Recently, upon reading some information about the Sag Harbor Fire Department, I noticed that the list of fire chiefs did not include those in the 19th century.
One 19th century chief, Captain Shamgar Huntington Slate (1807-1854), also was an outstanding ship captain. While he was fire chief in 1853, Slate also was selected as the first captain of the Wizard, an advanced clipper ship that set some speed records, including San Francisco to Hong Kong in 44 days!
The facts about the sailing accomplishments of Capt. Slate were revealed in an unusual way. A retired Australian couple living in Hong Kong was awed by a small cemetery they saw while visiting Macao. This was a Protestant cemetery allocated by the Jesuits to provide a resting place to those foreigners who passed away while far from home.
Sir Lindsay and May Ride decided to investigate the backgrounds of all those buried (189 monuments) in the cemetery. Their detailed research was recorded in a book, “An East India Company Cemetery: Protestant Burials in Macao.”
Having purchased a copy, I took advantage of a business trip to Hong Kong and rode the high-speed catamaran to Macao to visit the grave of Capt. Slate. He had passed away from dysentery in 1854 after a record 78-day sailing from New York to Singapore. The ship was at anchor in Hong Kong when he died.
As part of their research, the Rides visited Sag Harbor and met Capt. Slate’s granddaughters. They gave the Rides some clippings from the boxwood bushes from the Slate house at 245 Main Street. These bushes were planted by Capt. Slate prior to his last trip to China. I took a picture of the small bush in front of the gravestone in Macao.
Interestingly, there is another headstone for Capt. Slate in Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor. It is located close to the west gate on Jermain Avenue. (Take the left aisle upon entering the cemetery; the stone is on the west side, just up from the entrance.) His grave in Macao is also located close to the entrance.
Both cemeteries have some famous people’s graves: Captain Lord Henry John Spencer Churchill, etc., are memorialized in the Macao cemetery. I assume that Capt. Slate is still interred at Macao and the stone in Oakland is a memorial, like those listed on the “Broken Mast.”
He was listed in some documentation as part owner of a ship. There was a large “Huntington” estate shown near the Slate house on Main Street. He was married to Maria F. Havens on July 2, 1842. His father was Oliver Slate; mother, Clarissa Hand.
Nevertheless, Captain and Fire Chief Shamgar Slate is another of Sag Harbor’s finest!
Mr. Browngardt is a former Sag Harbor resident — Ed.
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One fine body…