we went down.
When we first struck she ran into us so far that my best judgment told me to
get as many passengers on her as possible while the ships were together. I
had four men clearing away boats during that time. I had put my helm to
starboard when I first heard the Oceanic's two whistles. It was kept to
starboard, and the ship went down with it in that position. She minded her
helm as customary at first, when it was put to starboard, but when she
struck the tide-rip we were turned in the flood-tide toward Lime Point. The
flood-tide runs from Fort Point across toward Lime Point very strong, and as
soon as her bow got into it she paid right on against her helm. After the
collision I waved my hat to the Captain of the Oceanic and told him to go
ahead and stay with us. We managed to launch only one boat before the
steamer went down.

First Officer Charles McCallum of the Chester testified as to the strong
flood tide running when the steamer got into the stream. He was below when
he heard the whistles of another steamer. He went on deck and was forward
when the Oceanic was sighted. After the collision he attended to lowering
one of the boats, and after this he threw off his coat and jumped overboard.
One of the boats of the Oceanic picked him up.

In response to questions from Captain Wallace, witness testified: "The
Chester had stopped at the time of the collision. I saw the Oceanic coming
towards us pretty fast, but did not notice any curl about her bow or any
'bone in her mouth.' After the collision, when the Chester had sunk so low
that no more people could pass over the bow, six men went aft to the boats
with me. I think sixteen persons were drowned."

Chief Engineer Frank Cookson of the Chester testified that Second Assistant
Comstock was on duty at the time of leaving the wharf. Witness went below
and remained in the engine-room. He received one bell to slow down and then
another to back water. The engines backed until those below felt the shock,
and then they had a bell to stop. The engines were stopped when the vessel
sank, he ran on deck, leaving a fireman in charge after the shock of the
collision. He saw the Chester was making water rapidly, and going below he
called to the men to save themselves. The clock at the time of the collision
showed it was 9:52 o'clock. He ran from the engineroom to his room and then
jumped overboard. The weather was clear when the steamer left the wharf, but
there was a thick fog when the witness jumped overboard. The engines under
slow bell were making about fifty revolutions. At sea the average go-ahead
speed was from eighty-five to eighty-seven revolutions, sometimes as high as
ninety revolutions.

Second Officer John Lundine was confident that the Chester's engines were
backing at the time of the collision.

L. P. Davis, who was a passenger on the Chester, and whose brother and child
were drowned, testified as to his own experience. He lives in Humboldt
county, and believes Captain Wallace to be a thorough seaman.

Albert Holten testified that he was at the wheel, and when the Oceanic
whistled he got his orders to starboard the helm. It was foggy all the way.
The Chester was going down the bay at half speed. He did not see any land
off the port bow. When the Oceanic was sighted she appeared to be two points
off the port bow, to the north. He received the order "hard to starboard"
when the sound of the two whistles was heard. It was three or four minutes
after he got the order to starboard that the Oceanic was reported. No orders
were given to the pilot-house after the order to starboard.

Captain Wallace- Did you hear me give the order to pass the passengers up
over the Oceanic's bow?

"Yes, sir."

B. Stennasser testified that he, too, was at the wheel. The weather was
thick at Fort Point. Heard signal whistles from a ship. At last there were
two whistles, which the Chester answered. Captain Wallace ordered the helm
hard to starboard before the Oceanic was seen by the men at the wheel. After
the collision witness went out on deck to help save life. Lowered one boat,
which got away just as the Chester sank. Pulled over to the Oceanic, and
afterwards picked up the dead body of the steward of the Chester. The
Oceanic was sighted three or four minutes before the collision. Just before
the order to starboard the Chester was headed west half south. Did not
notice any curl in the water at the Oceanic's bow.

The investigation will be resumed at 1 o'clock this afternoon.
The Master of the Oceanic Makes His Sworn Statement

The Court which convened yesterday morning to pass upon Captain Metcalf's
responsibility in the matter of the recent collision, consisted of Charles
Mason, British Consul, presiding; Captain John Wallace of the British ship
Antonio, and Captain Ward of the British ship Pegasus.

John Metcalf, master of the Oceanic, testified:

["]On the morning of the 22d, at 7:30 A. M., weather foggy, with more or
less density, approaching the pilot ground, near the whistling buoy, I
stopped to sound. Found bottom at twenty fathoms. Then proceeded slowly to
pick up the whistle, or the pilot boat signal. Heard the whistle on the
starboard bow, and a moment after a gun from the pilot boat, broad on our
starboard beam. Turned ship's head westward, steamed slowly until we picked
up the pilot at 8 A.M. After the pilot, Louis Meyers, was on board we
steered southeast until we heard the whistling buoy. Distance not less than
a mile. The pilot ordered the course to be altered to north east by east
(magnetic). At this time we had some conversation about the weather. The
pilot said it would most likely be clear when we got in, which was also my
own opinion from my experience. I also asked the pilot to hug the north
shore, as being the safest, and he mentioned, to my satisfaction, that there
would be nothing towing out, it being floodtide.

