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Ship Captains: San Francisco 1800s William Jackson Barry

Barry's early life is poorly documented; however, his own published writing sheds considerable light on his later world journeys, if one can believe the writings of a world-class raconteur. Disagreement exists as to where Barry or Berry was born (and there seems to be some doubt as to his correct surname, although his own published work indicates that it is Barry). One account indicates that he was born in Dublin in or about 1819, and went to London at an early age. However, later in life, when he was interviewing Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant, he told the authorities that he was born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire.

He arrived in Sydney, Australia in 1828 possibly as a juvenile convict aboard the Red River. He was assigned as a servant to one Smith, a butcher in George Street. At that time Barry was known as Sydney Nobby.

After his sentence expired, Barry was generally believed to have joined Jackey Jackey s bushranger gang, to have taken part in the gang s depredations in New South Wales, and to have been present when a Bank of New South Wales building was undermined and the safe robbed. Later, Barry served as Jimmy Ducks on a whaling voyage.

Barry moved constantly from place to place, enthusiastically following opportunity, following a life of adventure and speculation, making and losing several large fortunes. He crossed Australia as a drover, coach driver, cattle trader, butcher and possibly bushranger, and sailed on whaling and trading ships throughout Australasia. In Calcutta, in 1840,

Captain Barry traveled to Sydney, new South Wales, to Adelaide, suffered a wreck off Norfolk Island, had traded with naked savages, survived a hurricane, went north in 1840 where he joined the navy and served on gunboats in Burma, China and among the Malays cruising and trading. He returned to New Zealand, and married Hannah French, the daughter of a whaling friend, in Western Australia. Hannah died within a few years, while giving birth to their only child, a daughter, who was given into foster care.

In 1849, when the rush from Sydney took place, Barry sailed for California in the Eleanor Lancaster, one of the first ships to leave for America s gold fields.

After his time in California, Captain Barry returned to Sydney and there prospected for gold, then to Melbourne, New Zealand, where he worked at whaling and at the fish trade. He tried duck shooting and pig hunting. More gold prospecting, thence, to Queenstown, was elected the first Mayor of Cromwell in 1866.

He again fell into debt, then made 400 percent profit in selling soft goods to ladies, reinvented himself in a scientific lecturer, went back into money, traveled to the North Pole, decided to write and went again prospecting.

In September 1869, he rediscovered the Carrick gold reef and produced a spate of publicity which started what is described as the quartz reef mania in Cromwell. Barry and his party formed the Royal Standard Syndicate after which Barry appeared to lose interest. This was possibly because of the success of his first lecture on Forty Years of Colonial Experience , which he delivered in Cromwell on December 7, 1870. For the next few years he continued moving about restlessly, lecturing in many places and acting as auctioneer and carcass butcher. The lectures were not a financial success.In 1873, he returned to Queenstown to run the Prince of Wales Hotel. During his lecture tour in Australia, Barry

Barry's second marriage had been to Adelia Buckley, in Shasta, California, in 1852 or 1853. They had six children before her death in Queenstown on 3 December 1873.

Even in later years, Barry did not settle. He lectured in Marlborough in 1883 on Kings and Chiefs I Have Met and Cannibals I Have Seen, and was again involved in trouble when the charge was made that his material came out of a book by Archibald Forbes. At 79 he brought out a new book, entitled Past and Present, and Men of the Times, and petitioned the Government to grant him a pension in consideration of his services to the colony. He paid a last trip to Sydney, remaining there until August 1905.

He died in Sunnyside Mental Asylum, Christchurch, on 23 April 1907. (A second resource indicates that he died 24 April 1907.)


In the vast collection held by The J. Porter Shaw Maritime Library, Fort Mason, San Francisco is a red, hand-tooled leather bound volume of Up and Down: Or, Fifty Years' Colonial Experiences in Australia, California, New Zealand, India, China, and the South Pacific; Being the Life History of Capt. W. J. BarryCaptain W. J. Barry.. WRITTEN BY HIMSELF, 1878, with portrait of author, and other illustrations. Published in London by Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, Crown Building, 188 Fleet Street, 1879. The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold RushShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
David Igler
From Captain Cook to the Gold Rush.The Pacific of the early eighteenth century was a place of baffling complexity, with 25,000 islands and seemingly endless continental shorelines. But with the voyages of Captain James Cook, global attention turned to the Pacific, and European and American dreams of scientific exploration, trade, and empire grew dramatically. By the time of the California gold rush, the Pacific's many shores were fully integrated into world markets-and world consciousness. The Great Ocean draws on hundreds of documented voyages as a window into the commercial, cultural, and ecological upheavals following Cook's exploits, focusing in particular on the eastern Pacific in the decades between the 1770s and the 1840s. Beginning with the expansion of trade as seen via the travels of William Shaler, captain of the American Brig Lelia Byrd, historian David Igler uncovers a world where voyagers, traders, hunters, and native peoples met one another in episodes often marked by violence and tragedy.

Rounding the Horn
Being the Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives. A Deck's-eye View of Cape Horn
Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives.
Dallas Murphy
Rounding the Horn. Fifty-five degrees 59 minutes South by 67 degrees 16 minutes West: Cape Horn, situated at the bottom of South America, is a place of forlorn and foreboding beauty that has captured the dark imaginations of explorers and writers from Francis Drake to Joseph Conrad. For centuries, the small stretch of water between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula was the only gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Storms are bigger, winds stronger, and the seas rougher than anywhere else on earth. In Rounding the Horn, author Dallas Murphy undertakes the ultimate maritime rite of passage weaving together stories of his own nautical adventures with tales of those who braved the Cape before him from Spanish missionaries to Captain Cook and interspersing them with breathtaking descriptions of the surrounding wilderness.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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