EARLY CUSTOM HOUSES
By Lucile McDonald
Setting up the first customs district on Puget Sound back in 1851 was fraught with rugged frontier problems. Contrary to general belief, the initial headquarters was not at Port Townsend, but at Nisqually, where the Hudson's Bay Company had its farm and fort. Olympia had been designated as the port of entry, but the first collector, Simpson P. Moses, was four months getting there after his appointment in the East.
He wrote the Secretary of the Treasury, "I respectfully ask for such information as the Department may possess in relation to the precise location of Olympia." Apparently he could not find it on any map then existing.
Hidden in the 125-year-old files stored in the Federal Records Center is a fund of correspondence dealing with intrigue and detection, pioneer style. No one was aware that a customs district existed on the Sound when on December 21, 1849 the British schooner ALBION anchored in Discovery Bay and commenced a strange logging operation, cutting and loading spar timbers with the aid of Clallam Indians.
Since no oxen or horses were available, the big squared sticks were moved by 100 or more men and women pulling together on a four-inch hemp hawser, which snapped many times.
Seventeen timbers had been loaded in this tedious fashion and four months had been spent on the task when, on the morning of April 22, 1850, a little company of American soldiers from Fort Steilacoom and Customs Inspector Eben May Dorr of Astoria appeared at the ship's side and informed Captain William Brotchie that they were seizing the vessel for various infractions of the law. They just had done the same thing to the CADBORO a few days earlier at Nisqually Landing.
Brotchie protested he knew nothing about the district and that he would gladly make proper entry and buy the timber from the Indians, but a decree of forfeiture was entered and the ALBION was taken to Steilacoom and sold at auction.
William Winlock Miller was the first inspector regularly assigned to Puget Sound; he held the post two and one-half years. He did not learn of his appointment until late July, 1851 and then only indirectly. He was living at Salem, Oregon and when no official confirmation arrived, Governor Gaines advised him to go to Nisqually, thinking the papers might have been sent to that place.
Miller reached his post August 1, and finding no accommodations at the "port" had to rent a house in Olympia and travel 15 miles each way by canoe in all kinds of weather. Miller had not yet been sworn in and doubted what authority he had. Books and papers for the district reached Nisqually, but they were directed to Moses under seal and could not be opened.
Miller wrote in September for permission to requisition arms because the Indians were numerous and in many instances hostile to the whites and other troublemakers might appear. He requested two tents for use by his helpers "while moving from point to point through an inhospitable country."
Another early letter told of reports of "smuggling to a great extent by a fleet of large canoes at night crossing 55 miles of water from Victoria to bring things to Nisqually." Miller had taken a sailboat "strongly manned" and made "an expedition" 60 miles down the Sound to investigate smuggling.
He went as far as Commencement Bay, calling at Indian huts and inquiring whether the inhabitants had seen English vessels of any kind. He also examined pack trails leading from the head of the bay to Fort Nisqually "to see what facilities they afforded for secretly introducing foreign goods into the interior of the country."
Still another letter described Nisqually Landing as being at the mouth of "the small stream called Sequalitch." where, Miller related, "There is but one building and that is an indifferent log warehouse owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. I procured the liberty of storing the instruments of my office in said warehouse...There being no proper house for either an office or residence and not being authorized by the government to expend money in the erection of a building," he arranged to travel back and forth to Olympia.
He requested permission to build quarters at Nisqually, but receiving no answer and considering his health was at stake, he prevailed on Dr. William F. Tolmie, the factor, to erect a small building for him, "binding myself to lease the same for one year."
Miller's old record book contains interesting sidelights on trade of that day. For instance, the American brig JOHN DAVID carried the following goods not on her manifest: 20 pairs of blankets, 7 barrels of hard bread, one 250-pound box of coffee, 3 cases of soap, 6 quarter casks of brandy, 1 case of shirts and looking glasses, 16 pieces of English calico, 2 dozen pairs of pants and 15 barrels of salt.
The first arrival and departure book in the Puget Sound customs records dates from November 15, 1851, when arrival of the brig GEORGE EMERY was mentioned. It listed tonnage as 178, built in Sancy, Me. 1846, master's name, James M. Bachelder, eight members of the crew, 14 passengers from San Francisco. The ship brought merchandise and ballast, departing with a cargo of piles, shingles and potatoes.
It had then changed masters and Enoch S. Fowler was captain.
The second entry was for the schooner EXACT, which brought the founders of Seattle from Portland. She left for the Queen Charlotte Islands gold rush. Then came the BEAVER, departing with cattle and sheep for Vancouver Island.
The next was Lafayette Balch's schooner DAMARIS COVE from the Queen Charlottes. Next the schooner MARY TAYLOR with mill irons and a printing press. So it went, with many boats coming en route to the Queen Charlottes in 1862.
