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As It Was: Would-be Pirates Kill Ship’s Captain Off Oregon Coast

In 1910, two would-be pirates tried to steal gold from a ship without any.

Ships hauling gold from Alaska to the mints in California often made their way down the rugged, sparsely populated Oregon Coast.  French West and George Wise decided it would be easy to get some of that gold for themselves. 

They booked passage on the Buckman as it headed south, then waited until nearly midnight, Aug. 21, to put their plan into action.  The ship was near Winchester Bay in the beam of the Umpqua Lighthouse when West killed the captain in the pilot house.  He intended to run the ship aground, then hide the gold in the forest with his partner’s help. 

West forgot to account for the crew.  The enraged seamen chased West below, where he dodged the chief mate’s gunfire, then ran back on deck, jumped into the sea, and disappeared without ever knowing the Buckman wasn’t carrying even an ounce of gold. 

The other would-be pirate, George Wise, found hiding in his room, was sent to an asylum for the insane. 

Several Buckman crewmembers received valor medals for saving the ship.

Source: "The Gold Rush Pirates of 1910." Oceanscape Network, Ocean Coast Aquarium Oceanscape Network, oceanscape.aquarium.org/explore/general_articles/the-gold-rush-pirates-of-1910. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018. Happy Birthday Raymond Scully.

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.