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April 15, 2014 > History Column: Sail Away

History Column: Sail Away

By Philip Holmes

Padre Narciso Duran of Mission San Jose launched a cargo vessel on the waters of a nearby slough in 1816 that made it easier to trade with foreign vessels. This made it easier for the Mission to trade their products with visiting ships anchored in the Bay.

Bruce MacGregor, in his book The Centennial History of Newark notes that Isaac Lung started hauling crude rock salt in scows in 1852. In this case, ÒscowÓ is defined as a large, flat-bottomed boat with broad, square ends. Hay scows first appeared at the old Mission Landing in the 1840Õs. Although they had to navigate around a difficult sand bar, beyond it was clear sailing to the market at San Francisco. This saved a lot of time; the alternative was to travel south by way of Mission Santa Clara to the town of Alviso for water transport. The privately owned fleet of scows soon became a vital link to the San Francisco markets and were profitable for their owners.

The arrival of Jonathan Mayhew contributed to a family dynasty. He took over the deeds to Mayhew landing and registered the family sloop, ÒThe Phoebe MayhewÓ with the San Francisco Customs House. Jonathan added to the Mayhew fleet until it included the ÒHector,Ó ÒJack Hayes and ÒAmelia,Ó that averaged about 20 tons each. The sloop Franklin came around Cape Horn in 1894 and Jonathan added it to the fleet. Sometimes, in the busy harvest season, he rented other boats.

Francis C. Jarvis bought Mayhews Landing and began building ships. He constructed the sloop ÒValentineÓ Alviso in 1865 and the Ò76Ó in 1876. He then built a steamer named the ÒLady AnneÓ in 1882. Apparently the ÒWaveletÓ and the ÒLizzie AdamsÓ were not built by Jarvis, but both were designed for and saw service at Jarvis Landing. The ÒGeorge WashingtonÓ was one of the scows also rented for service there.

Centerville is not near the Bay; we do not usually think of it in relation to the salt water. However, there is at least one connection. John Lowrie and Samuel Marston organized an expedition to Alaska searching for gold. They left Centerville in June 1882, reached their destination and located their mine which proved to be rich. Lowrie and Marston left part of the company at the mine and started home with a shipload of ore. A bad storm sank their ship and no more was ever heard of it. Those men who had wintered at the mine returned to Centerville, but the company was never reorganized.

ÒThe UnionÓ probably had a most novel history. It was built in the East and brought to San Francisco in sections by Charles Minturn. John Horner bought The Union and put it on the produce route from San Francisco to Union City. It had limited accommodations for passengers, but Captain Trefry recalled that when he was in charge, it carried up to 150 passengers at $5 apiece. Dr. Benjamin Bucknell was agent of the steamboat and Captain Olney its first captain, followed by Captain Marston, then Trefry. Other boats reported at Union City included the Pilot, the C.E. Long, the John Horner, the Sea Horse and the Ialla Rookh, Jack Hayes, and the Christians.

The most famous and largest ship connected with Newark was the paddle wheel steamer, ÒNewark.Ó She was brought in to ferry tourists to Newark as part of a railroad promotion.

All of the landings were visited by boats loaded with grain, hay and produce for the San Francisco markets. Accounts of shipping activities at some of the landings often give the captainÕs name but not the name of his ship. Vessels working at the Warm Springs Landing included the Bona Dea Taffie.

Long boats came from San Francisco loaded with finery and supplies for the few Spanish people that lived in the area. These fine goods were traded for hides and tallow from beef cows raised on the ranches.

Sailing came back to Fremont in a big way when the Fremont Sailing Club was organized. Local sailors no longer had to join the San Jose Sailing Club or some other district club. There were no good sailing lakes in the area until the City of Fremont established Lake Elizabeth. The Fremont Sailing Club partnered with the City to build the lake and boat docks and was invited to take part in Civic Center dedication activities by holding their first race at Lake Elizabeth March 2, 1969.

Boats were an important part of the daily life of some people. Those who lived at Drawbridge had to adapt their activities to life on an island. They used the railroad track to move around town, but needed a boat to travel from the island.

Some people used boats to find good fishing spots or as diving platforms when swimming. Small boats were always handy around landings. The people who operated commercial activities at landings needed a small rowboat to move about easily.

People who lived in Alvarado had a different reason to use small boats. Some of their houses were erected on tall foundations to escape the most threatening high-water floods of Alameda Creek; if they wanted to leave their house, they needed a small boat. Long-time residents kept a rowboat handy for use during the worst floods.

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