J. M. Colman

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J.M. Coleman
J.M. Colman off the Farallon Islands
OIl on canvas 28 1/4” x 44 1/4”
Signed: W.A. Coulter 1888 -LR
Coleman wreck.jpg
From San Francisco Call, Volume 98, Number 100, September 8, 1905.


J. M. Colman (#76717) (1888-1905), a 157-foot wood-hulled three-masted schooner built for the Pacific lumber trade in 1888. Named for Scotland-born James Murray Colman (1832-1906), businessman in the Pacific Northwest, she was built in Washington by the Hall Brothers, also the builders of Comet and Dora Bluhm. On September 4, 1905 en route from Washington to San Pedro, California with 800,000 feet of lumber, she ran aground just inside Point Bennett in a dense fog. The mate on the Colman, Hans Mailborn was drowned while trying to salvage a “chest of gold,” and it was reported he may have been gotten by a devilfish (giant squid). Unable to be saved, the Colman was eventually pounded to pieces on the rocks by heavy swells. Captain Vasquez and the Nidevers salvaged some of her lumber cargo. The Nidever brothers built a cabin at Willows on Santa Cruz Island with salvaged wood. John Russell, resident manager of San Miguel Island for Captain Waters, salvaged enough lumber to build the 120-foot long ranch house later called Rancho Rambouillet. Burros hauled the wood from Point Bennett to the ranch location above Cuyler's Harbor. Construction of the house was completed in 1908. [Eaton 1980: 24, 38, 89]. According to later island lessee Robert Brooks, Colman also carried flower in twill bags, which when wetted, sealed their contents. The flour was used on the island for many years. As late as February 1907, Captain Vasquez salvaged a load of lumber from the wrecked Colman aboard his boat Peerless, followed by an additional salvage of 150,000 feet of lumber aboard his Gussie M in July 1907.


In the News~

September 7, 1905 [SBMP]: “The sailing schooner J. M. Colman lies beached on the southwest coast of San Miguel Island, about 60 miles from this city, and immediate efforts are being made for the schooner has been grounded on the rock of the island and it is believed that during that time she has been badly beaten by the waves. She went ashore in a fog, for two days the crew was unable to free her from the perilous position. Yesterday morning a southbound steamer answered the signals of distress, but was unable to give much assistance; and after taking off an officer wired to this city and to San Francisco for assistance. The schooner Chehalis is now on its way south from San Francisco to rescue the boat... Captain Merry’s Vishnu has been secured to make the trip. She will sail early this morning with the Colman’s officer... The Colman was carrying 800,000 feet of lumber to San Pedro...”


September 7, 1905 [SFCall]: “San Pedro, September 6. Schooner J. M. Colman, ashore on the north end of San Miguel Island; the tug Sea Witch goes to the assistance of the schooner this evening, so as to be three at high water in the morning.”


September 7, 1905 [SFCall]: “San Pedro, September 6. Schooner J. M. Colman, Captain Petersen, out ten days from Everett for San Diego with 600,000 feet of lumber, was wrecked on the southwest side of San Miguel Island last Sunday night forty-five miles west of Santa Barbara. The captain and crew are safe, but the Colman is heavily waterlogged and it is doubtful if she can be again floated. News of the disaster was brought to this port this morning by Frank Peterson, first officer of the unfortunate vessel. In company with four sailors he left the schooner yesterday morning in a rowboat for Santa Barbara to notify the owners and employ a tug to go to the Colman’s relief. On the way he was picked up by the steamer Marshfield bound from Crescent City to San Diego, and brought here. Captain Petersen and five others of the crew are on San Miguel Island. Mate Peterson gives the following version of the disaster:

‘About 10 o’clock Sunday night while sailing before the wind at about nine miles an hour in one of the thickest fogs I have ever experienced, we struck a rocky reef on San Miguel Island. Before the accident we had not seen the sun for thirty-six hours, so thick was the weather, and had to sail by dead reckoning. The Colman passed over the first reef and now lies between that and another one. I think she is severely damaged. The lumber can probably be saved. She is in no imminent danger of further damage unless the wind shifts to the southwest. She is only kept afloat by her lumber cargo.’

The Colman is owned by the Pacific Lumber Company of San Francisco. She is valued at about $200,000 and her cargo is worth $10,000. She was built in Port Blakeley, Washington in 1888, and her gross tonnage is 463. She is 157 feet long, 37 feet wide with a depth of hold of 11 feet. Captain Charles Petersen, master of the Colman, is a resident of San Pedro, and has a wife and child residing here. It is probable that one of the tugs of the Banning Company will be sent to her assistance.”


