Biography of Captain Charles P. Low
Santa Barbara County, CA Biographies





CAPTAIN CHARLES P. LOW, of Santa Barbara, was born in Salem, Massachuetts, in 1824, and when he was four years of age his parents moved to Brooklyn, where his father became a member of the firm of Seth Low & Co., merchants of New York. Of his parents' twelve children he has four brothers and one sister still living, and they are all in Brooklyn; the brothers are all merchants, doing business mainly with China. His nephew, Seth Low, has been mayor of Brooklyn, and is now president of Columbia College. At the age of eighteen years the subject of this sketch began a seafaring life, having studied seamanship ever since he was twelve years old: He began before the mast on the Horatio and the crack East Indiaman, commanded by Captain Howland. This vessel made a ten months trip to China. Then Mr. Low went to London on the packet ship, Toronto, Captain Griswold, of the London Packet Company. Then he shipped for Rio Janeiro, then on the Houqua, Captain N. B. Palmer, the first clipper ship out of New York to China. He was a seaman for eight years, being third mate, second and first mate, and finally Captain at the age of twenty three years. While Captain, in 1848, he experienced a most terrible typhoon in the Indian Ocean, a regular cyclone which lasted twelve hours and swept off the deck all the railing, masts and boats. The Captain was washed overboard, and, after being twice engulfed, he caught a rope, and as soon as he got his head above water he gave orders to cut away the masts, and so saved the ship from foundering. As a testimonial of their approbation, the Atlantic, Sun, Mercantile and Union Insurance Companies of New York, presented Captain Low with a beautiful chronometer, with this inscription: "Captain Charles P. Low, late Captain of the ship Houqua, as a testimonial of their approbation of his good conduct in saving said ship and cargo after having been thrown on her beam ends in the Indian Ocean, on the 5th of January, 1848, in a violent typhoon and nearly filled with water; but by the extraordinary exertions of the master and crew, was righted and subsequently taken by them to her port of destination, which was 3,500 miles distant."

After having arrived at Hong Kong, the Captain re rigged her with his own crew, and after three voyages np and down the coast he returned to New York. There he took charge of the Samuel Russell, January 16, 1850, from New York to San Francisco, making the passage in 108 days, ten days quicker than any vessel before had made the trip. He carried 1,000 tons of freight, on which he received $60 a ton, which was more than the original cost of the ship. Then, by way of China, he completed his trip around the world, within the year. He next took charge of the N. B. Palmer to San Francisco, to China and to New York, by way of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1859 he took command of the Jacob Bell and made a voyage to China. Next he took command of the N. B. Palmer, being on board of that vessel twenty one years, with the exception of the last trip to China referred to. He has been around the world seven times, making twenty six voyages to China, and being thirty one years at sea. In 1873 he left the sea and came to Santa Barbara and purchased eighty acres of land on the mesa. In 1875 he was the originator of the Agricultural Assocation, of which he has been president; and he has also been presirent of the Cemetery Association, and also the first president of the Young Men's Christian Association.

He was married at Peabody, Massachusetts, in 1852, to Miss Sarah Maria Tucker, a native of Salem, whose father was a merchant. She has also made trips to China and been around the world four times. They have five sons and two daughters. Three sons are in business in San Francisco. One is connected with the American Oil Company, one is agent for a firm in Japan, and one is in the hardware business; one son is a physician and one is at the State University.

From:
A Memorial and Biographical History
of the counties of
Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo
and Ventura, California
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago 1891


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