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The Sinking

The Ship

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The Deceased

Source Documents

Survivors accounts

Capt. Hudson's report

Capt. Pearson's report

U.S. Consul's letter

Daily Alta, CA news bulletin

  - Lodge Letters
  - Popular Mechanics, May 1903

Song about the GG sinking from 1863

Google Answers on gold recovery

Accounts of S.S. Golden Gate Survivors

Front page of the Daily Alta California, Aug. 7, 1862
Daily Alta California, Aug. 7, 1862

This page was created to collect accounts of the ship's burning and sinking on July 27, 1862. The first account to see publication in New York was Benjamin J. Holladay's brief telegraph to family and firm. The telegraph message was sent upon his return to San Francisco aboard the St. Louis on Aug. 7.

The complete transcript of the Daily Alta California from Aug. 7, 1862 is reproduced here, thanks to the efforts of Joe Kelly Hughes, a researcher who has dived the wreck of the SS Golden Gate.

Other letters and accounts found their way into print in the four San Francisco newspapers. The Daily Alta California even notes on Aug. 9 that, “We have received from A. Rosenfield, publisher, a lithographic sketch of the late disaster to the Golden Gate off the Mexican coast.” The newspaper didn't have any capability to print graphics (unlike the New York papers, which were starting to use lithographs of maps to illustrate Civil War battles), so the sketch never appeared. However, it was viewable at the Daily Alta California offices, where people could come read Eastern newspapers and buy the latest magazines from New York and Europe. By all indications this lithograph is lost to history.

However, there is a Currier & Ives print of the burning of the S.S. Golden Gate at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

Both captains accounts were carried in Aug. 7 editions of the San Francisco newspapers -- as were several other accounts. When the survivors of the lifeboat that strayed far sound of Manzanillo arrived in the city on Aug. 18, there were more first-hand reports.

Shortly after the sinking of the SS Golden Gate, the San Francisco postmaster published the following note in California and Nevada newspapers:
“We sent by that steamer, which left this port at 9 o’clock on the morning of the 21st of July, ten bags of letters and 38 bags of newspapers, 13, 087 letters, including 132 registered or valuable letters. These are exclusive of those sent from the Sacramento office.

All letters for the East deposited in this office between the 11th and 21st of July were sent by the Golden Gate.

I am informed that the mails have been entirely destroyed.

The publication of this communication will enable merchants and others to duplicate their correspondence.

-- S.H. Parker, P.M.


If you are aware of any others, please let us know and we'll add them to the accounts of the shipwreck.

The San Francisco Daily Alta California also published the reports by Capt. W.W. Hudson and Capt. R.H. Pearson immediately upon their rescue. These are linked.

SAN FRANCISCO, August 6, 1862,
Received August 7, 1862, 11:45 a.m.
W.L. Halssy, care of Geo. K. Otis, 88 Wall Street: --
I was saved from the burning ship by lashing myself to the forecastle ladder. I then jumped overboard; passing under the port wheel while the vessel was still underway. Fortunately I sustained no serious injury, and was picked up by the ship's boat. We were in the boat fully 20 hours before reaching Manzanilla. Poor Flint was lost.


Holladay's injuries weren't severe, but references by others make it clear that he didn't pass under the wheel uninjured. ---

Mrs. Thomas Gough, who would be rescued in one of the lifeboats, was dining with Capt. Hudson when the word came to his table of a fire aboardships. "Oh, nonsense! I don't believe it," he responded to the sailor with the news, but immediately left the table to investigate.

She was in one of the first boats launched, which tossed all aboard into the sea during the failed lowering. A sailor jumped into the water, then righted the boat, after which the boat reloaded. The boat eventually began to take water, but encountering the boat of Mathew Nolan, first mate, he ordered the survivor to use a portion of Mrs. Gough's dress and handkerchiefs to top the leak.

Nolan also organized the boats together, as several were launched while the Golden Gate was still about two miles from shore. "The first mate then ordered one of the boats to go back and taken the surplus boats in tow, and follow in the wake of the ship, which was headed for the shore," another account in the Daily Alta California relates. "All the after part of the ship was now one sheet of flame, and her passengers were all crowded into the bow."

"By the time we had reached the ship, many were ashore. After rowing about the ship until we could find no more floating there, we then went back, still searching for those who had left the ship before she struck, and found some five or six who were floating upon boards and timbers, among whome were Ben Hollday and Mr. Storms."

There were a number of men floating in life preservers; Mrs. Gough's boat was full with 28 people, so those swimming to the boat were told to hang onto the sides.

