"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.

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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.

30 April 2015

❖ CAPTAIN CHARLES ELLSWORTH MAXWELL ❖ TRANSPORTING THE US MAIL ❖

Because of the recent kindness of the descendants of the Charles E. Maxwell family we have this bounty of early San Juan County transportation records to add to our County maritime archive. 
      "Charles E. Maxwell was born on 5 September 1884, near Caineyville, OK, when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory and a part of the western frontier. His parents moved to Magdalena, NM, where his mother died when he was three years old.
      Charles and his father, Willard Maxwell, then journeyed to Kansas to live with his father's family on the banks of the Missouri River. Here is where the foundation was laid for Charlie's future nautical career. As the family were all boat builders, the lad grew up playing in rowboats and sailboats. He learned his lessons well and like a veteran sea man, kept his boats and gear shipshape and in perfect order at all times. 
      Becoming restless Charles and his father decided to heed the words to "go west." They hove-to at New Whatcom, WA (later to become Bellingham) in April 1901, and afterwards settled at Van Zandt, where they cut shingle bolts for a livelihood.
      Wrestling shingle bolts was wholly lacking in romance, presenting nothing but a back-breaking future, so Charles took up photography and went to California for a while, but the irresistible call of Puget Sound was not to be denied. It was in reality, the call of the sea, a natural culmination of rowboat days; on his return to Bellingham, Charles and his father purchased the FOX, a 37-ft boat and established a freight and passenger run to the San Juan Islands.

Masters License, Willard Maxwell
Courtesy of the Charles Maxwell family©.
to S.P.H.S. April 2015.

Click to enlarge.
FOX
37-ft Maxwell family home, freight & passenger vessel.
Early photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
To S.P.H.S.  April 2015.
       In the summer of 1907 they ran an excursion from Lopez Island to Bellingham. It was on this trip that Charles met his future wife Miss Bessie Larrabee; two years later they swallowed the anchor (as the nautical saying goes) and were married at Friday Harbor. The FOX was their home until 1913 when the SAN JUAN II was built, affording better living facilities. The FOX was disposed of and the SAN JUAN II was operated between Bellingham and Victoria, BC. 
SAN JUAN II
Operated here by San Juan Transportation Co.
Louis Borchers fine photo courtesy of
Charles Maxwell family©
To S.P.H.S. April 2015.
SAN JUAN II
ON 210893
Blt in Bellingham, WA. (1913-1929)
Operated here by San Juan Transportation Co.
Fine photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©

To S.P.H.S. April 2015.
      In the spring of 1914, the stork stopped by and left little Dorothy with the Maxwells. Also, Uncle Sam stopped by with the mail contracts the same year and renewed them every year since, which spoke well for the brand of service which the Maxwells gave.
      April 1919, the stork presented the Maxwells with Florence. Both little girls were raised on the boat, father stating 'they are the best little sailors on Puget Sound'.
ISLANDER
Built in Friday Harbor, SJ Island,
For San Juan Transportation Co.

Photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
to S.P.H.S. April 2015.
1921: San Juan Transportation Co was incorporated and the ISLANDER was built for them at Friday Harbor. She was 88.6' OA, with twin engines, semi-Diesel, for operating between Bellingham and Seattle via the San Juan Islands. Maxwell and his little family lived aboard the ISLANDER for a while, and the story goes the rounds that during October 1922, the stork followed the ISLANDER for two weeks with little Gordon Maxwell before he found out that the family had moved ashore.
      A short-lived addition to their boats was the 127-ft ASTORIAN, purchased and outfitted at Astoria, OR and placed on the Seattle-Bellingham run. She made one trip to Bellingham and upon her return trip was rammed and sunk by an oil barge in a dense fog off Elliott Bay. It was discouraging, but Charles Maxwell had what it took, so nothing daunted, he purchased the CHICKAWANA and kept right on with his contracts.
Courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
 to S.P.H.S. April 2015.

Click to enlarge.
CHICKAWANA
ON 210031

Running the US Mail for San Juan Transportation Co.
Courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
to S.P.H.S. April 2015.
      They lost the SAN JUAN II in 1929 but salvaged the engine and installed it in the OSAGE, built at Decatur soon after. The OSAGE was 59-ft OA with the 150-HP Diesel engine from the SAN JUAN II to push the tide out from under her.
OSAGE
ON 230256
Built at Reed's on Decatur Island, 1930.
San Juan Transportation Co sold her in Dec. 1944 
to Thor B. Hofstad and C. M. Countryman,
both of Bellingham.
Operated here by S. J. T. Co.
Photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
to S.P.H.S. April 2015. Click to enlarge.
      "When I raised chickens on Shaw Island, I shipped out 14 cases of eggs per week. That's 14 cases of eggs per week. That's 360 eggs per case. They went out on the OSAGE. I had the third largest poultry farm on the island." 
J. "Lee" Bruns to web admin March 1999.
      Captain Charles Maxwell had acquired a host of friends in his 36 years of carrying mail, freight and passengers, and held an enviable position in the hearts of the San Juan County folks. 
Above text by Stewart C. Osborn "Scutt", for Marine Digest (?) May 1944.
Oceans of thanks for this generous contribution.

   
   

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