SS Northerner

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SS Northerner
NorthernerWreck 1860.jpg
Northerner Wrecked on Centerville Beach
Owner: Pacific Mail Steamship Company
Builder: William H. Brown, New York City[1]
In service: 1847[2]
Out of service: 6 January 1860[1]
Fate: wrecked
General characteristics
Type: Mail Steamer
Tonnage: 1,000[1]
Length: 203.6 ft (62.1 m)[2]
Decks: 2[2]
Propulsion: Side-lever by Novelty Iron Works
Masts: 3[2]

SS Northerner was the first paddle steamer lost in operations by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.


Northerner was built in 1847 by William H. Brown, of New York City, as a companion to the SS Southerner for the Spofford & Tileston Company's line of steamers serving Charleston, South Carolina and the East Coast of the United States.[1] In 1850, Northerner was sold to a Mr. Howard and sent to the Pacific under Captain Waterman. Subsequently purchased by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company she was initially placed in service between San Francisco and Panama.[3]

The last sailing notice for Northerner, January 3, 1860 [4]

In January, 1851, Northerner arrived from San Francisco with $2,600,000 in gold dust and treasure on board, and carrying 500 passengers.[5] In August, 1851 Northerner broke the shaft of her starboard wheel soon after leaving Panama. She completed the voyage to San Francisco using only one paddle wheel, in 22 days, arriving September 8, 1851, with 20 tons of freight and 350 passengers, including mutineers from the Commodore Stockton [6] who had to be clapped in irons for disorderly conduct by the captain.[7]

After 1853, the Northerner was placed on a more northerly route, carrying mails and passengers between San Francisco and Oregon as far as the Columbia River and the gold fields at Fraser River,[8] arriving for the first time on September 3, 1858.[9]

On October 10, 1858, southbound from Olympia to San Francisco, Northerner was hit broadside by the Steam Tug Resolute in Dana's Straights. Since thousands of dollars of damage was done to both vessels,[10] and it was a clear night in a mile-wide passage, the ship owners filed cross-suits in the Washington Territorial Courts.[11] The owners of the Resolute were unsatisfied with the Washington's court decision, and filed their case in the U.S. Supreme Court.[12]

Northerner sailed for the last time from San Francisco with 108 persons on board at the time of the wreck, 58 passengers and 53 crew.[13] The ship hit a submerged rock and wrecked January 6, 1860 on Centerville Beach, California,[13] a few miles south of the entrance to Humboldt Bay. Thirty-eight people died: 17 were passengers and 21 crew.[13] One of those that died was Francis Blomfield son of the late Bishop of London, Charles Blomfield. Seventy others made their way through crashing surf to shore[13] and were aided by local people including Seth Kinman and Augustus Berding.[14]

The Centerville Beach Cross marks the resting place of some of the victims whose bodies were recovered.[15]

In December 1863, the U.S. Supreme Court (68 U.S. 682), ruled Northerner was at fault for steering across the path of the Resolute.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d "Loss of the Northerner.; History of the Vessel--Her Value and the Insurance". New York Times. February 7, 1860. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Maritime Heritage Project, S.S. Northerner". Maritime Heritage Organization. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Vincent, Francis (1860). Semi-Annual United States Register. Philadelphia: Francis Vincent. pp. 14–18. 
  4. ^ "Advertisement for Northerner Sailing, January 3, 1860". Daily Alta California. 3 January 1860. p. 4. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Haskins, William C. (1908). Canal Zone pilot, guide to the Republic of Panama: and classified business directory. Panama: Star & Herald Co. pp. 522 pages. 
  6. ^ "Mutiny on Board the Com. Stockton". Daily Alta California. 31 August 1851a. p. 2. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Untitled". Daily Alta California. September 8, 1851b. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Wright, E.W., ed. (1895). Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Oregon: The Lewis & Dryden Printing Company. pp. 95–96. 
  9. ^ "Arrival of the Northerner! The Frazer River Fever". Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington State: 3, col. 1. September 3, 1858. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  10. ^ *"The Collision Between the Steamer Resolute and the P.M.S.S. Co.'s Steamship Northerner". Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington State: 3, col. 1. January 14, 1859. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Allen, John B. (1879). Reports of cases determined in the Supreme Court of the Territory of Washington: from 1854 to 1888, Volume 1. C.B. Bagley. pp. 78–88. 
  12. ^ a b "United States Supreme Court". Lawyers Co-operative Pub. Co. 17: 496–499. 1912. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d Dall, Captain (January 20, 1860). "The Loss of the Steamship Northerner.; Statement of Capt. Dall-Names of the Lost and Saved". New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  14. ^ *Seacrest, William B. Sr; William B. Secrest Jr (2005). California Disasters, 1812-1899: Firsthand Accounts of Fires, Shipwrecks, Floods, Epidemics, Earthquakes and Other California Tragedies. Quill Driver Books. pp. 85–88. ISBN 1-884995-49-7. 
  15. ^ CERES State Historical Landmarks. "CERES State Historical Landmarks". CERES. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Wiltsee, Ernest A. (1938). Gold Rush Steamers of the Pacific. San Francisco, California: Grayborn Press. p. 275. 

Coordinates: 40°34′21.94″N 124°21′22.71″W / 40.5727611°N 124.3563083°W / 40.5727611; -124.3563083