Crusty old Joe's

Kodiak Alaska Military History

The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum


This wreck is located on the beach near the Kodiak VFW on Monashka Bay. During WWII she was used by the navy at Kodiak.


Once Queen of Ocean -- Now Only Oil Barge


The Tacoma Sunday Ledger, September 4, 1927

Iron Sailing Ship Once Broke Many Records for Speed in South American Service; Shorn of Power

Forty-two years ago the Santiago, one of the speediest schooners that ever sailed the high seas, was launched at Belfast, Scotland. For years after the launching, it is said, the trim schooner broke record after record in the South American trade from England. Tropical storms and all their fury held no fear for this master of the high seas.

But as the years passed speedier steamers replaced the sailing ship which so long was a dominating factor in the shipping world. It was then that the Santiago met her fate. No longer could she compete with her speedier adversaries, so her owners thought it advisable to either sell or scrap her. However it was seen that the vessel was still useful and she was purchased by the Associated Oil Company in 1905.

Now the Santiago is a frequent Tacoma caller. She brings fuel oil, 10,000 barrels at a time. But she does not come into Tacoma under her own power, the three masts have been cut down. She is only an oil barge and has to be towed.

The vessel is 207 feet long and has a 33-foot and one-inch beam and is commanded at the present time by George Ives of Seattle. She was constructed in 1885 by Harland & Wolf, veteran shipbuilders of Belfast. The Santiago is unique in this respect, she is an iron ship, and that type of vessel was not common in 1885.

Her oak decks have been patched with cement, and everything that is metal about her is corroded with rust. The old binnacle stand which was installed when she was built is beginning to show the wear of years.

That she was once an aristocratic ship is evident for her cabins are finished in precious hardwoods, but now they are stained by oily hands and wear. The captain's quarters were spacious and richly finished. Now the quarters are used as locker and paint rooms. even the chairs were of hardwood and a few of the original still remain, although souvenier [sic] hunters are rapidly making away with them.

In the main cabin the ship's huge brass lamp still swings, but it is not used.

The Santiago makes her headquarters in Seattle where she is frequently used to load ocean-going steamers. There are many dents is her iron sides and in some places small holes where she has been roughly bumped when going alongside a steamer, the same type of a vessel the took the supremacy of the seas away from her.

Once a master of the high seas, now an oil barge. That is the fate of the Santiago, an Associated Oil Compay barge which is a frequent Tacoma caller with fuel oil. She is a venerable ship built at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1885, and was one of the fastest sailing ships afloat in her heyday. The top photo shows her moored at the Associated oil dock with the stubs of two of her former three masts. The lower photo shows Mrs. Rita Beslow at the wheel which once guided this master of the high seas on record-breaking cruises from England to South America.


Michael Burwell research

Lubbock, Basil. 1930. The Down Easters.
pages 212-213: "In 1894 captain [William] Matson went to London and purchased the beautiful little steel barque, Santiago, of 978 tons, which had been built by Harland & Wolff in 1885 for Thomas Ismay of the White Star Line, and which had been employed in the nitrate trade. The Santiago was loaded with cement and sent round the Horn to San Francisco. She could not, of course, gain American registry, and thus for the first year or two under Matson's house-flag she flew the colors of the Hawaiian Islands."

page 270: built 1885, Santiago, tons 979, length 206.6', breadth 33.1', depth 20', builders Harland & Wolff, owners Matson Navigation Co.

Matthews, Frederick C. 1987. American Merchant Ships 1850-1900.
page 218: "Capt. John O. Youngren, who bought Captain Rock's interest in the Burgess, commanded her for twelve years after which he had the bark Santiago in the San Francisco-Honolulu passenger and freight service for a short time."

McCarthur, Walter. 1929. Last Days of Sail on the West Coast.
page 58: "The Santiago (built at Belfast, 1885) until recently operated as an oil barge on San Francisco Bay, is now operated in the same capacity on Puget Sound."

Newell, Gordon. 1966. The H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest.
page 632: "Capt. Ernest G. Heinrici, 82, who first went to sea on sailing vessels including Harland & Wolff's beautiful little steel bark Santiago (later an oil barge on Puget Sound) [died] at Seattle in September [1958]."

page 705: Picture of "Barge Santiago".

