King James

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King James (#99807) (1892-1893), 279.1-foot 4-masted commercial bark out of Glasgow, Scotland, which burned near Santa Rosa Island on April 3, 1893. The King James had sailed from New Castle, New South Wales, on December 23, 1892 for San Francisco with a cargo of 2560 tons of coal. Due to spontaneous combustion of the fuel, the crew pumped water in the hold. Captain Drummond ordered the crew to abandon ship when all hope of extinguishing the fire was lost. They left in two boats and got separated in a gale. Of the 32 crew, 11 drowned, including Captain Drummond's son, when their small boat capsized. William Spence was left on Santa Rosa Island.


In the News~

April 7, 1893 [SFCall]: “Santa Barbara, April 6. A telegram received by F. A. Blake in this city from J. White Mortimer, Vice-Counsel at Los Angeles, says: ‘A seaman from the King James was landed at first island, south of Point Conception, on the west side of the island, about the center, on the morning of the 31st inst. He is without food. Send for him.’ Mr. Blake made arrangements with the boat Big Loafer, a small sailing vessel, to go over, and she sailed at 10 o’clock this morning. The island is supposed to be San Miguel, just south of Point Conception, and forty-five miles from this place. The sloop Liberty, which left San Miguel on the morning of the 4th inst., arrived this morning, and the captain said nothing had been seen of the man, but it may be that he is on one end, not frequented, or on some rock in the vicinity… The Big Loafer started out with a strong head wind and cannot make much time. How the man got there is not explained, but he is supposed to be one of the captain’s party…”


April 7, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “A court of inquiry to be held at Santa Barbara. The mate and his men from the ill-fated ship King James are expected to arrive from Point Conception some time tonight, if the teams get through by the beach and cut off about forty miles of the distance. A telephone message from Gaviota, forty miles west, says that the men reached that point safely this afternoon. All are well. The first news of the rescue of the captain and three men reached the mate’s party this afternoon. The party will probably take the steamer Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon for San Francisco, if the captain’s party is on that boat. C. White Mortimer, British Vice-Consul at Los Angeles, arrived at 9:30 P.M. this evening, and said that the captain and other survivors of the burned ship, King James, in his party will arrive tomorrow afternoon on the steamer Los Angeles, and will remain here. A court of inquiry will be held here tomorrow afternoon or the next day to determine the cause of the loss of the King James. The sloop Big Loafer left here this morning for San Miguel Island to search for one of the seamen from the King James who is reported to have landed from Captain Drummond’s boat on April 3. The mate and fifteen men of the King James arrived here at 11:00 o’clock, being driven in from Point Conception, leaving there at 11:30 this morning. The men were all well.”


April 8, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “Arrival of Captain Drummond of the ill-fated King James… It has been ascertained that the missing sailor of the King James was landed upon Santa Rosa Island…”


April 9, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The tug Monarch called at the Santa Barbara wharf Saturday morning… The Monarch has been looking for the hulk of the King James, but reports no trace of the vessel after cruising around in the neighborhood for some days. There is but little doubt that the ship has gone to the bottom…”


April 10, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Big Loafer returned last night from San Miguel Island where she went in search of William Spence, the seaman of the King James, who landed on one of the islands from the captain’s lifeboat last Monday. The sloop did not stop at Santa Rosa Island where it has since been determined the man landed. When the sloop left Santa Barbara, it was supposed from Captain Drummond’s description that San Miguel was the island on which the man was left, and the Loafer had no orders to go to Santa Rosa Island. The steamer Bonita went to Santa Rosa Island last night, and if the man has not yet reached a settlement, searching parties will be sent out. Survivors of the crew of the King James leave tonight on the steamer Corona for San Francisco, with the exception of the captain and mate, who remain here for a few days. The steamer Los Angeles which picked up the captain’s boat of the King James, arrived this morning, and the tug Monarch, which went in search of the burning vessel, also came in. Captain Randall of the Monarch is convinced the King James has gone to the bottom, but a mate of the Los Angeles thinks she is still afloat. In his opinion, based on a conversation with Captain Drummond, none of the tugs were within 150 miles of the ship’s position.”


April 11, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The court of inquiry in the King James case, consisting of C. White Mortimer, British Vice Consul, F. A. Blake, and T. R. Dawe, again convened at 10 A.M. Monday and rendered their decision, which completely exonerated Captain Drummond from all blame…”


April 11, 1892 [SFCall]: “The steamer Bonita is at Santa Rosa Island searching for the sailor supposed to have landed there from the King James’ boat. The search of San Miguel Island was fruitless.”


April 13, 1893 [SBMP]: “The steamer Bonita brings news of the rescue of the sailor William Spence, who went ashore on the 3rd, at Santa Rosa Island from the small boat of the burned King James, to seek water, and who had to be left. He reached a camp of sheep herders on the Island, and the tug Fearless took him away on the 8th.”


April 13, 1893 [SDU]: “San Diego, April 12. The steamer Bonita brings the news of the rescue of the sailor, William Spence, who went ashore on the 3rd at Santa Rosa Island from a small boat of the burned King James to seek water, and who had to be left. The story is that he became so exhausted that he fell asleep and did not wake for twelve hours. He then started on a search and reached a camp of six sheepherders working for A. P. More, who owns the island. The tug Fearless took him away on the 8th.”


April 14, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “F. A. Blake’s kindly efforts in behalf of Captain Drummond, aided and encouraged by C. White Mortimer, are meeting with success, and the good old Captain will not return to his native land altogether penniless and helpless. The following persons have contributed to the fund for his relief… Singularly enough the first tidings of the missing seaman of the King James, William Spence, who went ashore on Santa Rosa Island to get water, comes by way of San Diego. He found his way to a camp of sheep herders on the island, and they took care of him until the tug Fearless took him off on the 8th. The man, in his weak state, accomplished a feat that few strong men unacquainted with the island would like to undertake in finding his way to this settlement, as the western side of the island is a perfect wilderness marked only by cattle trails.”


April 14, 1893 [SFCall]: “News regarding the sailor who was picked up from Santa Rosa Island by the tug Fearless reached here yesterday through a local firm. The man, whose name is William Spencer, reached the camp of A. P, Morris [A.P. More], a sheepherder [island owner], and was fed and clothed. Had the King James boats landed on the island as did Spencer instead of putting to sea the great calamity which befell the captain's boat would have been averted, as there were ample provisions in the herder's camp to have lasted till the Bonita arrived, which it did a few days subsequent to Spencer's going ashore. The Fearless took Spencer away from the island on the 8th.”


April 16, 1893 [SBMP]: “The tug Fearless, after making another fruitless search for the ship King James, put into this port yesterday afternoon and landed W. Spence, the sailor who was taken from Santa Rosa Island by the tug a few days ago. F. A. Blake procured the sailor a new outfit of clothes and secured for him transportation to San Francisco.”


April 17, 1893 [LAT]: “William Spence, the missing sailor of the King James, who was found on Santa Rosa Island, was brought to Santa Barbara on Saturday by the tug Fearless. F. A. Blake supplied the poor fellow with clothing and money, in behalf of the British consulate, and secured him passage to San Francisco.”


April 18, 1893 [SFCall]: “The tug Fearless returned yesterday afternoon from her search for the King James. The Fearless cruised several hundred miles, but saw no signs of the burned ship. Sailor Spence was found in good health on Santa Rosa Island and brought back safely to the mainland.”