SMITH, Capt. Alexander

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Wilmington Cemetery
Death Certificate, Capt. Alex R. Smith, 1924

SMITH, Capt. Alexander R. (1852-1924), born in Scotland, he became a well respected Master Mariner on the Pacific Coast at the turn of the century. Capt. Smith worked variously for Vail & Vickers, the Banning Brothers and for William Wrigley, Jr.'s Santa Catalina Island Company. Vessels he operated in Southern California include:


Alexander R. Smith = [1876] Cora Angie Schoonover (1858-1921)

  • 1. Agnes Smith (1877- )
  • 2. Violet Catherine Smith (1877-1961) = Tillman. Wilmington Cemetery
  • 3. Sydney Alexander Smith (1879-1963) Glen Abbey Memorial Park, Bonita, San Diego County
  • 4. Royal William Smith (1889-1908) Wilmington Cemetery
  • 5. Hermosa Smith (1897-1955) Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes

On August 1, 1897, the wife of Hermosa’s Captain Alexander Smith gave birth to their son aboard Hermosa as he was transporting his expectant wife from the island to the mainland. He was named Hermosa and called Hermy.

Captain Smith was hit by a car and killed on March 25, 1924. He was 71 years old. He is buried in Wilmington Cemetery next to his wife, Cora, who predeceased him by three years.



In the News~

March 4, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise, under Captain Smith, arrived last night from San Miguel Island, discharged 65 sacks of abalone shell, 14 sacks of meat, 119 seal skins, 7 barrels of seal oil, 1 barrel of intestines.”


August 17, 1883 [The Humboldt Times]: “Capt. Alex Smith was over the bar fishing again on Wednesday, and brought home about 200 rick cod.”


December 9, 1883 [The Humboldt Times]: “Capt. Alex Smith of the bay steamer Silva, is proving to be an artist of more than ordinary ability, at least, one would judge so to see him handle the brush in painting the vessel he commands.”


June 23, 1885 [The Humboldt Times]: “Capt. Alex Smith has been placed in command of the bay steamer Silva, on the Hookton route.”


July 26, 1888 [The Humboldt Times]: “The little steamer Leone has been sold to W. L. Banning and James Dodson of San Pedro, and was hoisted on the deck of the steam schooner Pasadena yesterday, to be taken to her destination. She will be commanded by Capt. Alex Smith, who is well known in this city.”


January 10, 1893 [LAH]: “'Thar she blows,' was the exclamation of Capt. Alex. Smith of the Pelican today about 12 o'clock, pointing out to sea not half a mile away from Redondo wharf. A whale fully 75 feet in length has been observed today slowly moving down the coast, about half a mile away.”


October 18, 1894 [LAH]: “San Pedro, October 17. The Leone, Captain Aleck Smith, came into port safely about 8 o'clock on Tuesday evening. This is the boat of which there ware so many conflicting rumors of shipwreck and drowning. A party consisting of Jim Dodson, our postmaster, N. O. Anderson, a prominent businessman, T. R. Breat and the gallant captain left here on the 6th inst. for a 10 days' cruise among the islands. They first visited Santa Barbara Island, remaining there one night; from there to St. Nicolas, remaining one day and one night. They report this as a most dry, barren and dismal place, and the sand blowing so as to give the island the appearance of being enveloped in fog when seen from a distance. It will be of interest to future visitors to know that at the northwest end of the island are three good streams of running water flowing directly into the ocean. Numerous traces of volcanic eruption are to bee seen, and on higher portions of the island Indian mounds and relics are to be found. An interesting souvenir of the ill-fated steamer Los Angeles was here discovered in the shape of a box of butter, which had been shipped from Cayucos to San Francisco, and bore a brand resembling a boat's oarlock. The butter, considering it was 300 miles away from the scene of the disaster and had been floating about for nearly five months, was in excellent condition, a heavy mold on top being, seemingly, all that harmed it, although none of the voyagers were brave enough to taste it. From San Nicolas they sailed to San Clemente, spending one night at Northwest Harbor, one at Mosquito Harbor and one at Smugglers Cove. They shot some goats here, but report fishing a failure, probably because they sailed without bait. They say Jim Dodson can descry a goat at a greater distance than can any other living man, but the genial Jim denies the allegation. From Clemente they went to Catalina, staying over at Avalon, from which, they say, the visitors have now nearly all departed. The only vessel they sighted whilst gone was the Lizzie Belle W, San Pedro's pilot boat, anchored Dume Cove. From Avalon they steered a straight course home, and were surprised to find that they had been drowned and given up as lost during their absence, but glad to have escaped a trip to Davey Jones' locker.”


