Sunday, October 28, 2007

Captain WIlliam Shorey - Captain and Prominent African-American

[Gravesite photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 14B

Captain William Shorey was born in Barbados in 1859. As a young man, he served as an apprentice seaman. In 1880, he sailed from the East Coast, around the Cape of Good Hope, and eventually to San Francisco as a junior officer aboard the Emma Harriman on a voyage that consumed three years. By his fourth trip aboard this vessel, and third leaving San Francisco, he was commander. He married Julia Ann Shelton, the daughter of a prominent African-American family, and later had five children.

Before and after his retirement from the sea, William Shorey was a prominent political figure. In 1903, influential black citizens from around the Bay Area attended a dinner at the Shorey house in honor of Booker T. Washington, who spoke to raise funds for educational growth and his school at Tuskegee.

In February of 1907, his ship, the John and Winthrop sailed from San Francisco to the Sea of Okhost. This voyage took in excess of 40 days and before setting course back to the Bay Area, Captain Shorey and his crew had taken four whales. In both October and November of the same year, the John and Winthrop encountered fierce typhoons that stripped the vessel's sails and deprived the men of food. Despite the sea's relentlessness, there was no loss of life. The crewmen credited the "coolness" of their captain for this fortune.

William Shorey also captained the Andrew Hicks and the Gay Head at other points in his distinguished life at sea. He earned the coveted "Masters License," which permitted him to pilot ships of any size, anywhere in the world. His exhibitions of bravery and selflessness were chronicled regularly in the San Francisco dailies. Following his death, Shorey Street in West Oakland was named after him. He was the first black resident in Oakland to be honored by the city fathers.

[Courtesy of theshoreyhouse blog]

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