In this article, I take a look at events surrounding the 1907 shipwreck and sinking of the SS Columbia as reported by various newspapers of the time. Stories of the disaster claimed the front pages of West Coast newspapers for several days as details of the event became known. Particular attention is paid to the stories concerning the Otto Lewis family.
This is a follow-up to a previous article, Discovering Family Lost In A Shipwreck. As a recap, Mable (Holman) Lewis was the sister of my great-grandmother, Mayremna O. (Holman) Lockwood. She married Otto S. Lewis and they adopted a boy Ray Carr Lewis and a girl, Florence Carr Lewis. Mable and the two children perished in a shipwreck off the coast of northern California.
News Articles About The SS Columbia
The collision between the SS Columbia and the SS San Pedro occurred shortly after midnight on July 23, 1907. The first accounts of the incident hit the papers the same day. There was much speculation on victims and survivors as rescue stories filtered in.
I have clipped a few articles about the wreck of the Columbia and made them available on Newspapers.com. Since there are several and some are large, I am providing links to the clipped articles rather than including them here.
Notes On Viewing The Clippings
Click on a highlighted link to bring up that clipping for viewing. In most cases, I saved an enlarged clipping when it pertained to the Lewis family.
Several of the clippings will need to be enlarged to read. Simply click anywhere in the clipping, and close the dialog box by clicking the X in the upper right. The buttons on the right can now be used to enlarge the image or make it full screen.
The Show article text (OCR) link below a clipping can be used to pull just the text from the clipping using optical character recognition (OCR).
July 23rd: First Details Hit the Newspapers
The San Francisco Star ran a full page on the shipwreck: Ill-Fated Vessel. This clipping is a full-size newsprint page, so it will need to be enlarged as described above to read it.
An account of the incident appeared in The Los Angeles Times under the headline Los Angeles Victims Number Half A Score. A section of the article on the lower left describes the events leading up to the Lewis family sailing on the Columbia. An enlarged clipping of just that section is titled Four From Pasadena.
The Seattle Star headline read ‘Columbia Victims Now Said To Number Not More Than Fifty-Six’. The topic ran almost two pages, so there are two clippings: SS Columbia Wreck – part 1 is continued on SS Columbia Wreck – part 2. Since it was specifically about Mabel Lewis, I saved a separate clipping of the section titled Wife Of Lumberman From Gold Bar Among Lost.
The family and friends of Otto Lewis in the Los Angeles area were particularly concerned when it looked like all four of the Lewis family might have perished. The Orange County Register described their situation in an article partially titled Family of O. S. Lewis Among Victims.
Sees Family Swept Off Raft Into Sea in the San Francisco Call describes the heroic efforts of Otto Lewis to save his family.
July 24th: More Details Filter In
In an article titled Steamers Collide 100 Lives Lost, The Washington State Journal provided a very thorough description of the shipwreck and background on the history of the steamship. This is probably the best overall description of the shipwreck in any of the newspaper articles.
The Seattle Star ran another half page with the headline List of Wreck Victims May Never Be Complete. It gave personal stories from several of the survivors.
In a strange turn of events, the body thought to be that of Mrs. Lewis turned out not be hers. The story appeared in The San Francisco Call. I saved this clipping as SS Columbia – A Startling Discovery. The larger article from which it came is saved as SS Columbia – The Day After.
July 25th: Official List Of Victims Released
Abandon Hope For More Survivors and Abandon Hope – part_2 in The Seattle Star gave the official list of victims from the shipwreck. It also stated that beach patrols for more victims or survivors would be stopped and an official investigation of the incident would begin.
More Information About The Columbia
Over the last several years, several great articles have appeared describing both the history of the Columbia and it’s sinking. Here are links to several:
And lastly, there is a well-done video by Matthew Anderson on YouTube memorializing the tragedy:
SS Columbia (1880-1907): The Lost Light
In researching the shipwreck, I was able to verify and fill in the details of a family story, as well as learn about a fascinating bit of California history. As a final note, I found that the remains of the sunken Columbia have never been investigated by divers.