Monday, May 22, 2023



This sketch should really begin with William L. Dall, the brother of C.C. Dall. Just prior to the discovery of gold in California, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company was organized in New York in 1848. Three steamships were fitted up to run on the Pacific Coast between Panama and Astoria, Oregon – the steamers Panama, California and Oregon. William L. Dall signed on to the Oregon as second officer, and arrived in California about April 1, 1849.


Wm. L. Dall, was captaining ships on the West Coast at least as early as 1851. He is first noted with the Carolina from Panama to San Francisco. (Daily Alta California, December 13, 1851) His first voyage on the SS Columbia, was in 1852 to Oregon. (Daily Alta California, March 15, 1852) The Columbia appeared to be his ship of choice throughout most of the decade of the 1850’s. Wm. L Dall brought his wife, infant and servant to California in October 1857, via Steamer Sonora. (Sacramento Daily Union, October 2, 1857). I could find no record but C. C. Dall arrived in San Francisco in the same year, and possibly accompanied his sister-in-law to California, as he was the brother of W.L. Dall.


An advertisement documenting both Dall brothers commanding their respective coastal route ships in 1857. (Daily Alta California, October 3, 1857)


Christopher Columbus Dall was a demanding captain, more than once being harshly judged for his actions. One example of several events he endured, notes. . . “We learn from the Oregon Times of July 31st, that Portland was the scene of considerable confusion, bordering upon riot, on the 26th Ult. It appears that Capt. C.C. Dall, of the Columbia, was arrested on a complaint for mal-treatment of one of the hands on board the steamer; and after being fined to the amount of $50 by the Recorder, made a narrow escape of passing through the hands of Judge ‘Lynch’. – On coming out of the Recorder’s office, after the trial (about dusk) Capt. D. found the ‘outside pressure’ pretty strong against him – being saluted with hisses, howls, shouts, and a shower of substantials.  Several shots were fired at him, but he escaped to his ship uninjured.  Several of the citizens were more or less injured from the free circulation of rocks and other missiles. One pistol ball pierced the coat of the Marshal. Several of the alleged rioters were subsequently arrested, and bound over to court for trial. (Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington Territory, August 13, 1858)

His brother, W.L. Dall, while charged with the steamer Northerner, struck a rock near Cape Mendocino during a nasty storm. The ship was eventually beached but 34 passengers lost their lives. By an ironic coincidence, the steamer Columbia, under the charge of C.C. Dall, was en route not far behind the Northerner, which rendered considerable assistance to the tragedy that occurred. (The Weekly Chicago Times, Feb 16, 1860, pg 2).  Among those who were lost was Daniel Webster Barry, the messenger for Wells, Fargo & Company, and brother of Theodore Barry of the firm of Barry & Patten. 

It was reported that Capt. W.L. Dall had made over 200 voyages over the previous decade with no problems. (The Empire, Sydney, Australia, April 3, 1860, pg 3) Wrecking the Northerner  must have shaken W.L. Dall considerably.  Captain W.L. Dall made a couple more runs on the coastal route, but retired from his captaincy in May 1860. He then became a member of the Ophir Mining Company, acting as General Superintendent, and moved to Virginia City, Nevada Territory. (Sacramento Daily Union, May 4, 1860)  W.L. Dall died May 22, 1866, at his home town of Rye, New York. “Captain Dall had been afflicted for the last few years with an obstinate and painful disease which baffled all medical skill, and at last caused his death.” (Daily Alta California, May 23, 1866.)

Captain C.C. Dall continued his charge of commanding steamships along the western coast of North America. Despite his long sojourns away from home, he and his wife, Martha Martin Dall,  had eleven children, all born between 1856 and 1874.

The life of a marine captain was a notoriously dangerous venture. Just as the loss of a steamer occurred with Captain W. L. Dall, his brother Captain C. C. Dall experienced a similar tragedy a decade later. While charged with the SS Continental, Dall had left Mazatlan for San Francisco on September 29, 1870. “The steamer was heavily freighted with salt, silver ore, coal, fruits, etc., and encountering a heavy gale, sprung a leak, which gained upon the pumps until the fires in the furnaces were put out, and ultimately compelled the abandonment of the ship by officers, crew and passengers, all of whom were ultimately saved – with the exception of a party of seven, who, through feat, refused to take to the boats.  Capt. Dall is severely censured by the San Francisco press for abandoning the poor fellows to their fate.” (Petaluma Weekly Argus, October 22, 1870) 

Hardly missing a beat, Dall continued his San Francisco to Mexico schedule, this time on the Steamship Idaho, which was scheduled to leave San Francisco on October 22, 1870. This was, however; the last run for the captain, and his name was no longer associated with commanding ships in the newspapers. Two stellar reasons may be given for Dall to exit the world of ship captain. First, he took considerable heat from newspapers in accusations that he had abandoned his duties as ship captain in not doing more to make everyone abandon the Continental even though they refused. Secondly, he had a near death experience. With the perils of his job, and likely with strong urging from his wife and family, it is quite possible that he was driven to pursue something less life threatening. His obituary notes he. . . . “was compelled to give up the sea on account of paralysis of the lower extremities.” (San Francisco Examiner, June 17, 1885) This is questionable.

