This article is about a book written by Otto S. Lewis after his wife and two children perished in the shipwreck of the SS Columbia in 1907. Titled ‘In Memory of My Beloved Wife Mabel B. Lewis and Children Florence and Ray’, it is one of those rare finds that provide both an in-depth look at a historical event as well as good family history information.
Locating The Book
When my aunt, Luella (Munroe) Bates, first mentioned that we had family members that died in a shipwreck, she recalled that there had been a book about it, but she had not seen it in years. Once I had determined that it was the Lewis family that perished on the SS Columbia, I spent a fair amount of time searching for a book by Otto Lewis. I eventually ran across a reference to the title of the book. I seem to recall that it was on Google Books, although I cannot find it there now.
Having the title, I eventually located a copy of the book in the Rare Books section of The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA (near Pasadena). As far as I have been able to determine, they may have the only existing copy. The library catalog estimates the publish date about 1907. To my surprise, the book contained ninety-one pages. I believe that printing was mainly limited to family and friends of the Lewis family.
I purchased and downloaded the memorial book by Otto Lewis through the library’s online Rare Materials Request system. The book has been scanned and is available in digitized PDF format. It is Huntington Library Catalog Record No. b1267742. It turned out to be well worth the twenty dollar copying charge.
Inside The Book
The first four pages of the book each contain a photograph of a member of the Otto Lewis family. Until very recently, these have been the only photographs of them that I had been able to locate. They have some white areas, probably shiny spots from the copy process.
The Memorial Section
Pages 11 through 23 were written by Otto Lewis as a memorial to his lost family. He begins with the events that eventually led to his family being aboard the steamship, describing their move from Gold Bar, Washington to Pasadena, California in early 1907. He included photographs of the Lewis homes in both locations as well as both of the ships involved in the accident.
I note that in this section, Otto makes mention of Mabel’s father (Franklin J. Holman, my great-great-grandfather) and sister (Mayremna Lockwood, my great-grandmother).
The Shipwreck Section
Articles “taken from the Daily Papers of Eureka, San Francisco, and Los Angeles” fill the remaining sixty-six pages. Although the names of the specific newspaper were not listed, I’ve been able to identify several that were mentioned in my previous article.
There are over thirty-five articles about the collision of the two ships, including some fascinating personal accounts of survivors and crew. The section concludes with a drawing and a map showing the details of the collision.
Here is a list of articles in this section of the book specifically about the Lewis family:
- Page 51: “The Lewis Family”
- Page 52: “Not The Body Of Mrs. Lewis”
- Pages 54-63: “Deposition of O. S. Lewis”, taken by a deputy coroner.
- Page 63: “O. S. Lewis Very Grateful”
- Page 86 -91: “Passenger List Of The Doomed Steamer”, followed by lists of names of those saved, missing, and known dead. Seventy-seven were still missing on July 30.
Viewing The Book
The entire contents of the book may be viewed by clicking the image of the book’s cover on the right. It is in PDF format which most browsers can view directly nowadays, otherwise you will need a PDF viewer to read it. Either should allow the pages to be enlarged if they are difficult to read. The file size is slightly over 3 MB so it might take a few moments to load.
The memorial book is probably the most thorough compilation of facts, news articles and first-person stories about the sinking of the SS Columbia, perhaps of most shipwrecks. As far as I know, this is the first time that this book has been seen in many years. Finding it allowed me to fill in more of my family’s history, and provided some fascinating reading.
Otto Lewis continued to play several significant parts in my family’s history after the loss of his wife and children. These stories will be covered in future posts.
A Note About The Huntington Library
The Huntington Library houses 420,000 rare books and 7 million manuscripts, as well as art collections and botanical gardens. The personnel there that I communicated with were very helpful and responsive.