WILLIAM MC AFIE [McAFEE] BOILER MANUFACTURING
BOILER MANUFACTURING. - The manufacture of machinery having been a leading industry in California since the days of the discovery of gold, boiler-making, as an essential feature of this line of production, has occupied a prominent place in the constructive energy of the Pacific metropolis for more than forty years. One of the pioneers in this line of production is actively engaged in the business as the senior partner and directing head of the McAfie Boiler Works, 210 Spear street.
William McAfie, the founder of the works which bears his name, learned the trade of boiler-making in the city of Boston, his native State, with James Kendell, and after working one season in the Springfield Car and Locomotive Work, he, in company with three other young men, shipped on the bark "Emma" in November, 1849, from Bath, Maine, for San Francisco. The purpose of their trip was to put boilers and machinery into a new vessel which had been constructed for a company in Bath and shipped on the Emma for service on the Pacific coast. They sailed via Cape Horn, consuming 168 days in the voyage. Arriving in San Francisco in the spring of 1850, a young man of twenty, Mr. McAfie and his companions fitted up the new vessel at the foot of third street. It was christened the Henry Clay, and was a side-wheel steamer about 150 feet long, contained a saloon and other appointments for carrying passengers, and was for two or three years engaged in the Sacramento river trade. It was then remodeled into a three-mast schooner and carried many of the brick from the yards at San Quentin which went into the construction of the buildings on Mare Island.
The "E. Coming," also a side-wheel steamer, was built at San Francisco later the same year, 1850, and was the first iron-hull steamer built entirely on this coast. The E. Coming was a good-sized boat, with more power than the Clay, and ran between San Francisco and Stockton.
After the Henry Clay was completed Mr. McAfie worked for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company at Benicia about a year; then spent some eighteen months in the mines on the Feather and Yuba rivers. He and his companions flumed the latter river, and in the three weeks they worked before their flume was carried away by a freshet they took out about $15,000 in gold. Returning to San Francisco in 1853 he established a boiler shop on Pacific street, doing repairs on marine boilers for the Nicaragua line of steamships, and has carried on the business continuously ever since. Mr. Barhite, an engineer, was his partner for some time, and subsequently James Spiers, under the firm style of McAfie & Spiers, for twelve years. In 1878 he started his present establishment with a view of interesting his sons in the business, two of whom are now associated with their father in the McAfie Boiler Works. The eldest, William A., is a proficient mechanical engineer and draughtsman, and is assistant manager of the works. This is the oldest and one of the largest exclusive boiler shops in the city, their specialty being marine boilers of every description, of which Mr. McAfie has probably made a greater number than any other man on this coast, and is the most perfect master of the business. So thoroughly familiar is he with the construction of all kinds of steam boilers, that he builds the most intricate boiler without drawings.
A born mechanic, Mr. McAfie has been a man of great energy and industry, and has achieved a full share of business success. Besides his city property, he owns a fine wine-grape vineyard in Napa county.
While working in Benicia Mr. McAfie met and married Miss Campbell, in 1853, she being one of three young ladies in the place. Mrs. McAfie is a native of Australia, and has no relations living. They have had eight children, four of each sex, all living save the eldest, a daughter.
Transcribed by Elaine Sturdevant
Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 1, page 542-543, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.
© 2004 Elaine Sturdevant.
California Biography Project
San Francisco County
Golden Nugget Library