Ear: Destruction

The lighthouse tender Manzanita was responsible for getting supplies to the various offshore lighthouses, like Tillamook Rock. Unfortunately, it abandoned a crew on 30-acre Destruction Island, 3.5 miles off the Washington coast, according to a survivor's tale in the Nov. 4, 1890, edition of The Daily Astorian.

Edward Richardson and 13 other men were dropped off by the Manzanita on the desolate island in early September to build the foundation for a lighthouse. They were left with some rations and a promise the Manzanita would return in 10 days.

But the tender didn't show up for two weeks, and only with "a small quantity of provisions." She was en route to Puget Sound "to attend on the naval commission." The captain was informed they would need more supplies within a week, but the Manzanita never returned. By week's end, the men were on half-rations and digging clams. Soon all they had to eat was clams, and some became sick.

Signal fires eventually caught local Native Americans' attention. They arrived in canoes, but there was only room for two of the stranded men to go ashore. Richardson was one of them; he intended to report the dire straits and neglect on Destruction Island to the authorities in Portland.

"On reaching the mainland," Richardson recalled, "we walked a long distance and finally reached Grays Harbor. This we crossed in a sailboat, and then began a foot journey arriving at North Cove (Washaway Beach, Washington) … Here we caught the steamer for Sealand (Nahcotta, Washingon), and from thence came here by rail and the steamer General Canby."

The newspaper was outraged. "If the Manzanita is to be continued in the service of showing brass-buttoned and epauletted officers about Puget Sound, it might be well, for the sake of humanity, for the government to charter a steamer to supply the men with the necessaries of life, who lead isolated lives in the lighthouses."

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.