“Coast Steamer Lost on California Reef; 12 Dead, 36 missing. The Alaska Strikes Reef in a Dense Fog and goes down in Twenty Minutes.”
As this headline from the New York Times was repeated across the nation in August 1921, it struck horror in the hearts of Ella Cunningham and Ada White of Madera. Their husbands had been on that ship and they had reason to fear the worst.
Ella was the wife of Craig Cunningham, Madera County’s Superintendent of Schools, and Ada’s husband was Ernest White, editor of the Madera Tribune. The two men had decided to go into the furniture business and had traveled by train to Portland, Ore., to attend a furniture dealers’ convention.
The convention ended on Friday, Aug. 5, 1921, and the women expected their spouses to return home Tuesday or Wednesday. It was shortly after learning of the tragedy that Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. White were told that their husbands had lost their lives in the maritime accident...