["]About fifteen minutes after passing the whistling buoy, we picked up some
sand, and soon after crossing the bar we observed a large four-masted
sailing ship---afterward it proved to be the Lord Wolseley---at least
one-half mile away. She was at anchor. Our pilot hailed them, asking what
sort of weather was inside. Could not distinguish the answer, but it sounded
like "Yes." Proceeded, and at 9:19 o'clock passed Bonita Point. Did not see
the Point. Saw only the dark loom of the land. All this time the whistle was
going at short intervals. At the same time the engines were put dead slow.
The course was changed by the pilot one-half a point more northerly. Soon
after this I noticed Point Diablo low down. Pointed it out to the pilot,
who recognized it. Soon after this we heard a whistle from the starboard
bow. Our whistle replied. At this moment I noticed Lime Point and the
white signal house showing through the fog. Almost simultaneously I heard
two tolls of the bell on Fort Point. I was looking over toward Fort Point.
Then I saw a steamer two and one-half or three points on our starboard bow.
The pilot immediately ordered our helm hard-a-atarboard and two blasts of
our whistle. We heard the answer of the other steamer---two blasts.
Watching carefully, the pilot answered with two blasts more, which were
again answered by the steamer. At that moment I saw that a collision was
inevitable if both ships pursued the same course. So I jammed my telegraph
"Full speed astern!" at 9:27 o'clock. The engineer can tell by the handling
of the telegraph whether prompt action is required. He responded
immediately, as I could tell by tho quivering of the ship. I then watched
the situation closely, knowing it was merely a question as to whether we
would strike them or they us, and we struck the City of Chester just aft the
port prow---or, in reality, the Chester struck us, for at that time our
propeller had nearly brought us to a standstill. I looked over the side and
found that she had very little way, and the backwater of the propeller
showed that the engines' reversing had accomplished the purpose. But after
the vessels struck I said to the pilot: "We must keep on the hold. You go
forward and give orders to start ahead if necessary." I went back and had
our life-buoys thrown overboard. I also ordered our boats to be lowered.
Two of them were alongside the Cheater when she sank and two others were in
the vicinity. Either one or two more were there soon after. The boat in
charge of our first officer went down with the sinking steamer, taking the
third officer, four men and one lady down with her. All were saved, but the
lady was somewhat badly hurt. The Chester seemed to sink in about six
minutes, as near as I could guess. A few of our Chinese passengers got
somewhat panic-stricken after the collision, but soon quieted down when I
told them "This ship no sink." The engines were not moved from the time of
the collision until we had to go ahead a little to clear Arch Rock, which
was then not far off on our port side. The ship drifted with the tide from
the place she struck until she got off Black Point at 10:15 A. M. The
collision occurred at 9:30 A. M., just three minutes after the order to go
astern was given. When I first saw the Chester she had considerable white
water in under her prow, called by sailors "a bone in the mouth," which
proved that she was going at full speed. ["]

In answer to various questions put by the Court Captain Metcalf said:

["]After crossing the bar the weather was more or less thick, but at times
we could see quite a distance, fully half a mile. Our speed was from four to
four and a half miles. We could tell our position correctly after passing
Point Bonita, Point Diablo and Lime Point, in such a manner as to know that
we were on the north side of the channel. If both vessels had kept on their
courses I think the Chester would then have struck us about amidships. If
the Chester had gone to the starboard in answer to our signal there would
have been no collision. At the rate of. speed we were going we could have
stopped before we reached the Chester, after sighting her, had we so
desired. We were nearly stopped anyhow. I think the Captain of the Chester
recognized that the starboard helm was the proper course when he answered
our whistle.["]

In entering the bay in foggy weather, Captain Metcalf said he
did not think it proper for such a steamship as the Oceanic to take the
starboard helm in mid-channel because there ore several dangers which are
not guarded by signals, the signals all being on the north side. He
further stated that in heavy weather he has cleared away ten boats in
sixteen minutes, which includes the unlacing of covers, which is not done m
an emergency, they being then cut. At the time of the collision the gross
dead weight of the Oceanic, cargo and all, was probably between 6000 and
7000 tons. In answer to the question, "What precautions did the Chester take
to save life?" Captain Metcalf said:

["]The discipline could not have been very good, the major portion of the
crew being on my ship. The captain was the only one who remained at his
station. It was he who, with two or three of the passengers, as I took them
to be, cleared away the only boat which was launched from the City of
Chester. There was a fishing boat which did some work.["]

A letter from A. K. Bunkill, a passenger on the Oceanic, was read. It was
highly commendatory of Captain Metcalf.

When the court convened after the noon recess Chief Officer G. T. Tilston of
the Oceanic testified substantially as follows:

["]Everything went well on the passage up to 4 o'clock on the morning of
August 22d, when it came on thick fog. The engines were slowed and all the
customary precautions taken for safe navigation. About 8 o'clock heard the
pilot boat signal, and shortly after that Pilot Meyer came aboard. Tilston
then went forward to his station, being ordered by the captain and pilot to
keep a strict lookout. When the whistling buoy was passed he was ordered to
look out for the nine-fathom buoy, Mile Rock, and the bell on Fort Point.
The ship at this time was steaming slowly, with whistle going at intervals
of one minute. Between 9 and 9:30 o'clock, perhaps 9:15, Tilston heard a
steamer whistle on the starboard bow, which was duly reported to the bridge.
About three minutes afterwards he saw a black object about 2 1/2 points on
the starboard bow issuing from the fog. He immediately reported it to the
bridge, when the whistle of the Oceanic was given two blasts. The object,
which proved to be a steamer under way, replied with two blasts. At the same
instant the Oceanic's whistle was blown two blasts, the pilot gave the order
to put the helm hard to starboard. Tilston then turned his face away for a
few seconds thinking that everything was all right as both ships had blown
two blasts, and on turning around and looking at the steamer again, Tilston
saw that she was coming towards the Oceanic apparently from the same
direction. The Oceanic again blew two blasts, which were duly answered by
the approaching steamer. She appeared to answer the starboard helm, when
suddenly it seemed as if her helm had been put to port and she was trying to
cross the Oceanic's bow. Tilston then made up his mind that a collision was
imminent. The Oceanic's engines were started astern. A few moments
afterwards the ships collided, the stem of the Oceanic, penetrating the side
of the City of Chester. There was then a great rush made by the passengers
on board the City of Chester. Tilston beard the order given, which he
repeated to some of the crew, to clear away the boats and throw life-buoys
overboard. He himself attended to assisting to get the passengers and crew
in over the bow. About four minutes after striking the ship two of the
Oceanic's boats were alongside the sinking ship, and three others were got
out as quickly as possible afterwards. About ten minutes after striking the
steamer was settling down, with some passengers still on deck. She then took
one violent plunge, her foreyard striking the Oceanic's bow, and the Chester
disappeared, drawing down with her the Oceanic's No. 8 boat, in charge of
the second officer and four Chinese sailors. All the remaining boats were
then busily engaged picking up the struggling people. After all the
passengers in sight had been picked up the boats returned to the Oceanic,
and the passengers were taken on board as quickly as possible. Shortly
afterwards the Oceanic came to anchor inside of Black Point.["]

In reply to questions put by Captain Metcalf, Officer Tilston testified
that from appearances, as near as he could judge, the Chester was going at a
rapid pace. The foam at her bow indicated this. The people that first came
over the bow of the Oceanic were for the most part the crew of the Chester,
which was afterwards proved by the fact that there were very few of her crew
left on board to assist remaining passengers or put the boats out. One boat
got away from the Chester at the same instant the steamer was sinking.
Coming in the weather was more or less dense, and at the time of
sighting the steamer Tilston could see a distance of half a mile. Passed
a four-masted ship after getting the pilot on board. The fog was much
thicker then that at the time of collision.

In reply to Vice-Consul Mason, Tilston said the Chinese crew behaved in a
splendid and seaman-like manner. There was no trouble in lowering the boats.
The crew are drilled at the boats every week at sea, and every voyage in
Hongkong. lt usually takes from fifteen to eighteen minutes to uncover ten
boats, swing them out and put them in the water fully manned. In an
emergency the work can be done quicker. The Oceanic carries four boats
outside ready for use. In reply to Captain Ward, Tilston said that
passengers were helped over the bows at the time of the accident by hand,
and every available rope. The crew helped to save life. There were Chinese
passengers on the Oceanic's deck who had nothing to do with the ship. In
further answer to the Court, Tilston said that this trip the crew of the
Oceanic numbered about one hundred and thirty, of whom thirty-five were
European. After the collision, and up to the time of anchoring, the weather
rapidly cleared up so that land could be distinguished on each side. Tilston
thought that the Chester carried six or eight boats, and he knew that she
only lowered one. He did not notice any of heir boats damaged by the
collision. The Oceanic struck forward of the forerigging. Everything that
was possible to be done to avoid the collision was done by the Oceanic. If
each steamer had complied with the signal of two blasts and starboarded the
helm, the vessels would have gone well clear of each other.

Captain Metcalf was recalled and testified that when the order
was given to starboard the Oceanic's helm he saw that the order was
obeyed, and the helm was put hard over. The Oceanic is steered by steam.
It takes five seconds to put the helm hard over. From the upper bridge the
quartermaster who is steering can be seen distinctly. When the helm was
starboarded tho ship's head was canting port, but it was soon checked by the
ship going astern. Going astern the ship's head cants to starboard. At
the moment of collision the Oceanic was headed northeast halt [sic; "half"?]
north. Captain Metcalf has been sailing in and out of this harbor as master
of ocean-going steamers thirteen years last May. During that time he has
never had an accident. It is the first accident he has had in his twenty
years' experience as shipmaster.

The Court will convene again this morning.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 29 August 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Further Investigation Held by the Courts of Inquiry
The British Naval Court to Give Their Verdict To-day---The Pilot
Commissioners Take Action

The further investigation into the "bay disaster" was resumed yesterday, and
the evidence adduced being only corroborative of that given by the captains
of the two steamers, there was nothing new brought forth.
The British Consular Court
The British Consular Court reconvened yesterday morning and called, as the
first witness, George E. Bridgett, the Second Officer of the Oceanic. His
testimony that he was on the bridge at the time of taking on the pilot.
About 8 o'clock A. M., previous to the pilot's arrival, he had proposed to
Captain Metcalf to stop until they could hear the whistling buoy, for which
they were searching. When Pilot Meyer boarded the ship he said that the buoy
would be found immediately, and his statement was verified, as the buoy was
picked up a few minutes afterward. Continuing, witness said:

["]After the pilot's arrival we went ahead at half-speed, headed for Point
Bonita. We passed the nine-fathom buoy, and upon entering the harbor we met
a four-masted ship which was being towed out by a tug-boat. Our pilot sung
out to the Captain of the tug, asking if it was clear inside, and I
understood the Captain to answer that it was. Some conversation passed
between the pilot and Captain Metcalf, the former assuring the latter that
the weather was all right, and would clear off soon. The pilot said, when we
passed the four-master, that our position was about midchannel. We passed
within 300 yards of this ship, and could distinctly see the men working on
board. I could see land on our port bow. Heard whistles at Point Bonita and
Lime Point. We were just passing Fort Point, where the bell was ringing,
when we also heard a steamer's whistle on our starboard. We gave two blasts
of the whistle and the helm was ordered to starboard. I blew the whistles.
The approaching steamer answered with two whistles, meaning that she would
take the starboard helm. When these were given, our pilot said to Captain
Metcalf: "That's all right; they have answered our whistle." We observed
that the steamer was still coming toward us, and Captain Metcalf said: "What
are they doing? Blow two whistles again!" I did so. I think it was the pilot
who said: "I don't believe they have put to starboard."

["]Captain Metcalf ordered two more whistles blown and the engines reversed
to full speed astern. The other vessel still approached at a rapid rate of
speed, and at 9:30 exactly we struck. Captain Metcalf and I called out and
signalled to the other steamer's passengers to get aboard of our steamer.
Already the crew of the other steamer, which proved to be the City of
Chester, were climbing over our bow. Captain Metcalf cried out, "She is
sinking (meaning the Chester), clear away the boats as quickly as possible
and throw over the life-preservers!" I took four Chinese sailors with me
into the No. 8 boat and pulled for the Chester, intending to go around her
bow. My attention was attracted to three women hanging to the bow of the
Oceanic near the water's edge. I pulled underneath and the sailors assisted
one of the ladies into our boat. We were preparing to take the others when
the pilot and first officer cried out to me to look out for the boat. I
looked up and saw the fore-yard of the Chester coming gradually down upon
us. I ordered the sailors to back the boat out, but as they were still
trying to save the women, we waited too long and the fore-yard of the
sinking steamer struck the bow of our little boat and capsized it, throwing
all of us, including the lady whom we had taken in with us, into the water.
I do not think she ever came to the surface again, as I believe she was
struck by the fore-yard. When I arose to the surface the Chester had
disappeared entirely and nothing was to be seen but wreckage and several
boats belonging to the Oceanic. I got hold of some of the wreckage and
climbed upon it.["]

The officer then gave a detailed statement in regard to the weather and the
precautions taken on board of the Oceanic to guard against accident, and
also as to the conduct of the Chinese crew. His statement verified the
statements made by many of the passengers and by the evidence of the boats
in the water belonging to the Oceanic, and that there was no lack of
discipline and prompt obedience to orders on the part of any of the crew.

John Athias, one of the Oceanic's quartermasters, was at the wheel at the
time of the accident receiving orders from the pilot. The weather was very
foggy at the time, he said. The Oceanic was heading northeast-half-north
when entering the harbor. "When the steamer was sighted I was ordered to put
the helm hard-a-starboard. The helm was worked by steam. It took just about
five seconds to answer the order. I have been steering steamers into the bay
for eight years. The Oceanic answers her helm very quickly."

The carpenter, Robert Mesten, testified that he was on the bow of the
Oceanic at the time of the collision, and saw and assisted in all the efforts
made to rescue the crew and passengers of the City of Chester.

Chief Engineer William Allen of the Oceanic testified that he had received
orders from Captain Metcalf not to turn the engines over, in foggy weather,
more than twenty-five revolutions per minute, which would give a speed of
not more than five knots per hour.

The time logbook of the engineers was produced, and showed the time of
stopping and reversing the engines, the full particulars of which have
already been published.

The second engineer, Archibald B. Brolly, testified in corroboration of the
chief engineer's statement. The Court then took a recess till 1:30 P. M.
The Afternoon Session
At the reconvening of the Court in the afternoon Captain Louis Meyer was
called to the stand, and as his testimony was substantially that given by
Captain Metcalf, there is nothing new to add to the statement originally
made by him at the time of the accident, with the exception of the following
answers given by him to questions pertinent to the inquiry:

"What is your opinion, Captain, as to what really caused that collision?"

"If our first signal had been obeyed and if they had gone to starboard,
everything would have gone all right."

Captain Metcalf inquired of the pilot if he thought that, after it was seen
that the Chester was going to port instead of starboard, it was possible for
the Oceanic to recover herself and clear the Chester by porting also.

"I am sure not," was the reply.

Pilot Meyer went on to state that every pilot knows that the safest way into
San Francisco harbor is to keep to the north shore, as it is free from
projecting points and has two fog whistles. Another advantage is that the
tide is not strong there.