By this time Simpson P. Moses was in charge at Olympia and incurring the wrath not only of ship masters but of his own employees, whom he failed to pay for their services. Moses was a man who needed to feel his own importance. He lent a ready ear to complaints of settlers, who were eager to get the British out of the country as quickly as possible.
A few days after the collector's arrival the 148-ton brigantine MARY DARE, bringing Fort Nisqually's annual supply of goods from England, was towed from Victoria by the steam schooner BEAVER. Several company personnel landed, then Tolmie boarded the BEAVER and the vessels proceeded to Olympia to transact their business with Moses.
Tolmie thought he could clarify any irregularities if they existed, but he was not prepared for the reception given the MARY DARE. She could not get any closer than three miles because of shallow water in Budd Inlet, but the customs inspectors were prepared for that. A boarding party, including Miller, rowed out and asked for the vessel's papers, then Deputy Collector Elwood Evans, following Moses’ instructions, sealed the hatches and left one of his men on each boat.
Dr. Tolmie immediately went into town and tried to find Moses. He waited for him until 10 p.m. and said he would like to get through with the business of clearing the boats. Tolmie explained that neither captain realized he was required to go to Olympia and did as they were in the habit of doing, being unaware that there was a new rule and Nisqually was no longer a port of entry. In any case, the BEAVER's engines consumed so much fuel on the long tow that she had to stop at the landing and take on more wood. Both the boat crew and the land crew had worked part of the night cutting and loading it.
By this time Moses had a report on the contents of the sealed hatches and, seeking a charge on which to hold the MARY DARE, he discovered a technical violation of a 82-year-old Congressional act. In addition to 180 bags of Shanghai sugar regularly invoiced, the brigantine carried a 230 pound cask of sugar which Dr. Tolmie said was his own personal allowance for theyear as a company officer. This, Moses informed him, was subject to forfeiture and so was the ship because of a long-forgotten regulation stipulating that sugar in packages weighing less than 600 pounds should not be brought into any American port.
Moses filed a libel against the MARY DARE, but Tolmie hastened to petition the court to submit the facts to the Secretary of the Treasury for mitigation of the forfeitures. He put up heavy bond so that the two vessels could unload and be off. Inasmuch as the British raised strong legal arguments, the federal government saw the seizure in a different light from Moses and the settlers. The Treasury Department remitted the bond, struck out all charges and paid the British $20,000 damages.
Moses was soon involved in other contretemps and in unpaid debts. Miller pointed out in his letters that it was difficult to understand why the staff had not been paid when the district must have taken in about $8,000 in duties. "Many enterprising young men," he wrote, "who have been led from their usual occupations by being appointed inspectors are now much in want of their pay."
Knowing that Moses had the habit of not turning in vouchers, Miller took the precaution of sending a duplicate of his accounts to the department. One of his letters observed:
"It is a great tax on the numerous vessels which only wish to come into the mouth of the Sound to fish and get timber to have to go up to the head of the Sound, a distance of over 100 miles to enter."
Miller felt it would be inconvenient for a collector to take his family "where Indians are so numerous and there are no schools and other conveniences," so he suggested locating a deputy collector at a more northerly point. Later he went a step farther and suggested Port Townsend as the port of entry instead of Olympia.
Miller lost his job in 1854 because he was not a Whig, the then dominant political party. He left Nisqually on February 15 and was succeeded by A. Benton Moses, brother of the collector.
However, Moses was already out of office, Isaac N. Ebey having been appointed to succeed him in March, 1853. The only way the latter could persuade Simpson P. Moses that the job was no longer his was to have the postmaster show his bond and oath of office as proof of his appointment. He brought the clerk of the U. S. court with him when requesting Moses to relinquish government property.
Ebey was in hearty agreement that Olympia was unsuitable for a port of entry and he succeeded in having it changed to Port Townsend by September, 1854.
SIMPSON P. MOSES AND THE GEORGIANA AFFAIR
Lucile McDonald, "Queen Charlotte Islanders capture the Georgiana gold seekers," Washington's Yesterdays. Portland: Binfords and Mort, p. 166-67.
When the new customs collector Simpson P. Moses had been en route to his new post on Puget Sound in Captain Balch's brig, the George Emery, off Cape Flattery it spoke the sloop Georgiana taking American settlers to hunt gold in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
The Georgiana sailed November 3, the passengers impatient to be first on the spot, as they knew the George Emery and other vessels would follow soon. Among the next to leave was the Exact, after depositing Seattle's first settlers.
On the night of November 18 the Georgiana was wrecked in Skidegate Channel on the east side of Queen Charlotte Island.
