San Francisco History
 

Chambliss' Diary


Chapter XII.

When I accepted the position on the City of New York, it was my intention to make one voyage to Japan and China and then return to my home in the South.

I never had the remotest ida of remaining in the Pacific Mail services as long as I did.

On the 19th of November I sailed from San Francisco on my first voyage as quartermaster. Instead of going on East as I had intended to do, here I was going right back to China again, and in the very same ship that I came over on. This goes to show how little it takes sometimes to change the course of a person's whole life. Had anybody told me when I was leaving Yokohama, on the 19th of October that I would return within two months' time, I should have laughed at the idea.

After a stormy voyage of twenty days we arrived at Yokohama on the 10th of December.

Three days later we sailed for Hong Kong, and arrived at that port on the 19th.

In just eight days from the time of our arrival at Hong Kong, we were on our way back home, having in that time discharged our cargo of flour, and reloaded the ship with tea, silk, rice, hemp, and a general assortment of other Chinese merchandise, in addition to which we brought about six hundred Chinese passengers in the steerage.

The mail steamers plying between San Francisco and Hong King call at Yokohama going and returning. When we called there on the 5th of January, 1888, I noticed among the large fleet of ships in the harbor the old Essex.

As soon as I was off watch I got into a sampam and went on board the Essex to see my old friends and shipmates. No one recognized me at first, in my brand new Pacific Mail uniform with brass buttons and regulation cap.

Whenever a stranger goes on board a man-of-war everybody wants to know who he is. As soon as the boys found out who I was, their curiosity to learn how I got back to Yokohama so soon, and how I happened to be rigged up in a brass-bound uniform, was so great that they crowded around me as if I had just been restored from the dead. Of course I had to give an account of myself from the time that I left the Essex, at Nagasaki. When I told them all about it, and added that I was in the line of promotion in the largest steamship company under the American flag, the last one of them vowed that they would go into the merchant service as soon as their enlistments expired.

Then Mr. Frank, the master-at-arms, cam up, and, informing me that Mr. Galloway wanted to see me, took me down into the wardroom where the officers were. Besides Mr. Galloway, there were Mr. Fechteler, Mr. Poundstone, and Dr. Hawke sitting around the mess table in the wardroom. These gentlemen were as much surprised to see me as the boys had been. They all remembered me as soon as they heard my name.

Mr. Galloway, who had succeeded to the important position of navigating officer of the Essex, vice Lieutenant Wadham, was very much interested; so much so that he made me tell him about my new position, how I got it, how I like it, and how much salary I received. In the meantime Dr. Hawke had rung the bell for the steward, and presently that dignitary appeared on the scene with a tray of glasses and a big bottle of good old bourbon.

Dr. Hawke said that he had been a surgeon in the navy for a great many years, and that after experimenting with all the different medicines that he had ever heard of, he had come to the conclusion, that for ordinary complaints a little whiskey was the best thing that a man could take. He said that it was a big mistake, however, to drink it straight, as nearly all New York and San Francisco boys do. Whiskey should invariably be taken in water. "An ordinary drink in half a tumbler full of water," said the doctor, "not only tones up the digestive organs, but it kills all the microbes and other dangerous impurities in the water.

After a round of drinks, the doctor went on to express his opinion of other beverages, such as champagne and "society punches." He said that it was a waste of time, and a useless expenditure of money, to drink champagne, and he considered the vile punches that society people drink at swell receptions worse than any other kind of drunkard's drinks that he had ever tasted. Some of those punches are enough to drive an ordinary man insane. The only reason why the dudes are not all raving maniacs, from the effects of what they get to drink in "society." is because idiots can't go crazy.

All the rest of the officers agreed with the doctor, for the time being, at least; and to convince him that they considered whisky the proper thing for gentlemen to drink, they drained the last drop out of his bottle, after which I bade the gentlemen good-night and returned to my own ship.

The next day I made some calls on some of my acquaintances on shore, and met the sanctimonious "Reverend" Henry Lamest, who devotes his time to collecting butterflies instead of preaching to the "heathen," as he is paid to do by the American Bible Society, a business institution which has branch store in Yokohama.

We sailed from Yokohama on the 8th of January. One of our cabin passengers died the following morning. She was not a society lady by any means, but nevertheless she had a great many "friends" among the "society" swells of San Francisco. Perhaps the mention of her name will remind certain prominent members of the Bohemian, the Olympic, and the Pacific Union clubs of many a pleasant little midnight coaching party from a certain Ellis Street establishment to the Cliff House; for among her baggage were photographs of several prominent members of the above mentioned clubs. How she got those photographs I will ask the reader to decide.

The woman's name was Dolly Adams, better known as the Water Queen; and the establishment that she received her distinguished "friends" in was similar to the notorious Stockton Street establishment formerly kept by Maud Nelson, who is now Mrs. Charles Fair. I make no apology to the reader for using the name of such a character as Maud Nelson, because she has married into a set that ranks among the most presumptuous and arrogant parvenus of American. When she married Charlie Fair, and took him off to Europe on a bridal tour on the income from the Stockton Street house, she became the daughter-in-law of ex-Senator James G. Fair, and the sister-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Oelrichs, of newspaper society "fame."