Thomas Mirk, Fifth Engineer, and L. Eckles, Fourth Officer of the Oceanic,
gave corroborative evidence, when the Court adjourned until to-day at 11 A.
M., when a decision will be rendered in the case.
Before the Government Board
At the meeting of the Board of Government Inspectors yesterday the only
testimony taken was that of Commander Nicoll Ludlow, who is in charge of the
lighthouse steamer Madrono, who was called as an expert on the tides of the
bay, and in support of the theory of Captain Wallace. He testified:

["]I have frequently had occasion to pass in and out of the Golden Gate on
the lighthouse steamer Madrono, City of Chester and other steamers. I have
noticed that the flood-tide sets very strongly from Fort Point over toward
Lime Point. It is necessary to set the helm firmly to starboard before going
into this flood in order to avoid being thrown over toward Lime Point. I had
an experience, evidently similar to that of the Chester, a few weeks ago.
I was going out in the Madrono, a full-powered steamer that steers well and
steams well. We met a freight steamer, I think the Bonita, coming in the
harbor. Our helm was put hard a-starboard, but just as we were passing we
were turned so that our bow was pointed right at the passing steamer. We
backed water and the other steamer went ahead and just managed to escape us.
I consider that a very dangerous place. My captain was an old navigator, but
he was hardly prepared for the sudden turning. It was a lesson to me. If it
had been dead water we could have passed easily, but the strong tide threw
us out right across the entrance.["]

Captain Wallace, being recalled, was asked why he had followed the
south-coast line of the harbor in going out that day. In response he said
that this was customary, and besides, on that day the weather was
comparatively clear near shore, while in the middle of the channel there was
thick fog.

The investigation will be resumed to-day.
The Pilot Commissioners
There was a special meeting of the Board of Pilot Commissioners held
yesterday afternoon, and the sworn statement of Pilot Meyer was received and
read. It was a repetition of the sworn evidence given by him in the Naval
Inquiry Court, and need not be repeated.

The Commissioners intend pursuing their investigation further after the
other Courts of inquiry are finished.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 30 August 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Verdict of the British Naval Court on the Bay Disaster
The Government Board Hear the Testimony of Tide Experts---A Worthy Object
for Charitable Impulses

The Naval Court, convened by Acting Consul Mason under the rules laid down
by the British Board of Trade, finished its labors yesterday morning, and
rendered a decision in the case of the collision between the steamship
Oceanic and the steamer City of Chester. The verdict is as follows:

At the request of John Metcalf, master of the Oceanic, to her Britannic
Majesty's Acting Consul at San Francisco, that a Court of Inquiry be held to
investigate the cause of a collision between the Oceanic and the Chester
about 9:30 A. M. on the 22d of August, 1888, in the narrows approaching the
harbor of San Francisco, between Fort Point and Lime Point, whereby sixteen
lives, more or less, on board the Chester were lost and the latter vessel
sunk within about seven minutes after the collision occurred, a Naval Court
was convened by order of Charles Mason, Esq., Vice and Acting Consul for the
States of California, Oregon and Nevada and for the Territories of
Washington, Idaho, Utah and Arizona, as President, which was held at San
Francisco on the 27th and 28th of August, 1888, to investigate the cause of
said collision. John Ward, master of the British ship Pegasus, and John
Wallace, master of the British steamer Antonio, were appointed members of
the corps.

The Court having carefully investigated the above circumstances attending
the collision and the loss of life, find as follows : "That the master, John
Metcalf (certificate No. 33,762), and Louis Meyer, the pilot, appear to have
navigated the steamship Oceanic in a safe and proper manner, and when the
casualty was apparently inevitable to have done everything in their power to
avert the calamity. The chief officer, George Tilston, Second Officer E.
Bridgett and the other officers and men were each and all at their
respective stations, proper discipline appearing to have been been
maintained and all orders attended to, the boats, which were immediately
manned, being the means of saving many lives. The Court has no ground for
blaming any of the above officers or crew of the Oceanic, but desire to
record their praise for the manner in which they performed their duty. The
Court can only attribute the cause of the collision to the steamship City of
Chester having been caught in a strong eddy tide off Fort Point, and the
floodtide taking her on the port bow, causing her to run against the
starboard helm and across the bows of the steamship Oceanic. The Court makes
no order as regards costs."

[Signed] Charles MASON, President

Master S. S. Antonia

Master ship Pegasus

This decision was well received among the shipmasters along the water front.
Several well-known coasting captains expressed themselves to an ALTA
reporter as being well acquainted with the bay tides and currents, and said
they coincided with the decision. They gave their experiences on occasions
of a somewhat similar nature. This decision leaves the question open why
Captain Wallace, who has been master of vessels out of this harbor for
years, took the risk of running out of the slack water into the full swing
of the flood tide after hearing the Oceanic's whistles. The subject is one
that has not been touched upon as yet, but will probably be brought out in
the investigation as it proceeds.
At the Government Board
The inquiry before the Board of Local Inspectors was continued yesterday and
was of very short duration, the only thing done being the taking of the
evidence of Pilots George A. Holt and J. H. Montfort. The testimony of the
pilots was taken to elucidate the theory of Captain Wallace that the tide
took complete charge of his vessel, destroying the effect of the helm, and
rendered him powerless to avert the collision. Both pilots gave their views
at length, and as they were exactly similar, a concise account of it is all
that is necessary for publication. The gist of of [sic] the testimony was that
vessels outward bound always hugged the south shore until reaching Fort
Point, and opening Point Bonita in line with the spindles off the fort; then
it was always found that on the flood tide striking the vessels on the port
bow, it always carried them from one-half to two-thirds of the way across to
Lime Point broadside on to the stream before they could be "straightened up"
to their direct course out of the Gate. After the pilots had given their
evidence a considerable time was lost awaiting the attendance of Captain
Meyer, who not appearing, the court adjourned until to-day at 1 P. M.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 31 August 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

