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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Wissahickon

 

A small stream in southeastern Pennsylvania which rises in Montgomery County near Lansdale and flows south some 40 miles to empty into the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

 

II

 

(Yacht: dp. 194; l. 120'; b. 14'2"; dr. 6'; dph. 8'9"; s. 12 k.; cpl. 19; a. 1 3-pdr., 2 mg.)

 

Valda—a composite hull (iron frame and wood planking), single-screw, steam yacht designed by F. D. Lawley and built in 1899 and 1900 by George Lawley and Son Corp.—was renamed Wissahickon in either late 1901 or early 1902. She was owned by Mrs. Charles W. Henry when the United States entered World War I.

 

Although the evidence on the question is inconclusive, Wissahickon may have served in the Naval Militia for the state of Maine before being acquired by the United States. One record source consulted lists the ship as being acquired by the Navy on 13 July 1917. Since the Navy considered the yacht to be too light to stand up to the rigors of "distant service," she was placed in commission with the Naval Reserve Force. There is no record as to when this commissioning occurred, although her log—which does not begin until 20 August 1917—lists the reporting of men on board the vessel as early as April 1917. The first extant log entry states that she was commanded by Lt. (jg.) E. W. Haskell, USNRF. Ship's Data, the 1918 volume, states that she was commissioned on 3 October 1917, but no primary source corroborates this date.

 

In any case, Wissahickon served without her name under the designation SP-852 for the duration of her World War I service. She did not resume her original name, Wissahickon, until some time before January 1919. While in the Navy, she conducted coastal patrols in the 1st and 3d Naval Districts. Initially based at the section base at Rockland, Maine, SP-852 spent most of the winter of 1917 and 1918 moored to a pier at Rockland. In January 1918, all of her officers and men were confined to the ship with colds and sore throats, and the ship herself was quarantined until the bout with illness was finished.

 

She then returned to patrol duty out of Rockland which continued until mid-summer of 1918. SP-852 shifted south and arrived at Boston on 20 August. She operated out of the section base at East Boston through the winter of 1918. It appears that the ship resumed her original name in the fall of 1918, probably around September or November. The September 1918 edition of the Navy^ Directory lists the vessel, by name—Wissahickon—in its index, while the ship's log referred to her merely as SP-852 as late as November 1918.

 

The logs for 1919 commence on 1 January 1919, and the ship bears the name Wissahickon. She remained at Boston until late in January, when she shifted to Camden, Maine. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 10 February 1919, and she was decommissioned at Camden on 12 February. Three days later, orders directed that the ship be returned to her owner, Mrs. Charles Henry of Philadelphia