Thursday, January 29, 2015

Delano Beach

Delano Beach is located on the Key Peninsula in the vicinity of Lakebay and Longbranch.  The Delano Beach Park is 3.1 acres of undeveloped land listed on the Pierce County, Washington Proposed Park System.  It’s classifications have not yet been assigned to a zone, a management unit, or a proposed park classification.  

But that is not what we want to talk about; instead we want to remember the man whose name is attached to Delano Beach:  Captain George E. Delano.

Our story begins whenCaptain Delano was in command of a 3-masted square rigger, “Austria”, owned by A. M. Simpson, a San Francisco lumber baron.  The “Austria” was heavy with ballast headed for the Puget Sound on January of 1887.  When they were about a week out of San Francisco they got caught up in a raging storm just off Cape Alava’s Umatilla Reef, and were pushed towards the rocky coastline.  Captain Delano described it as:

“Immediately we made all possible sail and headed northwest by north.  The vessel, making leeway, bore around heading south-southwest.  Lost foresail, fore topsail and mizzen stay sail - all new canvas blown out of the bolt ropes.  The vessel was still making leeway and drawing nearer  the shore.”    

Captain Delano realized that the best he could hope for was to try to hit the softest spot on shore.  At 7:30 a.m. on January 21 they hit the jagged rocks just south of Cannonball Island.  Again Captain Delano “It was one chance in a thousand that anyone was saved, but we succeeded in getting on shore all safe and no one hurt, although the sea was running mountains high and breaking all over the rock.”   

“The next day it moderated some and we went on board and got our stores and clothing.  It was intensely cold and had it not been for the Indians (Ozettes) on the beach, I guess we would have froze to death.”  

The Captain then started out on a 30-mile hike to Neah Bay to report the shipwreck, and hope to returned in another vessel to pick up his crew and whatever salvage they could recover from the wrecked “Austria”.  He reported back to his wife, Edith Helen Weeks Delano, “ I frosted my face walking from the wreck to Neah Bay . . .over the roughest ground I ever saw.  I got through all right, but pretty well used up, so stiff I hardly could move the next day.”  

While in Neah Bay he learned that the distress signal had been heard but the “Wolcott”, a revenue cutter that would have rescue them was awaiting fuel there in Neah Bay.  Once fuel arrived and the “Wolcott” refueled, it returned with him to Cape Alava.  

Captain Delano removed everything possible from the wrecked “Austria” before he allowed the “Wolcott” with him, his crew and the salvage to leave.   Taking the salvage was important because as was customary, the captain or master of a sailing ship was given a share of the total capital invested in the vessel and cargo.  The “Austria” built in 1869 had an estimated value at time of loss of $20,000 ($571,428.57 in 2014).  The vessel’s insurance coverage was $7,000 ($200,000 in 2014), and salvaged materials another $3,000 ($85,714.29).  The ship’s loss meant that he, Captain Delano was bankrupt. *(Captain Delano’s percentage or share was not provided in in the information I had for this article.)  He wrote his father-in-law telling of the incident and said “I don’t know what I will do now, but I guess I will have to go to farming.”

Captain Delano sent for his wife, Edith, and their daughter, Virginia, to join him in the Pacific Northwest.  He chartered a small boat from Captain Lorenz and spent about a month hunting for a piece of land to make their new home.  The spot that finally appealed to him was a small harbor, nine miles from Tacoma, and had a quarter mile of tide flats on Carr Inlet.  He bought 200 races from the federal government and had planned to open a hull-scraping business.  But that plan fell through when Bremerton installed up-to-date dry docks.

So then he and Edith did turn to farming, but having left home at age 13 for the sea to avoid farming, it still held little interest for him.  And so, in 1890, they decided to invest what little money they had in building a 20-bed hotel, including a living room, and outdoor dining room, and a postoffice.  Later they added 24 separate sleeping cottages.

Neither Captain Delano nor his wife had any background in hotel management.  But back in Maine, Edith’s family always seemed to have a house full of guests.  Edith wrote her parents: “I shall be happy to act as hostess for the hotel, but I will do none of the work.”

Edith’s skills of supervision were most likely picked up back home in Maine and were the results of watching her father’s ability to manage the farm and the farm crews, as well as her mother’s management of the house and household staff.

And, as hostess Edith,  she ran the hotel for a successful 40 years while Captain Delano went back to sea . . .  The last vessel I found that Captain Delano sailed on, and captained, was the “Everett Griggs”.   I believe it was owned by the St. Paul Lumber Company, Tacoma, WA.  It was a six masted barquentine (barkentine) sailing ship.


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1 comment:

  1. What a nice background story. My grandparents purchased a lovely beach home with 5 acres at Delano, in 1931. The home was built in 1888, (they said) . On the Fox Island topo map the little black square for that house can be found. As a child in 1940's 1950's visiting Delano was my high point and I would prowl the abandoned Hotel, overgrown tennis courts, and cottages that had been the Resort referred to above. Someone gave me a kerosene lamp from the Hotel. No one seemed to live there year-round, but I have a photo of Edith Delano standing by the little gate aside the hotel, taken by my gramma when she herself was about to give birth to my mom. I remember the Delano Pier, already dilapidated. We would drive to tiny store in Home for groceries, it sat on pilings over the beach. The phones were Magneto crank phones, served by a lady operator out of her living room in Lake Bay. Sadly, in 1952 the grand house my grandparents had was sold, it was too difficult to keep up the grounds, there was no heat, (wood stove and huge stone fireplace only) no local guys to hire, and my mom, who was offered it for free, was not in a position then to accept, we were struggling. Granddad Andrew Landram worked in Sales at St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Co. for most of his life. His wife, Carrie, loved the seas of flowers at the Delano place, they lived to old age in N. Tacoma Stadium District. - Andy Studebaker, Republic, Wash. Sep. 27 2016.