BARTELS, Oscar

BARTELS, Oscar (c.1854- ), infamous unscrupulous Prussian boatman and pirate who operated off the coast of Upper and Lower California in the late 19th and early 20th century. After living in Sitka, Alaska, Bartels came down the coast to California. Along the way, he was accused of stealing the schooner Achilles from Seattle, a crime for which he was never prosecuted. In 1891 Bartels left a goat-hunting crew stranded on Mexico’s remote Guadalupe Island, taking with him all provisions and profits. Bartels successfully used Achilles for sealing and other pursuits, eventually trading the stolen vessel in Santa Barbara in 1894 to the well-respected Captain Ellis for the smaller but legal vessel, San Mateo. After Bartels turned up in San Diego, the schooner Dawn disappeared, and Bartels was counted as missing. It was believed he took the Dawn to Mexico and sold her. Not long after, the steam launch Periwinkle, owned by the Lighthouse Department, disappeared from her mooring at Goat Island. Although Bartels was credited with the theft, again there was no evidence against him. In the summer of 1894 in Port Townsend, Bartels attempted a jailbreak to free his Prussian girlfriend, Bertha Nubert, arrested for drunkenness. Bartels married Bertha Nubart in Santa Barbara on December 8, 1894.

In San Francisco in March of 1895, Bartels stole the Santa Cruz Island schooner, Star of Freedom, repainted and renamed her Natalie, and sailed to Lower California. For this theft he was arrested in Cabo San Lucas, prosecuted in La Paz, and jailed. By 1911 reports of guano poaching surfaced, with Bartels once again prime suspect.




In the News~

February 6, 1890 [DAC]: “Bartel’s Booty. Strange disappearance of the Rowena — Is it piracy? There is a rather peculiar story to be read between the lines of the libel filed in the United States District Court by Robert Liddle against the sloop Rowena. Liddle is senior member of the firm of R. Liddle & Co., and he sues to recover $174. 45. This he claims, is due him for fire arms and ammunition furnished Captain Oscar Bartels of the Rowena. At present, however, the Rowena cannot be found. No one seems to know where she is. The reason Liddle & Co. instituted the suit was on account of the story told them by an old-time sailor if the Rowena, who has $60 coming to him which nimble Captain Bartels has not paid. This man says that Bartels secured the Rowena when she went ashore last year on the Oregon coast. She was not badly damaged, and after a portage of five miles over prairie and rocks was launched again, little the worse for her experience. Whether Bartels bought the craft from the original owners, or simply appropriated her, is not known. On his arrival here he said that he had paid part cash to her owners, and given a note for the rest, but he could show no bill of sale. On the strength of this Liddle & Co. furnished him with guns and ammunition for a sealing trip. He was to have left port on December 31st, but January saw the Rowena still in Port. On the night of the 18th, however, she disappeared. It was said that she had gone to sea, but no record could be found of her departure. From the sailor’s story it appears that the Rowena did not go to sea, but went up to Antioch and anchored in a blind slough there. The man worked for some time, but not being able to get his money left her last week and related the whole story. A Deputy Marshal was sent up to the blind slough to seize the vessel, but when he arrived he found she had left on last Sunday, and there appears to be little doubt that she put to sea under cover of darkness. Liddle & Co. have placed themselves in communication with the original owners, and it will soon be known whether Bartels really owned the vessel or had deliberately pirated her when she was on the beach.”


