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tion of a new drawbridge over the Mystic River In said



340 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

town at the site of the present bridge, and to authorize,
direct and empower the Selectmen of said town to advise
and consult with the Selectmen of the Town of Stonington
and with the Groton and Stonington Street Railway Com-
pany, and to make and enter into a contract with said
Company and said Town of Stonington to assist the Town
of Groton in the purchase and erection of said bridge at a
cost to the Town of Groton not to exceed (14) one-quarter
of the expense of purchasing and erecting said bridge and
the erection of proper abutments and approaches thereto."
The Berlin Construction Company were the lowest bidders
and the contract was awarded to them for $24,891.00, the
work to be completed in three months, but with the usual
delays the bridge was not opened for traffic until September
21, 1904.



CHAPTER XVI



SHIP BUILDING, SHIPPING AND SHIPMASTERS

SHIP BUILDING was one of the earliest established in-
dustries of New England. Abundance of excellent
timber in close proximity to the coast offered exceptional
advantages to English artisans at a time when material
was already becoming scarce in the home country. Before
the advent of the white man the Indians had availed them-
selves of the huge trunks of trees, and by the use of fire
had hollowed out the great canoes, sometimes thirty or
forty feet in length, capable of carrying forty or more men
each, in which for purposes of pleasure or war they paddled
as far from the mainland as to Block Island. Judge
Wheeler tells us* of "the 'Royal Limb,' a famous canoe
which was made from the limb of a tree so large that a
barrel of molasses could be easily rolled in the inside from
one end to the other."

No doubt the first vessels built in Groton were for fish-
ermen or coasters. Just when the first venture was made
we do not know, but as early as 1677 Thomas Wells "of
Ipswich-shipwright" was engaged in ship building on the
Pawcatuck river. His son Joseph, who died in October
1711, is styled** "of Groton." The family lived at Porter's
Rocks and the old home in which Joseph died stood until
1868, nearly two hundred years.

John Leeds, who died in 1696, was a shipbuilder in
Groton and his descendants carried on the business until
well into the nineteenth century. At an early date John
Burrows, Jr., is mentioned as a ship carpenter. "Thomas



* History of Stonington, p. 129.
** Hempstead's Diary, p. 3.



341



342 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

Starr* is called a shipwright. In the year 1710 he sold a
sloop which he describes as 'a square sterned vessel of
sixty-seven tons and six-sevenths of a ton burden, built by
me in Groton.' " October 4, 1716** "I was all day at
launching ye Groton sloop at Lathams." November 2,t "I
was helping Samll Egcumbe Launch his sloop for P. Man-
waring, we Launched about 8 o'clock at night." Sloops
were built at Pequonnoc prior to 1719.

About 1720t "Capt. John Jeffrey, a master shipbuilder,
was induced to come over from Portsmouth, England.
Land for a shipyard was given him in Groton on the op-
posite bank of the Thames." Miss Caulkins says:§
"About the year 1720 Capt. John Jeffrey, who had been a
master shipbuilder in Portsmouth, England, emigrated to
America with his family. He came first to New London
but regarding the opposite side of the river as offering
peculiar facilities for ship building, he fixed his residence
on Groton Bank. In 1723 he contracted to build for Capt.
James Sterling the largest ship that had been constructed
this side of the Atlantic, and that a favorable position for
his work might be obtained the following petition was pre-
sented :

" 'Petition of James Stirling and John Jeffrey to the
town of Groton : That whereas by the encouragement that
we have met and the situation of the place, we are de-
sirous to promote the building of ships on the east side of
the river, we request of the town that they will grant us
the liberty of a building yard at the ferry, viz., all the land
betwixt the ferry wharf and land granted to Deacon John
Seabury, of said Groton, on the south side of his land, for
twelve years.

" 'Granted Feb. 12, 1723-4. Provided that they build the
Great Ship that is now designed to be built by said peti-
tioners in said building yard.'

* History of New London, Caulkins, Ed. 1860, p. 319.

** Hempstead's Diary, p. 60.

t Ibid, p. 61.

t In Old Connecticut, p. 75.

§ Ibid, p. 241.



SHIP. BUILDING, ETC. 343

"Jeffrey's great ship was launched October 12, 1725. Its
burden was 700 tons. A throng of people (says a con-
temporary diarist) lined both sides of the river to see it
propelled into the water. It went off easy, graceful and
erect. Captain Jeffrey built a number of small vessels and
one other large ship, burden 570 tons. It was named the
'Don Carlos' and sailed for Lisbon under the command of
Captain Hope, Nov. 29, 1733." Thomas Fanning, born
May 22, 1755, was a ship carpenter and worked at New
London, Mystic, &c.*

At the close of the Revolutionary War ship building flour-
ished and our shipping rapidly increased. We read** of
"the ship 'Jenny,' that was launched at Groton, October 30,
1784. She was engaged in the European trade." Judge
Potter in a manuscript history of the First Baptist Church
in Groton states that in the pastorate of Rev. Timothy
Wightman there was a shipyard on each side of the river
at the Head of Mystic.

Eldredge Packer was a noted builder of small craft at
Packer's Ferry prior to the war of 1812. One of the
notable local events of that war was the recapture of the
sloop "Fox" by the "Hero" — ^two vessels built by him. The
site of this shipyard was occupied by D. 0. Richmond dur-
ing the last quarter of the nineteenth century and here he
built a large number of yachts and small craft, many of
them celebrated for their beauty and speed.

In the summer of 1853 Captains N. G. Fish and William
Clift, together with Messrs. William E. Maxson, Benjamin
F. Hoxie, Simeon Fish and Isaac D. Clift, formed a copart-
nership under the name of Maxson, Fish & Co. for the
building of ships at Old Field — West Mystic. The Mystic
Pioneer of February 16, 1861, records the fact that Messrs.
B. F. Hoxie and William Clift had sold their interest to
Captain N. G. Fish and that "the owners are now Messrs.
Maxson & Fish." The ships built by them with the dates
of launching are as follows, viz.

* History of the Fanning Family, p. 297.

** History of New London, Caulkins, p. 575.



344



GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905



Brig


"E. Remington"


October


1853


Schooner


"Stampede"


August


1854


Ship


"B. F. Hoxie"


November 21,


1854


Brig


"G. T. Ward"


September 18,


1855


Ship


"Aspasia"


May


1856


Brig


"A. Hopkins"


October 7,


1857


Ship


"Garabaldi"


October 1,


1860


Ironclad Steamer


"Galena"


February 14,


1862


Steam tug


"Vim"


May 20,


1862


Lighter


"Daphne"


August 21,


1862


Steam tug


"J. D. Billard"


September 3,


1862


Steam tug


"S. Thomas"


September 4,


1862


Steamer


"Sea Gull"


November 6,


1862


Steamer


"Kingfisher"


February 17,


1863


Lighter


"Jewel"


February 20,


1863


Ship


"Cremome"


March 19,


1863


Steamer


"Nightingale"


June 18,


1863


Gunboat


"Vicksburg"


August 27,


1863


Steamer


"Fannie"


October 2,


1863


Steamer


"Cassandra"


December 19,


1863


Steamer


"Aphrodite"


May 6,


1864


Steamer


"California"


May 20,


1864


Steamer


"Ulysses"


June 16,


1864


Lighter


"Echo"


July 7,


1864


Lighter


"Hebe"


July 13,


1864


Steamer


"Nevada"


September 5,


1864


Bark


"Silaa Fish"


December 20,


1864


Ship


"Seminole"


July 11,


1865


Brig


"Hail Columbia"


September 21,


1865


Bark


"Caleb Haley"


February 22,


1866


Schooner


"Abbie E. Campbell"


July 20,


1866


Schooner


"John K. Mundell"


March 1,


1867


Schooner


"Alaska"


November 1,


1867


Ship


"HeUcon"


December 1,


1868


Ship


"Dauntless"


November 4,


1869



Probably the most celebrated ship built by Messrs. Max-
son, Fish & Co. was the iron clad gunboat "Galena." She
was one of the three ordered by the Government on recom-
mendation of Conmiodores Joseph Smith and H. Paulding
and Captain C. H. Davis, the other two being the "Monitor"
and "New Ironsides." In their report made September 16,
1861, she was to be "a vessel to be iron-clad on the rail
and plate principle, and to obtain high speed. The objection
to this vessel is the fear that she will not float her armour
and load sufficiently high and have stability enough for a
sea vessel. With a guarantee that she shall do these we
recommend on that basis a contract. Price $235,250.00,
length of vessel 180 ft., breadth of beam 36 ft., depth of



SHIP BUILDING, EtC. 345

hold 12 2-3 ft. Time 4 months, draught of water 10 ft.,
displacement — tons, speed per hour 12 knots."

Work was rushed on the vessel night and day, a shed
being built over her that work might be carried on in all
weathers. Her sides above the water line "tumbled in"
at an angle of 321/2 degrees, her broadside armor being
laid on in horizontal strips, while her ends were covered
with heavy plates forged to shape. She so far exceeded the
expectations of her designers and builders that when she
was launched the red lead water line placed on her by the
naval constructor was nearly a foot out of water.

She was hurried to the James River and her service there
has been described by Professor James Russell Soley,
U. S. N., in his article on "The Navy in the Civil War."*
She was with the squadron in Hampton Roads in April and
covered the movement of the wooden fleet up the James
River. Professor Soley says: "The light armour of the
'Galena' had not as yet been seriously tested, and Rodgers
had no great confidence in her ability to stand a severe fire :
nevertheless he decided to make the test. In a private
letter written shortly after, he said, 'I was convinced as
soon as I came on board that she would be riddled under
fire, but the public thought differently and I resolved to
give the matter a fair trial.'

"Accordingly he ran the 'Galena' up to a point opposite
the battery where the width of the stream was not more
than double the ship's length. According to an officer in
the fort the 'Galena' steamed up to within seven or eight
hundred yards of the bluff, let go her starboard anchor, ran
out the chain, put her head inshore, backed astern, let go
her stream anchor from the starboard quarter, hove ahead
and made ready for action without firing a gun. Nothing
could have been more beautiful than the neatness and pre-
cision of movement with which Rodgers placed the 'Galena*
as if at target practice, directly under the enemy's fire.

"In the words of the officer already referred to 'it was
one of the most masterly pieces of seamanship of the whole
* Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. II, pp. 268-10.



346 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

war.' In this position the 'Galena' remained for three hours
and twenty minutes until she had expended all her ammu-
nition. (She was the only ship that could elevate her guns
sufficiently to reach the fort on the bluff. — C. R. S.)

"She came out of the action badly shattered, having been
struck twenty-eight times and perforated in eighteen
places. The 'Monitor' passed for a short time above the
'Galena,' but, being unable to elevate her guns sufficiently
to reach the bluff, she again dropped below." All the ad-
vantage derived from the sloping sides of the "Galena"
was completely over-balanced by the plunging fire of the
fort on the bluffs. After this exceedingly fair trial the
ship was sent to Philadelphia to refit, but she never again
figured as an ironclad during the war.

The "Vicksburg" was another gunboat built in this yard.
The "Nightingale" saw service as a naval supply ship in
the Gulf of Mexico during the last year of the war and was
wrecked at Vera Cruz not long after its close. The "Aphro-
dite" was another naval supply ship and was lost on Cape
Lookout on her second voyage.

The ship "B. F. Hoxie," Captain Crary, burned by the
Confederate privateer "Florida" June 16, 1863, was one of
the most valuable prizes taken by the Confederates during
the war. The ship and freight were valued at $100,000
and the cargo, consisting of logwood, hides, silver ore with
silver bars and gold of great value, was the property of
English owners. So confident were the ship owners that
her English cargo would protect the ship that no insurance
was carried, so the property loss was the heaviest that
Mystic sustained during the war.

The month of June was particularly unfortunate for
Mystic shipping. On June 10, 1863, the Bark "Texana,"
Captain Thomas E. Wolfe, was captured and burned by
the tug "Boston" off the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The "Boston," a tug in the United States Government
service, had been captured by a raiding party from Mobile,
wiio started on a career of adventure, flying the United
States flag. Captain Wolfe mistook the approaching vessel



SHIP BUILDING, ETC. 347

for a Government tug come to tow him up the river, until
she was within hailing distance, when she hauled down
the United States flag and displayed the Confederate flag,
at the same time demanding his surrender.

James Duke, the officer in conamand, proved to be an old
schoolmate of Captain Wolfe, so the latter was courteously
treated and given the option of taking the ship's boat and
trying to reach safety in the river or remaining on the tug
and returning to Mobile. A part of the crew chose the
former alternative and arrived in safety at New Orleans.

Wolfe with two or three others chose the latter, being
assured that as non-combatants they would have no diffi-
culty in passing through the lines to their homes. They
fell on evil times, however, as they arrived in Richmond
just when the Confederate Government was much exer-
cised over the execution by General Bumside of two men
convicted of recruiting within the Union lines for the Con-
federate army.

Captain Wolfe was seized and thrown into Castle Thun-
der and afterwards into Libby Prison, where for a time he
was held as a hostage. Still later he was sent to Salisbury
prison, from which place he made his escape with Richard-
son and Browne, Tribune correspondents. The sufferings
and narrow escapes of the party were graphically described
by Richardson in his book entitled "Field, Dungeon and
Escape." Wolfe spent about a year and a half in prison,
one of his crew, Ambrose Wolfe, a Mystic boy, dying in
Salisbury.

In this same month of June the smack "L. A. Macomber,"
Captain James Potter, Jr., of Noank was taken by the
"Tacony" and burned off Nantucket Shoals. The crew were
allowed to seek safety in their small boat.

The death of Captain N. G. Fish in 1870 caused a sus-
pension of ship building at Old Field and the yard was
idle for several years. Then Mr. Maxson formed a copart-
nership with Alexander Irving and under the firm name of
Maxson & Irving they built several small coasting vessels.
Subsequently Mr. Maxson withdrew and on January 13,



348 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

1883, Alexander Irving purchased the yard and with Cap-
tain Robert P. Wilbur engaged in building several barges
for the Thames Tow Boat Company. "Messrs. Irving &
Wilbur* this week completed their contracts for the three
barges with the Thames Tow Boat Co. They are about
twelve hundred tons burthen and fine specimens of their
class. The first, the 'Hornet,' was launched two weeks
ago, the 'Cricket' on Monday and the 'Wasp' on Wednes-
day of this week." But the blight that had struck the ship-
ping industry was of too serious a nature, and ship build-
ifag had been dealt a death blow, so the business was given
up.

The yard lay idle until 1901, when the Holmes Shipbuild-
ihg Company purchased it and proceeded to build the five-
masted schooner "Jennie R. Dubois," the largest vessel ever
built on the river. She was a beautiful craft of 2800 tons
burthen, launched on February 11, 1902, but after a short
and successful career she was sunk in collision with a
steamship off Block Island. The Holmes Company never
built another large vessel, but gave their attention to the
development of gasoline launches, in which line they be-
came very efficient.

On December 6, 1853, Charles H. Mallory bought land
at Appelman's Point and established a ship yard. He built
two vessels there, the ship "E, F. Willets" and bark
"Mustang," but, engaging in business with his father on the
east side of the river, ship building at this yard was aban-
doned for a time. In July 1866 the property passed into
the hands of John A. Forsyth, who the same year built the
pilot boat "J. W. Elwell," but the yard was not operated
continuously. In 1874 Messrs. Hajmes & McKenzie built
the schooner "Rodney Parker" at this yard and several
small craft were also built there.

The village of Noank is in many respects a remarkable
New England production. A self-contained community, it
has always maintained a high moral and religious standard,

* Mystic Press, January 17, 1884.



SHIP BUILDING, ETC. 349

the open sale of intoxicants has never been tolerated, pov-
erty is almost unknown and the neighborly friendship
existing is ideal. Its physical features compare favorably
with its moral. Built upon a hill, with a commanding view
of the water, the hill crowned with the white village church
whose towering spire is a landmark from all direction^,
and the district school in close proximity, we have l^ere the
typical New England community.

For many years fishing was the principal industry and
at the present time it is largely carried on. In the first
division of the lands formerly belonging to the Pequots in
1712, Lot No. 1 at the extreme end was allotted to Deacon
James Morgan* and from him received the name Morgan's
Point. The lighthouse of that name occupied a portion of
this land and the beacon near by is Morgan's Beacon. Part
of this land is still in the possession of the family, having
never been alienated.

Joshua Morgan, a great grandson of Deacon James, was
a seafaring man living in Noank, and his son, Roswell
Avery Morgan, commenced the boat building business in
the old Morgan boat shop just north of the shipyard, which
is a prominent landmark as one approaches Noank by
water. Here for three generations, father, son and grand-
son have carried on the business.

Just when the building of fishing smacks was begun is
uncertain. Possibly some of the early vessels were the work
of the Morgans, as Roswell A. was classed as a shipbuilder.

As early as 1832 Deacon John Palmer, who had been
engaged in the business of boat building, associated him-
self with James A. Latham, and about 1836 they com-
menced the building of fishing smacks.f About 1845
Deacon Palmer retired from active labor and his two sons,
John and Robert, succeeded to his interest. The partner-
ship with Mr. Latham was terminated soon after by his
withdrawal, he engaging in a similar kind of business with

• See map in History of the Faiming Family, Brooks, Vol. I.
** Genealogical and Biographical Record of New London County.
1905, p. 278. #.

t History of New London County, 1882, p. 471.



350



GEOTON, CONN. 1705-1905



his brother, John D. Latham. They became noted builders
of fishing craft.

John and Robert Palmer continued business at the upper
yard and in 1855 Robert in company with a cousin, Daniel
E. Clark, purchased the lower yard. They remained to-
gether but a short time, Mr. Clark disposing of his interest
to Mr. Palmer's brother John and the two brothers, under
the firm name of R. & J. Palmer, operated both yards until
the death of John in 1876. In 1860 they laid down a set
of marine railways which for the times were considered
very large and which brought to them much repair work.
Among the vessels rebuilt were the Baltimore clippers
"Mary Whitridge" and "Grey Eagle" and the schooner
yacht "Dauntless," formerly "L'Hirondelle," which was
owned by James Gordon Bennett, Jr. She was lengthened
in 1869 previous to her race across the Atlantic with the
"Cambria."

They soon became interested in the building of larger
vessels and the following is an approximate list of sailing
vessels and steamers built in these yards to the close of
1905:*



Schooner


"Sarah Clark"


1853


Bark


"Mary Coe"


1856


Schooner


"Robert Palmer"


1857


Schooner


"Oakes Ames"


1862


Brig


"Mystic"


date uncertain


Yacht


"Foam"


1863


Schooner


"Stephen Morgan"


1864


Schooner


"Margaret & Lucy"


1865


Brig


"Florence"




Schooner


"William 0. Irish"


1865


Schooner


"Agnes"


1865


Brig


"Wm. Mallory, Jr."


1866


Schooner


"Wm. C. Bee"


1869


Yacht


"L'Hirondelle"


rebuUt 1869


Bark


"Sappho"


1869


Schooner


"Charmer"


1872


Steamer


"Frightlight"
"J. N. Colby"




Schooner


1873


Schooner


"E. L. Dow"


1874


Schooner


"Theresa"


1874


Steamer


"Herman S. Caswell"


1878


Yacht


"Euth"


1881



* From a list compiled by Deacon Eobert Palmer in possession of
Professor William A. Wilbur.



SHIP BUILDING, ETC. 351

Steamer "Block Island" 1882

Steamer "Rhode Island" 1«82

Yacht "Vanina" 1882

Yacht "Mohican" 1884

PUot Boat "Gracie" 1884

Steamer "Nashua" 1884

Steam Yacht "Narwhal" 1887

Steamer "Connecticut" 1889

Ferryboat "Col. Ledyard" 1891

Steamer "Nutmeg State" 1892

Ferryboat "Menantic" 1893

Ferryboat "John G. Carlisle" 1896

Steamer "Postmaster General" 1898

Steamer "Old Glory" 1898

Steamer "Richmond" 1902

Steamer "Robert Palmer" 1902

Schooner "A. J. Pierce" 1904

Steamer "John Arbuckle" 1905

Ferryboat "Gov. Witithrop" 1905

Steamer "Beatrice Bush" 1905

Steamer "Wm. V. R. Smith" 1905



The above with fishing smacks, small steamers, yachts,
dredges, lighters and barges make a total of more than 550
vessels turned out at these yards.

In 1879 Robert Palmer purchased the interest of his
deceased brother John and laid down the large marine rail-
way at the lower yard. This railway was capable of haul-
ing out the largest Sound steamers and the first job was the
rebuilding of the steamer "Narragansett" in the winter of
1879-80. By a singular fate she was sunk by collision with
her sister ship the "Stonington" in June 1880 and was
brought to Noank and rebuilt a second time.

In September 1880 Mr. Palmer admitted to partnership
his son, Robert Palmer, Jr., and his son-in-law, Simeon W.
Ashbey, and the firm became the Robert Palmer & Son
Ship-building and Marine Railway Company. Aside from
the repair work the business of the yard in late years has
been almost exclusively confined to the building of barges
and railroad floats. The Palmer plant has turned out more
than 550 vessels, varying in size from the ordinary fishing
vessel to the palatial Sound steamer, and is one of the larg-
est plants for wooden ship-building in this country, with a
reputation second to none.



352 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

"The growth of the coasting service* can well be fol-
lowed in the increased dimensions of the car floats con-
structed by this company. Formerly they were from 160
to 180 feet long with a capacity for eight cars ; to-day it is
a common thing to build floats 330 feet long, having three
tracks and a capacity for twenty-two cars. The size of
barges, too, has been greatly increased until now the pop-
ular size is one carrying thirty-three hundred tons with
good freeboard."

The fishing industry reached its zenith about the time
of the Civil War. A writer in "Historic Groton" says that
from seventy-five to one hundred vessels went out and came
in, making trips to New York for a market. On one April
day in 1866 from twenty to thirty smacks sailed to the East
to open the season's fishing. In the early days these smacks
were built with wells in which the fish were carried to mar-
ket alive, but in later years most of the vessels carried ice
for the preservation of the catch.

Many of the captains that supplied the New York market
during the summer made trips to the South in the winter,
finding a market in Charleston, Savannah, Key West,
Havana, Mobile or other Southern cities. The lobster busi-
ness is carried on quite extensively, most of the boats en-
gaged in this industry being fitted with gasoline engines
so that their trips are not dependent upon wind.



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