Heritage Server > Our People > Captain Cory Willisstun

"Captain Willisstun was an old whaler, born in Bristol, Rhode Island, went to sea from the time he was a child, and made his first visit to San Francisco in 1834 on a whaling voyage either bound to or from the Arctic, and came out here in charge of the brig Balance which he had been sailing on the Atlantic Coast.

"The acquisition this vessel by its owners was the result of the difference arising between our Country and France, and which developed into our French spoliation claims. It seems that a vessel—the property of these owners—had been sunk by the French, and the owner likely undertook to obtain restitution by fitting out a privateer and looking for French victims. His vessel in due course captured a French ship, with a cargo of small value, and upon disposing of it placed it to the credit of our French account, and the captured vessel was started out as an American boat under a new name, the Remittance. Shortly after, they captured another vessel, a French brig with an East India cargo, much exceeding in value their lose, and they concluded that this would square accounts, and named the brig the Balance.

"The last vessel he owned had initials for a name, B.U.M.S and she traveled on the coast here for a number of years and went down to South America to bring up sugar every year from Peru. She struck a tidal wave on the Peruvian coast off the port of Kallao, with a full cargo of sugar on board. Captain Willisstun was on shore clearing the vessel when this tidal wave came, one of those borers plowing in from mid-ocean and deliberately overwhelmed the vessel at her mooring. As she was all ready to said as soon as he came on board, they had what the sailors call "hove short" on the anchor chain so that the chain was almost under the vessel holding her waiting, and when this great wave came it didn’t five her any play and she was simply raised as far as the chain would allow; the anchor seemed to hold, and the wave overwhelmed her so that she was piled up on the beach, and that was the end of her.

"Captain Willisstun in due course retired from the seas, having invested his savings in a number of our local vessels, and having had the good judgement to put some of his savings in Fireman’s Fund stock, became a director, and later surveyor of our Company. He was a vessel owner as well as a mariner, and had experience as a pioneer here.

"At the time of the election of George C. Perkins as Governor of California, one of his first appointments was Cory Willisstun, as a pilot commissioner for San Francisco, which he held in conjunction with his other duties as surveyor of the Fireman’s Fund."

Text quoted from Fireman’s Fund Archives [04-03-01-001-0272-0818]


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