Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pendleton boy shanghaied to England

A Pendleton native was “shanghaied” at the turn of the 20th century by a Portland man and forced to serve on board a ship traveling to England, where he was abandoned.

Ed Bentley, an 18-year-old native of Pendleton, was staying at the Portland Sailor Boarding House when another man forced him aboard the Sofala, a ship heading to Bristol, England, with a group of other young men. The youths were forced to sign as sailors before the mast and then serve aboard ship.

Shanghaiing, or crimping, was a practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors, and flourished in port cities including Portland in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The practice was driven by a shortage of skilled labor aboard ships on the West Coast due to mass abandonments during the California Gold Rush.

Larry Sullivan, the man behind the forced conscriptions, sent a letter to the East Oregonian protesting that young Bentley had been treated well and paid $20, or 4 British pounds, per month. In reality, according to a March 28, 1900 East Oregonian story, when Bentley arrived in Bristol he was paid $10 per month instead of the promised wage (a total of $50), and was charged $10 by the captain for his board during the voyage. The captain also paid $25 of Bentley’s wages to Sullivan for his “recruitment.” This left Bentley with $15, which was not enough to pay for passage home.

Bentley had also fallen 80 feet from the ship’s royal yard during the voyage, breaking his ankle. Instead of medical attention, the captain gave him a dose of castor oil and a few curses, and Bentley was forced to bind up his ankle himself, which healed badly.

Ed Bentley Sr., of Pendleton, was unaware of his son’s fate until after the ship had already crossed the Columbia River Bar, and sent money for his son’s return to the U.S.

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