Actually there are two memorials to Captain Richardson’s life. A plaque listing events in his life is found on a sidewalk near the Sausalito harbor docks. I lived in Sausalito for a while and yet never noticed this marker. Linda H., a dear friend interested in my writing, discovered it. Another marker honors Captain Richardson’s memory in Gabrielson Park near the Sausalito Ferry terminal. Two of the captain’s descendants from his daughter Mariana Richardson Torres, Davis Lewis and his sister Letitia Davis, attended the 1999 dedication ceremony for the monument. The memorial is fitting especially since Richardson’s gravestone, somewhere on a San Rafael hillside, can no longer be found. These two markers are important reminders of Captain Richardson’s life and work on San Francisco Bay. Many thanks to my niece Liz Lowry for the photograph of the anchor and marker. The beginning of the inscription on the plaque reads:
William A. Richardson
Founder of Sausalito
In 1822 English-born Richardson arrived in San
Francisco Bay on the whaler Orion.
I won’t quote the rest of the text on this tribute to Richardson because it contains spoilers. I would rather you read my book when it is published to discover the whole story about this remarkable and somewhat forgotten man and his courageous family.
While delving deeper into Richardson’s story, I discovered that his name was attached more recently to something historic. During World War II, a vital ship building industry known as Marinship was located on the shores of Richardson’s Bay, north of the city of Sausalito, in order to build Liberty ships. The busy shipyard employed 20,000 workers, three shifts a day, and launched a vessel, either a cargo ship or tanker, off to war every thirteen days. Since men were enlisting to serve in the armed forces, women were employed to build these riveted ships, leading to the sobriquet Rosie the Riveter. The first Liberty ship launched from there was named the S.S. William A. Richardson. The S.S.Jeremiah O’Brien, now docked at Pier 45 in San Francisco and used as a museum ship, is one of four surviving Liberty ships.
When I started researching California history, Captain William A. Richardson’s name surfaced several times connected to the founding of the city of San Francisco and the city of Sausalito. Streets were named after him as well as Richardson’s Bay near Sausalito. He was the first mate on a British whaler that sailed into San Francisco Bay in the early 1820s in need of water, wood, and provisions. A romantic story was attached to his jumping ship to stay in Alta California. As a result, his life in California revolved around the sea, sailing ships, and the beautiful, charming Spanish daughter of the commandant in charge of the San Francisco Presidio, the Spanish fort that Mexico then governed. An ambitious, driven man, he built ships and adobe houses, sailed north, south, and west, became a ranchero, and was the friend of many famous historical people.