Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Captain William Cannon: Brother of Captain George Cannon

William Cannon was the fifth of eight children of Hugh and Eleanor (Nell) Addy Cannon. He was christened on December 6, 1778 at the parish of Kirk German in Peel, Isle of Man. Hugh was 35 and Nell was 31. William’s two oldest siblings who figure peripherally into this story, George and John, were 12 and 10 respectively. These three sons of Hugh and Nell Cannon all became ship captains.

Just six months after William’s birth, George went to sea on the Jamaican bound ship Rawlinson. When William was 2, on April 4, 1781, George entered the Peel Mathematical School and graduated two years later, on August 5, 1783. Four months after George graduated, John entered the Peel Mathematical School on December 4, 1783 and by that time, George was back out to sea. See the list of students who had attended the Peel Mathematical School as of February 20, 1784, below, obtained from the manxnotebook.

We don’t have attendance records for the Peel Mathematical School during the time William would have attended, but given his two older brothers attendance and William’s later achievements at sea, it is a fair bet that William also attended.

In a letter from Stephen D. Behrendt, dated April 14, 2005, posted on the George Q. Cannon family website, he points out that a William Cannon was on board the slaving brig Alert, which left Liverpool on September 7, 1794, with George Bernard as captain, headed for the Gold Coast of Africa for slaves. The Alert was owned by John Dawson, the same man that owned the ship Eliza that George Cannon had been on for two previous voyages. He pointed out that George may have recommended his relative to John Dawson. On November 16, 1794, slave purchases were begun in Cape Coast Castle, then the Alert went on to Lagos where the majority of slaves were purchased. Ultimately, 329 slaves were delivered to Havana, the Alert arriving there on May 29, 1795. The Alert arrived back in Liverpool on July 31, 1795 [Lloyd’s List, dated August 4, 1795, states that the “Alert, Bernade” arrived in Liverpool from “Havannah.”] Three of the crew died on the voyage. Unfortunately, one of them appears to have been William Cannon. See the Muster Roll dated August 29, 1795.
The magnified version shows the person in sixth position, “annon” (the microfilm copy is cut-off), died.
We know that George’s brother. William, lived as the baptism of his illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth, was recorded on the baptism records of the parish of Kirk German on August 12, 1803. See below.

The transcription is: “Elizabeth illeg[itima]te dau[ghte]r of Wm Cannon & Alice Cowell prev[ious]ly bapt[ize]d. Augt 12th”
Two and a half months later, William, then age 24, married Alice Cowell to make Elizabeth legitimate. Captain George Cannon, William’s brother, was one of the witnesses of the marriage. It is interesting to note that William was able to sign his name, evidence that he may have gone to the Peel Mathematical School. Alice signed her name using a mark. See the marriage record below.
The transcription is: “William Cannon bachelor & Alice Cowel spinster[,] both of this parish [German,] were married in this Church by licence this thirtieth day of Octr in the year one thousand eight-hundred & three By me James Gelling[,] Vicar[.] This marriage was solemnized between us William Cannon [and] Alice Cannan alias Cowel my x In presence of George Cannan Capt’n [and] John Thomas Graves Mercht”

W. Cannon, who I believe was George Cannon’s brother, William, was captain and owner of the ship Leander for about eight years. In Greek mythology, Leander was a youth who swam the Hellespont each night to be with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. Leander was drowned in a storm while trying to visit Hero and Hero subsequently drowned herself in despair [ under “Leander”]. The namesake ship and its captain likely had an eerily similar fate.

Lloyd’s Register lists “W. Cannon” as the captain and owner[1] of the ship Leander from 1803 to 1810. The Leander was a 170 ton brig, with [SDB] built in Workington. Workington is at the mouth of the River Derwent on the northwest coast of England in Cumbria (well north of Liverpool). The general course of the Leander for each year is indicated below. I have provided a page from Lloyd's Register - Underwriters for 1809 and then a closeup of that same year showing W. Cannon and the Leander.

