Captain Christian Lass


The following biographical sketch is taken from ‘History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California: An Historical Story of the State’s Marvelous Growth from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time “ by Prof. J.M. Guinn, A.M., The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.   (Santa Clara City Library call number: GR 979.4 G96)


It was written in 1904, before the Lass Family purchased what is now known as the Harris-Lass House in 1906, so is describing the life of the Captain before he moved his family to the Market Street residence.


CAPT. CHRISTIAN LASS.  The homestead which Captain Lass purchased in 1894 comprises thirty-eight acres and lies near Santa Clara on the Los Gatos road.  The year after purchasing the property he erected a commodious and attractive two-story residence, making of the place a well-improved and desirable home in which to pass the afternoon of his active life.  He is an old resident of California, where he arrived April 16, 1862, and ever since then, although his voyages have taken him to various ports of the world, he has regarded this state as his home, finding in no other region a country combining so many attractions of climate and soil as are afforded by the Pacific coast.


Of German birth and descent, Captain Lass was born in Schleswig, August 18, 1843, and is a son of Frederick and Johanna (Brack) Lass, natives of the same province, both now deceased, the father having died in Eckerfoerde January 17, 1904.  In a family of four sons and one daughter Christian was the eldest.  Following the German custom, he was given a good common school education.  At the age of fifteen he shipped to sea as a cabin boy and afterward was engaged as ordinary seaman on the ship Lucy Caroline.  Some years later, as able seaman, he sailed to Spain and other countries.  In the fall of 1861 he landed in New York and from there shipped to San Francisco as able seaman, arriving in the spring of 1862.  His next voyage took him on a Danish ship to Port Gamble, from which point the vessel conveyed a cargo of lumber to Valparaiso.  Soon afterward he returned to Germany, and thence crossed the ocean again to New York, where he left the ship.  While the Civil war was in progress, in 1864, he ran a sloop, General Brady by name, in the employ of the United States government.  Since then he has been principally engaged in the coasting trade.


In October, 1868, Captain Lass was made master of the schooner Annie Forbes, on the Sacramento river, continuing to operate the boat for two years.  In the spring of 1870 he bought an interest in a schooner on the same river, but six months later disposed of the same.  His next purchase was a schooner known as Three Sisters, which he ran for two years.  In 1873 he bought the Elnorah, which had been built two years before, and of this he continued to be captain until 1885, meanwhile sailing not only along the coast, but also going to Mexico and Honolulu.  With two partners, in 1886 he built the Comet, a three- masted schooner, with a capacity of four hundred and twenty-nine tons, and he still owns an interest in this vessel, although he has not acted as master since 1890.  It is one of the most substantial among all the vessels that he has operated, and was built in the yards at Fort Blakeley, Wash., since which time it has been utilized in the coast trade, and in addition has made voyages to Australia, as well as nearer points, such as Puget Sound, San Pedro and Gray Harbor.  In 1891 he superintended the building of the Meteor at Fort Blakely, a vessel of six hundred tons, which he operated as captain until 1895, and in which he still owns an interest.  By reason of an injury of his spine, occasioned by a fall on board ship, he has been retired since 1895, but retains his financial interests in various vessels engaged in the coast trade.


The marriage of Captain Lass was solemnized in San Francisco March 7, 1869, and united him with Mrs. Julia Anna Christina (Peterson) Jorgenson, a native of Hamburg, Germany.  Their older son, Frederick, has charge of the home ranch.  The other son, Henry, is a master of the schooner John A. Campbell, engaged in the Pacific coast trade.  On account of his occupation, which has kept him at sea much of the time, Captain Lass never has been active in public affairs nor prominent in political matters, but he keeps posted concerning events of interest and politically voted with the Republican party.  For years he has been connected with the Master Mariners of San Francisco.  Among sea-faring men he has a host of warm personal friends, who will always cherish in memory his hearty kindness, genial manner and warm hospitality.