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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Exhibit 18


Edwin W. Brewer - Gold Metal for Heroic Conduct, 1903


Presented above are (4) photographs of Edwin Brewer's metal placed on top of a copy of the 1903 letter from the U.S. House of Representatives addressed to him and seeking to send him his metal. These documents, digitized by Galen Hunter, are in a folder labeled "Harold Brewer" found in the Redondo Beach Historical Museum. Harold Brewer is Edwin Brewer's son and Harold was some 90 years old when he sent copies of some of his family documents to the City of Redondo Beach in 1979. Included below are images of each of the 11 pages from Harold Brewer's "Reminiscenses" of old Redondo Beach.

Image of one side of this metal, close up/detail:

Image of the other side of this metal, close up/detail:


Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service, 1903, Treasury Department, Document No. 2353, Office of Life-Saving Service.

Image, excerpt of page 46, 47:


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Edwin W. Brewer, of Redondo California, received a gold medal in testimony of heroic conduct on various occasions.

In the summer of 1880, while Miss Rachael Cramer was bathing in the surf at Santa Monica Beach, California, she swam out nearly to a raft and then turned back, but found that in spite of her most desperate exertions she was being carried away by the undertow, and there upon she loudly called for help. A general commotion ensued, and as soon as Brewer discovered the cause he plunged into the surf without divesting himself of any portion of his clothing and swam to the imperiled woman, whom he reached justin time and by brave and skillful efforts safely landed. She was so seriously affected by her exposure and nervous excitement that she was confined to her room for some three days afterwards.

In July, 1891, while on a wharf at Redondo Beach, California, Brewer was made aware that a boy had fallen into the water from the end of the wharf on the other side, and quite a distance from where Brewer was stationed. The lad was knocked overboard by a pile of lumber which fell against him, and as he went down he struck a hawser attached to a vessel lying alongside, which threw him several yards from the wharf whence he drifted still farther away.

Brewer quickly jumped into the water and seized the boy when he was about 4 feet beneath the surface, and lifting him up began to swim with him toward the wharf. Notwithstanding the lad's helpless condition and that he himself was fully clad, Brewer made good progress and probably would have succeeded without aid, but when about half way to the pier a boat picked both of them up.

In July, 1900, a youth named Richardson was swimming in the surf at Redondo Beach and ventured out so far that the undertow was carrying him seaward, but only after a fruitless struggle did he fully realize his peril and shout for help. Brewer was upon a wharf, and hearing the outcry determined to effect the boy's rescue if possible. Hastening to the inner end of the wharf he jumped to the beach, ran down and went out through the surf. When he reached him the boy was unconscious and sinking but Brewer quickly bore him up and began to swim toward the shore. While he was thus engaged two boys thoughtfully put out in a dory and took both of them into it. Brewer then began to work upon the boy with unceasing diligence to restore him to consciousness, and as soon as the boat reached the land intrusted him to the care of a physician, who happened to be present, by whose efforts in addition to his own resuscitation was effected in about twenty minutes.

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1903 newspaper article, "Life-Saver Honored By Uncle Sam", Los Angeles Herald, December 26, 1903





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LIFE-SAVER HONORED BY UNCLE SAM - Gold Medal Bestowed on Redondo Man for Bravery - RESCUED THREE FROM THE WAVES - High Praise From Shaw for Edwin W. Brewer for Heroism

Edwin W. Brewer of Fullerton, formerly of Redondo, has received from the secretary of the treasury at Washington a gold lifesaving medal of honor, awarded to him for having saved the lives of three people at Redondo Beach, at the imminent risk of his own.

This medal ranks with the most distinguished decorations for bravery In the world. What the small copper piece, known as the Victoria Cross, is to the British soldier and the golden medal of honor to the American soldier, the life-saving medal of honor is to the man who is engaged in life-saving work along the sea shores. It is in peace what the others are in war, and it really means more, for it is earned, not among all the stimulating influences of the rage of battle, but usually under circumstances which allow men to see the full measure of danger, count the chances of success or failure when failure means death, and accept the "fighting chance."

It was under circumstances such as these that Edwin Brewer won his medal, the incidents being described in the letter from the department to Mr. Brewer, which accompanied the medal, as follows:

Shaw's High Praise

TREASURY DEPARTMENT, Office of Secretary. - Edwin W. Brewer, Redondo, Cal. Sir: Transmitted herewith is a gold life-saving medal of honor awarded you under acts of congress approved June 20, 1874, and May 4, 1882, in recognition of your heroic conduct on various occasions in saving life from the perils of the sea.