Year                          Course
1803 Underwriters -- Dublin to Norway
1804 Underwriters -- Dublin to Norway
1805 Underwriters -- Dublin to Norway
1805 Shipowners   -- Dublin to Norway
1807 Underwriters -- Dublin to Norway
                              -- Liverpool to  Quebec
1808 Underwriters -- Liverpool to Quebec
1809 Underwriters -- Workington to Ireland
A closer view of the Leander
1809 Shipowners   -- Liverpool to Quebec
1810 Underwriters -- Liverpool to Dublin

We get a little more detail on some of his voyages from other sources. The Manchester Mercury and Harrop’s General Advertiser, dated April 7, 1807, p. 2, indicates that W. Cannon, was master (captain) of the ship Leander, arrived at Liverpool in late March 1807 from Limerick, Ireland, with 1671 quarters oats consigned to merchants Bennett and Blundell. Lloyd’s List, on September 11, 1807, indicates that the Leander arrived in Beaumaris, Wales, from Quebec, on its way toward Liverpool.[2]
Four days later, Lloyd’s List indicates that the Leander arrived in Liverpool on September 10th.[3]
The Manchester Mercury and Harrop’s General Advertiser, dated September 22, 1807, indicated that the Leander had arrived in Liverpool from Quebec with 5,672 bushels of wheat, 7c 5q staves 5c deal ends, consigned to merchants R and G Hamilton.

Lloyd’s List, dated July 25, 1809, indicates that Captain Cannon and the Leander arrived in Dublin, Ireland from Pictou, Nova Scotia on July 18, 1809.
Finally, family records indicate that William Cannon died about 1810 at sea. It appears that he died during one of his voyages from Quebec on the way back to Liverpool. Lloyd’s List, dated October 9, 1810,
indicates that Captain Cannon and the Leander were “wrecked on Great Manan Island, in the Bay of Fundy.”
See a map of the Bay of Fundy below.
The Bay of Fundy is on the Atlantic coast of North America, between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, very near the State of Maine. It is known for its giant tides, having the greatest difference in water level between high and low tide in the world. Grand Manan Island is about 15 miles long and 7 miles wide and is located about 22 miles of the New Brunswick coast. The west side of the island is an inaccessible wall and is uninhabitable. Grand Manan Channel, between the coast of Maine and Grand Manan Island, is the most direct passage for vessels headed up the Bay of Fundy from along the coast of Maine. The channel varies in width from 5.5 miles to 10 miles, except for rocks and ledges that lie southwest of Grand Manan Island in the vicinity of Machias Seal Island. The Murr Ledges appear particularly dangerous, with names including Wallace Ledge, Halftide Rock, St. Mary Ledge, Yellow Ledge, Cross Jack Ledge, Long Ledge and White (West) Ledge. Over 300 vessels have been wrecked in the area around the island in the last two centuries.[4]

If William died in the wreck of the Leander, he was age 31 at the time of his death. His death preceded the death of his brother, George, also at sea, less than a year later.

[1]  Captain W. Cannon was majority shareholder of the Leander as Lloyd’s Register lists the ship as owned by Capt. & Co (See Infosheet 34 Researching the Earliest Registers, Revised June 21, 2006, Lloyd’s Register, under 1764 Register, Col. 10 – Name of owner.)

[2]  The captain’s name is not indicated, but the entry in Lloyd’s List, four days later, and the destinations of other ships that year with the same name, in Lloyd’s Register, make it clear that it was Captain W. Cannon.

[3]  Lloyd’s List, dated September 15, 1807. The captain is listed as “Carman”, but Lloyd’s Register has no captain by this name listed and the route is the same as that indicated for Captain Cannon and the Leander.

[4]  Wikipedia “Bay of Fundy”; A description of some of the wrecks that have occurred there reveals that most were a result of hitting one of the many ledges, jutting out of the sea off the island, in fog and bad weather. The names of some of the ledges that have claimed ships are Old Proprietor Ledge, Yellow Murr Ledge. St. Mary Ledge and Wallace Rocks ( A ledge is a reef, ridge or line of rocks in the sea (


  1. I came across your blog recently while searching for Cooilshellaugh. I am a Cannon and have recently started reading more about our fascinating history. Thank you for your spectacular research on the matter of Captain George. I've also thoroughly enjoyed your photography. I am an artist living in Salt Lake. If you'd like to see my work, simply visit Thank you for this wonderful blog.

    1. Phil, thanks for your comment. I looked at your blog and really enjoy your art. I see that Lavell Edwards is your grandfather, which gives me a good idea of your parentage. Great lines!

  2. Thank you for this! It is so interesting. I do appreciate all your research and for taking time to put this together. I don't suppose you have a printable version of this for my Cannon Family history book, properly noted with your name? (friends with Wendy, knew and loved your parents).

    1. I am working with another family member and a professor in New Zealand on a book about Captain Cannon. Then this and much more will be more available.

  3. Dear Bob - I am another descendant of George! I live in Los Angeles now, though I was raised in SLC. I am just overwhelmed and amazed by all the fantastic historical research you have done. I am really interested in the (admittedly extremely dark & horrifying) history of George Cannon's slave trading. Would it be possible for me to get an email from you and maybe set a time to speak more? my email is