By June of 1871 Thomas Harris and C.C. Dall were advertising Crystal Springs as a resort destination for San Francisco residents. (San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 1871, pg 4). By September 1871 Harris had exited the partnership leaving Dall as the sole lessee of the Crystal Springs Hotel, located about ten miles south of San Francisco.


Previous advertisements included the name of Thomas Harris as a partner. This is the first ad with Dall taking on the task of hosting the Crystal Springs resort by himself.  (Daily Alta California, September 4, 1871)

The Crystal Springs Hotel sat at the bottom of a verdant elongated valley supplied with adequate water. The valley is actually a geomorphic longitudinal “gouge’ in the landscape caused by the trace of the San Andreas Fault.


A sketch rendered by the photographer/artist Edward Vischer is currently thought to be the only known likeness of the Crystal Springs Hotel. (photo courtesy Redwood City Pulse,


 While it provided an ideal respite for city dwellers the site soon became a promising location for speculators to construct a dam that could supply water for the ever growing population of San Francisco. Since Dall only had a lease on the property he had no ability to stop progress. The property was sold and, all the furniture, etc.,  of the Crystal Springs Hotel was auctioned on Sep 3, 1874. (Times Gazette, Redwood City, California, August 22, 1874) And finally, “The Crystal Springs Hotel has been razed to the ground” (Times Gazette, Redwood City, California, February 6, 1875) 

The loss of the Crystal Springs Hotel left Dall without a job. Three of his sons had recently secured jobs at the San Francisco Mint about this same time. It is not clear whether Dall first went to work at the Mint in about 1877 or whether he organized his Columbia Soda Works first. Regardless, both occurred nearly concurrently.  His son, C.C. Dall, jr., acted as bottler for the soda operation.  C.C. Dall’s son, George Alfred Dall, was the first Dall to work for the U.S. Mint. He is noted in the 1875 San Francisco directory as a clerk with the Melter and Refiner’s Department of the U.S. Mint. C.C. Dall went to work for the same department as a floor sweeper. While this sounds like a menial occupation for a sea captain and resort operator, the job did carry some value. The process of refining precious metals for use as coinage created some minor losses which ended up on the floor. Dall’s job was to recover the valuable material by sweeping the floor.


 (San Francisco Examiner, October 22, 1878)

Apparently, Dall couldn’t resist recovering some of the floor sweepings for himself, for which he got caught. The Daily Alta reported. . . . “The detectives have recovered some seventeen ounces of sweepings alleged to have been stolen from the Mint by C.C. Dall.” (Daily Alta California, October 5, 1878)


One newspaper gave an account of Dall’s version of what happened with the “sweeping” incident. (Los Angeles Herald, October 5, 1878)

Dall’s penalty for stealing some floor sweepings at the Mint was not detailed in the newspapers. Whether he was charged with a penalty is not known, however; the situation must have caused him considerable embarrassment. C.C. Dall decided to move his soda water business across San Francisco Bay to Oakland, where the Columbia Soda Works was last listed in the 1880 Oakland directory.  By 1881 Dall had moved back to his old San Francisco residence at 733 Broadway Street, and chose to define himself as a master mariner, but was long retired from that profession. However; a brief three year business as a soda water bottler, with his name embossed on the bottles, has clouded the impression of what C.C. Dall actually did during his lifetime.

Captain Christopher Columbus Dall died in San Francisco on June 14, 1885, aged 54 years




A question remains why Dall decided to name his soda water business the Columbia Soda Works. Yes, he had a connection with the U.S. Mint since he and his sons worked there, as did he for a while, and a number of U.S. coins had the impression of a seated goddess, Columbia. We also, shouldn’t forget that one of the steamers he previously captained was the Columbia. He may have also had a special connection with that ship, that both he and his brother had commanded. The idea of an embossed seated Liberty on the reverse of his bottles could easily have been borrowed from the U.S. Mint, as it was a common symbol on coins at the time he and his sons worked there. It is doubtful we will ever have a clear picture of Dall’s thoughts on this subject.



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