December 25, 1897 [LAT/SP]: “The Wilmington Transportation power yacht La Paloma, Captain Smith, arrived from San Clemente Island this morning. She had on board the crew of the schooner Minnie [Minna], which was wrecked last week...”


June 21, 1910 [LAH]: “Captain Smith of the power schooner Santa Rosa Island, who arrived today from Santa Rosa Island with a cargo of cattle, reports having spoken to the tug Hercules with log raft in tow for San Diego June 18 at 3 P.M., three miles north of Anacapa Island.”


August 31, 1910 [LAH]: “The power schooner Santa Rosa Island, Captain Smith, returned from San Diego today, where she went on the marine ways to be cleaned and painted. She will load posts for Santa Rosa Island.”


May 12, 1911 [LAT]: “Shipping. Port San Pedro, Los Angeles. Arrived Thursday May 11. Power schooner Santa Rosa Island, Captain Smith, from Santa Rosa Island… The power schooner Santa Rosa Island arrived today from Santa Rosa Island, with a cargo of cattle for Los Angeles wholesalers.”


April 20, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “While crossing the channel Tuesday the steamer Cabrillo killed a sea elephant thought to be one of the specimens that had escaped from captivity at Venice. Captain Smith of the Cabrillo stated that he was unable to avoid the huge monster owing to the rough sea that prevailed at the time. As the stem of the vessel struck the monster, the massive head turned, the huge saucer like eyes blinked and the stunned elephant rolled over and sank. C. H. Davis spent the greater portion of last week cruising in the channel in search of his pets. The total loss to him, six elephants, is estimated at $22,000.”


April 28, 1919 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “San Pedro Navigator to Be Second Officer. Hermosa Smith, who has recently returned from the United States aviation station at Gulf Port, Miss., intends to take up his studies again with Capt. Hugo Prerich’s School of Navigation, 529 Beacon Street, as soon as his health permits. Mr. Smith has not yet fully recovered from a very severe attack of influenza, complicated by pneumonia, during which he suffered several relapses when his life was despaired of. He intends to apply for a second officers’ license. He is the son of Capt. Alex Smith, of the Cabrillo.”


April 28, 1919/1939 [San Pedro News Pilot]: [20 years ago.] “Capt. Alex Smith today declined the position offered him as port pilot and will remain with the Wrigley Company which granted him a salary raise and contract.”


