Santa Rosa (steamer)

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Two doctors and their wives going to Santa Catalina Island aboard the S.S. Santa Rosa, c. 1900
S.S. Santa Rosa
S.S. Santa Rosa
S.S. Santa Rosa 1911

Santa Rosa (#115979) (1883-1911), a 326.5-foot, three-masted iron-hulled commercial passenger steamer specially built in Pennsylvania for West Coast service. She had a shallow draft to enable her to negotiate the once shallow harbor at San Pedro (Los Angeles Harbor). From 1883-1897 Santa Rosa was owned by the Oregon Steamship Company, and from 1897-1911 she was part of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company’s fleet. Her regular run was between San Francisco and San Diego, with stops in Los Angeles, Redondo, Santa Barbara, and Port Harford. Santa Cruz Island Company invoices show the steamer Santa Rosa serviced Santa Cruz Island for almost 20 years between 1892 and 1911. Justinian Caire left Santa Cruz Island for the last time aboard the steamer Santa Rosa after she delivered supplies to the island on December 2, 1897. Justinian Caire died at his Oakland home December 10, 1897. The Santa Rosa was wrecked and pounded to pieces just north of Point Arguello in a heavy fog on July 7, 1911 with 200 passengers aboard. There were four fatalities. According to Margaret Eaton, the Selig Film Company took pictures of the wreck of the Santa Rosa at Point Arguello. [Eaton 1980: 184]. The Santa Rosas popular running mates were the State of California and Queen.



In the News~

December 8, 1883 [SBDP]: “The steamer Santa Rosa, now being built for the Santa Barbara and San Diego route, is 350 feet long, thirty-nine feet beam, and guaranteed to steam sixteen knots an hour. In her interior appointments she will be one of the handsomest steamers on the coast.”


December 25, 1883 [SBDP]: “The southern coast route has the promise of a new steamship, now being built in Philadelphia, which is to be called the Santa Rosa. The plans have been received by Goodall, Perkins & Co., agents of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. The vessel is to be 350 feet long, 39 feet beam, and will have boilers and compound engines of the latest improved patents, which the builders guarantee will drive her sixteen knots. Her saloon and stateroom accommodations are to be in the same style as the Queen of the Pacific and capable of accommodating 176 first class passengers. Her steerage berth seventy-five. Captain Johnson, late of the steamship Orizaba, is now at Philadelphia and will bring the vessel to this port and will continue in command of her on the southern route. It was first supposed that she was to be called the San Diego, but the owners have finally determined to name her the Santa Rosa.”


January 15, 1884 [SBDP]: “Mr. Joyaux left on the Santa Rosa last night on business to the city.”


February 16, 1884 [SBDP]: “…It is said that the Orizaba will be permanently withdrawn from the line, and her place will be filled by the new steamer Santa Rosa, which leaves New York for San Francisco this week. The latter is a lerge boat and is said to be superbly fittedup. Her accommodations are sufficient for 200 first-class passengers and 600 steerage. All the latest improvements in machinery and fittings are introduced. In the cabins the joiner work is of liucrusta, with walnut and cherry furniture, hangings, etc. The vessel is lighted by 500 Edison lamps. The Santa Rosa is commanded by Captain Johnson lately of the Orizaba, and will have a crew of about 75 men.”


April 12, 1884 [SBDP]: “The plan of the new steamship Santa Rosa was received here by the agent of the steamship company here, Miss J. A. Norcross, last evening. The arrangement of the rooms is materially different from the other steamers now plying on this coast, and appears to have been planned with an especial view to the comfort of passengers. It is expected that the steamer will pass this port in a day or two on her way to San Francisco, and that she will make her first trip south about the 20th of this month. Her coming will be looked for with a great deal of interest.”


April 24, 1884 [SBDP]: “An item in the San Francisco Chronicle says that ‘The new steamer Santa Rosa has been hauled up to the head of the Broadway wharf, where workmen are repairing an injury done to her port bow. The sea struck the vessel a terrific force, as may be seen by the bent plates, and what is most extraordinary, an iron anchor stock was broken short by its power…”


May 12, 1884 [SBDI]: “The new steamer has come and gone and the whole town has seen her. The verdict given by those who went down to render an opinion was unanimous. The Santa Rosa is a splendid vessel… The electric lights, the stained glass, the beautiful chandeliers, the velvet carpets and tile-paneled walls make the vessel a veritable floating palace…”


September 15, 1884 [SBDI]: “Larco, the famous fisherman, who has been visiting Italy, is in San Francisco, and is expected home on the Santa Rosa the latter part of this week.”


September 22, 1884 [SBDI]: “We learn that H. A. Rogers is to fit out the schooner Emma for an otter hunt receiving two otter boats on the Santa Rosa last evening for such purposes.”