The Further Investigation by the Local Board of Inspectors

Yesterday afternoon the examination into the cause of the collision between
the steamers Oceanic and City of Chester, was resumed before the Board of
Local Inspectors. The evidence of James Rankin, first assistant lighthouse
keeper at Fort Point, and R. Holchester, keeper of the Lime Point light and
fog signal, was taken, also that of Captain Louis Meyer, the pilot in charge
of the Oceanic at the time of the disaster. The testimony of the lighthouse
keepers was unimportant. One got a glimpse of the Oceanic as she passed in,
and both heard the signals given and answered. Captain Meyer narrated what
took place under his observation from the time he boarded the Oceanic about
a mile S.W. of the whistling buoy. He said the Oceanic came in very slowly,
and the first thing he could see was Fort Point looming up black, and then
he saw the City of Chester. It was a little while after he heard the
Chester's whistle that he saw her, not more than two minutes. He did not
know the course the Oceanic was on when he first saw the Chester; was
looking at the ship and not at the course. Was going at the rate of 3 1/2
to 4 knots an hour, and was a quarter of a mile from Lime Point. He said he
did not see Captain Wallace wave his cap for the Oceanic to steam ahead
after they struck. Was positive some of the crew of the Chester came over
his bow. The Chester appeared to be under the influence of a port helm, and
was going to starboard. He said he knew and that every pilot knew of the
strong eddy tide at Port Point, and he wanted to ask Captain Wallace if he
knew of it. The witness was informed that the law did not allow him to put
questions to the party under investigation. The Oceanic steers at a slow
rate of speed, and has the reputation of being very sensitive to the helm.
Said he gave the second two blasts of the whistle out of abundance of
caution. He thought it was possible that if the Oceanic had stopped and
backed when he gave the last two blasts the collision would not have taken


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 5 September 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Two More Witnesses Examined by the Local Inspectors

The Local Board of Inspectors examined two witnesses yesterday in regard to
the collision between the City of Chester and the Oceanic. They were George
E. Bridgett, Second Officer of the Oceanic, and Rufus Comstock, Second
Assistant Engineer of the City of Cheater. The testimony of the former was
substantially the same as he gave before the British Consul. He described
the entrance of the ship into the harbor, the looming-up of the Chester, the
sounding of the signals and the time between the blasts. He thought that the
collision might have been avoided had the Oceanic reversed her engines when
the first blasts were given, as she was moving slowly and could be stopped
in three minutes. The second signal of two blasts of the whistle was given
and the engines reversed, because it was seen that the Chester was not
obeying her port helm. He went over the same ground as before in regard to
the lowering of the boats, one of which he took charge of, and the efforts
to save life. Assistant Engineer Comstock testified that the maximum
revolutions of the Chester's engines were eighty-five a minute, and that
when she was cut down by the Oceanic the engines were making not more than
thirty revolutions.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
MAB note: After falling a few days behind, news of the inquiries into the
Oceanic-City of Chester collision resumes.

Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 7 September 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Experts Examined as to the Cause of the Chester Disaster

There was a meeting of the Board of Pilot Commissioners yesterday afternoon,
at which a number of experts testified as to what they would have done had
they been in command of the steamer Oceanic the morning she entered the
harbor and collided with the City of Chester. Captain M. C. Erskine, of the
steamer St. Paul, said he would not have brought the Oceanic in with a thick
fog and flood tide. Had seen a flood tide turn a ship half round. Would not
bring in a ship unless he could see more than 200 yards, unless he was short
of coal or provisions.

Captain John H. Freeman, Marine Inspector, said if he was in command of a
steamer 438 feet long, like the Oceanic, he would stay outside if there was

Captain Ferdinand Westall, of the United States Coast Survey, testified in
regard to the currents, and said he would not bring in a steamer in foggy

Captain E. N. Freeman, port agent of the pilots, said he would not bring in
a steamer like the Oceanic unless he could see more than 200 yards. If the
tide struck the City of Chester on the port side he did not think Captain
Wallace could manage her. Thought it would take the Oceanic five minutes to
stop and back after she sighted the City of Chester.

Pilot Stephen Castle would bring in the Oceanic if he could see half a mile.
Commander Nicoll Ludlow of the United States navy said it was customary to
take the south channel in going to sea. He did not consider it prudent to
bring in a steamer like the Oceanic in foggy weather.

Pilot J. W. Ott said he would not bring in such a steamer if he could see
only 250 yards. He would cast anchor.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 12 September 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

They Conclude Their Investigation of the Recent Disaster

A number of witnesses were examined yesterday by the Board of Pilot
Commissioners to fix the responsibility for the collision between the
Oceanic and the City of Chester. K. Holzhunter, the keeper of the Lime Point
fog signal, testified that he did not see the steamers or hear the crash
when they came together. He heard the signals given with the steam whistles.
Could see four or five hundred yards, and thought he saw the shadow of a
steamer passing in. Captain William Trask, a pilot, being examined, said he
would come in from outside the bar if he could see three hundred yards from
his ship. He would come as far as the ten fathom buoy, and when he arrived
at that point, if he was able to see half a mile, and observed a four-masted
schooner weighing anchor and getting ready to go in with a tug, he would
proceed with his steamer. He thought the tide ran at the rate of three and a
half to four knots an hour at half tide. The Oceanic can be stopped going
through the water in two minutes, when going at half speed. Knows it because
he stopped her in that time when he took her out a few nights ago. He tried
the experiment after he got outside the Heads. Had a small boat alongside
that showed when the ship had lost her headway. Could stop her going over
the ground in three minutes going with a half-tide. Captain Baker, of the
four-masted vessel North Woolsey, which was lying at anchor when the Oceanic
came in, said he could see a good half mile. He thought it perfectly safe to
come in that morning, and did not consider his pilot exceeded his duty in
bringing his vessel in. Pilot Meyers cross-examined the witnesses in regard
to the effect of the tide on the vessels, and then the investigation was
declared closed. The result will not be made known before the first of next