February 21, 1891 [SF Chronicle]: “On a Desert Island. Seven Seamen Left to Their Fate. The Men Rescued by a Passing Schooner—A Law-Defying Shipmaster. San Diego, February 20.—About two months ago Captain Bartells, an aged shipmaster, was arrested for assault and battery upon another seaman and in Justice Sloan's court, on the day of the trial, he created a sensation by assaulting the complaining witness while on the stand and badly injuring him. Upon being fined for contempt of court he finished the performance by cursing the Judge and other officials. He was admitted to bail and that night boarded his vessel and departed for pastures new, leaving his bondsmen to suffer. Before he left here Captain Bartells gathered seven men, named Jillison, Anderson, Smith, Hortz, Reddy, McCoy and Johnson, to go down to Guadalupe Island and kill wild goats for their hides and tallow. Bartells was to do the transportation, sell the product, furnish the provisions and divide, at stated intervals, the proceeds. They had been there since last September and everything went all right until December 1st. A few days prior to that day the vessel arrived at Guadalupe from San Pedro, where Bartells had disposed of about 1,000 goat skins and a large quantity of lard, estimated in value at $700. The vessel was again loaded with skins and tallow, and late in the afternoon of November 30th the money for the last sale and all previous sales was to have been divided according to the contract. Bartells feigned sickness and proposed to put the settlement off until the following morning. The men agreed and went ashore for the night. On going to the beach the next day they were horrified to find that no vessel was in sight. Bartells had sailed away during the night and taken with him not only the money, but all the provisions. The men were out of flour, sugar, coffee and salt. They had but a pound or so of sea biscuits left and after two days these were exhausted. Having no cartridges, powder or lead, they were compelled to resort to all sorts of means to capture goats for meat, and their bread for two months and five days consisted of palm seeds pounded into flour and backed without salt. Water was scarce, and vile at that. On the 5th of this month the schooner Ellen, returning from a shell-gathering cruise, was compelled to put under the shelter of the island on account of bad weather, and the men, more dead than alive, managed to attract the attention of the captain and were taken on board the vessel and cared for. After an uneventful trip the schooner has arrived at San Diego, and if Bartells ever makes his appearance again, the men say they will put him where his temper and dishonest propensities will be curbed for some time.”


February 23, 1891 [Helena Independent]: “San Diego, Cala., Feb. 22.—The schooner Ellen has arrived here, bringing Larry TIllison, William Reddy and five others, who since November 30 have been living on Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Lower California, subsisting on such fish, wild goats or carrion birds as they could catch. The men were employed in killing wild goats and preparing the skins, which were taken to market by Oscar Bartells in a small sloop. The men allege that in November Bartells disposed of a cargo of skins valued at $700. After again loading the vessel he agreed to make a division of the profits. Instead of doing so he put to sea at night, leaving them almost entirely without provisions and without ammunition. The men were reduced to mere skeletons. Reddy is not expected to recover. The whereabouts of Bartells is not know.”

June 11, 1894 [LAT]: “Port Townsend… The notorious Captain Bartel, of the sealing schooner Achilles of San Francisco, came in from a voyage, and, taking his first officer ashore, attempted to rescue a Russian woman from jail, who is serving a sentence for drunkenness. They attempted to overpower the deputy marshal, and a hand-to-hand battle ensued. When the officer was almost overpowered, the trio accidentally got too near the bluff overlooking the harbor, and fell into the bay. Recovering from their Arctic bath they continued to fight. By this time other officers became alarmed, and a revenue cutter was sent out with a boat, and captured Bartel and his assistant and rescued the officer. Bartel and Parger went to jail.”


October 17, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles, which arrived in the harbor some time ago, has passed into the possession of Captain Ellis and Hiram Pierce. It is stated that the San Mateo was traded for Achilles, and that the latter will be used for otter hunting, for which purpose she was built. She is a much larger vessel than the San Mateo and is a new boat.”


October 19, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner San Mateo, Captain Bartels, was to leave today for Wilmington, where she will be overhauled and necessary repairs made.”


December 8, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “A marriage license has been issued to Oscar Bartels and Bertha Nubart.”


December 11, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “Justice Gammill on Saturday night performed the ceremony which joined in wedlock Oscar Bartels, a native of Prussia and resident of Sitka, Alaska, and Bertha Nubart, a native of Prussia and a resident of San Francisco.”


March 3, 1895 [SBMP]: “The schooner Natalie from San Francisco was in the harbor yesterday. The schooner was for years the property of the Santa Cruz Island Company, and was then known as the Star of Freedom.” [At this point, she was a stolen vessel, but this was not know in Santa Barbara!]


