Champlain (#) (1874-1875), 216-foot clipper ship built at East Boston and running out of New York that sank at the North Farallones on June 14, 1875, killing Captain Reuben Merrill (1818-1875) and one crewman. As the ship was sinking, Captain Merrill remained on board the Champlain to ensure that all of the crew made it safely into the lifeboats. Just as he was entering a lifeboat himself, Captain Merrill was struck by the Champlain’s standing rigging and knocked overboard. His body was never found. Captain Reuben Merrill’s eldest son and first mate, Osborn Merrill was on board and witnessed his father’s death. After that, Osborn and the rest of the Merrill family quit the maritime industry and never took to the sea again.
The survivors were picked up by the schooner Mendocino.
In the News~
June 19, 1875 [Farallon Island Logbook, National Archives]: “Schooner Annie arrived here from San Francisco and reported ship Champlain shore on north rocks. Can see nothing of her. He tells me the Captain and one man killed by the ship's mast in gale striking him in the head. That is Capt. Merrill and the sailor man in the breast. She sank. Can see nothing of her.”
June 19, 1875 [SDU]: “News was received in San Francisco yesterday morning of the wreck of the ship Champlain at the North Farallones. This vessel was 119 days out from New York on the 14th, with a full assorted cargo for this market, consigned to the usual importers. It is the first disaster to a New York ship in a long time.”
June 19, 1875 [LAH]: “San Francisco, June 18th. — The ship Champlain, Merrill master, from New York for this port, consigned to George Howes & Co., struck the North Farallones about 7 o'clock last night, and sunk in a few moments. The Captain and one seaman were lost. The remainder of the ship's company escaped in boats and were picked up.”
June 24, 1875 [Russian River Flag]: “The American clipper ship Champlain, of Boston, 1473 tons burden, and one of the fastest vessels sailing under the American flag, struck on the rocks off the North Farallones last Thursday night, and in less than an hour sank in eighty fathoms of water. Of the crew, 29 in number, 27 were saved in the boats. The Captain and one seaman were drowned. The ship left New York February 15, under command of Captain Reuben Merrill, and reached the vicinity of the Golden Gate on Monday, when she encountered a dense fog belt. She remained in the fog from that time until she went on to the rocks.”
June 24, 1875 [Marin Journal]: “The American ship Champlain was wrecked on the Farallones last Thursday evening, and Captain Merrill and one seaman were drowned.”