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As It Was: Infant Survives Wreck of Coastal Steamer in 1903

A 4-week-old baby was among the survivors of the steamer Crescent City that broke up in January 1903 on the rocky ledges of Fish Rock Island off Mendocino, Calif.

The steamer had left San Francisco on a calm day bound for Crescent City, but by the time it reached the Mendocino coast, a southwest gale had turned into a furious storm.  Heavily laden with passengers and cargo, the Crescent City was blown toward the coast and battered on rocks until it broke up on the island’s ledges. 

Passengers and crew clamored from the wreck onto the rocks.  A crew member swam ashore to seek help, but darkness and hazardous seas prevented rescuers from getting to the stranded passengers.  Women wailed through the bitterly cold night as waves threatened to wash them into the sea.

A Point Arena Coast Guard crew reached them at noon the following day.  Among the survivors was the infant and its mother, the wife of Professor W.W. Fogg, principal of the Crescent City High School.  She had gone to San Francisco just before Christmas to visit her parents and for the birth of her child. 

Source: "Steamer Crescent City On The Rocks But Passengers and Crew Are Safe." San Francisco Call, 31 Jan. 1903, p. 1. California Digital Newspaper Collection

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.