Indians collected on the beach in the early morning, watching the ship break up. As the white men fought their way through the surf the horde of island tribesmen swarmed over them, and taking advantage of their exhausted condition, stripped them of caps, weapons and any clothing they could pull off.
To make a long story short, the Americans were marooned from November 19 until January 9, crowded in a cedar plank house with the Indians, their dogs and fleas while the rain poured down and and storms, frosts and snow passed in their turn. Efforts to get help from the Hudson's Bay post at Fort Simpson were without avail because of the threat of Indian troubles.
Balch had followed the Georgiana to the Queen Charlottes and, hearing of the captivity of the men, got out before any harm could come to his ship. He returned to Olympia and asked help of Collector Moses.
No revenue cutters nor naval vessels were stationed on Puget Sound and Moses had no authority to pay for a rescue party. Nevertheless he concluded to charter the Damariscove, which was owned by Balch and a partner, and arm it sufficiently to overawe the Indians.
Lieutenant John Dement, a corporal and four soldiers from Fort Steilacoom and four cannon were loaned the expedition, while twenty-five citizens volunteered, one of them a surgeon. Moses gave Dement a letter of credit with which to purchase blankets at Fort Victoria to offer as a ransom.
The relief ship accomplished the mission, paying five blankets for each man, and brought them back to Olympia January 12 after a stormy passage.
Rejoicing over their return scarcely had subsided when clamor arose as to who would pay the costs of the expedition. Balch and the Hudson's Bay Company, the doctor, attorneys and others put in bills totaling $11,017.01 which the Secretary of the Treasury promptly turned down.
Lucile McDonald, "Queen Charlotte Islanders capture the Georgiana Gold seekers," Washington's Yesterdays. Portland: Binfords and Mort, 1953, p. 166-67.
SIMPSON P. MOSES
Charles H. Sheldon, "Simpson P. Moses, and the Georgianna incident," The Pacific Northwest Forum, Second Series Volume V (Summer-Fall, 1992) p. 3-16.
CHARLES H. SHELDON is a Professor of Political Science at Washington State University. The "Georgianna" Incident (1851) reveals the remoteness of the frontier Northwest from the federal government, and the problems that could arise when a local official needed to act quickly, without approval from Washington, D.C.
Beginning in the 1930s, under a W.P.A. Program, Dr. Arthur S. Beardsley, then law librarian at the University of Washington, began collecting materials on the professional activities of judges and lawyers during Washington's territorial and early statehood years. The collection grew to include newspaper accounts, personal histories, memorabilia, correspondence, and hundreds of photographs gathered 'from ten states, and the District of Columbia, and even from far away China." (University of Washington Bulletin, June, 1941, p. 7)
Relying on these materials, Beardsley, assisted initially by Superior Court Judge Donald A. McDonald, drafted an enormous manuscript (2,428 pages) titled "The Bench and Bar of Washington: The first Fifty Years, 1849-1900." The worth the manuscript has been acknowledged but the work has not been published.
Professor Sheldon, with permission from Dr. Beardsley's heirs, has taken on the task of editing the manuscript for publication in order to make available this invaluable source on the early lawyers and judges. The following excerpt is illustrative of the kinds of information contained in the manuscript. In the editing process every attempt was made to retain Dr. Beardsley's style and interpretation.
Shortly after arriving in Olympia to assume his responsibilities as Collector of Customs, Simpson P. Moses received complaints from settlers about the exploitation of American resources by the British crossing over from British Columbia. He promptly wrote to his superiors in Washington urging a clarification of where exactly English jurisdiction ended and American began.
Moses was early aware of the feelings of the settlers in this regard and because of its importance in the matter of collection of federal revenue and further because he was one of the only federal agents in Puget Sound, he wrote to his superior:
Custom House, District of Puget Sound, Olympia, November 29, 1851. Hon. Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury.
I would respectfully invite your earliest attention to the necessity and importance of a precise definition of a section or portion of the boundary between the United States and the Territories of her Britannic Majesty on the Northwest as designated by the Treaty of the 15th of June, 1846.
The treaty provided that "the line of boundary shall be continued westward along the 49th parallel of North Latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island; and thence Southerly through the middle of the said channel and of Fuca: straight to the Pacific Ocean" and the point, I suppose, is whether the channel referred to is the main channel passing between Waldron and Stuart's Islands on the East, and Vancouver Island on the West, or Ringgold's Channel, passing between McLaughlin's, Barnes and Cypress Islands on the East and the Pea-pod Rocks and Bentley Island on the West.
The former affords from 45 to 50 fathoms of water, presents no obstructions of any character, and is well known by navigators and by English and American residents on either side of the line by its superior Capacity and Fitness for the greater purposes of Nations and of man, to be beyond comparison the Main Channel.