October 18, 1884 [SBDP]: “The sloop, Ocean King, arrived Saturday night from Anacapa Island with twelve sea lions, which will be shipped to San Francisco on the Santa Rosa tomorrow night.”


January 23, 1886 [SBDP]: “A Chinese junk arrived in port this morning with a cargo of fish for Sing Chung, making two junks now in port besides the schooners Rosita and Star of Freedom, the latter vessel arrived from Santa Cruz Island yesterday, for freight brought down by the steamer Santa Rosa.”


May 1, 1886 [SBDP]: “The newly reconstructed warehouse on Stearn’s Wharf is now 30 feet longer that it was before the accident. The wharf repairers have been engaged during the past week on the last aperture made by the Santa Rosa, and have that breach nearly closed up.”


August 18, 1886 [SBDP]: “The Santa Rosa on her last trip up took from Santa Barbara the following goods: two cases of eggs, 152 hides, a barrel wine, 153 sacks abalones, 15 cases lemons, 4 barrels oil, 59 sacks beans, 27 cases fruit, 6 packages fish.”


March 22, 1887 [SBDI]: “Among the passengers on the steamer Santa Rosa which sailed for Santa Barbara this afternoon was J. J. Boyce, District Attorney of Santa Barbara, who has been engaged here in the case of the People vs. A. P. More. A. P. More, the defendant in the same case, was also among the passengers.”


July 10, 1893 [SFCall]: “…The day fixed for the elopement was the glorious Fourth, when the members of the Brigham and Madison families were away from home spending the day. When the coast was clear, Charley hitched up his father’s horse and buggy. Florence was in readiness, and when comfortably seated they started off and drove thirty miles to Santa Barbara, where Charley sold the rig for $40, which placed him in possession of ready cash. At Santa Barbara they joined an excursion party on the steamer to Santa Rosa Island. One of the passengers was a preacher, and on Charley relating his story to him he consented to marry them. The ceremony was quietly performed on the trip across, but unfortunately Charley has no marriage certificate, nor does he know the preacher’s name. On their return from the excursion, a doubt arose in their minds as to whether they could be legally married on the high seas, and Charley proposed they should come to San Francisco, where he would get a license in proper form and they would be married over again. They reached here on Thursday last by the steamer Santa Rosa and registered at the International as ‘C. F. Brigham and wife, Riverside,’ paying a week’s board and lodging in advance. Meantime the anxious parents had been making inquiries in every direction for the eloping pair, and on Saturday Chief Crowley received a dispatch from Florence’s father giving a description of them and asking him to try and locate them and arrest them…”


July 12, 1888 [SBMP]: “J. V. Elliott was a passenger on the Santa Rosa last evening for San Francisco, where he goes to procure more machinery for his planning mill.”


July 12, 1888 [SBMP]: “Justinian Caire was a passenger on the steamer Santa Rosa last evening for San Francisco.”


July 18, 1891 [SBMP]: “It is rumored that the Pacific Coast Steamship Company contemplate putting the Santa Rosa on the southern route again. The boats are all uncomfortably crowded now.”


July 19, 1892 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty is in from San Miguel Island. She brought over the result of a two month seal hunt, and the hunters’ outfit. There were about two tons of seal skins, seven barrels of oil, the otter skin, and two tons of abalone shells. The stuff was shipped to San Francisco on the Santa Rosa last evening.”


July 29, 1893 [SBDI]: “The steamer Santa Cruz arrived from the island yesterday afternoon and returned in the evening with Justinian Caire, owner of the island, who arrived on the Santa Rosa from San Francisco.”


July 29, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The steamer Santa Rosa arrived from the north Friday afternoon with the following named passengers: …Justinian Caire…”


December 12, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “Mayor Gaty returned from San Francisco on the Santa Rosa Sunday evening, and reports the handsome building erected by the Santa Barbara Company, which proposed to exhibit amphibia, to be entirely completed. The plans have been slightly changed, and all who have seen the building, agree in saying that it is one of the handsomest small buildings on the grounds. The howling collection of sea lions which were brought over from the islands a few days ago is still anchored a short distance from the wharf. Messrs.. Gaty and Rogers are thinking of taking a Spanish band from this place to play string music for the delectation of sightseers. The Spainards will be dressed in their picturesque national costumes, and will no doubt be an added attraction.”


December 15, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “Messrs.. Gaty and Rogers went up on the Santa Rosa Wednesday night to superintend the seals and sea lions which were sent up to the Amphibia exhibit on the same boat.”


