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April 15, 2009 > History: Sea Captains of Washington Township

History: Sea Captains of Washington Township

Pioneer sea captains brought freight up the sloughs to Washington Township in small sailing sloops or steamers before the railroads came. These captains became some of our most important pioneers.

Captain James Allen Trefrey was commander of John Horner's steamer, Union, hauling freight and passengers between San Francisco and Union City. He built one of the first houses in Centerville where he raised his family. He also served as constable here for over 20 years.

Captain Richard Benson was another of the early Union City commanders. He took over John Horner's Landing, dug a well and hit artesian water at 10 feet, developing a pretty little lake with gushing water. Captain Richard Barron bought the property and developed it into the showplace of the area.

Captain Frederich Meyer came to California in 1849 as master of a sailing vessel. He arrived in 1851 and started a general store, dealing in grain and warehousing. He and his wife started the Meyer Ranch in Decoto and established the Meyer family in Alameda County.

Captain Oscar Pease acquired Beard's Landing and built the first house there. Eventually he sold the property to Captain Joseph Mayhew who erected more buildings and renamed the place Mayhew's Landing. Mayhew sold to his uncle, Captain Jonathan Mayhew and went into farming. The uncle established lumberyards, a thriving industry at the landing and even served several terms as county supervisor.

Captain George William Bond sailed around South America to San Francisco Bay in 1850. He sold his ship and went to work on John Horner's potato ranch. Moving to Centerville, he became a prominent citizen and community developer establishing the first store and building one of the first homes. He planted one of the first orchards in the Centerville area, was the second postmaster, opened the first blacksmith shop and served as the justice of the peace. Bond married Frances Carter, and the couple raised five children. Later, he and his son Charles purchased John Horner's farm at Centerville.

Captain Ebenezer Haley was a member of a prominent seafaring family in Nova Scotia. Like Bond, he sailed around South America to San Francisco in 1850. In 1852 he took a bay steamer to Beard's Landing and bought 275 acres from Beard and Horner in the present Newark area. Later he returned to Nova Scotia and brought his wife Mary and their eight children back to Washington Township.

Haley family members became prominent citizens in the area. William became a Centerville merchant. Caleb associated with Captain Larkins at Mayhew's Landing and later farmed near his father's ranch. Comfort also bought a farm nearby and became a road overseer and school trustee. Ebenezer Jr. farmed the home ranch at Newark. Collectively, the Haley family left their mark on the history of Alameda Country.

Captain Calvin Valpey also sailed from Nova Scotia around the Horn to San Francisco. He tried mining for a while and then formed a partnership with Captain James Sinclair setting up a passenger and freight service between Union City and San Francisco. He established Warm Springs Landing and purchased nearby property where he built a spacious home, and then sent for his family. The house is pictured in the 1878 Atlas of Alameda County.

Timothy Rix settled at Washington Corners (now Irvington) where he opened a general store and served as the first postmaster. Many of his descendents became prominent citizens of Washington Township.

Captain C. Scott was one of the first to run a boat and live in Union City. He moved up Alameda Creek to farm and in 1861 sold the property to Daniel Sanborn, relocating to the beautiful canyon ranch he called Mizzen Top. His ranch also was shown in the 1878 atlas.

William Simm was a former captain and blacksmith who built a house out of an old schooner on his squatter's claim along Alameda Creek. He was a pioneer orchard grower on land that became the Shinn ranch.

There were other captains who settled here. Tom Newell ran schooners out of Union City and Mowry's Landing before selling his interests to Captain Stephen Larkins who took over Mowry's Landing and farmed adjacent land. J. J. Ortley ran on the Union City line and hauled posts and rails from the San Antonio redwoods for Beard and Horner. Captain Marsten had a package house shipped around the Horn to Centerville. John Leale was the first master of the ferry steamer, The Newark.

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