Passengers at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s

Samuel Merritt

1822-1890

Samuel Merritt, a medical doctor, arrived in California from Maine in 1850 on a 140 ton sailing vessel that he purchased for the passage. He arrived during one of the city's great fires, and inadvertently made a profit on his cargo of general merchandise.

In the winter of 1850-51, he purchased the brig G. W. Kendall and sent her north to the Puget Sound area to bring ice to San Francisco, where he planning on storing it in ice houses. The captain of the Kendall returned four months later to report that "water don't freeze at Puget Sound." However the captain had loaded a cargo of spiles which were in great demand in San Francisco.

The brig was sent to Australia with passengers and cargo and instructions to load coal at Newcastle for the homeward passage. The captain found many vessels waiting to load ahead of him, so he sailed to Tahiti and shipped a cargo of oranges to California. They sold at immense profit and an active trade developed.

The brig was ultimately sold at double her cost.

In 1852, the Doctor purchased a track of land in Oakland, bordering on an arm of the Estuary. There he built his home and when a fill separated the body of water from the Bay, it was named Lake Merritt.

Dr. Merritt was the 13th Mayor of Oakland, but retired in disgust at the political machinations of the time and turned his attention to yachting.

He built the schooner Casco, the largest pleasure craft on the Pacific Coast. This was also the vessel Robert Louis Stevenson sailed in to the South Seas Islands in 1888.

Dr. Merritt died in Oakland in 1890.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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