Ringgold's Channel affords from 10 to 30 fathoms only, and is to some extent occupied by rocks, impeding or rendering comparatively dangerous its Navigation, and that it should be seriously regarded as the main channel is a matter of astonishment to the people of Northern Oregon. Their commercial and other interests are deeply enlisted in the determination of the question, and they await with anxiety and confidence the expression of the views of the Government.
They knowing the facts from their own personal explanations are clearly and resolutely of the opinion that the "Canal De Arro" (sic) is the channel to which allusion is made in the treaty. The "Canal De Afro" (sic) is the deeper, wider and safer of the two, and consequently is regarded as the channel contemplated by the American Government in the negotiation which resulted in the treaty of 1846.
The islands lying between the two channels are extensive and highly valuable for their fishing and agricultural advantages, and it is hoped that it may be compatible with the views of the Government of the United States to declare and maintain its perfect right to possess them.
I might remark that independent of the district question of boundary and the possession of more or less territory, are involved in the determination of the Government of the United States, its present and future revenue interests and its plans which it might hereafter wish to adopt for the armed defense of Northern Oregon.
Your attention is respectfully invited to Captain Wilkes' Chart of the Archipelago of Afro, etc. The information sought by this communication is rendered indispensably and immediately necessary by the anxiety of our citizens in relation thereto, and if not promptly treated the subject may become a complicated character.
I have the honor to be Your most obedient servant, Simpson P. Moses, Collector of Customs.
The record of Simpson P. Moses is that of a brave and courageous man, a true soldier. In these early days, far out on the most northwesterly frontier of the United States, where only a few hardy settlers had built their homes, and a long way from governmental order and direction, time did not always permit communication with Washington City for advice and counsel over emergent problems.
Someone had to take the lead, assume the responsibility and authority, even if that authority was lacking, and trust for approbation in the days that were to follow. Perhaps no more illustrative example of this situation can be found than the "Georgianna" episode that ended the career of Simpson P. Moses as Collector of Customs.
A boat filled with American citizens was shipwrecked on the shores of a foreign nation [Queen Charlotte's Island, British Columbia. The passengers and crew]... had been captured and enslaved by warlike Indians.
It would take months to communicate this information to Washington and receive a reply. What was to be done? Were these citizens to be permitted to remain in this danger pending the receipt of counsel from the Government; or should some official with semblance of authority undertake the ransoming of these citizens and trust that the Government would later approve?
Moses undertook the latter course and submitted the cost thereof to the government, only to meet with disapproval leading to dismissal from office.
The story of the "Georgianna" incident is told fully by the letters copied from Moses' official journal. It should be added, however, that in later years, after Moses left office, the Congress appropriated the funds necessary to reimburse him and his aides for the cost of the rescue enterprise.
Custom House, District of Puget Sound, Olympia, 0. T., December 22,1851.
Honorable Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury.
It becomes me to report that the sloop Georgianna from this Pon, having on board passengers and crew twenty-seven persons, citizens of the United States, residing in this Collection District, was cast away on the 19th of November last, as appears by a letter from her Captain, William Rowland, (Exhibit C) in Latitude 52 52', on the east side of Queen Charlotte's Island, in a heavy southeast gale.
The party all succeeded in reaching the shore, where they were met by a hostile tribe of Indians, by them taken prisoners, and stripped and robbed of every necessity. Appreciating their condition in a high Northern Latitude at this inclement season, beyond the reach of aid save from this quarter (Exhibit F), and as there is no Revenue Cutter in this District, or any vessel of a national character nearer this locality than San Francisco or the Sandwich Islands, I felt bound in the emergency to take such steps as would afford the most speedy relief from violence or exposure.
I did not hesitate to take the responsibility of chartering the Schooner "Damariscove" fully provisioned to proceed immediately, obtain the captives and return them to their homes. (For particulars of charter party and subsequent agreement, see Exhibits G and H.)
To effect this, it became necessary to send sufficient physical force to overawe the Indians and should peaceable efforts to ransom the prisoners prove unavailing, forcibly relieve the Americans and punish the captors.
The schooner was therefore mounted with four pieces of cannon and manned with a number of our fellow citizens who volunteered for the services. It is proper here to remark that the tribe inhabiting Queen Charlotte's Island are almost entirely unacquainted with the powers of our nation, and of the whites generally, and it being the most advisable policy and the earnest desire of the relatives and the friends of the prisoners that such a course should be pursued as most likely to obtain the prisoners alive.