March 26, 1895 [LAT]: “San Francisco. The Star of Freedom disappears from its place. The little schooner Star of Freedom has been stolen and is now probably engaged in some smuggling scheme along the coast. The vessel has been missing for two weeks. She has as completely disappeared as if swallowed up by the sea. The schooner is owned by Captain W. Johnson, owner and commander of the Nicaraguan brig, Salvador. Her last sea voyage was from La Paz to this port. She arrived here several months ago, since which time she has been lying on the Mission mudflats in charge of a watchman. Captain Johnson’s wife looks after the craft in her owner’s absence, and some time ago she went to the wharf to see if all was well, but discovered that the Star of Freedom and the watchman had disappeared. Instead of reporting the loss, she waited until her husband returned. He arrived last week and reported the loss to the Collector of the port. Some time ago a man named Bartels desired to charter the Star of Freedom, but Mrs. Johnson would not let him have the schooner. Bartels achieved some notoriety about two years ago when he arrived in this port on the schooner Achilles from Portland, Oregon. A telegram was received by Collector Wise from Portland requesting him to hold the vessel on her arrival, as she had been stolen. A reward was offered for the capture of Bartels and the Achilles, but the reward, although claimed, was never paid. Bartels was not prosecuted either. He said that he was a part owner in the Achilles, and the matter was dropped.”


March 27, 1895 [SFCall]: “Santa Barbara. March 26. The schooner Star of Freedom, reported stolen from Captain Johnson at San Francisco, was here March 17, Bartels in command. The name had been painted out and the vessel rechristened Natalie. Bartels, who is well known here, said he was going south. He was very reticent.”


March 30, 1895 [LAT]: “San Francisco. Nearly two months ago the schooner Star of Freedom was stolen from its anchor in Mission Bay and was taken out to sea. It developed today that the schooner Natalie, which lay near the Star of Freedom, had been robbed of all her ship’s papers and customs-house receipts. The watchman who had been hired to watch the Natalie and Star of Freedom is missing, and it is now supposed that he is one of the pirates. Another man suspected is named Oscar Bartels. Bartels is supposed to have stolen a schooner near Portland, Oregon four years ago. The discovery that the Natalie’s papers are missing explains the recent mystery of Santa Barbara Harbor. The schooner which recently put in there strongly resembled the Star of Freedom, but on her stern-post was painted the word Natalie. It is now certain that the bogus Natalie was the Star of Freedom, and she is probably southward bound, as the Natalie’s papers would give her free entry to any Mexican port. The customs officers think some big smuggling scheme is on foot.”


April 10, 1895 [LAT]: “San Francisco. The man who stole the Star of Freedom arrested. Bartels, the notorious sea captain, is in the clutches of the law at La Paz, Mexico, and is to be prosecuted for stealing the schooner Star of Freedom from this port. The schooner is owned by Captain Johnson, and he left her in charge of a watchman while he went to sea in another vessel. Bartels tried to charter the Star of Freedom, but Johnson would have nothing to do with him. When the owner was away, Bartels bribed the watchman, and the two men sailed away with the schooner. As the vessel could not be cleared, the papers of the schooner Natalie were stolen. The Mexican authorities, not liking the appearance of the papers, decided to detain the vessel. Captain Von Helms, of the steamer Willamette Valley, which reached La Paz today, told the Mexican authorities of Bartel’s piratical act, and wired to Johnson, who sent instructions to prosecute Bartels.”


April 10, 1895 [SFCall]: “Bartels is finally brought up with a round turn at La Paz. Capture of the Star of Freedom by the Mexican authorities. The little schooner, which was stolen from her moorings on the mud flats nearly two months ago, has turned up at La Paz. Bartels, who ran away with the vessel, has fallen into the hands of the Mexican authorities and has about reached the end of his rope. The robbery was one of the most barefaced acts of barratry even known on the bay. The Star of Freedom is owned by Captain Johnson, and he left her in charge of a watchman while he went to sea in another vessel. Bartels tried to charter the Star of Freedom, but Johnson, who knew his past record, would have nothing to do with him. When the owner was away Bartels hypnotized the watchman and the two men sailed away with the schooner. As the vessel could not be cleared, the papers of the schooner Nathalie were stolen… ‘I telegraphed to Captain Von Helms to prosecute the fellow,’ said Johnson yesterday, ‘and will try and have him extradited. I knew that Bartels would come to the end of his rope sooner or later, and I have been looking up the law in the case. It is a clear case of piracy, and the penalty for piracy is death. I don’t know that I shall insist upon the extreme penalty, for hanging is too good for a fellow like that.”