They rowed through the night for Manzanillo, encountering a thunderstorm around midnight. Finally the boat reached harbor around 1:30 p.m. on Monday. Other lifeboats continued to arrive through the afternoon.


The arrival of survivors who were in the lifeboat that landed far south of Manzanillo provided the most-specific speculation as to the cause of the fire. This group of 23 arrived in San Francisco 11 days (Aug. 18) after the St. Louis brought the story into San Francisco.

"One of the waiters said the vessel had several times been on fire under the baker's oven, and had caught there the day before she was burned," wrote the Daily Alta California. "Some one familiar with the fact, had predicted that on some occasion the flames would get too much headway previous to discovery, and then the ship would go. The fire commenced near the oven, but nobody knows exactly where."

Later Accounts

The dozens of survivors wrote to family and friends about the accident. And some lived to pass down oral histories.

Narrative of J.L. Hulse

Mr. Hulse survived but his wife and youngest (15 months) child did not. This account was published in the Wyandot Pioneer of Sandusky, Ohio, on Oct. 17, 1862:

In company with his wife and two children he took passageon the Gate, which left this port on the 31st ultimo. The children are both boys, the elder four years old, and the younger but fifteen months.

On the outbreak of the flames Mr. Hulse was standing about amidship. He went to his wife and told her to keep quiet and all would be well. The Captain gave orders for all passengers to go forward.

Mr. H. started with the children. His wife got forward, and from that moment he lost sight of her. He has never seen her since. One of the crew is confident that her body was washed ashore. If this was that of Mrs. H. it was decently interred. After being separated from his wife Mr. H. went into the dining saloon. Here he saw Capt. Pearson, and asked him if he might throw overboard some pieces of furniture to which to clin. No reply was given.

He went to the after part of the saloon and thence to the starboard of the vessel. Here was a boat alongside. He threw his eldest boy into the boat. He tried without success to throw his babe in also, but he fell into the water, sank and rose not.

By this time the flames had completely surrounded Mr. Hulse. His clothes catching fire he leaped overboard. Simultaneously four others also jumped from the ship into the water.


One of these, only, he recognized. He was a brisk cabin waiter. Our informant managed to get rid of his pants, coat, shoes, and in fact divested himself of every garment, excepting his shirt, and a handkerchief bound around his person, containing his papers.

After being in the water for an hour, he found floating by his side a life preserver. He of course at once adjusted it, and instantly epxerienced great relief after the fatigue of swimming. He was now about three miles from the shore. The sun was setting.

At this juncture 1st Officer Nolan's boat came along, and rescued him from his long and involuntary bath. There were seven or eight in this boat. Two others were subsequently picked up. They then pulled away for the the two other boats laden with survivors. All of the females were transferred to Nolan's boat.

Our informant changed his quarters also, going into the 3d Mate's boat. He received orders to head at once for Manzanilla. Passengers and crew worked with a will until midnight, then lay in their oars till morning. They rowed on this day (Monday) until 4 p.m.., when finding that they were drifting seaward, and that many of the passengers were suffering from thirst, it was resolved to beach the boat.

In the attempt it was capsized in the breakers. All were thrown out but every many managed to get ashore -- some being dragged up the beach by the more fortunate.


The salvation of these twenty-one souls is indeed marvelous. Now there was a wish for all for fresh water. Water, water , on every hand, but not a drop to drink!

A few of the party soon found a stagnant pond. Although very brackish, the water was swallowed eagerly. Others, in pursuit, fell along the beach in a state of complete exhaustion. Our informant and others had their limbs, and entire bodies in fact, badly bruised in consequence of their scanty costume.

The next morning (Tuesday) after walking a half mile, the party came to a stream of water. The mate insisting that the headlands in advance were those outside the harbor of Manzanillo, the party concluded to cross the river. A cano was found, all crossed, but aftr journeying a three-fourths of a mile, wheeeled about, satisfied that Manzanillo lay above.

Some progress on the return had been made, when a native was encountered. He at once directed the party to a spring of good water. He had with him a bottle of water which was distributed amongst the more weary of the party. He then left for the settlement beyond, for provisions.


Our informant started soon after alone on his trail, and in a short time came upon a Mexican hamlet. He informed the inhabitants, as well as his imperfect knowledge of the language would permit, of the circumstances of the loss of the Gate, and the whereabouts of his party.

The natives manifested the liveliest interest in the narrative, and at once set about making provision for the destitute. Four mules were laden, and accompanied by four men, immediately left for the beach, three miles disstant, to carry provisions to the sufferers, and to bring in the feeble. The guide also took out tortillas, liquors, etc. Before long the entire party reached the settlement.