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 20 September 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

A resolution as follows was unanimously adopted yesterday at a meeting of
the Pilot Commissioners:

Resolved, that Pilot Louis Meyer be and he is hereby exonerated from all
blame in the matter of the collision between the steamships Oceanic and City
of Chester at the entrance to the harbor on August 22, 1888.




Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, 10 October 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

The United States Local Inspectors File Their Report
The Certificate and License of Captain Wallace Revoked, and Pilot Meyer

The report of E. S. Talbot and James Hillman, United States Local Inspectors
of Steam Vessels, on the collision which took place on August 22d last
between the steamers Oceanic and City of Chester, when thirteen passengers
and three of the crew of the last-named steamer were drowned, was submitted
to Supervising Inspector H. S. Lubbock yesterday. The report is
substantially as follows:

We have to report that on the morning of August 22d last, about 10 o'clock,
the P. S. S. Co 's steamer City of Chester, and the O. and O. S. S. Co.'s
steamship Oceanic, collided during a fog in the entrance to San Francisco
harbor. The Oceanic struck the City of Chester on the port bow, about midway
between stem and pilot-house, cutting nearly half way through her and
causing her to sink within a few minutes after the collision. A number of
passengers and crew of the City of Chester escaped on to the deck of the
Oceanic while the two steamers were together. A number also were saved by
means of one of the life-boats, assisted by men in boats from the Oceanic,
but thirteen passengers and three of the crew of the City of Chester were
drowned in this disaster.

The City of Chester was in command of Captain Thomas Wallace, and on her way
from San Francisco to Eureka, Cal.; the Oceanic, J. Metcalf commanding, was
entering the port on her voyage from Hongkong with Captain Louis Meyer,
State Pilot, in charge. The City of Chester was an iron vessel, 1106 tons
gross, built in 1875, and was valued at about -----, and sank in fifty
fathoms of water near the scene of the collision.

We have carefully investigated this casualty, and from the testimony taken
in the case find as follows: A thick fog prevailed at the time with a
current of about four or five knots in the entrance of the bay. Captain
Metcalfe and Pilot Meyer testify that the Oceanic was under slow bell,
steaming through the water at a speed of about four knots and her steam
whistle sounding at intervals as the law requires; and that when they first
made out the City of Chester the latter was about half a mile distant off
the starboard bow of the Oceanic. A signal of two blasts from the steam
whistle was then sounded from the Oceanic and her helm put to starboard, and
this signal was answered by the Chester with a like signal of two blasts. An
interval variously estimated at two minutes elapsed, in which the pilot and
master of the Oceanic observed that the City of Chester for a few moments
did not seem to change her position, and then behaved as though she was
acting under the influence of her port helm---contrary to the purpose of the
steam signals that had been exchanged between the two vessels. This
procedure of the City of Chester was remarked between Captain Metcalfe and
Pilot Meyer, and the signal of two blasts was repeated from the Oceanic and
was again answered by the City of Chester, and by the testimony of these
officers the distance between the two steamers at that time was about
one-quarter of a mile. Immediately after this, seeing that a collision had
become unavoidable, Captain Metcalfe and Pilot Meyer at the same instant
ordered the engines of the Oceanic stopped and reversed full speed astern,
which was done, but too late to avert the disaster.

On the other hand, Captain Wallace, who was piloting the steamer City of
Chester out of the port, testifies that as he proceeded down the bay and
entered the fog the steam-whistle of his steamer was kept sounding at proper
intervals, as required by law, and her engines were slowed to a speed of
about seven knots. When he was nearing Fort Point he distinguished the fog
signals of the incoming steamer, and shortly afterward heard her signal of
two blasts off the port bow; he answered that signal with two blasts and
ordered the helm put hard to starboard; the City of Chester, however, minded
her helm only for a very short time, as she ran into the strong current
which at flood tide sweeps from the locality of Fort Point across toward
Lime Point, and her head was thereby carried off to starboard. To this time
the Oceanic had not yet been seen. A few moments later, however, Captain
Wallace saw the steamer in the fog off his port side, and seeing that he
could not then clear the Oceanic by steaming ahead, he stopped and backed
full speed, in hope of avoiding a collision, but the steamers were too close
and collided as above stated. It is noticeable that these vessels were
approaching one another in the fog at a combined speed of about eleven or
twelve miles per hour.