October 19, 1895 [LAT/SF]: “Coming by steamer. San Francisco October 18 the passengers on the steamer Santa Rosa for Santa Barbara: Justinian Caire…”


April 12, 1896 [LAT/SF]: “Passengers on the steamer Santa Rosa for Santa Barbara: …Mrs. Caire, Miss A. Caire, Miss H. Caire, Miss C. Caire…”


July 29, 1896 [SBDI]: “Mr. A. J. Caire came over from Santa Cruz Island yesterday and left for San Francisco on the Santa Rosa last night.”


March 11, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “The steamer Santa Rosa, going north last night, carried thirteen tons of abalones gathered on Santa Cruz Island. Four hundred and fifty sacks of shells will be shipped on the next north-bound steamer.”


July 13, 1897 [LAT/Red]: “The steamer Santa Rosa, Captain Alexander, is due to arrive in the morning with 179 tons of freight and eighty-five passengers from San Francisco. A lot of live sea lions to be shipped east are a part of the cargo.”


December 12, 1897 [SBMP]: “The steamer Santa Rosa was somewhat late in reaching this port yesterday afternoon and the cause had been guessed by the waiting crowds at the dock. Big swells were coming in and huge breakers were occasionally splashing clear across the boulevard…”


July 3, 1899 [SBDP]: “Thomas M. Storke arrived on the steamer Santa Rosa last night from San Francisco where he had been for the past two weeks on a pleasure trip.”


October 31, 1901 [SBMP]: “The launch Peerless arrived from the islands last evening with a load of crawfish to meet the Santa Rosa.”


May 18, 1905 [SBMP]: “The steamer Santa Rosa announced to take the place of the Queen on the run from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, port Los Angeles and San Diego, lately had a trial trip on the sound after having been overhauled and repaired at an expense of $104,000. The steamer is now one of the very best steamships in the Pacific. She sailed from Seattle Saturday and upon her arrival at San Francisco will go on her old run...”


July 25, 1906 [SBI]: “The Santa Cruz left last night for Santa Cruz Island after discharging her consignment of 80,000 gallons of liquor [wine] and taking on a cargo of supplies that were brought down from San Francisco by the Santa Rosa.”


December 14, 1910 [SBMP]: “The steamer Santa Rosa called at this port last night bound on her last trip for an indefinite period. Captain Alexander, her commander, will also be retired during the lay-off of the Santa Rosa…”


July 8, 1911 [LAT]: “Steamer Santa Rosa totally destroyed and death list estimated at from five to twenty. Concretely this is the result of the wreck, which occurred at 3 o’clock yesterday morning near Saddle Point about sixty miles north of Santa Barbara. Shortly before midnight tonight the wireless operator at Point Arguello declared that it was impossible for him to learn the exact number of casualties… Going through the breakers the women and children were dashed with salty water… Bonfires were built on the beach early in the evening and a consignment of more than 100 blankets were sent to the scene from San Luis Obispo. As fast as rescued passengers were brought ashore, all of them soaked with water, they were taken to the fires and wrapped in the blankets… The coast where the Santa Rosa went ashore is an exceedingly dangerous one. The scene is north of the chain of islands which forms the Santa Barbara Channel and protects the shore.. The lumber schooners had lines to the Santa Rosa, and it was the expectation that they would be able to hold the distressed ship in its position so that with the tide reaching its crest in the middle of the eafternoon she would float…”


July 8, 1911 [SBMP]: “On Frank Garbutt’s big yacht, Skinbladnir, and on Captain Rosaline Vasquez’ Gussie M, a party of thirty actors and actresses of the Selig Motion Picture Company will cross the channel… It was planned yesterday to stage one picture on the wreck of the steamer Santa Rosa, but the developments of the night may make this impossible. The wreck will be visited on the way across.”


July 9, 1911 [SBMP]: “According to representatives of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company in this city yesterday, the company has no boat available to fill the vacancy caused by the destruction of the Santa Rosa. The little freighter Coos Bay alone remains as the connection, by water, to the outside world.”


October 4, 1911 [SBMP]: “What the currents of the Santa Barbara channel will do, and an explanation of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the bodies of the victims of the Santa Rosa disaster is the offering that comes from San Miguel Island, in reports brought by Captain Henry Short of the powerboat Charm. He states that considerable wreckage from the Santa Rosa has gone ashore on San Miguel, which is about 50 miles distant from Honda, where the steamer went ashore, and almost directly south. The same currents that carried this wreckage, also undoubtedly carried the bodies of the four sailors known to have drowned at Honda, and how many others will never be known. These bodies may have found a resting place hundreds of miles from the California coast.”


January 20, 1912 [SBMP]: “...There is a possibility the body may be that of one of the victims of the steamer Santa Rosa, wrecked at Honda shortly after the loss of the Comet. The shore of San Miguel Island was strewn with Santa Rosa wreckage...”



Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife p 118+