Showing posts with label ship building. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ship building. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Spanish Gold Mystery

This article is transcribed from Boston Globe article written by Willard Francis De Lue (1890-1989) historical writer and editor. Photo with story published December 1951
Salisbury Point----Most of the oldest of this prettiest of Merrimac river villages probably will have forgotten the stories they heard in childhood about the mystery of Spanish Gold. 
But some will remember Ezekiel True*--a great place for Trues in Salisbury town; and if Mr True were around today he could tell them about the Spanish Gold--and also tell them with a twinkle in his eye of how there came to be quite a flurry over it, back 50 years ago. 
Of course, Salisbury Point and neighboring Amesbury Ferry village where different sort of places in the days when the Spanish Gold was buried here. 
How far back that was I don't know; antiquarians would have to tell us that. But it was in the times when there still was a lot of shipping in the Merrimac and when two quiet villages of today were humming with industry. 
From Infant Boat Industry grew along the Merrimack

...Back in the 1800's the Ferry district had more children in its schools and paid more taxes than any other village in Amesbury. 
And about the same time Salisbury Point (annexed to Amesbury in 1836) was the thriving business center of historic old Salisbury town. 
There were shipyards and fish wharves and docks and boat building shops all along the river front. In 1810 42 vessels were built here and in others parts of Amesbury town; and though the building of large vessels fell after the Civil War, in the 1880's there were still seven boat builders at Salisbury Point who between them turned out annually around 2500 dories for the Grand Banks fishing fleets. 
Both the Ferry Village and Salisbury Point have boat shops and yards to this day. But the glorious old times are now only memories-things put down in books.
And though the Ferry does have its hat factory the two villages are mostly just nice residential places that have only taken on a serene contented look.  
An old ironside drawbridge with its gates still hanging hopefully, though it is tight sealed by the unbroken topping on the road leads out from the Ferry village over the tide-swirled river mouth. 
At its easterly end the Point greets the traveler with both piety and patriotism---a white church giving its benediction from one side of the road and a historical monument bringing stirring memories in a little park on the other.
"Alliance Park" runs the inscription on a tablet set in a grassy place in the parks birchen grove. 
Alliance Park see more photos at Amesbury Dedicates Park To Hackett Shipyard July 22 1930

"Near this site in 1771-1778 one of the first frigates of the Confidential Congress, the Alliance was built by William and John Hackett." And it goes on to tell how the park was given to a memorial association by Augustus  N Parry and William E Biddle some 20 years ago. Biddle still lives in a big stuccoed house nearby. 

.....the Hacketts--skillful and conscientious workmen--and William especially was known as one of the smartest ship wrights along the New England coast. So here they fashioned the Alliance and saw it slide into the Merrimac--to become part of John Paul Jones' fleet in European waters, where it took several engagements and was for a time under Jones' command.  
In 1780 the famous Captain John Barry took command of her in Boston harbor, ad she was his ship until it practically sold from under his feet by a frugal Congress in 1785. Image of Captain John Barry An 1801 Gilbert Stuart portrait
I rang the bell of a house just near the Alliance marker. 
"I am looking for some long time resident of the Point," I explained to the lady who answered.  "Someone who might know where the Blaisdells lived fifty years ago." 
"Now let me think," said she, after she had taken time to get fresh pies out of the oven. "I wonder if Mrs Merrow wouldn't know."
But, it so happened that Mrs Merrow did not. Mrs Merrow--Mrs Daniel B Merrow SR-- did not. And she was puzzled and provoked about it (and about not knowing of the Spanish Gold) because she was born at the Point ad freely confessed to remembering back a few years. Her house is one of the long arc of the white village homes that look out onto the river....
"I will find out about this Blaidell house," said Mrs Merrow. Ad find out, she did, with a little telephoning.  
It was down at the far ed of the Village; so I continued on, interested to look at it. The Blaisdell house was the house with the Spanish Gold. 
The story had its beginning sometime back in the days when shipping lay off in the stream ad seafarers roamed the village streets. Perhaps some local historian can supply all the details of it; for all I know is that a stranger once turned up at Mrs. Adam Wadleigh's sailors boarding house and some how departed again. 
But in after a few years the word got around that the mysterious stranger had hidden a bag of Spanish doubloons in Mrs Wadliegh's cellar.  A lot of digging was done for it but the gold was never uncovered. 
Eventually the house became the property of Captain Joathan Blaisdell, a Civil War veteran of the town. In 1901 it was occupied by his daughter Lavinia. 
Now comes Ezekiel True, called in by Miss Lavinia to make some repairs. And True remembering the gold story, saw a chace to have some fun. 
"See you're working down at Lavinia's," said a friend. 
True said he was, but was a bit more mysterious about it. 
"Just doing a little job there...diggin' around some..."
Later he dropped a few hints about the Spanish gold. 
So the story flew through town, "Lavinia Blasdell's having Zek True digging for gold in her cellar." 
There was so much fuss that it eve made the newspapers. 
Where the road forks to the east ed of town a couple of old square houses stand on the left of it, with a two story boat shop between them.
Lets see now! One of these was the former Wadleigh-Blaisdell House, But which? The gray house beyond the big red middle chimney?
Mrs Merrow had said, "the one before the boat shop. That would be No 4. 
But I'll let the Point people settle that matter to their own satisfaction. And then if the present owner of the treasure ever decides to have a gold-digging party, I'd appreciate an invitation to take a hand in it!
"Ames Wharf on Merrimac River - Salisbury Point". From ebay sale