The reading public knows very well how the names of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Oelrichs, and the rest of the Fair Crowd, have been boldly flaunted in the papers to let people know that they had lunched or dined with some other member of the same "set" that they belong to. And I suppose we will soon learn that Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Fair are being entertained by members of the same vulgar set. Are they not birds of a feather, and are they not eligible to membership in the Friday Night Cotillion Club, provided that they can raise the necessary five dollars to hand over to Mr. Greenway for their admission to the dance hall?

A TYPE OF THE TOUGH SWELL.
Very abundant in the Olympic Club, San Francisco.
 

If Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Huntington, Mr. and Mrs J. L. Flood, Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Paxton, Mr. and Mrs. M. H. de Young, Mrs. V. Spalding, Mr. and Mrs. Wise and others of that stripe are eligible, I see no reason why poor, much-abused Charlie and Maud should be excluded. I merely speak of this because I believe in fair play.

If the escapade of young Charlie Fair is not a repetition of history, I should like to know what you would have me call it. When such creatures as those can pose before the public in the society columns of the papers as representatives of California polite society, it is time for reputable citizens to keep out of print, except to protest against such "journalism" and such "journalists" as would permit such foul names to appear in a society report and on a basis of equality with pure, innocent girls.

We did not bury Dolly Adams at sea. Dr. Frank S. Sutton embalmed the body, and placed it in a Chinese wooden cofffin, and brought it on to San Francisco, where it was turned over to some charitable institution for burial.

On our way home from Yokohama we called at Honolulu, on the 19th of January, to land several hundred Chinese contract laborers that we had in the steerage for Spreckels' sugar plantation in the Hawaiian Islands.

Owing to the fact that the smallpox was raging at Hong Kong, from which port we brought those Chinese laborers, the authorities at Honolulu refused to allow us to land either passengers or freight at that port; consequently we had to bring the whole load on up to San Francisco.

Upon our arrival here on the 27th we were immediately placed in quarantine by Dr. McAllister (this gentleman is no relation of the late society leader, Ward), who ordered us to anchor over at the Angel Island quarantine station.

On the 3d of February all our steerage passengers and Chinese crew were placed on board the Shenandoah, an old United States man-of-war that William, Dimond & Company, the Pacific Mail agents, had chartered for a quarantine ship. The cabin passengers were permitted to land. The Shenandoah was then towed over toward Hunter's Point, and anchored off Butchertown, from whence the delightful odors that arise from the slaughter-houses were continually wafted by the strong breezes that sweep across the Potrero Flats.

Captain Searle also transferred all his officers and engineers, except First Officer Deering, Chief Engineer Hurlihy, Freight Clerk Neill, and Dr. Sutton from the City of New York to the Shenandoah, along with the six hundred quarantined Chinese. Of course we were not mixed in among the Chinese. The old quarantine ship had been prepared expressly for the occasion. We were comfortably domiciled in the cabin, and the whole forward part of the ship was occupied by the Chinese. To insure us additional security from the smallpox, a high bulkhead, or plank wall, was built across the spar deck just forward of the cabin door, and no Chinese except our cooks and servants were allowed to come aft in our part of the ship.

Aside from the unpleasantness of being compelled to remain on board ship in the harbor of San Francisco, without the privilege of getting ashore at all, and the danger of catching the smallpox from the infected Chinese, life in quarantine was not quite so bad as one might have been led to suppose. We had enough interesting characters on board the Shenandoah to relieve the monotony of the daily routine enough to render life worth living, if only to study certain peculiar natures.

MR. AND MRS. CHAS. L. FAIR.
(Nee Maud Nelson of Stockton Street) recently admitted to membership in the Friday Night Parvenucracy.
By permission of The Wasp
 

Second Officer James M. Dow, better known in the Pacific Mail service as "the Little Fellow," a title that Quartermaster Ahman had given him on account of his small stature, was in command; and his staff officers were Third Officer Lewis B. Park, Dr. Hunter, Engineer Charlie Elsasser, Mr. Crane, a special night watchman, and Quartermasters Ward, Dixon, Lindholm, and myself. Mr. Dow was one of the most extraordinary captains in his way that I ever served under. The quarantine ship was his first command, and he realized the importance of his position as much as if he had been in command of the Charleston. He did not seem to fancy the idea of being considered unsociable, but at the same time he gave the rest of us to distinctly understand that he was captain of the Shenandoah. He sat at the head of the table with as much dignity as Jere Lynch presenting a fake Eqyptian mummy to the Bohemian Club, and related his own version of his wonderful exploits with as straight a face as "General" (?) W. H. L. Barnes could command in telling to a crowd of other not over-credulous fabricating bum Bohemians of his own ilk, how he (the "general") had vanquished two "murderous footpads," who afterward turned out to be two quiet servants of the club, who were detailed to escort the "general" home after the latter had got into an argument with somebody at the club.