I resolved to purchase supplies of blankets, with which their ransom might be negotiated, and their general wants relieved. This necessity created a Trust properly to repose which, and to give the military command and general supervision to a competent person, a commissioned officer of the Government, and to obtain a supply of arms, it became requisite to have recourse to Captain B. H. Hill, United States Army, commanding Fort Steilacoom, whose cooperation I respectfully invited, the correspondence between whom and myself, together with the copy of the letter of Brig. Gen. Hitchcock, is herewith forwarded. (See Exhibits J, K, L, M, N): said correspondence resulted in the detail of a corporal and five men under command of Lieut. Dement, 1st U. S. Artillery, to whom, and to Lafayette Balch, Esq., Master of the schooner "Damariscove", instructions were given as per Exhibits 0 and P.
It will be perceived that the utmost dispatch in proceeding to the relief to the captive party is enjoined; that in consideration of the peculiar character of the natives of Queen Charlotte's Island, the release of the prisoners is to be effected by pacific measures, provision for which is made by the letter of credit to Lieut. Dement (Exhibit Q) and no act of hostility to be resorted to, unless in the discretion of the officer it should be necessary.
After incessant toil for day and night to hasten her departure, the vessel sailed on her destined voyage on the 19th inst., full provisioned and equipped, having on board twenty-five men including the crew, and a surgeon with sufficient stock of medical stores.
I hope that my course may be approved and the owners of the chartered vessel and all others who freely tendered their private property, money and personal service to the Government's use, may not suffer by Postponement of remuneration and indemnity, which their circumstances in this new country, where means are limited, cannot be sustained without ruin to themselves and prostration to their enterprises; I have to ask that I may be immediately authorized upon the return of the expedition to make prompt settlements of the account by drawing either upon the Treasurer of the United States or the Collector of the District of San Francisco.
It would be exceedingly hard to punish unnecessarily these people by allowing them to remain for a day the creditors of the United States for this transaction: and in this connection it might be proper to apprize you of the feeling of this population rapidly growing upon and possessing it: vis., that it has so long been compelled to exist unprotected and uncared for, that it has almost teamed that it is its exception [expectation] to live entirely without Government aid, and I must remark that many here seem to suppose that their own private funds would have to be exhausted to recover from savage captivity their relatives, friends and neighbors, not thinking that they were a component part of an enlightened and powerful Government that can and will at all times defend them to the utmost extent due.
In conclusion I must beg your earliest attention to the subject, hoping my great distance from the Capitol will be considered. I have the honor to be
Your most obedient servant, Simpson P. Moses, Collector.
Documents to the Secretary of the Treasury in relation to the wrecked party from the sloop Georgianna included the following exhibits:
A. Captain Hill's letter to collector dated 11th of Dec.
B. Balch's letter to collector dated Dec. 1lth.
C. Captain Rowland's letter of Nov. 25th.
D. Captain Hill's letter to S. P. Moses of Dec. 14th.
E. Captain Hill's letter to John Work, Dec. 12th.
F. Work's reply, Dec. 12th, to Hill.
G. Copy of "Charter Party".
H. Copy of "Agreement".
I. Collector's letter to Captain Hill, Dec. 16th.
K. Captain Hill's reply, dated Dec. 18th.
L. Collector's response to Hill, Dec. 18th.
M. Gen. Hitchcock's letter dated Sept. 28th.
N. "B. H. H's" note to and note of S. P. Moses.
O. Instruction to Captain Balch.
P. Instruction to Lieut. Dement.
Q. Letter of Credit to Dement.
R. Order to buy blankets for the wants of passengers.
Fort Steilacoom, Dec. 11, 1851.
I have the painful duty to announce to you and the citizens of Olympia that the party which left that place on the third of November, has been wrecked. I refer you to the enclosed for particulars. I am in hopes that you will take some immediate steps for their relief. They will undoubtedly remain on the Island until they are ransomed or taken by force: but I do not think the Indians will further molest them or attempt their lives, their object being plunder.
During my stay at Gold Harbor (which is on the west coast of the Island) I had great difficulty in protecting my vessel and avoiding a conflict with the Indians without being able to negotiate a trade for the unfortunate sufferers, they at the time being on the opposite side of the Island, about three days journey distant.
As you are well aware, I had not a sufficient number of persons on board to deal with them successfully, and having had my vessel previously injured in her sails and rigging, and several attempts having been made to plunder us, I gladly availed myself of a favorable wind and left the inhospitable coast sincerely hoping that I might not again be placed in a similar condition, and exceedingly regretting the necessity that compelled me to leave my fellow citizens in such a deplorable condition without having the power to assist them.
I shall describe my adventures more fully to you by and by and in the meantime hope you will take measures to relieve the unfortunate sufferers.
I am, Sir, Yours truly,
Lafayette Balch, Schooner Damariscove.
To Mr. S. P. Moses Collector of Customs Puget Sound, Oregon Territory.
November 25, 1851. To Captain McNeal or Captain Mitchell:
I have been with twenty-six others here among the Indians and have had no opportunity of writing to any white man whatever.