April 16, 1920 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “AVALON GIVES NEW STEAMER GLAD WELCOME Purchase of Catalina by Wrigley Means Birth of New Public Spirit. What a little printer’s ink will do for a town was demonstrated yesterday at Avalon when almost the entire population turned out to meet the new steamer Avalon on its arrival at the port for which it was named. There is a new spirit in Avalon that was manifest when singing school children greeted the passengers on the steamer as they marched through a beautiful floral arch and most everybody on the wharf wore a badge inscribed “I work for Wrigley.” Avalon is no longer divided by factions quarreling over questions of policy since Win. Wrigley Jr. started making investments there and applying the same methods that have made his chewing gum famous. The island residents have no time now to get into political rows. Even the editors agree now and one of them quit the newspaper game to run the biggest department store in town and is advertising in the paper he used to fight. And it is all because Wrigley, who spends three million dollars a year advertising chewing gum, is making an investment of five millions in Catalina Island. He has increased the arrivals to the island during the winter months to 500 daily and hotels which closed during the winter months, are now crowded and everybody is busy. Wrigley spends 10 per cent of gross receipts from chewing gum for advertising his product but he can’t apply this rule to Catalina for lack of accommodations. “What is worrying us now is how we are going to take care of the summer business,” said J. N. Stewart, advertising manager on the steamer yesterday. “Mr. Wrigley insists that the new Atwater Hotel, with the largest cafeteria in the world, be completed before June 1 in order to accommodate the crowds. This new cafeteria is to be a popular priced place that is expected to regulate prices on the island. Even with the increased accommodations we are afraid to do much island advertising in the interior yet." Mr. Stewart and his brother conduct the Stewart Advertising Agency at Chicago. They have handled the Wrigley account for several years and have played an important part in bringing up Mr. Wrigley’s chewing gum sales to $30,000,000 a year. They place his advertising in newspapers in every town in America with over 2000 population, and in all street cars in the United States and Canada. When Mr. Wrigley bought Catalina he asked Mr. Stewart to come out, from Chicago and take personal charge of the advertising and publicity. The initial trip of the new steamer Avalon yesterday was a great success from the time that Capt. Alex Smith, the veteran skipper who has been given command of the big ship, warped the vessel away from the wharf and skillfully avoided a collision with the Cabrillo, now taking freight to Avalon. On the way out the passengers were treated to an exhibition by a Chaplin hydroplane, Joe Fellows’ speedboat and a submarine all under way at the same time. The 30-minute ride down the channel gave passengers a splendid view of the harbor and San Pedro. The new steamer cost Wrigley $1,500,000, and will carry during the summer months 2,500 passengers. Her winter license is about half this number. While capable of greater speed, the ship run economically at 12 to 14 knots and probably will not be required to run faster for the present. While a much larger crew is required, many of those on the ship are old familiar faces in the Catalina service.

Fred Hildebrand is chief engineer and had charge of the work of reconstruction at the Morse drydock at Brooklyn. There are 22 men in the engine and boiler rooms, compared with nine on the Cabrillo. The new boat takes about 60 barrels of oil per day, or three times as much as the Cabrillo. Capt. Henry Lass is first officer. Earl Hocker purser, Eddie Wicks steward, Mrs. Murray stewardess, and Harry Allen excursion conductor. None were prouder of the big boat yesterday than Mrs. Murray, but she admitted that it did not seem as much like home as the Cabrillo, which will soon be put on the run between San Diego and Avalon, making three round trips a week. After lunch at the beautiful Hotel St. Catherine most of the party yesterday visited the marine gardens on the glass bottom boats of the Meteor Boat Company. The attendance on the trip was somewhat limited by the threatening weather. Just as the steamer docked the sun made several attempts to shine through the mist and cast its rays over the beautiful green hills. There was more moisture most of the time but it did not dampen the spirits of the crowd. Wilmington business houses closed all day in honor of the new service and about 100 residents of the town bought tickets for the trip through the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.