April 12, 1895 [SBDI]: “Bartels caught. The latest exploit of ‘Bartels the Pirate’ in running away with Captain Johnson’s schooner, the Star of Freedom, has probably brought him to the end of his rope. A dispatch was received at the Merchants’ Exchange from Mazatlan yesterday to the effect that the stolen schooner had been detained in Cape St. Lucas by the authorities on account of having irregular clearance papers. The dispatch was signed by Captain Von Helms of the steamer Willamette Valley. He asked for instructions in reference to proceedings against Bartels, who was found in possession of the vessel… The mysterious disappearance of the Star of Freedom created a mild sensation in shipping circles about a month ago. She was anchored near the Mission Flats, alongside the schooner Nathalie, and both vessels were supposed to be under surveillance of a specially employed watchman during their lay-up. Captain Johnson was piloting the brig Salvador at the time and did not know of his loss until his arrival here. Suspicion at once attached to Bartels because of the fact that just a day or two previous to the disappearance he had made an ineffectual effort to purchase her from Mrs. Johnson, wife of the owner… The missing schooner Star of Freedom was first recognized at Santa Barbara, but on her stern she bore the name of Nathalie…”


April 17, 1895 [SFCall]: “Oscar Bartels, who stole the schooner Star of Freedom from this port, has been sent to La Paz for trial.”


April 17, 1895 [SFCall]: “The thief of the Star of Freedom to be tried by a Mexican District Court. Oscar Bartels, who stole the Star of Freedom from her moorings on the mud flats, and who was apprehended at Cape St. Lucas by the Mexican authorities, has found himself in a very unpleasant predicament. Word was received yesterday by the Collector of Port from the United States Consul at La Paz that that official had been working with the Mexican government, and that the Mexican Secretary of the Treasury has ordered the vessel, Bartels and the watchman of the Star of Freedom to La Paz for trial. Bartels will be tried in the District Court on the charge of barratry. Captain Johnson, owner of the Star of Freedom, is preparing all the evidence he can collect to send to La Paz. He said yesterday that his actions would be guarded mainly by what Captain Von Helms of the Willamette Valley reports. Von Helms was instrumental in securing the arrest of Bartels, and he is expected here today.”


April 19, 1895 [LAT]: “San Francisco. When the steamer Willamette Valley arrived yesterday from Mexico, Captain Von Helms was besieged with inquiries regarding the seizure at Cape San Lucas of the schooner Star of Freedom which was stolen from this port several weeks ago. It was Captain Von Helms who recognized the stolen craft despite the fact that she was disguised and was sailing under the name of the Natalie. The captain says that when he arrived at La Paz he learned that the mysterious schooner had been denied entrance there because the papers were not up to requirements. The vessel then attempted to sail away, but was overhauled and detained. The credentials presented by Bartels, in command of the schooner, comprised the enrollment and clearance papers for the Natalie from Sitka, Alaska, and showed she was out on a fishing cruise. There was no evidence on board that she had been doing any fishing, or that she had been fitted out for any such voyage. The papers bore every evidence that someone had tampered with them. The United States Consul at La Paz had been apprised of the fact that the Star of Freedom had been stolen through the San Francisco newspapers, but had no way of determining whether or not the Natalie was really the stolen schooner until Captain Von Helms arrived. The latter’s identification was complete, and when he informed the Consul that Bartels had been guilty of playing similar pranks on previous occasions, it was decided to prosecute him at once, provided the consent of Captain Johnson, owner of the Star of Freedom, was obtained. Johnson sent instructions to Von Helms by telegraph to arrest Bartels. The Consul now communicated with the customs authorities at La Paz, and they had a detachment of soldiers sent from La Paz to San José del Cabo, whither the schooner and crew had meantime been taken. Information had been received to the effect that Bartels and his crew were planning to escape, so an Indian runner was sent to San José del Cabo ahead of the soldiers to warn the municipal authorities to be on guard. The runner covered the eighty miles in twenty-four hours, while the soldiers were three days in getting there. Bartels and his men were imprisoned, and were still under guard when the Willamette Valley sailed.”