I hope I may be pardoned for diverging from the regular course of my narrative in order to relate a little bit of history concerning so prominent a personage as the "general." I should think that Mr. de Young would use his influence with the gentlemen who rent offices in the Chronicle building, and try and persuade them to do less gossiping about certain other tenants of the same building who sometimes go broke. Those little differences between landlords and tenants, which arise out of such frequent occurrence among lawyers of a certain class that polite landlords positively refuse to discuss them. If a tenant forgets to pay his rent for several months, it is the duty of the obliging landlord to remind the delinquent tenant, and not the public, of the indebtedness; at least that is what I have been told by gentlemen who have had experience in such matters. Therefore, I fail to see any reason why the case of "General" Barnes should be made an exception to this rule. Mr de Young, with all his wealth, ought to feel proud to have as a tenant a prominent Bohemian "General," who after getting into a discussion over a little matter of an overdue poker "I.O.U.," or some such trivial thing, could make the unsuspecting portion of the entire newspaper-reading public believe that he had been regularly waylaid and sandbagged by professional footpads.

The public will remember the ridiculous story, published in the papers, accompanied with pictures of the deadly sandbag and midnight assassin mask that the "general" said he captured from his assailants. The Chief of Police took up the case on his own hook, so to speak, and placed detectives on the tracks of the "footpads." In due time a man was arrested and identified as one of the persons who was seen coming from the direction of the "general's" house about the time the assault was reported by the "general" to have been made. Simultaneously with the report of the arrest of the supposed footpad, the whole affair was dropped, the same as Downey Harvey would drop a hot tamale.

MR. W. S. BARNES, THE "GENERAL's"
MODEST BOY
"What of it if I am young? Wouldn't I make a better Governor than Old Hoodoo Estee?"-- Billy in the Wave
(at so much per line). Recommended for the free dump.
 

The question naturally arose as to why the "general" declined to prosecute the "footpad," after he had been duly "run down" and arrested while at work at his honest occupation.

A prominent citizen answers the question about as follows: "Rats! That man was no footpad. He was simply one of the two Bohemian Club waiters who were detailed to take the 'general' home after the seance."

I do not say that Barnes never was a real general, but can anybody tell me how, when, or where on earth he got his title? Was he general manager of some concern? or was he a director general of some National Guard campaign?

I have several friends who were in the Seventh New York, the regiment that the "general" "commanded" during the ware between the North and South, and they ought to know something about the officer who really commanded it.

General T. B. Bunting was a captain in the Seventh New York, and he says that the regiment was commanded by one Colonel Smedberg who although he was a full-fighting colonel in the army, has never been able to obtain a higher rank since he left the service. I think that Colonel Smedberg ought to be able to give some information about Bartnes' military rank.

General Bunting got his title from President Barrios of Guatemala, and he would like to know how Barnes got promoted from the rank of corporal to that of general at one big jump. During the course of a discussion of Barnes' phenomenal rise in military titles one day, a mutual acquaintance handed me a big book entitled "History of the 7th New York Regiment." There, in plain English, was the startling and unkind information that Mr. Barnes actually got up as high as the position of corporal in the United States Army. But that is an honorable position. A corporal might be just as much of a gentleman as a real general, if he possessed the requisite natural instincts.

Sometimes people come by their titles in very peculiar ways. I know a man in Mississippi who is called Colonel de Salt Patterson. I asked old man Joe Phillips of Tillman, to tell me how the "colonel" got his title. Mr. Phillips is an old resident of Claiborne County, and he is well liked by his friends.

"Well, William," said Mr. Phillips, "so long as your father was a warm personal friend of mine, I will tell you all about it.

"When Grant laid siege to Vicksburg," continued Mr. Phillips, "and cut off our line of supplies, salt became very scarce in our vicinity, because we had been getting what we needed shipped up the Mississippi by steamer. All the neighbors got together and raised a large amount of money, and employed Colonel Patterson, who was at that time only a private citizen, to go to Louisiana to buy salt. Patterson started off on the expedition with the money, and did not return until the close of the war, when he explained that he been captured by one of Grant's foraging parties and taken off to prison. Patterson's initials were 'd. S..' When your father heard the yarn, he at once commenced calling him 'de Salt,' and, in order that he might be in the fashion, I dubbed him 'colonel,' since which time he has been known as 'Colonel de Salt Patterson.'"

GENERAL THOMAS B. BUNTING.
A genial retired army officer, residing near Santa Cruz, Cal. Formerly a Captain in the 7th New York,--the regiment that Barnes did not command.
 

Occasionally a man will receive a title from sharpers who take this means of working on his vanity. I know something about titles of this kind myself, and since I am giving my experience for the benefit of the public, I will tell you how I happened to be called "captain" for a few evenings only.


Source: Chambliss, William H. Chambliss' Diary; Or, Society As It Really Is. 1895: New York.  Library of Congress, "California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900.

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