From the testimony of eye witnesses filed in this department it appears that in the summer of 1880, while Miss Rachael Cramer was bathing in the surf at Santa Monica Beach, Cal., she swam out nearly to a raft anchored at the end of the safety line and then turned back for the shore, but found that in spite of her most desperate exertions she was being carried seaward by the undertow, whereupon she loudly called for assistance. A general commotion ensued among the people in the water and on the beach, and as soon as you discovered the cause of the excitement, without divesting yourself of any part of your clothing, you plunged into the surf to the rescue of the imperiled woman whom you reached just in time and by brave and skillful efforts safely landed. She was so seriously affected, however, by her exposure and nervous excitement that she was confined to her room for some three days afterward.

Rescued a Boy

In July, 1891, while you were working on the wharf of the Redondo Railway company at Redondo Beach, Cal., you were made aware that a boy named Lawrence S. Ainsworth had fallen into the water from the end of the wharf, on the other side and quite a distance from where you were stationed, and you immediately ran to his rescue. He was thrown overboard by a pile of lumber which became displaced and fell against him, and as he went down he struck a hawser attached to a vessel lying alongside which threw him several yards from the wharf, whence he drifted still further away.

When you reached him he was sinking, as the witnesses state, for the third time, in about eighteen feet of water. You seized him when he was about four feet beneath the surface and lifting him up began swimming and dragging him with you towards the wharf. Notwithstanding his helpless condition and the fact that you were fully clad you made good progress and probably would have succeeded without aid, but the task was a hard one and fortunately when you were nearly half way to the pier a boat which had been sent out picked up both of you. The testimony states that Ainsworth certainly would have drowned but for your prompt and gallant conduct.

Another Youth Saved

In July, 1900, a youth named Edward E. Richardson was swimming in the surf at Redondo Beach and unwisely ventured out so far that the undertow was carrying him away, but not until after a hard struggle did he realize his peril and shout for help. You were upon a wharf in the vicinity at the time and hearing the outcry determined to effect the boy's rescue if possible. Knowing, however, that there was a very strong current along shore you were afraid that if you leaped overboard where you were you might not have the strength to reach him in time, and therefore running toward the inner end of the wharf you jumped to the beach, ran down abreast of him and went out through the surf. When you reached him he was unconscious and sinking, but you quickly bore him up and began swimming with him toward the shore. While you were resolutely engaged in this hazardous and difficult undertaking, two boys on the beach thoughtfully put out in a dory and took both of you into it. You then began to work upon the boy with unceasing diligence to restore him to consciousness, and as quick as the boat reached the land you intrusted him to the care of a physician, who happened to be present, by whose efforts, in addition to your own resuscitated in something like twenty minutes.

It appears from the testimony of the eye witnesses that all three of these persons would have lost their lives had you not gone to their assistance, and that your own life was freely imperiled in their behalf. I have great pleasure in acting as the medium for the award of the accompanying medal to so brave a man.

Respectfully,

(Signed) L. M. SHAW, Secretary,

Mr. Brewer left Redondo about a year ago and is now working in a planing mill at Fullerton.

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Census 1900
Name: Edwin W Brewer

Event Place: Redondo Township Redondo Beach city, Los Angeles, California, United States
Birth Date: Aug 1863
Birthplace: Canada Eng
Relationship to Head of Household: Head
Father's Birthplace: Canada Eng
Mother's Birthplace: Maine
Race: White
Gender: Male
Marital Status: Married
Years Married: 10
Marriage Year (Estimated): 1890
Head: Edwin W Brewer M 37 Canada Eng
Wife: Lulu J Brewer F 32 Arkansas
Son: Harold T Brewer M 9 California
Son: Kenneth K Brewer M 1 California
Brother-in-law: Thomas H Wright M 19 California


Harold Brewer, son of Edwin Brewer, sent historical documents to the City of Redondo Beach in 1979 which included the following - Harold's written reminiscences of Redondo.

Image of page one of Harold's handwritten letter to Ken Johnson of Redondo Beach about Redondo:

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Harold Brewer "Reminiscenses", images of each of the (11) typed pages:

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