Old ships and ship-building days of Medford.
Early ships.1IN the ‘History of New England,’ by John Winthrop, is this record: ‘July 4, 1631. The governor built a bark at Mistick which was launched this day, and called The Blessing of the Bay. Aug. 9th the same year, the the governor's bark, being of thirty tons, went to sea.’ It cost one hundred and forty-five pounds. The owner said of it, May 16, 1636, ‘I will sell her for one hundred and sixty pounds.’ This is the first record of ship building in Medford, and there is a tradition that she was built on the north side of Mystic river, and probably not far from the governor's house at Ten Hills.2 ‘The next year, 1632, Mr. Cradock built a vessel of one hundred tons, on the bank of the Mystic. In 1633, a ship of two hundred tons, and another named Rebecca, tonnage unknown; both built by Mr. Cradock.’ Brooks says, ‘There is reason to believe that Mr. Cradock's ship-yard was that now occupied by J. T. Foster.’ May 29, 1644, the General Court proposed the formation of a company of ship builders ‘with power to regulate the building of ships, and to make such orders and laws amongst themselves as may conduce to the public good.’ From that time until the time ship building was inaugurated on a large scale by Thatcher Magoun, in 1804, there were few vessels of any size built in Medford. [p. 62] It is said that small sloops and schooners were built in very early times at the landing near Rock hill in West Medford. These were called ‘lighters,’ and were used for the navigation of the river.3 Mr. Rhodes of Boston built a vessel named the Mayflower here. There was a large business in freighting produce to Boston by boat from Medford, saving a round-about journey over the Brighton bridge in Cambridge, as there were no other bridges until 1786 across the Charles. The distilling business and the manufacture of bricks required many lighters, and returning they could bring back freight at small cost. ‘Medford, therefore, by its river, became a centre of supply for New Hampshire and Vermont,’ and could furnish iron, steel, lead, salt, molasses, sugar, tea, codfish, chocolate, guns, powder, rum, etc., at a lower price than they could get them in Boston. There was a brigantine of forty tons built in Medford in 1699 and a ship of sixty tons in 1703.4 It is unfortunate that there is not more known of this last vessel, as a ship of that size would be a curiosity, and would look almost like a toy. A vessel about sixty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide would figure out about that tonnage, by the rules used at that time. In Marblehead is a picture of the ship Hope, commanded by Capt. Asa Hooper, of which there is a tradition that she was built in Medford. The picture bears the date 1799. Benjamin and Ebenezer Hall had interests in vessels in the coasting trade and with the West Indies which they continued after the revolution. Ebenezer Hall, together with John Kennedy of Boston, were the owners of the brig Dolly, Capt. Levi Stetson, captured by a French privateer in 1798 in the short naval war with France.5 [p. 63] The following is a list of the vessels in which Benjamin Hall had an interest, with their captains and the ports to which they sailed:—
The cargoes to the southern states from Massachusetts were largely rum and salt codfish, but to the West Indies they could carry salt beef and pork, vegetables and other provisions, as sugar raising was so profitable there that the inhabitants did little other farming. This business was of vital importance to the New England colonies, as they produced nothing which could be transported to Europe to pay for the manufactured goods imported, and this triangular trade was necessary, as tobacco and cotton could be taken to Europe from the southern states and sugar from the West Indies. The suppression of this trade was one of the principal causes of the Revolution.
Also the sloops Gloriosa, ‘Mercury,’ ‘Boston,’ ‘Speedwell,’ ‘Minerva.’6
‘Defiance’ Parsons To and from West Indies ‘Essex’ Willcome To and from West Indies ‘Friendship’ Jackson To and from West Indies ‘Halifax’ Stiles To and from West Indies ‘Polly’ Barstow To and from Holland ‘Dauphin’ Smith For France ‘Three Friends’ Wood For France ‘Neptune’ Frazier For West Indies ‘John’ Stanton For West Indies ‘Sally’ Paine For West Indies ‘Friendship’ Manchester For West Indies ‘Bella’ Grinnell For Holland