April 19, 1895 [LAT]: “San Francisco. Captain Von Helms of the steamer Willamette Valley which arrived today from La Paz, Mexico, states that Oscar Bartels, the piratical sea captain who has a weakness for stealing vessels, is in prison at the Mexican port with two members of his crew. The particular offense on which he is held is the theft of the schooner Star of Freedom from San Francisco Bay. Captain Johnson, owner of the Star of Freedom, has been looking up the record of Bartels and has learned that he is a trader in other people’s vessels to a considerable extent. Bartels stole the schooner Achilles from Seattle and went sealing in her. As a sealer he was successful. He turned over his catch to the Alaskan agents of the Alaska Commercial Company, receiving a draft on Louis Sloss for $2000. Sloss refused to honor it without an identification, and while Bartels was waiting, the owner of the vessel dropped into the city from Ashland, Oregon. Meantime, Bartels had secured $2400 from A. P. Laurentzen, giving him a mortgage on the vessel. The owner got here just in time and he gathered in the money the thief had raised, including the bulk of the $2000 draft. He said he was satisfied, so the charge of barratry was dropped and Bartels escaped prosecution. Bartels next turned up in San Diego and shortly afterward the schooner Dawn disappeared and Bartels was counted as missing. It is now believed that Bartels took the Dawn to Mexico and sold her. About a year and a half ago the steam launch Periwinkle, owned by the Lighthouse Department, disappeared from her mooring at Goat Island. Bartels is credited with the theft, although there is no evidence against him. His Last venture was the theft of the schooner Star of Freedom from this port, which he accomplished by bribing the watchman during the owner’s absence.”


May 16, 1895 [LAT]: “San Francisco. Captain Bartels, first mate Lundison and seaman George Newbert of the schooner Star of Freedom, were all indicted on a charge of grand larceny by the United States Grand Jury today. They stole the vessel in question out of Oakland Creek and reached La Paz, Mexico with her before they were discovered. The United States Criminal Code does not provide for such an offense as barratry, so the lower charge had to be made.”


June 15, 1895 [LAT]:Star of Freedom. The government finds difficulty in getting it here from Mexico. The United States government is having a good deal of trouble regarding the schooner Star of Freedom, which was stolen from this city some time months ago by Oscar Bartels. The owner of the Star of Freedom laid her up in Oakland Creek last summer and went off to sea. When he returned to this city, his vessel was gone, and on making an investigation, he learned that she had been sailed to Ensenada, Lower California, by Bartels. When the owner of the vessel went to Ensenada to take possession of her, however, the Mexican government refused to give her up, and he returned to this city without his vessel. The Federal authorities are determined to secure possession of the vessel at any cost, so next week United States Marshal Baldwin will leave for Ensenada with the necessary papers, and no doubt, the vessel will be turned over to him.”


July 16, 1895 [SBMP]: “San Francisco. Pirates may go free. Extradition papers of the crew of the stolen schooner Star lost. The schooner Star of Freedom that was stolen from the bay about five months ago, is still in the hands of the Mexican officials at La Paz, and Oscar Bartels, Alexander Lundershoff and Peter Newberg, who are charged with being the pirates, are still in a Mexican prison, waiting to be extradited and tried in an American court. It has been three months since the pirates were caught, and Captain Johnson, the owner of the vessel, says he is being put to a great deal of expense on account of the delay. The Mexican authorities are holding the prisoners until the extradition papers arrive, but no one seems to know anything about such documents. Captain Johnson says that he was informed by District Attorney Foote that the warrants had been sent off to the office of the Secretary of State in Washington for the action of the higher officials three months ago, and then all traces of the extradition proceedings seem to be lost. A few days ago, he wrote to Washington asking the reason for the delay, and yesterday he received a reply that no application had been made there for the return of the prisoners or the release of his schooner. ‘Expenses,’ he said, ‘are increasing every day in the vessel, and unless something is done soon whereby I can regain possession of the schooner, the debt on her will be more than the vessel is worth, and for my own protection I will be obliged to abandon all claim on her. This may mean the escape of the prisoner, and Bartels, who has stolen two other vessels and avoided punishment for his crimes, will again be free.’ The Star of Freedom was once owned by Santa Barbara parties, and Bartels, the pirate Captain, spent some time in our city.”