September 8, 1905 [SFCall]: “Santa Barbara, September 7. The sloop Vishnu was the first boat to leave this port for the relief of the schooner J. M. Colman, which is beached on the western coast of San Miguel Island, about forth-five miles out from this city. She left at 9 o’clock this morning in charge of Calud Cole and carrying W. G. Tibbetts, a mariner of the C. A. Hoper Company of San Francisco, which owns the wrecked schooner. Captain Vasquez, an old Spanish sailor, who is familiar with the islands, went on the trip as pilot. Captain Tibbetts stated that three boats were coming to the assistance of the Colman. The Chehalis, southbound from San Francisco, was intercepted by wire and sent to the wreck, and will probably be the first one to reach the ship. The steamer Savage and the tug Sea Witch are also on the way to San Miguel Island. Little hope is entertained by Captain Tibbetts of saving the ship, although he hopes to be able to get all the lumber off in a good condition.”


September 9, 1905 [SFCall]: “San Pedro, September 8. The tug Sea Witch, Captain Johnson, has returned from San Miguel Island, where she went to assist the stranded schooner J. M Colman, which went ashore Sunday night. Captain Johnson was unable to get within half a mile of the vessel, as she lies among dangerous reefs and rocks with waves breaking aver her. Johnson stated the vessel will be a total loss and that there is little chance to save the cargo. The steamer Marshfield, Captain Dettmers, owned by the same company that owns the Colman, left this port last night for San Miguel Island to render whatever assistance is possible.”


September 10, 1905 [SBMP]: “The schooner Vishnu has returned from the wreck of the J. M. Colman on the west coast of San Miguel Island. She brought back first mate Frank Patterson, who went out to the wreck on a steamer from San Pedro. Engineer Claude Cole and Pilot Ramon Vasquez returned with the boat. Engineer Cole reports that the wrecked schooner is in pretty bad shape with her bottom gone and her hull wedged in between two rocks with her prow to the sea… The Vishnu did not arrive at the wreck on Thursday. She was obliged to lay over at a cove on the north side of San Miguel, but reached the Colman early the next morning…”


September 10, 1905 [SBMP]: “Wrecked vessel still on rocks. Schooner Colman may prove to be total wreck. Cargo can be saved... Engineer Cole reports that the wrecked schooner is in pretty bad shape with her bottom gone and her hull wedged in between two rocks with her prow to the sea...”


September 10, 1905 [SBMP]: “The schooner Comet, the sister craft of the Colman which left port the middle of last week, got into the fog on Friday... was drifting into the rocks where the Colman lay...”


September 14, 1905 [SBMP]:Vishnu reached the Marshfield; intercepts vessel off San Miguel Island. Colman cargo probably lost...”


September 20, 1905 [SBMP]: “Sixty thousand feet of lumber transferred. Hull of ship not a total loss. Captain Merry returns with dispatches and tells of the progress being made to save the cargo and hull of the wrecked schooner J. M. Colman... His auxiliary yacht Vishnu that has made several trips to the Colman since she was wrecked three weeks ago was chartered...”


September 21, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain Merry who made the trip to San Miguel Island on Tuesday with supplies for the seamen of the wrecked schooner Colman, did not return last evening as was expected. The weather being foggy he probably decided to remain over a few hours longer and is expected to be in port today.”


October 5, 1905 [LAH]: “The steam schooner Marshfield came in for fuel oil this afternoon. She is on her way from San Diego to San Miguel Island, and will make another attempt to get the balance of the lumber still remaining on the wrecked schooner J. M. Colman. The latter is in a bad condition and cannot be saved. One of the Banning lighters, while partly loaded with lumber from the Colman, was driven ashore by a sudden squall and badly damaged. The Marshfield succeeded, after two weeks’ operations at the island, in getting about three-fourths of the cargo, which she took to San Diego.”


October 5, 1905 [LAH]: “The steam schooner Marshfield is here discharging lumber saved from the wreck of the J. M. Colman, which went ashore a month ago at San Miguel Island. The Marshfield brought 300,000 feet of the lumber, and a like amount together with the schooner will be lost.


October 13, 1905 [SBMP]: “The Peerless returned from San Miguel Island where she went a few days ago with Captain Waters, proprietor of the island. The boatmen reported that the west coast of San Miguel is strewn with lumber washed ashore from the schooner J. M. Colman, which was grounded on the rocks over a month ago. The boat brought in a load of the wreckage. The Colman is still on the rocks, but will soon be beaten to pieces.”


November 1, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain W. G. Waters who has just returned from San Miguel Island, reports that the wrecked schooner Colman still stands on the reefs of that island about 100 feet from shore, and is in good shape to stand until a big storm strikes the hull. There is a lighter on the shore left by those who attempted to get the lumber from the schooner. On this lighter are 48 7 x 16 inch timbers, 32 feet long, besides the lighter’s equipment of boilers, engine, wrench and pulleys.”


