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Who is William Parker Sproat?
Posted by: Barbara (Welling) Denno (ID *****9705) Date: March 21, 2008 at 10:55:02
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The Morning Press, Santa Barbara, June 22, 1881: The City Page

A Reminiscence of the Sufferings and Privations of Pioneer Days

One of the strangest features of life is the manner in which the life paths of friends so frequently cross and recross. This is often done without the knowledge of those interested. A notable instance of this latter class is brought to light in connection with the death of Capt. Thomas W. Moore. W. P. Sprout has been living in Santa Barbara for twelve years, and yet was unaware that the Capt. Moore of this city was a man to whom he was under life-long obligations, until he read in the obituary notice publised in the Press that Capt. Moore was master of the steamer "McKim", plying between Panama and Monterey. In 1851, Mr. Sprout sailed from New York on the "Brother Jonathan." His ticket called for passage on the "Union" from Panama to San Francisco, but the "Union" having been wrecked, he purchased a ticket on the "McKim." three thousand passengers were at this time on the Isthmus, many of them sick and dying with Panama fever. There were no accommodations for their removal, and the "McKim" was brought into requisition merely as a matter of necessity. This vessel was old, rotten and unseaworthy, but the steamship company had no better boat at their disposal, and fitting her up placed Capt. Moore in charge. The voyage was commenced with 400 passengers, and out of this number 300 died before reaching San Diego. The voyage occupied four months, and during the last thirty days the passengers were on short allowance. The daily rations allowed to each an were one mouldy cracker and a pint of water. Mr Sprout was selected by Capt. Moore to distribute these rations and so knows whereof he speaks. Men died by scores. The dead were lying all about the deck. The accommodations were wholly inadequate and men frequently died lying upon coils of rope for want of a berth. The steamer was caught in a heavy storm, and at one time the masts were blown overboard, and the ship came very near sinking. During the entire voyage Capt. Moore performed the most heroic acts. He was as devoted and faithful as a man could possibly be, and his efforts to relieve the suffering passengers were untiring. He lived upon the same allowance of provision as the rest, and even divided his clothing among the needy. He constantly went about the deck ministering to the wants of the sick and dying, and every man on board learned to love him, and to regard him as the ministering angel, rather than as a man. He was in no way responsible for the disasters of the voyage. The company had placed him in command of the vessel, and he had no other recourse than obey. During the dreadful nights of the storm, he never left the deck, and it was only by his coolness and skill that the vessel was saved. All hope seemed to be lost at one time, and Mr. Sprout remembers to have overheard the Captain say, "Twenty-one trips have I made up and down this coast, and now I must go down on this old tub." Mr. Sprout says that no words of praise could adequately express the kind and humane conduct of the noble Captain throughout the voyage. When matters came to the worst he had a tent put up on deck to shelter the sick, and paid men out of his own purse to nurse the sufferes. The "McKim" was a propeller of about the same size as the "Senator." When fifty miles out from San Diego, the vessel was sighted and the authorities sent out the steamer "Sea Bird" to her assistance. She was towed into the harbor and a generous-hearted hotel keeper threw his house open to receive the poor passengers. he gave them food and lodging not charging them a cent, and did everything in his power to alleviate their condifion. Mr. Sprout left the "McKim" at San Diego, and came up by a small boat to Los Angeles. He afterward learned of the loss of the "McKim" near Monterey. Mr. Sprout never once imagined that the Captain Moore of Santa Barbara was the man to whom he was under such lasting obligations until he read the notice in the Press. He declares that he would have walked fifty miles to have seen the Captain, and to have had an opportunity of expressing his life long gratitude.

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