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In One Ear: Capt. Corno’s last chance

W.B. Scranton breaks up off Sand Island in 1866
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on June 9, 2017 12:01AM

From the Tuesday, June 11, 1889, edition of The Daily Morning Astorian: “Many years ago a British vessel called the (W.B.) Scranton was wrecked on Sand Island. Her hull has now come to the surface, and some of the men employed there are burning the old timbers.”

The “History of the Columbia River Valley From The Dalles to the Sea, Vol. III” (, published in 1928, contains a narrative of the wreck of the Scranton by Clara C. Munson (pictured), who was elected the first woman mayor of Warrenton in 1913, and was the first female mayor in Oregon.

Her father, Capt. Joel W. Munson (also pictured), was appointed the lighthouse keeper at Cape Disappointment (Fort Canby) in 1865. Shortly after he was appointed, the Industry, a ship owned by Capt. Paul Corno, wrecked on the Columbia River bar. Seventeen drowned, partly because Munson didn’t have a lifeboat to help save them, nor the money to obtain one.

The problem was solved when he fortuitously found a “stove in” longboat on the beach. A well-known and accomplished fiddler, he had the boat completely restored and refitted as a lifeboat — and even built a boathouse for it — with money he raised playing the violin at two dances he organized in Astoria.

So, when the Scranton ran aground on Sand Island in 1866, he was ready. He and his crew took out the rebuilt lifeboat and were able to rescue Capt. Corno’s wife and Miss Mary Ann Brown of Astoria. (She later married W. H. Twilight, who became sheriff of Clatsop County.)

At first, the crew stayed aboard the Scranton to watch over the freight, worth $200,000 (about $5 million now). But a few hours later it became apparent the ship could not be saved, so Capt. Munson and crew returned a few hours later and retrieved everyone aboard.

There were no human casualties, but the destruction of the Scranton was a financial disaster. “Capt. Corno had spent $6,000 (about $149,000 now) in fixing up the vessel just before leaving San Francisco,” Clara Munson recalled. “He had become well-to-do from the brig Susan Abigail during the 50s, but the loss of the Industry and the Scranton broke him up, and he was never able to get back on his feet.”


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