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The Brig named Orbit

The brig Orbit arrived at Tumwater, Washington, in January, I850, coming from San Francisco, where she was bought by Col. Isaac N. Ebey, B. F. Shaw, E. Sylvester and S. Jackson. They purchased her as a means of transit to the country, and brought one passenger with them. On reaching Tumwater they sold the brig to Michael Simmons, who sent her to San Francisco in charge of Captain Dunham. She next went on a trip to the Columbia in command of Captain Butler, but, meeting with difficulty on the bar, was abandoned. She afterward drifted into Baker's Bay, and was held for salvage by the Astorians. Simmons settled with them, took her back to the Sound, and sold her to J. H. Swan, H. A. Goldsborough and others. They loaded her with piles and started her for the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), but she was disabled in a gale on the Straits of Fuca and went into Esquimalt (Southern tip of Vancouver Island), where she was sold to the Hudson's Bay Company for a thousand dollars. They renamed her and ran her in the coast trade for several years.


Leonard & Green purchased the brig Orbit and operated her in the Sandwich Island and China trade, where she ran for several years in command of M. C. Erskine. E. W. Wright, Puget Sound Steamboats,

Golden Days of Fraser River Navigation, Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. New York: Antiquarian Press, Ltd., 1961., p.58.

The American brig, stranded on Sand Island inbound from Puget Sound, March, 1850. Captain T. Butler and his crew, fearing that the breakers would make short work of the brig, abandoned her. Some Astorians with an eye for salvage later boarded the vessel and after herculean efforts succeeded in getting her afloat. She drifted to Bakers Bay, and was safely anchored. Michael Simmons, of Newmarket, Washington, paid off the salvagers and regained his vessel.

James A. Gibbs, Jr. Pacific Graveyard. A narrative of the ships lost where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Portland: Binfords and Mort, 1950, p. 153-190

Murray C. Morgan, Puget's Sound. P. 78-79.

Stranded on Sand Island in March of 1850 but refloated. Gibbs, Pacific Graveyard, p. 175.

Cecil Dryden. Dryden's History of Washington. 1968., p. 115.

First American vessel from Puget Sound. North Pacific History Company. History of the Pacific
 Northwest, I, p. 335.

Clinton Snowden, History of Washington, the rise and progress of an American State . History of Washington., II, p. 451-52, 454.

James McCurdy, By Juan De Fuca's Strait., p. 53.

That summer (1850), Sylvester, Ebey, and other investors purchased the brig Orbit, Puget Soundís first home-owned ship. The Orbit ran pilings sawed by Michael Simmonsí mill to San Francisco and returned with goods for the growing community.


He (Edmund Sylvester) had no success in the California gold fields so together with several other men, he purchased the brig Orbit and sailed back to Budd Inlet. He used the Orbit to travel between Budd Inlet and San Francisco where he purchased supplies to sell to the settlers on Puget Sound, establishing the first general store in thttps://www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/timeline/detail.aspx?id=204he region.


In the winter of 1849-50, Messrs. Isaac N. Ebey, B.F. Shaw, Edmond Sylvester, George Moore and Jackson purchased the brig Orbit. She arrived at Olympia January 1, 1850, when Colonel M.T. Simmons purchased the interest of Jackson. She loaded with a cargo of piles for San Francisco. The Orbit was the first American vessel hailing from and owned at Puget Sound.


In 1851, the 154-ton brig Orbit carried timber and shingles from the Sound to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).


In 1849 the lumber trade was first opened on the shores of Puget Sound by a single vessel from San Francisco (the brig "Orbit"), which obtained a load of piles at Budd's Inlet. From that time on the settlements along the shores and inlet of Puget Sound rapidly and steadily increased. The lumber and fur trades had much to do with inducing these early settlements.

Volume 11 - Publications of the Ohio State
Archaeological and Historical Society  - 1902

1850 - Olympiaís commerce by water began when the brig, Orbit, arrived in the harbor from California, where she had been purchased by Sylvester, Ebey, and other Olympians with profits from gold mining. She was the first sea-going ship owned on Puget Sound. Pilings were loaded for San Francisco.

Roger Easton, Olympia Historian (1938-2012)