July 19, 1895 [SFC]: “A story of almost incredible cruelty to American sailors was brought from La Paz, Lower California, by a Mexican gentleman who arrived in this city a few days ago, and if the case is pressed by the victis it is of such a nature that an international difficulty is likely to arise between the United States and Mexico. The sufferers were all connected with the schooner Star of Freedom, which was stolen from Oakland Creek five months ago and taken to Mexico by Oscar Bartels. After all the trouble and hardships, the schooner has been abandoned by her owner, Captain Johnson. The Star of Freedom was seized by Mexican officials at La Paz, and then the case got tangled up in the red tape of the Attorney General’s office in an attempt to have Bartels and his companions extradited. Johnson went to Mexico thinking he could take possession of his vessel, but found that the expenses and port charges were so exorbitant as to be more than the schooner was worth. This fact, in addition to the barbarous treatment given Bartels and his crew, and later Captain Johnson, by Mexican military authorities in Lower California, it is believed, will stir up the high officials at Washington, for Bartels, his seamen and the cabin boy were maltreated in a savage manner, and Johnson himself, an American seeking justice in Mexico, was thrown into a filthy jail as a common criminal. When Oscar Bartels sailed away with his prize from this port, he headed the Star of Freedom for Mexico, and never thereafter did he draw in sail until off the sleepy port of San Jose del Cabo, near Cape San Lucas. He had on board a Russian sailor and a small boy, 12 years of age, whom he picked up in San Francisco, and who were ignorant of the fact that their master had stolen the schooner. On arriving at San Jose del Cabo, Bartels was surprised to learn that his coming was watched. He was detained until a detachment of twety-three Rurales arrived from La Paz, a distance of over 150 miles. These soldiers were under command of an officer named Machorro, whose title or rank was ‘Jefe de los Rurales.’ Machorro promptly arrested Bartels, the sailor and a cabin boy and locked them up in a one-room filthy prison at San Jose del Cabo, where they were kept for a night and two days. Meanwhile, according to the story told by the La Paz merchant, the Rurales Jefe became intoxicated. Next morning the three prisoners were ordered out. They were not allowed to take blankets of a change of clothes from the schooner. Mules were saddled and the prisoners, after having their arms tied behind their backs from elbow to elbow, were hoisted upon the mules and started off for La Paz, 150 miles away. All through that weary march, which lasted four days, the prisoners were not released. They were tortured by gnats and clouds of pestiferous insects, blistered by the torrid sun and beswitched by brambles flying in their unprotected faces along the route, but never once wre the cords loosened that bound their arms to their sides. The path lay over most terrific hills, barren and burning hot. The boy cried all along the way, but had to endure the tortures with the other two prisoners. He cried for water, which was denied him. Their faces were eaten by insects and they were hungry and thirsty as well as overcome by heat and the torture of being tied to the mules and bound with ropes. Even at night the bonds were not removed and the poor wretches were compelled to lie upon the floor of some filthy jail or upon the ground without covering. The La Paz authorities did ot trust the Rurales and selected three merchants of San Jose del Cabo to accompany the prisoners. These gentlemen were Louis Castro, Salomon Veyo and F. Viya. Moved to compassion for the tired and tortured men they gave them water and some food, and on arriving at La Pz they caused the arrest of Jefe Machorro, whose punishment, it was then stated, would be ten years’ imprisonment, but the authorities failed to take action before Machorro went free. The boy was discharged at La Paz after an investigation, but although the Russian sailor, who spoke Spanish fluently, had asserted his and the boy’s innocence, they received no consideration from the cruel Rurales. He was thrown into prison with Bartels and they were there two weeks ago. Captain Johnson arrived on the next steamer and he, too, was placed under arrest, though he had gone to La Paz to regain possession of his schooner. The people of San Jose and La Paz were indignant over the brutality which the Rurales showed the unfortunate prisoners and they were the first to make it known. They notified the Federeal Government of Mexico and expect that an investigation will be ordered from the City of Mexico.”


