Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jefferson Maury (1826-1895): Noted Ship Captain; Home landmarked by Berkeley

The Maury Plot near the Mountain View reservoir

Jefferson Maury (1826 1895) was born in Virginia and may have been descended from Rev. James Maury, teacher of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe and grandfather of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, known as the father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology.

Maury entered the U.S. Navy at the age of 15 and received his warrant as a Passed Midshipman in 1847. The following year found him in the Gulf Squadron, participating in the Mexican-American War. In 1854 he was stationed in San Francisco and a year later left the service.

It is not known when Maury joined PMSS, but shipping records indicate that in 1862 he commanded the company s S.S. Northern Light, a wooden-hulled steamer with side paddle wheels and three masts on a sailing between Aspinwall, Panama and New York.  In the 1860s, he was relieved of his duties when his ship ran ashore in China, despite an investigation showing that it was not through an error on his part.

He eventually became captain of the S.S. America, followed by the S.S. Atlantic, both plying the same route.  From 1866 until 1870, Maury was master of the S.S. Arizona, which his future neighbor, Captain Seabury, would take over in 1874.  At one time he was the oldest person to hold the title of Commodore in the fleet.

The Captain Maury house was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1982 (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)
In 1894, when Captain John Slater built his house at 1335 Shattuck Ave., he was joining two other master mariners who had settled on the same block a decade earlier. They were Jefferson Maury and William B. Seabury, both high-ranking captains of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company who ended their careers as Commodores of the PMSS fleet. While Captain Slater commanded square-rigged ships, Captains Maury and Seabury were at the forefront of the mechanized age.

Captain Maury died suddenly at midnight on January 1, 1895. The Berkeley Advocate reported that he had suffered from heart disease. His wife, Adelaide Maury, continued living in their home at 1317 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley until her death in 1916.

[Biography taken from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and Martime Heritage. Additional information from the Berkeley Gazette].

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