Here they remained to recruit until Wednesday. Horses were procured; but meanwhile, it was announced that they Alcalde must be consulted. This official resident some distances from the settlment. The party went thither and had a conference with an interpreter. The Alcalde decided that it was better for the party to proceed to Colima, sixty miles distant, than to go to Manzanillo direct.

Accordingly, at 3 p.m. of that day, they left for Colima, on horseback. They rode until 11 p.m. and then picketed their beasts and laid down on the ground to sleep. Shortly thereafter a messenger made his appearance in camp from the Alcalde. He had changed his mind, and wanted the party to retrace their steps, and go direct to Manzanillo.

A vote was taken, and the party decided to push on to Colima. So they journeyed on the next day, reaching Colima at 2 o'clock p.m. Here they were most hospitably entertained by the citizens, who threw open their houses and furnished the sufferers withe an abundance of food and clothing. A purse also of some $300 was made up for the more needy.


The party remained here until the following Tuesday, when they set out at daybreak for Manzanillo. An escort of six Government soldiers was provided, who accompanied the party half way to Manzanillo. A number of citizens also escoreted them two or three miles out of town.

The entire party unite in expressions of gratitude to the Mexicans for the substantial aid and disinterested kindness exhibited to them. They journeyed thirty-six miles this day, and encamped at night under a shed. It rained heavily during the day, for the first time since the day of the disaster.

At 7 a.m. the journey was renewed, when at daylight a large stream was reached. The party crossed in canoes. At this point the Government soldiers returned to Colima.

Here, also, the company learned that two brothers who returned from the Alcalde's, near the beach, to look for $6,500 which was lost by the swamping of the boat, had passed along the day previous, on their way to Manzanillo. They had taken the air line route from the beach, and of course did not visit Colima. They had been unsuccessful in their search for the missing money.


The party pushed on, and arrived at Manzanillo about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. They went at once to the American Consul, who sent the party to a hotel, where they found accommodations at six bits each, per diem. Here they tarried until Saturday noon, when the


entered the harbor. Captain Hudson at the time was in the offing in a schooner. The steamer immediately went out and towed the vessel back to port.

The passengers then went on board, got a square United States meal, and such as required clothing procured a comfortable outfit. At 7 p.m. the steam went to sea, passing within two miles of the wreck. Nothing could be seen of the Gate but her wheels and a portion of the engines. On the way up the shipwrecked received every attention from the officers and passengers of the Orizaba.

On arriving here (ed. note: San Francisco) Mr. Hulse learned, much to his relief, that his brother had his older son (whom he had thrown into the boat on leaving the Gate) in his care, and only on Saturday evening took him up on the Sacramento steamer. Our informant and brother reside on Salmon river, in Klamath county.


The first officer and all the seam of the Gate came up in the Orizaba, leaving only Captain Hudson behind, who went over to Colima on business, just prior to the steamer leaving Manzanillo.


George Richard Fulton

The story of George Richard Fulton comes down through an autobiography written by his daughter, Amy Day Fulton (and contributed by her grandson -- Robert Fathauer).

George was only 7 at the time of sinking and was on his way east to family in Missouri following the death of his parents in Virginia City, NV, in February, 1862. He was accompanied by an uncle and namesake, George Henry Fulton, who had come west to retrieve young George and brothers Julius (9 years old), Walter and Edward.

When the ship caught fire, the five Fultons went on deck. Amy Fulton's account says, "All the other children cried and begged him to save them. He said he would if he could but he feared it was impossible.

"When the fire got very near them, his uncle said goodbye to him and his older brother, Julius, and told them if they were saved to tell about him and the others, then made them jump into the water, which they did. When they got into the water Julius said to his brother, 'George, I can't swim a bit.' George tried to show him how but he just made one or two struggles and went down by his side. When George was going toward shore he looked back and saw his uncle watching him. From all he said, it seems he got ashore alone without any assistsance -- a remarkable thing for a boy of only 7 years.

"He remembered distinctly being picked up on the beach the next morning by two men who also found a little girl near him, and a keg of potatoes. As far as they knew they were the only survivors. One of the men took the little girl in his arms, and the other shouldered the potatoes and took the boy by the hand. Thus they set out on their long march over the hot sands in search of help.

"Soon the boy's steps began to falter, and when he sank down exhausted the men debated whether to take the boy or the potatoes. But love prevailed and the man left the potatoes and carried the boy until they came to the town of Manzanilla."

George received special care from the 1st mate of the St. Louis, taking him back to San Francisco with him. Evenutally George traveled to St. Louis (via Panama and New York) and was adopted by a bachelor uncle, John.





Revision: 6/6/2023