Dear Sirs, I was cast away in Lat. 52 52' on the east side of this (Queen Charlotte's) Island on the nineteenth of this month in a heavy gale of wind from the S. E. with twenty-two passengers and five of crew from Olympia November third, and have succeeded in getting on shore.
The Indians have robbed us of every necessity and some of the clothing off our bodies, and we are left without one blanket or shirt to shift. Consequently we are in a most wretched and deplorable condition, therefore all of us do earnestly pray you if there is any possible means to render us any assistance to send us [help] as quickly as possible.
We have tried to get them to send a canoe to Fort Simpson, promising them anything they asked, but their excuse is the weather is too bad, but lately some little preparation is made for four of us with six Indians to go to the Fort, but we cannot be certain as to when they will go, however if this reaches you within four days, there will be time for you to send some little assistance.
I wanted to send one of us with this but the Chief has refused it, and they have tried many experiments in trying to get us to submit to things that don't become us to commence in. The Indian whose name is John bears a tolerable good recommendation from Dr. Kennedy, which has made us come with him and stop in his house but still we live in dread but something should happen.
I am your humble servant, William Howland.
Letter from Hill to Work enclosing letter Captain Balch received from Master of Georgianna and asking Work, formerly in charge of Fort Simpson, for his opinion as to whether survivors will reach Fort Simpson.
Work's reply to Hill in which he states the Harders [Haidahs--Queen Charlotte's Island Indians] will not proceed to Fort Simpson as the Chimayan Indians at Fort Simpson are at war with the Harders. The route by land is dangerous at this time of year, especially since the survivors are not equipped for it. Hudson's Bay Company Brigantine Una, Captain Mitchell and Captain McNeal, somewhere on coast. Fort Simpson understaffed at moment:
..... Allow me to suggest that the plan I see of furnishing immediate relief to the sufferers would be to send some of the vessels now in the Sound, well manned and armed, and if such a ship could be got, some person acquainted with the coast on board.
I am, Sir, your most respectfully your obedient servant,
B. H. Hill, Esq., Captain U.S. Artillery.
Official charter, Balch and Cyrus Palmer of Steilacoom, Firm of Balch and Palmer, party of the first part, and S. P. Moses, party of the second part:
. . . . . And the said Simpson P. Moses, Collector as aforesaid (Collector Customs for District of Puget Sound) re by covenants and agrees to and with the said parties hereto of the second part, to pay to them on the determination of this Charter Party the just and full sum of Five Thousand Dollars lawful money of the United States for one month's service as aforesaid from the date hereof, and should the said voyage occupy more than one month from the date hereof, then the said first party hereto are to receive for the said schooner and her services aforesaid, the just and full sum of One Hundred Dollars per them for every day thereafter until her arrival at the said Port of Olympia, or until said schooner be frustrated from effecting the object for which this Charter Party is made.
Letter Moses to Hill giving action taken and asking for army and soldiers:
Acting in conformity with my conviction of what is due from the Government and from me, its representative in such cases to the sufferers, I have chartered the American Schooner "Damariscove". .
[Captain Hill offers arms but refuses men.]
Moses urges a military detail to accompany volunteers and agrees to permit the officer to be in charge of the volunteers as well.
Captain Hitchcock, Headquarters Pacific Division, Benecia, California, refuses request for quartermaster supplies:
I shall, however, direct the military commandant at Puget Sound to afford you every protection in his power in the execution of your duties.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
E. A. Hitchcock, Col. 2nd Inf. B.B. Genl.
Simpson P. Moses, Collector of Customs Olympia, Puget Sound, Oregon.
At a public meeting held at Olympia on Saturday, February 7, 1852, composed of the citizens of Thurston county and the passengers and crew of the late sloop Georgianna, recently returned from Queen Charlotte's Island, Col. M.T. Simmons in the Chair, D. R. Bigelow and A. M. Poe secretaries, the following proceedings were had.
In motion a committee of nine was appointed by the chair to draft resolutions, consisting of D. Shaw, S. D. Howe, A. Sargent, D. A. Brooks, S. S. Fort, W. Crockett, I. B. Powers, I. N. Ebey, and H. C. Wilson.
By request, Mr. G. Moore then read to the meeting an abstract of a log of the sloop Georgianna, W. Rowland commanding, on a mining expedition to Queen Charlotte's Island,....(and) account of wreck and efforts of survivors on shore)....