Plank Road Salisbury, Massachusetts Built in 1866 to cross salt marshes leading to beach. Beach Road was laid over the early planks as remnants have been found during road work. A local legend maintains that a ship that was supposed to go to Newburyport pulled in to Salisbury and hid gold under the plank road. see Essex County Landscape Report

Merrimac Hat Company were Lavania Blaisdell worked.

Public Documents of Massachusetts, Volume 3

Hackett House o the Point from Legendary Locals of Amesbury book published by Margie Walker
*Ezekiel True (1840-1931) son of Samuel True and Mary Adams. He married Mary Currier (1840-1919)
Amesbury Daily News April 13 1931
Willard Francis deLue scrapbook, 1946-1967

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Capt Samuel Samuels and the Clipper Ship The Dreadnought

Captain Samuel Samuels seaman, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 14 March, 1825. He came to Newburyport to oversee the building of his new command "The Dreadnought " built by Currier and Townsend, became the most famous Liverpool packet-ship, and was the only clipper to have a chanty composed in her special honor. Samuels was "unexcelled as a driver of men and vessels, commanded this "saucy, wild packet" for almost seventy passages across the Atlantic, in which she made several eastward runs under fourteen days." The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860 By Samuel Eliot Morison
From The Flavor of Old Sea Days Sunday, May 24, 1908 Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA)
CLIPPER SHIP. "DREADNOUGHT From Springfield Museums

During the era of the clipper ships many of the most noted were, built in Newburyport, including the "Racer," "Highflyer" and "Dreadnought." The most famous of all these was the "Dreadnought," nicknamed "The Wild Boat of the Atlantic." She was built in 1853 by Currier and Townsend and was of fourteen hundred and thirteen tons register and two hundred and ten feet in length, being owned by David Ogden and others of New York. (After a short career the "Dreadnought" was wrecked off Cape Horn in 1869) She was commanded by Captain Samuel Samuels who is authority for the statement that she was never passed in anything over a four-knot breeze.

A rare photograph of the Currier and Townsend shipyard at the foot of Ashland Street. Maritime History of the Merrimac - Shipbuilding by Robert K. Cheney. From Clipper Heritage Trail

This ship was employed largely as a packet between New York and Liverpool, making some sixty to seventy passages across the Atlantic. Her best run was to the eastward. February 27 - March 12, 1859, in thirteen days, eight hours, being within seven hours of the fastest record of a sailing ship, made by the "Red Jacket" in 1854.* The "Dreadnought" has been credited with a much shorter passage but it is difficult to substantiate this claim and in his history of the ship contained in "From the Forecastle to the Cabin," Captain Samuels does not mention such a voyage but particularly refers to the above mentioned run of thirteen days, eight hours.

                                                             Setting Sail from PEM 

Article: From The Dreadnought of Newburyport, Massachusetts: and some account of the old transatlantic packet-ships by Francis Boardman Crowninshield Bradlee

The maritime history of Newburyport, Massachusetts, has never yet been adequately written. Many famous vessels were owned and sailed from this old Essex County city, but not a few ships were also built in Newburyport for Boston and New York merchants, and among the best known of these was the "Dreadnought," built by Currier and Townsend in 1853, and afterwards celebrated for making the shortest passage across the Atlantic ever accomplished by a sailing vessel, nine days and seventeen hours, from Sandy Hook to the pilot-boat off Queenstown, Ireland.
At this period the transatlantic carrying trade, both passenger and freight, was, and had been for many years, controlled by American packet-ships, as the regular sailing liners were called, and three out of the five lines of steamers then existing were also under the American flag. The "Dreadnought" was built for the Red Cross line of New York and Liverpool packets owned by Governor E. D. Morgan, Francis B. Cutting, David Ogden and others of New York; she measured 1400 tons register, 200 feet long, 39 feet beam, and 26 feet depth of hold, and was commanded by Capt. Samuel Samuels, who became quite as famous as his ship. She was launched in the presence of a large concourse of people October 6, 1853, from the yard at the foot of Ashland street, and on the third day of November following left for New York in tow of the steam-tug "Leviathan."
Gov Edward Denison Morgan (February 8, 1811 – February 14, 1883)
Hon Francis Brockholst Cutting (August 6, 1804 – June 26, 1870)

