Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2012

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Lighthouse Tender Manzanita

By Jim Claflin


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We recently acquired a wonderful lot of period cabinet photos dating from the 1890s, from the estate of Capt. William Gregory. Captain Gregory was in charge of the U.S. Lighthouse Tender Manzanita c.1889–1897 while in Alaska and Oregon. The photos provide a wonderful glimpse into the men and equipment in use at the time and the work that they performed. Included in the lot are images of the vessel, working buoys, the officers and crew, the Lighthouse Service District Inspector, and more. It is so rare to obtain a grouping of such photos, and to have them identified and dated makes them a treasure of information.

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The Manzanita was a wooden-hulled steam-powered tender built by the H. A. Ramsey Shipbuilding company in Brooklyn, New York, in 1880, as a replacement for the West Coast tender Shubrick. The Manzanita was 152 feet in length and cost $53,000.

The Manzanita was only the second lighthouse tender to serve on the Pacific coast. She was first assigned to the 12th Lighthouse District and then transferred to the 13th in 1886. She was rebuilt in 1887 and received a new boiler in 1902.

One incident early in the career of the Manzanita would cast a shadow over the vessel for some time. The first lighthouse to mark the entrance to Carquinez Strait and the Napa River was built at the southern end of Mare Island in 1873. For most of its years of operation, the Mare Island Lighthouse was kept by Kate McDougal. Kate’s husband, Charles McDougal, was the son of the Mare Island Naval Base’s third commandant and served as an inspector for the Lighthouse Service. In 1881, Charles made an inspection trip up the California coast aboard the lighthouse tender Manzanita. As he approached the Cape Mendocino station, Charles strapped on the money belt containing the keepers pay in gold coins and boarded a launch for his trip to shore. Just as the small boat was passing through the breakers, it capsized and Charles drowned in the surf along with two other crewmembers. Charles’ body was recovered and returned to his wife, who was living on Mare Island with their four children.

On October 6, 1905, the Manzanita was run into by the dredge Columbia, in tow by a tug operated by the Port of Portland. She would founder and sink near Warrior Rock on the Willamette River in Oregon. She was raised later that month and towed to the Lighthouse Depot at Tongue Point, where she was decommissioned by the Lighthouse Service and sold to a local tug company. She was replaced in 1908 with a new tender of the same name.

Seven years later the vessel was rebuilt for commercial service. By the 1940s she had become unserviceable and would be burned for scrap metal in 1944.

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Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. In business since 1956, he has specialized in antiques of this type since the early 1990s. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling 508-792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@LighthouseAntiques.net or visit his web site at: www.LighthouseAntiques.net

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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