SL Dowell

   Originally named the Griffin, the S.L. Dowell was a three-man steam tug first believed, in accounts from his son, to be leased to his father, S.L. Dowell.

   The 45 foot tug was built in Friday Harbor in 1899, and brought up to Lake Washington via the Black River in 1910 or 1911. The Black River once flowed at the south end of Lake Washington but dried up in 1916 due to the lowering of the lake to create the ship canal.

   In 1901 S.L. Dowell handled the output of the Renton coal mine, and had 3 coal yards in his name; one at James Street, one at 26th and Dearborn, and another in the vicinity of Broadway and Highland Drive.

   Dowell sold his coal business in 1906 to JW Bullick and in 1908 entered into a contract with the Pacific Coast Coal Company for the wholesale and exclusive delivery of coal on Lake Washington.

Around 1911, Dowell was using the Griffin to transport coal, brought in by train from Newcastle and Black Diamond, from a pier at the south end of Lake Washington to a woolen mill (Kirkland), a pumping plant at Leschi, and a (parental) school on Mercer Island.

   In 1912 Dowell decided to install a Corliss gas engine, and at the same time stripped the Griffin down, put on new decks and made the tug a one-pilot house control. It was at this time when the Griffin was also renamed the S.L. Dowell. The Dowell was seen at times with 5 barges and up to 26 carloads of coal.

   Later the Dowell could be seen hauling coal, sand, logs and gravel.

   On October 11, 1922 the Dowell struck an obstruction off Mercer Island and sank immediately in 200 feet of water. The Master, George Wahl and the Engineer, William Holslar survived the incident by jumping to one of the barges she was towing.

   It looks as though the pilot house was extended at one time between 1915 and when it sank in 1922.


Courtesy PS Maritime Historical Society

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