SMITH, Henry (c. 1887-1927), a,k,a Hugh Keifer, fisherman lost from his vessel Catherine of San Clemente Island on February 1 or 2, 1927.
In the News~
February 5, 1927 [San Pedro Daily News]: “Abandoned Jig Found at Sea Hints Tragedy. Ship belonging to S. P. Man is Recovered off Clemente. Would a veteran fisherman leave his boat unanchored and unmoored so she could drift out to sea? That is the question that causes the harbor police to see a tragedy in the finding adrift at sea near San Clemente Island of the fishing boat Henry Smith, February 2. J. E. Swanson, 211 South Mesa Street, San Pedro fisherman, towed the boat into port yesterday and turned it over to the police. There was not a soul aboard when he found her, Swanson said, and there was no evidence that the boat had broken anchor or mooring line. The craft, of the one-man jig type, had very appearance of having been unexpectedly abandoned by its owner, captain, and crew, Henry Smith. Did Henry Smith go in for a swim and go down with a cramp? Fishermen are not in the habit of doing that in the winter time. Often fishermen cannot swim. This may have been Smith's case and, falling overboard in some inadvertent manner, perished alone. Smith has no shore address and is believed to have lived aboard his little boat. If Smith is alive, he is expected to come after his boat. If he doesn't, the mystery of what happened aboard the jig may never be explained.”
February 7, 1927 [San Pedro Daily News]: “Possibility that the sheriff's office would employ an airplane to search for the body of Henry Smith, San Pedro fisherman and owner of the boat Catherine, found empty nearly a week ago adrift and empty off San Clemente Island Island, was announced by J.J. Simons, stepfather of the man believed drowned. Simons, former assessor here and living at Wilmington, now lives in Los Angeles and visited San Pedro in search of information on the supposed tragedy.”
February 12, 1927 [San Pedro Daily News]: “Officers try to clear up disappearance of Henry Smith. Further light may be shed on the disappearance of Henry Smith, also known as Hugh Kiefer, missing since his fishing boat Catherine was found on February 2, according to police and sheriffs' reports today. Adolphus Laramey, 426 Ancon Street, San Pedro, a member of the crew of the fishing boat San Soscotodio, made a report to Officer George Winger here. Laramey said that while fishing off Castle Rock he and Capt. Joje Gomez, owner of the boat, and another man known only as Vincente, a member of the crew, saw J. E. Swanson's boat approach the Catherine about 2:30 p.m. on February 2. Later Laramey talked to "Clubfoot John," Swanson's partner, and learned that Smith's boat had been towed to the San Clemente moorings, where she lay alongside Swanson's boat. Charles Sternberg and another man since the Catherine was towed into San Pedro have taken her to Long Beach, where she is now. Smith's boat was hailed again on the evening of February 2 adrift, her engines running and her lights burning, and no trace of Smith has been found since. He is believed to have fallen overboard and drowned.”
February 19, 1927 [San Pedro Daily News]: “Give up hope for local fisherman. Henry Smith, fisherman living here for several years at the San Pedro hotel, today was virtually given up as lost from his fishing boat Catherine and drowned near San Clemente Island February 1 or 2, according to a report by Detective Lieutenants E. J. Henry and Tack Fickes. Deputy Sheriff Blaisdell also has been assigned to continue investigation, but Smith has not returned home since the Catherine was picked up empty and towed by J. E. Swanson to San Pedro, and since to Long Beach.”
February 21, 1927 [San Pedro Daily News]: “Detectives to grill Swanson on his return. Disappearance of man at sea to be fully investigated. Sheriff's deputies and harbor police today were awaiting the return of J. E. Swanson, San Pedro fisherman, from the fishing banks, to furnish material for the investigation of the disappearance of Hugh Keifer, sometimes known as Henry Smith, local jig-boat fisherman, whose boat was found empty and adrift off San Clemente Island by Swanson, February 4, according to Swanson's story. In the meantime, some phases of the case were partially cleared up by the San Pedro police. One of the features of the case, which added to the suspicion of foul play held by the sheriff's attaches was the discovery over the weekend that Keifer's watch had been returned to his mother, Mrs. M. L. Simpson, 2856 Fifth Street, in San Diego, from an undetermined source. Andrew Farrell, captain of detectives at San Pedro, explained this feature today on a statement of Elizabeth Jerue, proprietor of the Hotel San Pedro, where Kiefer lived, and who was part owner of the Kiefer jigboat Catherine. Mrs. Jerue told Captain Farrell, he said, that she had sent the watch to Kiefer's mother, having obtained it from Swanson. Swanson told her he found it in Kiefer's clothes, found hanging in the Catherine when he towed it to port. Another mystery of the case, the alleged procurement by Swanson of nearly $300 in salvage money from a mysterious source, will be cleared up upon Swanson's return to port, Captain Farrell believes. He may have obtained the money from Mrs. Jerue or from Kiefer's heirs. Although Mrs. Jerue could not be reached today to make a statement, it is understood that she intends to operate the Catherine in the future and has sought the advice of customs officials on the proper procedure. She may have advanced Swanson salvage money to procure possession of the boat to carry out her plans. The sheriff's men who are working on the case recalled over the weekend that Swanson was a friend of Capt. William Martinsen, of whose killing Kiefer was acquitted in 1922. According to the testimony at the trial, it was shown that Swanson, sick in bed, was attacked by Martinsen and Smith had fired the fatal shot in Swanson's defense.”
August 24, 1927 [San Pedro Daily News]: “Fisherman suffers for four hours without medical aid. Badly burned about the back and legs in a fire aboard the fishing craft Katherine, owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Jerue, of 119 Front Street, Albert Anderson, fisherman, age 37, of the same address, was rushed from the sea by other fishermen, age 37, of the same address, was rushed from sea by other fishermen to the harbor and thence to Seaside hospital, where he is not expected to survive his injuries. The accident happened a short distance from Catalina Island early this morning. Anderson had gone out fishing in the craft, which is 38 feet long. Due to the warm weather he was very lightly garbed. He lit a cigarette, according to the report received by Wilmington police,and fumes of gasoline in the craft ignited, setting the boat ablaze in the engine room. The fire commuted itself to the gasoline tank while Anderson used every means at his command to stay the blaze. He managed, finally, to put out the blaze but in doing so sustained second and third degree burns about his back and his legs, which were bare, were cooked so badly that he lost the use of them and sank to the deck of the boat. Several hours later his plight was discovered by other fishermen who rushed him to Fish Harbor and sent in a call to the Wilmington police station for the ambulance. Sergeant Simpson and Officer Baraker hurried him to Police Surgeon Guy Shirey's office for first aid, and later he was taken to Seaside hospital in Long Beach in a critical condition. The Katherine is the fishing launch which figured in a death mystery at sea on February 2 last, when the craft was found adrift off San Clemente Island by J. E. Swanson, San Pedro fisherman and his father, who towed the boat to port. Henry Smith, age 40, somethings known as Hugh Keifer, who took the boat out fishing, had vanished and was never found. Police investigated the case for several days on the theory that Smith might have been a victim of foul play, but finally the report given to the authorities on the circumstances was accepted and the matter dropped.”