Gibbs, Jim. 1987. Pacific Square Riggers.
page 191: "Santiago. Bark (Steel). 979 tons. Built 1885. Belfast, Ireland. Scrapped as oil barge 1940's."

Worden, William L. 1981. Cargoes: Matson's First Century in the Pacific.
Page 9: ...Matson bought the iron bark Annie Johnson and the steel bark Santiago...
Page 10: The Santiago, a nitrate carrier between Chile and England, was bought by Matson during what appears to have been his only return trip to Europe in thirty years. When the ship reached San Francisco, side ports were cut for easier sugar loading; later, some passenger accommodations were added. [Captain Peter] Johnson called her "the trimmest little sailing ship I had ever seen."
Page 11: ...the Santiago usually needed fifteen days [from San Francisco to Hilo].
Page 22-23: Despite plague and other upsets, the Hilo trade was thriving. In the autumn of 1900 the Roderick Dhu delivered twenty vacuum pans, each weighing six and one half tons, for a new sugar mill on the Olaa plantation; and the Annie Johnson, Santiago, and Falls of Clyde were needed to carry the rest of the machinery...

In Santiago, Captain Peter Johnson had cargo of a different sort on one trip. Mrs. Roth, in 1974, remembered: My maternal grandfather, who had been divorced for many years, off and on lived with us. He always went in for fads, which drove my father crazy, just crazy. After a while, Grandfather would be encouraged to find another place to live. Now he had a friend, I think his name was Marchand, who owned a French restaurant in Oakland. They had these regular French frogs. Mr. Marchand gave my grandfather some of them and we put them in a pond at our place across the bay. We had this house near Mills College because my father had bronchitis and the air across the bay was good for him...He couldn't sleep nights because of those frogs...They were wonderful frogs, good to eat, but they made an awful lot of noise. I think Grandfather got orders to get rid of the frogs, so one of the captains took them down to Hilo and put them in the river...That’s where the famous Hilo frogs came from.

In his Memoirs, Johnson remembered details differently. He wrote: Before we left Hilo, the two fish commissioners...called on me and wanted to know if I could bring down some live frogs...and I promised to get them...We arrived in San Francisco on a Sunday and Captain Matson invited my wife and me to lunch...His father-in-law, Mr. Low, was building a frog pond, which reminded me of my promise...Mrs. Matson said she knew a woman who lived near the foothills above Hayward who had some...After I told the woman what I wanted, she asked what I was going to do with them.

I told her I was taking them to Hilo...She then wanted to know where Hilo was...She inquired how to get there. I said, "In a ship," at which she held up her hands in horror, telling me that although she was raising frogs, she would not sell them to go way out in the ocean. She added that it would be a crime to let me take them to those faraway islands, that they would probably die after they got there, and I would not take care of them well enough to get them there alive. I suggested that if she gave me full instructions...I could deliver them safely but I could not vouch for their continued health after their arrival. Finally she decided to risk it, and the next day she sent me two dozen frogs in a large whiskey barrel with a gunny sack covering the top...

We made a fine trip of thirteen days and delivered the frogs but one a sacrifice to a large Newfoundland dog on board. His constant watch on the tempting barrel was rewarded by one frog, who put his nose through the gunny sack one day and promptly got eaten for his curiosity. After landing the remaining twenty-three frogs, they were distributed in stagnant pools around Hilo. [Johnson did not specify the date of the shipment, but he commanded the Santiago only from late 1894 to 1897.]

Their former owner needed to have had no fear, for they did thrive, multiplying very rapidly. There was one place that seemed especially suitable for them, on the Wailoa River. I would give a native boy or girl a gunny sack and a lantern, and for a reward of ten cents he would fill up the bag with frogs...

In 1902, when I arrived in San Francisco on the S.S. Rosencrans, among the various items in the cargo were twenty-four hundred dozen frogs. This was Saturday and on Sunday morning the papers had a front page item on my unusual cargo, with the number of frogs given as twenty-four thousand dozen. Monday morning on my way down to the ship, I stopped to buy some candy at a little store at the foot of Market Street. The young lady in the store seemed quite excited...and she said her aunt had been in that morning looking for me...I found out that it was from this aunt that I had bought my frogs a few years before...

So we continued the shipping of frogs to the different leading restaurants and also to Paladini, the dean of the fish market. But we flooded the market and the price went down until there was no more profit in it for the Hilo shippers from two dollars a dozen to thirty-five cents a dozen.

