| Steamer VIRGINIA V|
on her first trip to Seattle 1922.
Photo from the Williamson Collection on a promotional
postcard published by the Steamer VIRGINIA V Foundation.
From the Clinton Betz Collection,
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Capt. N. G. Christensen, president of the West Pass Transportation Co, had named all of his vessels VIRGINIA simply because it was the name of the craft with which he founded the business. In discussing these steamers, he usually referred to them by their numbers, such as the THREE, the FOUR, or the FIVE. Thus, the "V" was a Roman numeral, not an initial.
While planning construction of the FIVE, Capt Christensen was influenced by the design of Capt John Manson's VASHON II. Many features of that steamer appealed to him, but he could not forget an earlier vessel constructed for his company. A bit nostalgically, perhaps, he decided to have the hull patterned after that of the VIRGINIA II, a much smaller, but well-designed craft. The upper structure would be a slightly larger version of the VASHON II.
The builder he chose was Matt Anderson, who lived at Maplewood, just across the West Pass from Christensen's home at Lisabeula. Now in his seventies, Matt Anderson had completed a career in shipbuilding and seafaring before he moved out on the West Pass. He obtained the plans for the VASHON II and VIRGINIA II hulls, and from these began lofting the VIRGINIA V hull in his small yard at Maplewood. The timbers, meanwhile, were delivered to Maplewood by the VIRGINIA III.
As Matt Anderson studied the VASHON II frames, however, he often remarked, 'I think I'll use a bigger timber here."
In fact, he ordered bigger timbers so often a deckhand on the THREE, Henry Larson, began calling him "Big Timber" Anderson. The durability of the VIRGINIA V hull, though, has proven the soundness of his judgment.
Henry Larson, incidentally, figures in some of the better VIRGINIA III livestock stories. Freight on the West Pass consisted of everything from household furnishing to hay, grain, poultry, and farm annals. Henry, having grown up on a ranch at Lisabeula, was considered one of the more knowledgeable members of the crew, where livestock was concerned. To be sure, he was well informed in all matters pertaining to cargo, but he was especially handy to have aboard when a cow needed to be milked.
As might be expected, Puget Sound steamers were occasionally called on to transport bulls, as well as other farm animals; and the annals of that era are filled with references to these encounters. Invariably, the bulls came aboard with good references. All were described as extremely gentle bulls, but all, it seemed, became ungentlemanly under the influence of salt air.
In one instance, a rancher on the West Pass maneuvered a young bull onto a wooden base, then managed to build a crate around him. This unorthodox contrivance was wheeled to the steamer landing, and at low tide was slid onto the top deck of the VIRGINIA III. All would have gone well enough, perhaps, if the bull hadn't considered it a personal affront every time the gangplank was dragged by his cage. At last, Henry Larson, to show his disdain, no doubt, for a bull in a packing case, hauled off and kicked the crate. The response was instantaneous. The crate literally exploded, and out of the spray of kindling charged the bull. Henry headed aft at full speed, with the bull only a step behind. When he reached the stern, Henry made a U-turn and started up the starboard side. The bull, unable to manage the sharp turn on a wet deck, lost his footing, plunged off the stern, and did a high dive into the Sound.
Retrieving a chastened bull, and delivering him, sans crate, but still intact, made for a normal day on the West Pass.
Those awaiting the launching of the VIRGINIA V, on 9 March 1922, were greeted by a typical March dawn. The sky was grey, and a light drizzle of rain was falling. The shipways were adjacent to the Maplewood wharf, and the launching was scheduled for 7 A.M., to coincide with the arrival of the VIRGINIA III on her regular morning trip from Tacoma. Some observers looked upon the rain as a bad omen and predicted that the launching would be postponed. At the moment the bow of the VIRGINIA III touched the wharf, however, there was a groaning of timbers, and the hull of the VIRGINIA V slipped, stern first, down the ways.
|S. S. VIRGINIA V|
undated photo by James A. Turner.
Click to enlarge.
from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
The Sound and the Mountain. Carey, Roland. Alderbrook Publishing. 1970
Mr. Carey has written more for another day.