The committee then came in and made the following report:
Whereas, the people of the county of Lewis, in the territory of Oregon, have witnessed with feelings of the warmest approbation and admiration the prompt, vigorous, and successful steps taken by Col. Simpson P. Moses in behalf of our shipwrecked and Captive brethren on Queen Charlotte's Island, and
Whereas, We the persons who were so unfortunate as to be shipwrecked on Queen Charlotte's Island, and made prisoners by the Indians inhabiting the same, sincerely lamenting that we should be the occasion of calling forth the special aid of our Government in our behalf, having been restored to our friends and homes, and feeling truly grateful for the prompt assistance rendered us in the hour of extreme peril, be it therefore
First Resolved, That the critical situation of the sufferers on
Queen Charlotte's Island demanded prompt and immediate relief, and
was a proper and legitimate occasion for and exercise of the power
and parental protection of our government.
Second Resolved, That the promptitude, energy and perseverance
which has characterized the movements of Colonel Simpson P. Moses,
in this important from the very first moment of his receipt of the
information, demands not only of the citizens of Terrritory, but of
the United States generally, and the hearty thanks and
acknowledgements of our unfortunate friends who were the recipients,
his efforts, of the means which led them from their perilous
situation returned them safely to their families, and homes.
Provided, That in the sense of this it is not only the duty of the
government to assume the payment of the schooner Damariscove,
ransom of the persons, but make t and full remuneration to those ic
citizens who volunteered their s to accompany the expedition for rescue
of our fellow citizens.
The report was accepted and adopted, was voted that the proceedings
of ting be published.
The names of those rescued on Queen Charlotte's Island are as
follows: William nd, Captain; Duncan McCuen, Asher Sargent; Ambrose
Jewell; s C. Weed; Daniel Shaw; Samuel Adams; James McAllister; John
Thornton; Charles Hendricks; George A. Page; John Remby; Jesse
Ferguson; lgnatius Calvin; James Hurd; Wm. Mahard; Solomon S.
Gideon; Isaac Brown; Benjamin Mcdonald; Geo. A. More; Alexander
Wilson; S. V. Howe; Benjamin Gibbs; Roland Gibbs; Nelson Sargent;
and Tamarae A. Kanaka.
Treasury Department, March 2, 1852. Sir:
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 22nd of December last,
with the accompanying documents relative to the expense of fitting
out on your own authority a military expedition for the rescue of
the captain, crew and passengers of the sloop Georgianna, held
prisoners by the Indians of Queen Charlotte's Island in the British
Territory where the said vessel had been wrecked, but the Department
does not nor has it the power to recognize any act by which you
constituted yourself the representative of the Government of the
United States in such an emergency, and whatever may have been the
motives which prompted the formation of such an unauthorized
military expedition, it cannot be sanctioned by the payment of the
expenses referred to in your letter.
In all such cases, armed movements belong to the powers and duties
of the authorities of the Territory of Oregon or the officers of the
Army and the Navy stationed there, and not to the officers of the
Revenue whose duties are of a more limited and defined character.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury.
Custom House, District of Puget Sound, Olympia, Oregon, June 29,
Hon. Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury.
.... Before going into particulars, I may be permitted to refer most
respectfully to a communication from the Treasury Department of the
second of March last, and which I am forced to look upon as reproof
for my performance of what I believed to be an act of humanity,
patriotism, and official propriety, positively and clearly incumbent
upon me to perform.
My countrymen and immediate neighbors were in imminent peril, and I
felt confident of the duty, ability and willingness of our
Government to rescue and protect them. They sailed from this
District, and to this District they looked for their preservation.
Their vessel was totally wrecked upon what is known to be a British
shore, but no Britons were there to succor and save, nor was the
Queen's flag at hand to overcome her savages.
My country[men] prisoners to the barbarians, the Hudson's Bay
Company admitted their inability to relieve them (see John Work's
letter forwarded last December), the commander of your United States
troops (Captain B. H. Hill) at Fort Steilacoom virtually declined to
act; but submitted the latter to me by sending me all the papers and
subsequently granting me military aid (see his correspondence
already forwarded), there was no other source of relief at hand, and
I am quite sure the Department, after a reconsideration, will decide
that I did right by acting promptly, as loss of time might have been
attended with the most deplorable consequences.
To have submitted the affair to the Navy would at the time have been
exceedingly impractical, as relief might have been delayed from six
to ten weeks, no vessel of the Navy being nearer than at San
Francisco, and there was no certainty at all of any being then at
that station, the presumption was that the threatened difficulties
at the Sandwich Islands obtained the entire attention of the Pacific
To have appealed to the authorities of this territory would, it
appears to me, have proved unavailing, from the fact that they were
so entirely discordant, it being one of the most unlikely things to
occur, for the Governor and Legislature to agree upon any proposition
for any purpose whatever.