May 15, 1896 [SFC]: “The Federal Grand Jury had the case of Oscar Bartels under consideration yesterday. He is accused of stealing the schooner Star of Freedom from Oakland Creek and taking her to La Paz, Mexico, and if the Grand Jury indicts him he will be extradited.”


January 5, 1896 [SFCall]: “For want of sufficient evidence to convict, the cases against Alexander Lundisch and Peter Newbert, indited for stealing the schooner Star of Freedom, were dismissed by United States Judge Morrow, yesterday, on motion of District Attorney Foote. The Star of Freedom was taken down the coast of Mexico, and Oscar Bartels, who assisted in running off with her, was some time ago sentenced there to five years in a Mexican prison. An effort by Mr. Foote to have Bartels extradited failed. The conviction of Bartels in Mexico was due to the activity of the American Consul. The Mexican Government returned the vessel to its owner, Captain Johnson.”


October 17, 1895 [SFC]: “Oscar Bartels has been indicted by the United States Grand Jury on a charge of stealing the schooner Star of Freedom from Oakland Creek. The schooner belonged to William Johnson. Bartels, failing to secure a lease, went on board and with a crew sailed her off for Mexico.”


August 15, 1896 [LAT]: “The Helene Don't Go. Mr. Axtel's new yacht Helene recently launched in the channel, was booked to sail under the guidance of Capt. Julius Duritz and a man named Julius Bartel on Tuesday last for Guadalupe Island, but is still anchored in the channel, owing to the fact that O. Ellison who came to this coast as ship carpenter on the Golden Horn, and has spent the last year constructing the Helene, has a bill for unpaid wages which he holds against the boat, amounting to some $500, although he has offered to settle for $300. He says he has received but very little money for his work the past year, and was only enabled to complete the boat by allowing his wife to take in washing and ironing. Mr. Ellison was advised not to let the Helene go to the island "to carry goat skins", and accordingly he forbade her leaving until he is paid. The boat is now for sale and somebody will capture a prize. She is 52 feet 6 inches overt all, with a 12 foot 6-inch beam. She has a splendid cabin, fitted with twelve berths below. She has all double planking; is perfectly seaworthy, and a good sailor, having scored eight knots. Her cargo capacity is 15.31 tons, and she is by far the neatest little boat in the channel.”


August 6, 1897 [WP]: “Pirate of the Pacific. Oscar Bartels a successful modern buccaneer in now in a Mexican prison. He will serve two and one half years for sailing under false papers, but has escaped punishment for stealing several vessels, smuggling, and piracy on the high seas. One of the most daring criminals of modern times... Bartels nativity is uncertain… He is now about 43 years of age. The first that is known of him on this coast was in 1890 when he made his appearance in San Diego, coming from no one knows where.


March 25, 1898 [LAT]: “San Diego. The guano poaching [in Mexico] has been carried on probably for years. It is said that the genius who first discovered and developed the business was Oscar Bartels, a pirate. Bartels, a Russian Fin, has acquired a reputation from La Paz to Alaska as the prize pirate of the coast. He raided Guadalupe Island and marooned a lot of goat-skinners there, leaving them with scant provisions and robbing them of their pelts. He stole boats from various ports and sold them to others. He made excursions to the South Seas and had a number of romantic adventures. He stole the schooner Star of Freedom from San Francisco Bay, sailed her down the coast and was wrecked near La Paz, being captured and serving a number of years at La Paz and Ensenada. This man saw, with a pirate’s keen vision, the money to be made in guano poaching. He operated awhile, until the taste for something stronger than guano led him to Alaska, where he is reported to have killed an Indian woman and sold whiskey to her male relatives contrary to law. Others took up the guano business…”


June 25, 1911 [NYT]: “What the laws are regarding the modern buccaneer… The Mexican government has imprisoned at La Paz a Swedish-American pirate of the name of Bartel, whose piratical activity extended all along the Pacific coast from Sitka down to the Mexican ports, his most notable exploit being his sailing his pirate ship, the Star of Freedom, through the Golden Gate in the dark. For a number of years he kept English and American cruisers and United States Revenue Cutters busy until finally landed in a Mexican jail under so many charges of piracy that he is likely to spend the remainder of his days behind bars.