June 1, 1920 [LAH]: “Saw no boat in distress says Smith, skipper of Avalon. Says report he refuses to stop "Bosh". Capt. Alex Smith, skipper on the steamer Avalon, today branded as "newspaper bosh" the story that he refused to stop and pick up the victims of an explosion on board the launch Barbara bound for Catalina last Saturday. "I saw no launch in distress," said he. "I did see one launch steaming around me under power and somebody fired a gun and hollered. If the boat had not been under power I would have paid some attention to it. We would be stopping all the time if we took notice of everybody who hollers as us from small boats." The charge that the Ava;on failed to stop was made by Richard L. [---] in a Los Angeles hospital with a broken leg. Ralph C. Weiss, the skipper, had both legs broken. Ralph Weiss was taken to a Los Angeles hospital yesterday. He was suffering with a broken leg caused by the accident in the launch Santa Barbara Saturday afternoon and new of which did not become known here until Sunday afternoon when the injured persons were brought to San Pedro in the steamer Cabrillo. Weiss formerly was a police officer stationed here, but resigned from the force several years ago to follow the building of small boats and launches and engage in their trade. Richard Lucas, the policeman who was injured at the same time as Weiss, recently was suspended by Police Chief Home for his alleged connection with the case of Hubert Kittle under charges in connection with the disposition of some intoxicating liquors. Lucas formerly was a member of the United States navy and served in the naval intelligence service during the war. He served under the direct orders of Capt. H. C. Poundstone, then commanding officer of the United States Submarine Base. ACcording to Lucas, the explosion knocked Weiss, who was at the wheel, the full length of the boat. Russell Wright, the engineer, was also knocked down and a big hole knocked in the hull. The boat leaked and a small launch from Long Beach came along and took Weiss and Lucas aboard. This was the launch that signaled. Meanwhile the other with Joe Ford, another member of the crew, remained aboard and were picked up later by the Cabrillo.


January 17, 1921 [LAH]: “Weddings on High Seas are becoming popular in So. Cal. Marriage on the high seas is becoming a fad with matrimonially inclined young Angelenos, according to Capt. Alex. Smith of the Steamer Avalon, plying between Los Angeles harbor and Catalina Island. Ship weddings are possibly more popular in Southern California than any place in the world, according to Capt. Smith, who is said to have sailed on Several seas before coming here. The most recent wedding was that of Otto Kein and Miss Grace Campbell of Huntington Beach, but in this case the captain resigned in favor of Rev. Price of Avalon who was on board, and the ceremony performed. Guests of the Hotel St. Catherine held a chivaree on the arrival of the couple at the island hostelry.”


November 12, 1921 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Cora Ann Smith, age , beloved wife of Capt. Alex Smith of the Catalina Island Co. Avalon, and for many years the captain of the Cabrillo, died last evening. The cause of death was diabetes mellitns. The U.S. Loodrich Undertaking Co. was called to care for the remains. Funeral services will be held at the residence, 3117 West Sixteenth Street, Rev. R. S. Owen, the old family minister from Loma Linda, will officiate. Internment will take place in the family plot in Wilmington Cemetery. Decedent leaves to mourn her loss besides her husband, Alex Smith, two sons and one daughter, Dr. Sidney A. Smith, of San Diego, Mrs. Violet Sillman of Bakersfield, a trained nurse who took care of her mother at the last, and Hermosa Smith, of San Pedro. The decedent was a pioneer crossing the plains with an emigrant train.”


February 28, 1923 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Capt. Alex Smith, skipper of the passenger steamer Avalon, in the Wilmington-Catalina run, has been on a vacation. Capt. Lee Musse[?]er , who has commanded the Hermosa and other craft for the Wilmington Transportation Company, took the Avalon to the island port in the absence of Capt. Smith.”


March 28, 1924 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “ Services for Capt. Alex Smith held tomorrow. Funeral services for Capt. Alex Smith, who died as a result of an automobile accident Tuesday night, will be held tomorrow from the former home at 337 Sixteenth Street at 2 p.m. A coroner's jury yesterday exonerated W. J. Davis, driver of the car which struck Capt. Smith, from all blame for his death. It was established that the accident was unavoidable. Pallberers at Capt. Smith's funeral will be six staunch friends of the veteran shipmaster: Capt. Louis Black, Hancock Banning, Capt. James McVickers, Andrew Yount, John Jackson and Jack Harris.”


