Sea Captains at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s
Captain George M. Totten
Died: August 1, 1857 at Mendham, New Jersey
(Note: During the 1850s, Col. George Muirson Totten was chief engineer of The Panama Canal Railway Company. This is a different George M. Totten that Captain Totten mentioned herein.)
From March 1851 through January 1853, George M. Totten was captain of Pacific Mail Co., S.S. Tennessee bringing passengers, mail and gold to/from Panama and San Francisco.
July 24, 1851, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California
The steamship Tennessee, Lieut. Totten, Commander, will be dispatched to-morrow morning, for the scene of the wreck of the steamer Union. She is to run in at Acapulco and San Diego, to land those who wish to stop at these places, and then proceed and bring the balance of the passengers to San Francisco. The act of Captain Knight, in placing at the disposal of Messrs. Haven & Co. a steamer for the relief of the unfortunates, is highly commended by all parties.
March 16, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California
The Loss of the North America.
P.M.S.S. Tennessee, San Francisco Bar
Monday, March 14, 1852
Editors of the Alta California
Gentlemen .— I enclose you for publication, if you think fit, an extract from my report to the Company's agent, forwarded in advance of the report itself — principally with a view to stay public opinion until Capt. Blethen is heard, regarding the lots of the North America. I do not know the gentleman, but he had heretofore stood very high in reputation as an officer and a careful navigator. I am, in haste, with great respect, Your obedient servant, Geo. M. Totten, U. S. N., Commander of Tennessee.
In the mid-1800's when commercial fishing and the lumber businesses were in their infancy, the native oyster industry began. Washington Territorial politicians were so impressed with this mollusk they dubbed it the "Olympia Oyster" in the legislature of 1889. Not wanting to leave the source of this tasty morsel, they elected to maintain Olympia as the capitol city of Washington. These tiny oysters were such a delicacy during the Gold Rush days, it took only a short time to overharvest and deplete the beds within San Francisco Bay.
Note: According to one source, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838-1842, named this inlet to honor George M. Totten, one of the expedition's midshipmen. Note: That in Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, Nathaniel Philbrick's National Book Award Winner, Joseph Totten was on board, not George M. Totten.
At a meeting of the passengers, held on board P.M.S.S. Co’s steamer Tennessee, on the 19th January, 1853, at 10 o’clock, A.M., William T. Coleman, Esq., was called to the chair, and Messrs. C. A. McNulty, Benj. A. Brown, Albert Berry, and P. W. Sherman, were appointed vice presidents; Messrs. T. R. Anthony, and J. A. Thompson, were appointed secretaries.
On a motion, the President appointed Messrs. Wm. R. McCally, H. Hazeltine, W. H. Hoy, James C. Stebbins, and John Dows, a committee, to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of this meeting.
The following resolutions were reported by said committee and unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That we feel with more than ordinary force the sense of duty and justice in expressing our high approval of meed of praise to the officers and crew of the ship, for their kindness and courtesy, and for the untiring diligence, in the performance of their whole duty during our late trying scenes on the passage from Panama to San Francisco.
Resolved, That of Capt. Geo. M. Totten, whose police is unsurpassed, and whose ship is a very pattern of cleanliness and order, and whose urbanity and regard, was equal to all. The travelling public cannot have to high an appreciation, and his passengers most heartily approve and commend.
Resolved, That of the Purser Theo. L. Schell, whose gentlemanly deportment won favor from all, and whose correctness in every move and obliging attractions, went so far to make us comfortable.
Resolved, That of the unstopping, untiring and efficient 1st officer, Mr. Peter H. Dowlie, who sacrificed his quarters and his comforts for the relief of the sick, we feel we cannot speak too highly. But it is of Dr. McNaughton, the Surgeon of whom we would most particularly make mention. We have never witnessed deeper devotion to duty, greater alacrity in attending to the calls of the sick, or more unceasing exertions to relieve their distresses. For several days he saw no sleep, and was ever found at the side and administering to the wants of the afflicted; personal pr?ration was the consequence, and he was alike temporarily a fellow sufferer; but his nerves again brought him to his feet, and he has throughout unflinchingly stood at his post.
For such men we feel we cannot say enough; they may meet with embarrassments and the virulence of disease may sometimes baffle them, but their energy and assiduity will eventually bear them out in triumph.
Resolved, That these proceedings be published in the San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton and Marysville papers, and that the officers of the meeting present a copy of the same to the officers of the ship.
September 1, 1857, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California
Lieutenant Geo. M. Totten, of the United States Navy, died at Mendham, N. J., on Saturday August, Ist. Lieut. Totten had been in the Navy for a period of about thirty years, during which time, up to the commencement of his last illness, he was actively employed.
He served with Wilkes in the United States Exploring Expedition, and commanded the U. S. wooden-hulled, sidewheel gunboat Water Witch during the Mexican war. In both these positions he acquitted himself to the entire satisfaction of his respective commanders.
He afterwards obtained a furlough, and was for some time in command of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's steamer Tennessee, running between Panama and San Francisco. While thus employed he won the good opinion of both the Company and the traveling public. He was compelled to leave the Company's service in consequence of ill health, and at the time of his death had just returned from Pennsacola, where he had been serving as First Lieutenant of the Navy Yard at that place.
Lieut. Totten was the son of Gen. Totten of the United States Engineers, and he leaves a wife (daughter of the late Col. Gamble, of the Marines,) and two children to mourn his loss; numbers of warn and attached friends unite with them in their sorrow.
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