Thomas Corker

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Thomas Corker (1669-1670 - 10 September 1700, Falmouth, Cornwall) was known as an English agent for the Royal African Company on York Island (now Sherbro, Sierra Leone). He married a Sherbro woman and had two sons with her before his early death.

Falmouth, Cornwall town, civil parish and port on the River Fal in Cornwall, England

Falmouth is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It has a total resident population of 21,797.

Royal African Company

The Royal African Company (RAC) was an English mercantile (trading) company set up by the royal Stuart family and City of London merchants to trade along the west coast of Africa. It was led by the Duke of York, who was the brother of Charles II and later took the throne as James II.

York Island is an island in Sierra Leone. It is a small island located 2 km (1.2 mi) to the east of Bonthe, Sherbro Island. It is part of the Bonthe Island Municipality.


The sons also became merchant traders and developed a family dynasty that became prominent among the Sherbro people and British colonists, in the area now known as the Moyamba District, Southern Province, Sierra Leone. As paramount chiefs, they dominated the Bumpe and Kagboro chiefdoms into the 20th century. [1] Descendants live primarily in Bonthe and Shenge of that District.

The Sherbro people are a native people of Sierra Leone, who speak the Sherbro language; they make up 3% of Sierra Leone's population or about 201,000. The Sherbro are found primarily in their homeland in Bonthe District, where they make up 45% of the population, in coastal areas of Moyamba District, and in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, particularly in Freetown. During pre-colonial days, the Sherbro were one of the most dominant ethnic group in Sierra Leone, but in the early 21st century, the Sherbro comprise a small minority in the nation. The Sherbro speak their own language, called Sherbro language. The vast majority of Sherbro people are Christian.

Moyamba District Place in Province, Sierra Leone

Moyamba District is the largest district in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone, with a population of 318,064 in the 2015 census.

Bonthe Place in Southern Province, Sierra Leone

Bonthe is a coastal town located on Sherbro Island in Bonthe District in the southern Province of Sierra Leone. The town lies on the eastern shore of Sherbro Island, on the Sherbro River estuary. Bonthe is about 60 miles south-west of Bo and 187 miles south-east of Freetown.

Early life and education

Born at Falmouth, Cornwall, Thomas Corker was the younger of two sons of Thomas Corker, a ship's doctor from County Meath, Ireland. His father had settled in Ireland from Manchester, England. Corker married Jane Newman, a local woman of Falmouth. Thomas was baptized on 4 February 1669. His older brother was Robert Corker. They had two younger sisters, Jane and Anne. [2]

After their father died young, their maternal uncle John Newman, Jr. acted as guardian. The boys were expected to earn their own way. [3] [2]


At the age of 14, Thomas entered the Royal African Company as an apprentice. He was assigned to the Guinea Coast, where he served traders on the rivers. He eventually became a chief agent on York Island, Sherbro. This was a slave trading center on the Sherbro River. [3]

While working in the Sherbro region, he married a daughter of a Sherbro chief. [3] By Sherbro family accounts, she was known to the English as Seniora Doll or Senora Doll, and was of the house of Ya Kumba. Her father ruled on the shore of the Yawry Bay (according to Bulom oral tradition). The couple had two sons, Robin and Stephen.

Seniora Doll or Senora Doll was a Sherbro princess or 'Duchess' of the Ya Kumba ruling house of the Yawri Bay Area between the Sierra Leone peninsula and the Sherbro estuary. In the late 17th century she married an English trader and Royal African Company agent, Thomas Corker, and their two sons Stephen and Robin ruled as the first Caulker chiefs through her royal lineage. She died in 1722, twenty two years after Thomas Corker died in 1700 in England.

Thomas Corker was transferred by the Royal African Company to The Gambia in April 1699 [4] and left his Sherbro family behind. On a business trip to England, he died at his birthplace of Falmouth in 1700 and was buried there.

His sons, Robin and Stephen Corker, inherited their mother's chiefdom; they used their English ancestry to build influence with other early traders in the region. The Crown opened up the slave trade beyond the RAC, and the family became influential in and wealthy from it well into the nineteenth century. [3]

The family may have intermarried in the eighteenth century and later with descendants of Skinner Caulker, an English man known to have settled in the region in the mid-eighteenth century, as did James Cleveland. Both also married local women and had descendants who competed for power in the region. [1]

By the nineteenth century, the family was known as the Caulkers. They dominated the Bumpe Chiefdom in the colony of Sierra Leone and were a major slave trading Afro-European clan in West Africa.


Today most of the Caulker descendants live in the towns of Bonthe and Shenge in the Moyamba District, where the Sherbro are concentrated. The clan still maintains its oral and written testimony about its English ancestor, Thomas Corker.


Corker was memorialized by a Baroque marble and freestone monument at the Church of King Charles the Martyr, Falmouth, where he had been baptized as a child. [5] His brother Robert Corker had made his life in the town and was five times elected as mayor. [2]

See also


  1. 1 2 Cahoon, Ben. "Sierra Leone Traditional States: Caulker Chieftaincies". Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 "Whistler History: The Cornish Corkers". 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Tattersfield, Nigel (1991). The Forgotten Trade: Comprising the Log of the 'Daniel and Henry' of 1700 and Accounts of the Slave Trade From the Minor Ports of England 1698–1725 (1778). London. pp. 309–19.
  4. ben cahoon. "The Gambia". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  5. "Church of King Charles the Martyr, The Church Institue". Historic England. Retrieved 4 June 2019. MONUMENTS: include Baroque marble and freestone monument to Thomas Corker, d.1709 aged 31;


Further reading

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