We hold that Captain Louis Meyer, pilot, and Captain J. Metcalfe, commander
of the Oceanic, and Captain Thomas Wallace of the City of Chester, are to
blame for the collision between those steamers on August 22d last. Captains
Meyer and Metcalfe, for not at once sounding a signal of danger the moment
they had cause to doubt the intention of the City of Chester, at the time
they became aware she was acting in a manner contrary to the understanding
and purpose of the first exchange of signals, and if necessary, stopping and
backing the Oceanic. Had they done as above, we believe the collision would
not have occurred, and Captain Wallace, for not obeying Rule 21 of the
Steering and Sailing Rules (Section 4233, United States Revised Statutes),
by stopping and backing his steamer, when he found he was approaching
another steamer, coming unseen toward him in the fog, involving risk of
collision; and, also, for failing to sound a signal of danger, and acting
accordingly when he found his steamer was in the strong cross current
referred to, and did not mind her helm. The pilot and the master of the
Oceanic are not in this matter within the jurisdiction of the United States

Captain Wallace was acting under authority of his certificate as master and
pilot of steam vessels granted by the inspectors, and for reason of
negligence on his part, as above stated, we have this day revoked his
license as such master and pilot.

Captain Wallace has thirty days in which to appeal to the Supervising
Inspector for a hearing.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 27 October 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Captain Wallace Cleared
Henry S. Lubbock, United States Supervising Inspector of Steam Vessels,
yesterday sent the following letter to Captain Wallace:

San Francisco, October 25, 1888
Captain Thomas Wallace, Master and Pilot Steam Vessels, San Francisco,
Cal.---Sir: In the matter of your appeal of the 11th instant from the
decision of the Local Inspectors of Steam Vessels, San Francisco, October 6,
1888, revoking your license as master and pilot of steam vessels for reasons
given in connection with their investigation of the collision between the
steamers City of Chester and Oceanic, August 22d last, I find as follows:

In their investigation of the case, the Local Inspectors did not follow the
"rules of practice for the government of Supervising and Local Inspectors of
Steam Vessels in trials of licensed steam vessels," which require that "the
inspectors shall furnish the accused with a copy of the charges, setting
forth specifically the character of the charges and the section of the
statutes or rules of the board that had been violated."

The local inspectors did not furnish you with a copy of the charges, but
proceeded with their investigation of the cause of the collision between the
Oceanic and City of Chester, and after its conclusion gave you an official
statement in writing of so much of their findings as related to yourself,
and therein revoked your license.

On a careful examination of all the papers submitted in this case. I fail to
find that any charges were made by the Board of Local Inspectors, or any
party, against you. This omission to charge you with a specified violation
of the statutes or rules, and thereby give you an opportunity of pleading to
the charge, debars the above Board of Inspectors from revoking or suspending
your license. The investigation, without charges having been preferred,
would be a preliminary examination into the cause of the collision and
ascertain if sufficient evidence existed to warrant the trial and conviction
of any licensed officer.

After a careful review of the case I have concluded that the censure and
revocation of your license by the Local Inspectors at San Francisco is not
within the strict lines of justice.

I do not wish to disturb the decisions of the different Local Boards in this
Supervising District, but in this instance I feel it to be my duty to
declare the action of the Local Inspectors at this port, in revoking your
license as master and pilot of steam vessels, null and void. Very

Supervising Inspector, First District.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 28 November 1888
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

The Revocation of His License Affirmed
Text of the Decision

Supervising Inspector Lubbock has received from the Treasury Department the
report of the Supervising Inspector-General of Steam Vessels in regard to
the case of Captain Thomas Wallace of the City of Chester. The action taken
by the local Board of Inspectors here in revoking the license of Captain
Wallace was set aside by Supervising Inspector Lubbock on the ground that no
written charges had been served on Captain Wallace, and no written notice
served on him as to when the examination would take place. After reciting
the facts and circumstances of the collision, and after reciting the fact
that Captain Wallace voluntarily attended all the meetings of the Board of
Inquiry and examined the witnesses, and gave a written statement that he had
no more witnesses to produce, the report concludes as follows:

His voluntary appearance under the circumstances presented to me operates as
a waiver of service of notice, etc. If he had not appeared then the Board
would have been without jurisdiction and a condition precedent to their
examination, namely, the service of a notice, would clearly have rendered
their proceedings void, or if the accused had appeared and objected that
this part of the statute had not been complied with, then the action of the
Board would have been irregular and void, and I do not think he should now
be held, under the facts presented to me, to object that notice was not
served. It is too late. He has waived that point by his voluntary
appearance. There is no merit in the objection as now made, because he has
had as complete an opportunity to defend himself against the accusation as
if the notice had been served.

It follows that the decision of the local Board of Inspectors stands in full
force and effect. The result, of course, is the continued revocation of the
Captain's license, and in case he should assume to act as captain he will be
liable to prosecution for the recovery of the penalties prescribed by the

[Signed] C. S. Cauy, Solicitor

To the Secretary of the Treasury.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 4 January 1889
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,


Captain Wallace went out in charge of the steamer Los Angeles yesterday,
having had his certificate returned to him by the Local Inspectors of Steam
Vessels. It will be remembered that Captain Wallace was in command of the
City of Chester when she was sunk in collision with the steamer Oceanic. His
license was revoked, but as masters' licenses for steam vessels are issued
only for one year, Captain Wallace might have taken out another license when
his year was up. In view of this fact and because of his past good record
the Inspectors decided, after thorough consideration, to return Captain
Wallace his license. It is understood that Captain Wallace will eventually
be put in command of the Pomona, which is now on the Eureka route, and
Captain Hannah, who is at present in charge of her, will be transferred to
the Los Angeles.