The letter from the Department informs me that "the duties
of officers of the Revenue are of a more limited and defined
Knowing that the collectors upon the Atlantic Seaboard are annually
instructed to dispatch the cutters under their charge, to cruise
upon the coast for the express purpose of granting relief to vessels
and persons in distress, I could not think otherwise than it became
my duty to act in a similar manner when a shipwreck, robbery, and
imprisonment by savages of passengers and crew, a case of real and
serious distress had actually been not only reported to me, but the
papers relating thereto turned over to me for my consideration by the
commander of a United States Military Post.
It is true the vessel I dispatched was manned and armed, but it
cannot be inferred that any hostile object was in view. She was
manned and armed solely for the protection of herself, her
passengers and crew. I respectfully beg leave to remind the
Department that, the vessels exclusively under its charge known as
Revenue Cutters, are invariably [armed), though not identified with
those branches of Government having hostilities as the particular
subject for their attention.
If I had had a revenue cutter under my charge when the relief became
necessary, would it not have been my duty to have dispatched her
upon the errand? Would she not have been an armed vessel, and would
it have been requisite for me to look to any other than the Treasury
Department for justification? The captives were at the mercy of
hostile Indians, and I respectfully submit whether the sending of an
unarmed relief would not have been preposterous so far as the
captives were concerned, and really hazardous of the lives of those
who went to their assistance.
Although the claimants are extremely anxious to obtain their dues,
the accounts of expenses incurred, I have not formally considered,
owing to my expectation of orders from the Government to settle and
funds with which to make payments.
The amount necessary to meet the demand is about as stated below,
there being a deduction to make for the proceeds of a sale at public
auction after due advertisement to the best possible advantage at
this place on the seventh day of February last, by Messrs. Poe,
Balch, and Rowe, of the "articles remaining on hand" referred to by
Lieut. Dement's letter, the net proceeds of which sale amount to
To Balch and Palmer, from 16th of Dec. 1851 to 3rd of Feb., 1852,
inclusive as per Charter Party, one month and twenty days,
To twelve volunteers at the current wages of the country, $100 per
month each, 2,000.00
To Wm. F. Tolmie for ammunition, 132.12
To Dr. Johnson, for medical service, 200.00
To Dr. Johnson for medicines, 75.00
To Hudson's Bay Company for goods purchased to ransom the prisoners,
To Theodore De Bock, T's for conveying one brass cannon to
For compensation to Indian messenger between Olympia and Steilacoom,
To Collector for traveling expenses twice to Steilacoom and back to
charter vessel and superintend the fitting out of the expedition,
For fee paid attorney for drawing charter party and supplemental
From which deduct proceeds of auction sale, 401.02 Eleven Thousand
Seventeen Dollars and one cent. (11,017.01). The last named sum
is the amount necessary to discharge the obligation pending.
I have the honor to be Very respectfully your obedient servant,
Simpson P. Moses, Collector of Customs.
Custom House, Puget Sound, Olympia, Oregon, Nov. 20, 1852.
Hon. Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury.
I forward herewith a communication from Messrs. Balch and Palmer,
covering their accounts against the United States for the expedition
to Queen Charlotte's Island. The parties seem inclined to hold me
individually responsible for the debt, and my anxiety for its
adjustment is greatly on the increase.
Their accounts, which I find to be correct, add to my estimate the
sum of three hundred and three dollars and twenty-seven cents,
exclusive of interest from the return of the expedition (when payment
was due) to the date of payment not ascertained. The Department is
doubtless informed of the fact that the distance sailed by the
Damaris cove, from this port to Queen Charlotte's Island and back is
about fifteen hundred miles.
With great respect your obedient servant, Simpson P. Moses,
Collector of Customs.
When the Whigs went out of office in 1853, and the Democrats came
in, the federal office holders were changed. Moses was succeeded by
Colonel I. N. Ebey, who had been an assistant under him. In view of
this association, it is difficult to understand the apparent animosity
that followed the transfer in office.
The political bias between them was responsible for the charges
which Ebey later made against Moses. Ebey had written James
Guthrie, Secretary of the Treasury on August 1, 1853, accusing Moses
of misappropriation of funds: ... "there is hardly a doubt but what
[Moses's] accounts with the Government are in the most corrupt
condition. Upon the faith of the Government he has swindled any one
here who has anything to do with him.... "
Evidently Moses did not immediately leave the territory. John
Clendenin, while United States attorney, proposed to prosecute Moses
for embezzlement of United States funds, but complained that he
could not do so as long as Victor Monroe was judge of the second
The said judge was never sober. Clendenin therefore worked with the
cousins of judge Monroe and others in an effort to get the judge
removed, but, when successful in that regard, still did not
prosecute Moses. Moses held a political office in Washington until
the date of his death in 1883.
Charles H. Sheldon, "Simpson P. Moses and the Georgianna Incident,"
Pacific Northwest Forum. Second Series. Volume V (Summer-Fall 1992)