Sunday, May 15, 2016

Roy Merriam (1897-1918): Vanished in Bermuda Triangle

Roy Mirriam and his grave in Plot 14

Roy Merriam was a coxswain on the U.S.S. Cyclops, which disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on March 4, 1918.

The ship carrying 306 people including enlisted men and passengers was never heard from again and remains the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history not directly involving combat. As it was wartime, there was speculation the U.S.S. Cyclops was captured or sunk by a German raider or submarine, because she was carrying 10,800 long tons of manganese ore used to produce munitions, but German authorities have denied any knowledge of the vessel to this day. The ship was thought to be overloaded when she left Brazil, as her maximum capacity was 8,000 long tons.

Rear Admiral George van Deurs suggested that the loss of Cyclops may have been the result of structural failure, as her sister ships suffered from issues where the I-beams that ran the length of the ship had eroded owing to the corrosive nature of some of the cargo carried. This was observed definitively on the U.S.S. Jason, and is believed to have contributed to the sinking of another similar freighter, Chuky, which snapped in two in calm seas. The Washington Herald also reported that the ship has been traveling at a reduced speed due to a damaged engine.

Moreover, Cyclops may have hit a storm with 30–40 kn (56–74 km/h; 35–46 mph) winds. These would have resulted in waves just far enough apart to leave the bow and stern supported on the peaks of successive waves, but with the middle unsupported, resulting in extra strain on the already weakened central area.

The ship has appeared numerous times in popular culture, including in Clive Cussler's novel Cyclops, in an episode of Quantum Leap entitled "Ghost Ship," in the cartoon Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! and  in the video game Dark Void.

Although the ship disappeared on March 4, 1918, the designated date of death for every one on board is June 14, 1918. The list of the missing sailors released by the U.S. Navy stated that he was from Hickman, California in Stanislaus County. There is a Merriam Road in Hickman.

* Coxswain is the person responsible for steering the ship

Friday, May 13, 2016

Elijah Bigelow (1810-1895): Wealthy early Oakland settler

Emma Bigelow's tombstone on the Bigelow plot; Ladies Relief Society

Elijah Bigelow was one of the early settlers of Oakland and one of its wealthiest land owners.

He was born in Newton, Massachusetts on September 9, 1810.  In 1852, he sailed aboard a steamer from New York City to California. He settled in San Francisco where he opened a grocery store on Front Street, eventually opening stores at other locations. In 1863, he headed across the Bay and settled in Oakland, where he opened a successful real estate business.

He settled at what is now 14th and Brush, making his homestead one of the first north of 7th Street. His home was considered to be on the distant outskirts of the city. He subdivided his property in numerous large tracts and created the Oakland Homestead Company.  In 1877, the Daily Alta California listed him as one of the wealthiest land owners in Oakland, along with fellow Mountain View Cemetery denizens Edson Adams, Walter Blair, George Blake, Frederick Delger, James De Fremery, John Felton, A.K.P. Harmon and Samuel Merritt. 

In 1872, he donated a large piece of land at 14th and Franklin Streets to the Ladies' Relief Society, who provided various compassionate services to children, poor women and the elderly living in Oakland. The gift was in honor of his wife Emma. The Society decided that it wanted something farther from the city center, so Bigelow swapped that land for 3-acre site on Telegraph Avenue well to the north near today's Pill Hill District. The home was Oakland's first nonsectarian charitable facility.

You can read my post about the Ladies Relief Society at Plot 26 HERE.

Sources: Oakland Tribune, City of Oakland, Daily Alta California