SS Milwaukee, Samoa Beach

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SS Milwaukee, Samoa Beach

by | Mar 12, 2020

The USS Milwaukee was a U.S. Navy cruiser sent to rescue a U.S Navy submarine in January 1917, but in the process was overcome by wind and waves close to shore and was beached on the northern peninsula of Humboldt Bay, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Eureka at Samoa, California. The community was originally named Brownsville but became known as Samoa in the 1890s for a similar harbor community in American Samoa.

The north spit at the entrance to Humboldt Bay was used by a series of Federal government projects including the Humboldt Harbor Light from 1851 to 1892, a prisoner of war camp in 1862, the Humboldt Bay Life-Saving Station in 1878, and a stonemason finishing yard for the St. George Reef Light from 1883 to 1891. The nongovernmental settlement associated with these projects was known as Brownsville, after a local dairy farmer named James Henry Brown. In 1892, the Vance Lumber Company constructed of a large sawmill and in 1893, the Eureka and Klamath River Railroad connected the Samoa sawmill and associated worker housing facilities to the city of Arcata and timberlands near the Mad River. The Samoa mill complex was transferred to Louisiana-Pacific Corporation in 1972 and the last old-growth timber was milled in 1980.

Despite the construction of the Humboldt Harbor Light and the Table Bluff Light, at least 27 vessels had gone ashore in this vicinity before the cruiser USS Milwaukee (C-21) grounded here on 13 January 1917 and broke up in the pounding surf. The cruiser, disregarding recommendations of local mariners, was attempting to salvage the submarine USS H-3 (SS-30). The submarine had gone aground on 15 December 1916, and its crew was living in tents on the beach. The crew of the USS Milwaukee, including 421 enlisted sailors and 17 officers, were rescued safely by the Humboldt Bay Life-Saving Station and local volunteers but attempts to salvage the wreck were unsuccessful. Read more here and here. Explore more of Samoa Beach here:

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