By the sailors the "Dreadnought" was named "the Wild Boat of the Atlantic" she was what might be termed a semi-clipper, and possessed the merit of being able to bear driving as long as her sails and spars would stand. It is understood that her builders also designed her, and so deserved the greatest credit, as well for her model and fine lines as for the strength and solidity of her hull, which was constructed principally of white oak and yellow pine. Twice the "Dreadnought" carried the latest news to Europe, slipping in between the steamers; she was naturally a favorite among the traveling public, and her cabin accommodations were usually engaged a season in advance. On her westward voyages she carried large numbers of emigrants. At one time goods shipped by the "Dreadnought" were guaranteed delivery within a certain time, or freight charges would be forfeited.
In February, 1854, her first voyage westward she crossed the bar in the river Mersey the day after the Cunard steamer "Canada" sailed for Boston, and when the news of her arrival reached New York the "Dreadnought" was reported off the Highlands of New Jersey. Her best passages were as follows:
  • New York to Liverpool, December, 1853, 24 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, February, 1854, 19 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, April, 1854, 18 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, June, 1854, 26 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, August, 1854, 80 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, October, 1854, 29 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, December, 1854, 13 days, 11 hours.
  • New York to Liverpool, February, 1856, 15,days.
  • New York to Liverpool, May, 1856, 16 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, February, 1857, 21 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, March, 1859, 13 days, 9 hours.
When one takes into consideration the fickleness of the elements and the prevalence of westerly gales in the north Atlantic ocean, the rapidity and especially the regularity of the "Dreadnought's" trips are wonderful. Capt. Samuels, in his interesting autobiography, "From the Forecastle to the Cabin," attributed his success to good discipline and to forcing the ship at night as well as during the day. "Night," he says, "is the best time to try the nerve and make quick passages. The best ship masters that I had sailed with were those who were most on deck after dark, and relied upon nobody but themselves to carry canvas. The expert sailor knows exactly how long his sails and spars will stand the strain, the lubber does not, and therefore is apt to lose both." It may be noted in passing that the "Dreadnought" carried the old-fashioned single topsails that in themselves "held a whole gale of wind," requiring to reef each one a whole watch, as a division of the crew is called.

 Alex Bellinger at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport
Until after the death of Captain Samuels in 1908, no doubt had ever been expressed as to the rapidity of the "Dreadnought's" record trip of nine days and seventeen hours from land to land. Unfortunately in the last few years a small coterie in New York, jealous of Captain Samuels' success, have endeavored, with no real foundation of fact, to deny that the fast passage of 1859 ever took place. The author has investigated the case with the greatest care, and the result as here stated speaks for itself and proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the fastest voyage across the Atlantic ocean ever made by a sailing ship was by the "Dreadnought," in nine days and seventeen hours, from Sandy Hook to the pilot-boat off Queenstown harbor, in March, 1859. Some excuse is due the reader for the minuteness and repetition with which the case is stated, but those on the other side have worked with such energy to prove the record a myth, that the author thinks it is due the memory of Captain Samuels and the American merchant marine generally to clear up beyond doubt the facts of the "Dreadnought's" most celebrated voyage. In his "History of the New York Ship Yards," page 141, John H. Morrison says: The log book of the "Dreadnought" containing the record of this famous voyage of March, 1859, is not in existence, so far as known to the descendants of David Ogden (the agent of the Red Cross line). Captain Samuels informed the writer that on this voyage he ran the vessel to Daunt's Rock, communicated with the pilot-boat on the station at the mouth of Cork harbor (Queenstown), and proceeded on his way to Liverpool after a very short stop. The vessel left New York harbor with a high northeast wind, but about twelve hours later this was succeeded by a high northwesterly wind on the North Atlantic coast. An examination of the reports of vessels arriving at New York from Great Britain after the "Dreadnought" sailed from New York on February 27, 1859, till the day of her call oft Cork harbor, show us that there was a succession of heavy westerly gales during the whole period . . . this favorable condition for a fast eastern passage continued to the time of the stop off Queenstown, but leaving there the "Dreadnought" encountered light head winds, and arrived at Liverpool on March 13, according to the London Times. In response to an inquiry by Mr. Morrison while he was compiling his above mentioned book, Capt. Samuels dictated to his daughter the following letter: 194 Clinton street (Brooklyn), April 2, 1908. Dear Mr. Morrison: You ask me for the record voyage of the "Dreadnought." We discharged the pilot at 3 P. M., Feb. 27, 1859, off Sandy Hook. We were off Queenstown at the end of nine days, seventeen hours, when we sent our mails ashore by a Cork pilot boat.2 The wind then became variable and died down. In thirteen days, eight hours, we were abreast the Northwest Lightship at Liverpool, and one hour later anchored in the Mersey, March 12, noon. The following will give an idea of the character of the ship and the time she made, including the above. In 1854 she made the same passage in thirteen days, eleven hours, and six times in succession under sixteen days, including one run of fourteen days and one of fifteen days.
Yours, S. S.

US Naval Institute Review
Newburyport Clipper Ship Museum
The World Renowned A No.1 Clipper Ship "Dreadnought" Wm. T. Coleman & Co.