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The Families

The Roths

William Matson & Lillie Low Matson

Lurline Berenice Matson Roth was the only child of Captain William Matson, founder and President of the Matson Navigation Company, and Lillie Low Matson. William Matson, born in Sweden, came to New York in 1863 as a cabin boy at age 14. Working his way up in the maritime world, he arrived in San Francisco after a trip around Cape Horn in 1867. His first job in this area was on a two-masted coal scow. During this time he sailed and, later, piloted ships on the West Coast.

In 1882 he bought his first ship called “Emma Claudina,” named for the daughter of Claus Spreckles who loaned his part of the finances for the ship. William Matson, now a Master Mariner, built his first ship in 1887, the 400-ton brigantine he named “Lurline” (the name comes from Lorelei, a mythical siren who lured sailors to their deaths), and sailed it as a supply ship between San Francisco and Hilo, Hawaii.

In 1888 Lillie Low, traveling to Hilo to teach in the missionary school, sailed on the “Lurline” and met the ship's captain, William Matson. After teaching a year in Hawaii, Lillie married Captain Matson in Hawaii in May, 1889. In September, 1890, Lurline Berenice, named for her father's ship, was born in San Francisco.