William James (W.J.) Gurnett (c.1835 – March 22, 1911) was an early resident of Oakland and a member of the City Council in 1870 and 1871. He served a term as the coroner in 1872, and he served in the California State Assembly from 1873-1874. 3,4 He was also a partner in Irwin, Gurnett, and Company, a furniture store. His brother Albert Gurnett was later a partner in the business.

Gurnett was nominated for mayor in 1875 by the Citizens' Convention, but didn't win, 2,5 despite having the endorsement of the Tribune. 6 The winner was "Mack" Webber. 7 Gurnett's party affiliation is unclear, as in some places he is listed as Republican, and others he is listed as Democrat.

After closing the furniture store, the Gurnett brothers focused on mining stocks. Albert became a stockbroker, and William focused on the mines themselves. 10,11,12

He was a master of the Oakland lodge No. 188, F. and A.M. (F. and A.M. = 'Free and Accepted Masons', otherwise known as 'Freemasons') and a grand master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 1


Gurnett was born in Ontario, Canada c.1835. He came to California in 1858 and Oakland in 1865. He married Ellen Louise Murphy (Gurnett), and they had 6 children: William ("Willie") James Gurnett, Jr., Lincoln Gabriel Gurnett, Susie Gurnett (Couts), Annie J. Gurnett (Grimes), Albert Joseph Gurnett, and Mathilda Sophia Gurnett (Swain).

Willie Gurnett was a baseball player with the Greenhood and Morans baseball team c.1887, and a teammate of George Van Haltren. 8 Sadly, he died in 1892 after a short illness. He's buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

At the time of his death, W.J. was with his daughter Susie at San Luis Rey near Oceanside. 1 He is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Oceanside. 9

Links and References

  1. W. J. Gurnett Dead at San Luis Rey San Francisco Call: March 23, 1911
  2. Past and Present of Alameda County, California, Volume 1 by Joseph Eugene Baker; SJ Clarke: 1914
  3. The Political Graveyard
  4. California State Assembly Journals 1873 - 74 Session CA.gov
  5. Citizen's Convention Oakland Tribune February 26, 1875
  6. Tribune Municipal Ticket Oakland Tribune February 27, 1875
  7. The Result Oakland Tribune March 3, 1875
  8. The Umpire Oakland Tribune February 25, 1891
  9. William James Gurnett on FindAGrave.com
  10. ad Oakland Tribune March 3, 1876
  11. Wyoming Mine Oakland Tribune March 8, 1876
  12. ad Oakland Tribune August 22, 1877