November 18, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez of the launch Peerless had left for the wreck of the Colman to take off its pony engine. Considerable anxiety is felt in regard to the safety of Captain Vasquez and his crew of six men of the power launch Peerless which is four days over-due from a trip to San Miguel Island. Eight days ago the Peerless sailed for the treacherous western coast of San Miguel Island in charge of Captain Vasquez with a number of men to assist him in the work of recovering the pony engine from the wreck of the schooner Colman, which has been stranded on the rocky reefs of that island for more than two months. Figuring the time required to transfer the engine to the launch and return to this city, the Peerless should have arrived here four days ago. She has not returned and grave fears are entertained by the owner of the ship and by the friends of those who accompanied Captain Vasquez. They do not fear a wreck of that staunch little boat, but there are many uncomfortable circumstances that might have delayed the boat and put the men to a great deal of trouble and exposures on that island. The engine of the boat may be out of order or some break down may have detained them where food and water supplies are short. If the boat is not heard from today, Captain Merry will leave for San Miguel Island tonight with men and supplies in order to ascertain what has delayed the Peerless, or to render assistance to the men in case they are in need of help. Among the passengers on the Peerless was Captain Percy Bagley, one of the most experienced boatmen of this city.”


November 21, 1905 [SBMP]: “No word received from Captain Vasquez and crew of six men. The power launch Peerless, with its crew of six men, has not yet been heard from, and fears for the safety of the men who went with that little boat over a week ago to the wreck of the Colman on the west coast of San Miguel are growing graver as time slips by and the boat fails to return...”


November 22, 1905 [SBMP]: “Yacht Vishnu will leave today in an endeavor to locate the missing boat Peerless. The power launch Peerless, eleven days out from this city to the west coast of San Miguel, has not yet been heard from... The Peerless sailed eleven days ago on what was figured out to be a four days’ trip to the wreck of the stranded schooner J. M. Colman; the purpose of the trip was to bring back the pony engine from the Colman... The distance to the wreck of the Colman from this city is about 60 miles, making a 10-hour trip for a launch under present conditions of the channel...”


November 23, 1905 [SBMP]:Peerless home from San Miguel. The launch Peerless has ventured from San Miguel after a twelve days’ trip, and with the long expected boat returned the six men who went over to the wreck of the schooner J. M. Colman... The Peerless went to San Miguel for the purpose of getting a pony engine off the Colman, but failed to get the engine, which was washed off the lighter and left on the beach. Upon reaching the scene of the Colman wreck, the Peerless found calm weather for five days, but very heavy swells were rolling in and it was impossible to get to the engine from the lighter. A line was run to the lighter, but the Peerless could not get in close enough to remove the engine. A southeaster came up on the fifth day and drove them out of the south bay into Cuyler’s Harbor where the boat remained for six days...”


February 17, 1906 [SBMP]: “A letter from Captain Waters, who is now on San Miguel Island, states that the schooner Colman, going ashore there several months ago, is still visible, but there is little hope of ever saving her.”


May 10, 1906 [SBI]: “Captain Vasquez left this morning in his boat for San Miguel Island. The object of the trip is twofold, to take a party of abalone hunters to the island and to visit the wreck of the J. M. Colman, the large lumber schooner which went ashore there some months ago.”


August 1, 1906 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. John Robarts, skipper of the fifteen-ton schooner Nestella, returned Sunday from San Miguel Island, where for a month past he has been engaged in wrecking the abandoned schooner Colman, which went on the reef at the west end of that island almost a year ago. The Colman was loaded with lumber and Robarts in the month he has been at work on the wreck has recovered about 150,000 feet of flooring. There yet remains as much more lumber in the wreck but it is in such a position that it can only be secured by raising one end of the vessel, which has broken in two. Robarts will procure jacks and return to finish the job. The wreck is in shallow water three quarters of a mile from shore, and every foot of the lumber must be packed on men’s backs. They have built a little wooden railway for a mile across the point of the island to a small bay from which it will be shipped when they are ready to market it.”


September 25, 1906 [SBI]: “The schooner Ellen, Captain Vasquez, which has been engaged in bringing to the mainland the portion of the lumber cargo that has been saved from the wrecked lumber schooner J. M. Colman, which went upon the rocks on the western shore of San Miguel Island about a year ago, sailed for the island after having discharged the cargo of lumber that was brought to Santa Barbara on Saturday last. She will probably be absent for a week or more before she will be able to land another cargo of lumber, if it should be found possible to remove it from the shattered hull of the ill-fated vessel. Before departing, Captain Vasquez stated that he would be able to save the greater part of the cargo that still remains on the Colman, although the lumber is transferred to the schooner Ellen with great difficulty on account of the rough weather that prevails along the western coast of San Miguel Island at this time of year.”