The frog industry became almost extinct later, for the government filled up all the stagnant pools in the Hilo district. Today they are a luxury in the islands.

Page 24: In six winter months of 1900-1901, Matson sent six ships down to Hilo, including the Santiago with thirty-three Portuguese to work in a sugar mill. The captain ‘fitted up a house on deck for their accommodation.

Page 25: Matson also realized that oil could be a boon to Hawaiian plantations and sugar mills then using imported coal, wood, or locally grown cane fiber as industrial fuel. To this end, he constructed oil storage tanks at Honolulu and began converting his sailing ships from general cargo vessels to tankers the Santiago, Roderick Dhu, Falls of Clyde, Marion Chilcott, and Monterey, now reduced to a barge.

Page 28: For a time, the shipline appeared to be the easiest of the Matson activities: The Falls of Clyde, Roderick Dhu, Santiago, Annie Johnson and Marion Chilcott kept up their steady, almost monotonous service to Hilo...Only occasionally were there signs of strain. Matson’s letter of complaint to Giffard in June 1904 said: ‘regarding the Santiago and other ships of this company: Whenever your people have no more work for them, all we can do is take them off the run but I do think that as long as you have room for the Helene you should have room for the Santiago or Annie Johnson inasmuch as we are entitled to the preference over outside vessels...

Page 29: On June 15, [1905] the new company [Associated Oil Company] bought from Matson and his partners 2,680 shares of stock in the Pacific Oil Transportation Company, 6,280 shares in the Coalinga Company, and 20,000 shares of National Oil stock, along with real property at Alcatraz Landing and certain pipelines. The steamer Rosencrans and the sailing ships Roderick Dhu, Santiago, Falls of Clyde, and Marion Chilcott also were sold to the new company in separate transactions. Actual transfer of the real property or ships was incomplete, however, by April 18, 1906, the date of the San Francisco earthquake.

Page 161: SANTIAGO, 979 t steel bark, blt. Belfast, Ireland, 1885 as nitrate carrier for Chile trade. Matson bought 1894, sold to Associated Oil Co. 1906. Converted to oil barge and used by U.S. Navy in Alaskan waters during World War II.

Other references:

--NARA, Anchorage has the Dead Vessel File for Barge Santiago, Official Number 116973.

--journal Sea Chest has citations in Vol. 10, No. 3, March 1977, pp. 103-105; Vol. 17, No. 3, March 1984, pp. 108-110; and Vol. 26, Sept '92-June '93, pp. 3-7. [Wrong Santiago]

--The Tacoma Daily Ledger. September 4, 1927. "Santiago Made Sea History; Once Queen of the Ocean, Now Only an Oil Barge." p. A-5.

The archives in the Bishop Museum make a reference to a ship named Santiago. It was captained by Peter Johnson in 1937 and appears to have been owned by the Matson Shipping Co. Had steam deck winches, no propulsion except sail. It had teak decks.

Story in ELWANI #9, 1980 (Kodiak High School). By Robert Patrick Langan as told by Laurie Stephens This story called the ship the San Diego.

Santiago shown at cargo dock in Womens Bay circa 1940.

Santiago, 1949 photo by Corky McFarland. Corky said the ship's documents were still in the deck house. They could board her by the rope hanging over the side. *

Joe Stevens photos circa 1985.

March 1957

Elwani, Inside the life and Culture of Kodiak, published by the Kodiak High School contained interviews conducted by students. The cover of the April 1977 issue (Combined 3rd & 4th Issues) was two pictures of the remains of the ship. The inside of the front cover: "The beached hulk of the one-time presidential yacht San Diego. Once President Coolidge's official yacht, later an oil freighter in Kodiak during the war, and eventually at an uneasy grave on the beach in Monashka Bay. Source: Mr. Bob Langdon, from and unpublished article by Laurie Stephens."

A Ship's Lament
Each day fine ships go sailing by
  Few know my days of glory
For once I was a clipper ship
  And could tell a jolly story
I'm anchored at the old oil dock
  The only joy I have
Is when the Dolly C ties on
  And tows me off to sea
'tis only just across the bay
  But that's enough for me.
For I am old and can't take the seas
  That used to batter me.
Page 7, WILLIWAWS January 10, 1942

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