"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

About Us

My photo
San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

23 August 2014

❖ S. G. SIMPSON ❖ Sternwheeler to Tug

Vintage postcard detail
Olympic Peninsula

postcard pub. by C. P. Johnston Co., Seattle, WA.
From the archives of S. P. H. S.©
"An array of the time-worn craft plying the Shelton run in the '80s and '90s would be an interesting sight today. The tri-weekly boats from Tacoma making all the way-stops included the ancient JOSEPHINE, MESSENGER, OTTER, and NELLIE. Later the more up-to-date CLARA BROWN, and for a brief period the smart MONTE CRISTO handled this trade. None of these packets were averse, when en route, to dropping a log tow out of the numerous shallow inlets to deep water tugs. This was accepted by the  occasional passenger, as a matter of course.
      All these steamers were stern wheelers, as was the pioneer on the direct Olympia-Shelton route, the WILLIE, operated by the Wiley Navigation Co. The similarity of names between owner and boat is but a coincidence. She was built for Capt. W. H. Ellis, intended for the Nooksack River and named for his son William. For the record, the WILLIE was 65-ft x 15-ft. On this meager hull was piled two full houses, topped by a pilot house on the boat deck.
      Her most noted characteristic was the constant list to port, unless one considers her lack of speed paramount. "Port list, long passage," is a sailor's maxim. The WILLIE surely lived up to this saying were the tides adverse. The whistle was enormous. In fact, the descriptive term "wheel and whistle" was coined for her long before the GREYHOUND made that appellation famous. That whistle by the way, is still in use [1948] on one of the few surviving steam tugs.
      In 1986, the WILLIE was succeeded by the larger and speedier (still with reservations) CITY OF SHELTON. Built for and operated by the Simpson Logging Co. interests, the SHELTON gave good service for ten years. 
Photo pre 1910.
Vintage postcard from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Then came the S. G. SIMPSON, without doubt the finest small stern wheeler ever on the Sound. She was built by Crawford & Reid of Tacoma from designs by Capt. Ed Gustafson, longtime master of the SHELTON.
      The new boat went into service in 1907. Her engines gave her a 15-mile speed, well above the average for her class. 
      Hammersly Inlet, better known as The Big Skookum, is an attractive waterway so the designer provided the SIMPSON with a neat observation cabin forward on the passenger deck. At that period the camps had three crews. One working, one coming and one going. You guessed it, the observation cabin became the "Bull Pen" for the loggers, with their caulk shoes and like gear. Her service was light, two round trips daily and except for the tricky shoal navigation between Arcadia and Shelton, the run was a sinecure.
      In 1922 land transportation had ruined the once prosperous trade, relegating the SIMPSON to service as a freighter with Tacoma as the northern terminal.
      Puget Sound Freight Lines took over the boat and route in 1926. Her excess power and fine lines made her unsuitable for freighting so the Freight Lines sold the SIMPSON two years later to Martin Tjerne and associates of Stanwood. 
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
She was rebuilt by Harold Durham at Everett as the tugboat E. G. ENGLISH, again bearing the name of a well known pioneer logging operator. Her new service was even more limited, towing log rafts from the mouth of the Skagit River to Camano Island. 
Her length of 115-ft was a detriment in the narrow confines of Tom Moore Slough, where the logging company had their rafting grounds. Mr. Tjerne pioneered by having a dredger type spud fitted forward of the house. This innovation was a success and was later adopted by other streamers using the same waters. Progress, so called, again caught up with the ENGLISH (ex-SIMPSON.)
      In the early 1940s the business intermittent at best, could be better handled by smaller Diesel powered tugs. Ol' Scutt saw the pathetic E. G. ENGLISH recently abandoned and weatherworn on a lonely strip of beach, but still showing traces of the thoroughbred that she had been in her better days.
      Nearby were the bones of her predecessor, the even more historic LILY. Two fine old craft mouldering on to oblivion."
Pacific Motor Boat, August 1948.
For J.R.


1 comment:

  1. Wow! Interesting history and great old photos. You are doing an excellent and important job of preserving these photos and this history.


Archived Log Entries