The British Tramp Steamer, Oswestry

The British tramp steamer, Oswestry, anchored in Mendocino Bay, 1909. The Mendocino Mill can be seen in the background on Big River. (Perley Maxwell (photographer), Gift of Emery Escola, Emery Escola Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

September 4, 1909 – The Mendocino Beacon reported that five sailors had deserted the big British tramp steamer Oswestry. While the ship was anchored in Mendocino Bay, the sailors took the ship’s boat to the shore and abandoned it in the surf. The boat was found the next morning, damaged from being bashed against the rocks.

Each sailor had signed up to spend two years on the steamer. Warrants were sworn out for their arrest, but Constable Curtis was unable to find any trace of the men. The Beacon suggested that the poor quality of the food on board and the low wages being paid were probably the reasons they deserted.

The steamer was a steel ship built in 1905 by J.L. Thompson & Sons at Sunderland, England. Her home port was Manchester, England, and this was her first trip to the Pacific. She was 353 feet long and 50 feet wide, with a crew of 31 men. Three days after the desertions, the Oswestry sailed for Puget Sound with a large supply of railroad ties and redwood lumber ultimately destined for South America, but without the five sailors.

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