October 23, 1906 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ellen, which has been engaged in the salvage of the cargo of the wrecked schooner Colman, sailed from San Miguel Island yesterday morning. Captains Vasquez and McGuire, who have undertaken the venture of saving some of the Colman’s valuable cargo, realize that their chance will come to an end as soon as the first heavy storm breaks, as the lumber schooner is in a precarious position, and will undoubtedly break up with the first heavy seas. They are therefore rushing work as fast as possible, and a crew of men is at work taking the lumber out of the vessel and transferring it by improvised railroad to the nearest point from which it can be loaded on the Ellen. The Ellen was caught in a stiff gale last week and suffered considerably. She has been laid up for repairs for several days past.”


November 6, 1906 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ellen, Captain Vasquez, left for San Miguel Island yesterday for a load of lumber from the abandoned lumber schooner Colman. Captain Vasquez has been engaged in the salvage work for some months past, and has taken a large amount of lumber from the wrecked vessel, but the Colman is breaking up fast and it is not thought he will be able to make any more trips.”


December 13, 1906 [SBMP]: “The one single sacrifice that was claimed by the heavy wind and rain storm on Tuesday night, seems to have been the schooner yacht Ellen, which is now stranded on the beach a short distance from Port Harford. Captain Colice Vasquez, who has been in charge of the vessel in the removal of lumber from the hold of the wrecked vessel Colman, had sent the vessel back to San Miguel for another cargo of lumber, deciding to remain ashore for a trip. When Captain Vasquez received the report of the stranding of the vessel yesterday forenoon, he expressed himself in doubt as to the truth of the rumor. He stated that his first mate, Joe Bermudas, has been sent in charge of the Ellen for San Miguel Island in plenty of time to reach the island before the storm set in, and that she was a long distance out of her course in the neighborhood of Port Harford. Yesterday afternoon, however, Captain Vasquez received definite information to the effect that the Ellen had been washed ashore, the first mate stating that he would be in Santa Barbara on the morning train. The only other person on board was Andrew Broadstone, who with the first mate swam ashore. The Ellen is a sailing vessel of about 19 tons burden. She is about forty feet in length and has a twelve foot beam. She has made several trips between Santa Barbara and San Miguel Island to save the cargo of lumber that had remained on the steam schooner Colman that dashed upon the reefs on the western end of the island during a storm about a year ago.”


February 22, 1907 [SBMP]: “The Peerless, Captain Vasquez, sailed yesterday for Santa Rosa Island with a party of sheep shearers. Returning, the Peerless will bring a cargo of lumber from the wreck of the schooner Colman on San Miguel Island.”


July 23, 1907 [SBMP]: “That enterprising mariner, Captain McGuire, has joined forced with Captain Vasquez, one of the most experienced salts on the coast, in the purchase of a fine San Pedro steam schooner the Gussie M. The vessel has a length of 46 feet with 12-foot beam. She is fitted with 25 horse-power Union engines, and is therefore by far the finest, fastest and largest vessel of her kind in these waters aside from the Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. The Gussie M is a new boat, having been built scarce two years ago. At San Pedro she was engaged in passenger service and other commercial purposes. Her new owners will utilize her to bring ashore to the mainland 150,000 feet of lumber salvaged from the Colman, which went ashore on San Miguel Island about a year ago.”


August 2, 1907 [SBMP]: “The Gussie M will leave today with a crew of men for San Miguel Island to survey the lumber salvaged from the wreck of the Colman, over a year ago, now piled on the west end of the island. The lumber will either be rafted in a body or decked and two or three trips made.”


October 2, 1907 [SBMP]: “The power sloops Peerless and Gussie M arrived yesterday afternoon with cargoes from the wreck of the lumber-laden schooner Colman, which went ashore on the west coast of San Miguel Island some 18 months ago. On their next trip over from the island they will have in tow a lighter just built by Don Leach of this city. The lighter measures 30 feet overall, 15 feet beam and draws 3 feet of water. She will carry 40,000 feet in lumber. The lighter has been decked over and the load will be upon her decks.”


October 26, 1907 [SBMP]: “Captain Colice Vasquez and Don Leach came over from San Miguel Island Thursday evening bringing over the Peerless and the Gussie M. The lighter which was being built to ferry the lumber from the wrecked Colman across the channel, was beached for repairs and was destroyed by a big sea, which dashed it into a thousand pieces.”


January 6, 1910 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez returned yesterday from San Miguel Island bringing a load of lumber on the Gussie M. The lumber, 6,000 feet of flooring, is one of the last loads that remains of the wrecked schooner John M. Colman which went ashore on the island a few years ago. Captain Vasquez stated that the weather on the channel and the island was as severe as he had ever experienced.”