April 2, 1924 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain Alex R. Smith steers new course. Many friends attend funeral of the beloved mariner. Captain Alex R. Smith, aged 70, passed away last Tuesday as a result of injuries received when he was run down by an automobile at 32nd Street and Pacific Avenue, San Pedro, a few hours previous. Captain Smith was crossing the street when he was struck. Despite his remarkable vitality the physicians at the Hillside Hospital were unable to prolong his life. The funeral was held from the home, and many beautiful floral tributes accompanied the remains to its final resting place. Five city blocks in length the funeral procession slowly journeyed to the cemetery. Many eyes were wet with tears that for years had known no other moisture than that from the sea. Men, hardened by the constant battles in wind and tide, followed with sorrowful hearts. Captain Alex Smith was "a man among men." With the sorrowful family who had lost such a loved one there journeyed to the grave many seafaring men who desired to pay their last tribute of respect to their kindly friend, whose life had been so suddenly ended. Master mariners came from San Francisco and San Diego, and a number of retired seafaring companions from Los Angeles were also present at the funeral. Silent figures, standing with bowed heads at the grave side; beautiful flowers, wreaths, crosses and anchors. In half a century Captain Smith had carried more passengers than any other master mariner on the Pacific coast. Throughout the entire period of his service his record had not been marred by the loss of a single life or an accident among passengers or the members of his crew. Captain Smith was one of the best known figures in marine circles on the Pacific Coast, and one of the most beloved. He arrived in San Pedro in the early 80's, and operated a small boat named Leone. Then for a time, he piloted a number of tugs owned by the Wilmington Transportation Company. He became master of the vessel Santa Rosa Island, operating to Santa Cruz [Rosa] Island, then owned by Vail & Vickers. In the early 90's he entered the employ of the Southern Pacific at Port Los Angeles, and was master of the tug Collis. After his return to the employ of the Wilmington Transportation Company he commanded, at different times, each of the vessels owned and operated by that company. When the palatial steamship Avalon was placed on the cross-channel run, Captain Smith was in command when the vessel entered Avalon harbor. Amidst the great celebration of the occasion, the genial commander said: "Well, you folks wanted a new boat. Now you've got it. It's up to you to fill it with people if you want me to bring it over here every day." That was his way. He was a fearless man, loved and respected by all. For the child he had a small piece of candy or some gum somewhere in the inside pockets of his blue uniform. For the person who was seasick, he would smile and say: If you were crossing the Atlantic, or going 'round Cape Horn, you would get tossed about a lot more than you are now." Captain Smith was a native of Scotland, and before taking command of ships plying out of San Pedro harbor he had sailed the seven seas under the British flag. "I am an American citizen by choice," he used to say. "That shows I love your people—and California." He has two living sons, Sydney Smith of San Diego, who is a physician, and Hermosa Smith, captain of a Red Stack tug at San Pedro harbor. Another son, Royal, was drowned at sea while on a trip from San Francisco to China in the early '90s.”


January 1, 1956 [LAT]: “Capt. Smith's funeral services set. Funeral services for one of the Pacific Coast's most colorful seagoing men, Capt. hermosa Smith, 59, of 337 W. 16th St., San Pedro, will be conducted Tuesday at 10. a.m. at the McNerney Mortuary, 570 W. 5th St., San Pedro. He died Friday. Capt. Smith who was born on the Santa Catalina Island steamer Hermosa, for which he was named, began his seagoing career when 14 years of age. He served in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. His father, Capt. Alexander Smith, was master of the steamer Hermosa and later of the steamer Avalon for 25 years. In addition to a career which took him to practically every port in the world, Capt. Smith was a member of San Pedro Lodge 138, IOOF, Rebekah Lodge 38, and a life member of the Thirty Year Club of the port city. He leaves his widow, Mrs. Louise Smith, of the family home; a daughter, Mrs. Helen Barron of Oakland; a sister, Mrs. Violet Timman, and a brother, Dr. Sidney Smith of San Diego. Odd Fellows service will be conducted, the Rev. Charles Peterson, chaplain of the lodge, officiating. Burial will be at Green Hills Memorial Park in San Pedro.”