The BRIG Sterling's anchor being retrieved from the Sacramento River in Old Sacramento State Historic Park
The BRIG Sterling’s anchor, property of California State Parks, was on display at the 2006 California State Fair in Sacramento, California.

The Sterling sunk at the foot of ‘J’ Street in the Sacramento River in 1855. Before steam boats, sailing ships brought supplies up the Sacramento River to Sacramento. Once reaching the city, vessels were abandoned by their crews and then stripped for usable materials which were then sold. These sailing ships were transformed into the first hotels, stores, post offices, hospitals, jails, and warehouses.

These "store ships," were tied up on the Sacramento waterfront until the mid-1860s when permanent levees and buildings no longer created a need for these converts.

The Sterling was on of these sailing ships turned into a store ship upon reaching Sacramento.  It was built in Duxbury, Massachusetts in 1833 by Samuel A. Fraser and was eighty-eight feet long, two mastered, and weighed 201 tons. The ship was involved in coastal trade between Boston and Philadelphia in the 1840s carrying cargo and passengers from the Union Line until the ship reached the San Joaquin River at the port of Stockton and then last ported in Sacramento.

"We were very excited to work with California State Parks in having the Sterling's anchor at the 2006 State Fair. The anchor was located in our main exhibition this year with the whole building dedicated to California Water" states Bryanna Gilbeau, part of the Cal Expo Exhibition staff. "The BRIG Sterling's history was important for our display because it has been affected, from the very beginning, by every aspect of the state water project and California Water."

The Sterling's anchor was found at a depth of only 20 feet in the river, less than a mile from California’s Capitol building, during an underwater archaeological survey in 1985. The anchor has been archived in State Parks' Archaeology, History and Museum Division repository, the State Museum Resource Center (SMRC), in West Sacramento.

-Jessica Einhorn,
Assistant State Archaeologist

Learn More About the Sterling from Our On-Line Article: