Down to the sea

Barbara Dyer: Tall ships we never saw

Sun, 01/17/2016 - 2:30pm

A ship is a vessel that is square-rigged on all three masts. The Frederick Billings is a great example of one built in Rockport in 1885. She was 282 feet long by 45 feet wide and drew 29 feet. She was constructed by the Carleton, Norwood & Co. She was the second four-masted ship in the United States, and the largest square-rigged vessel ever built on the Penobscot waters.

She carried three skysail yards, and the main trunk was 180 feet above deck.  She met her demise in Pisaqua, Chile, fully loaded with nitrate. The vessel exploded and sank in 20 minutes. The crew did not like the captain, so caused the explosion, but all hands were saved. 

Carleton & Norwood owned most of it and they did not have it insured. A lovely painting of the ship hangs in the “Reading Room” over the fireplace in the Camden Public Library.

Another ship, Joseph Jones, was built in 1854 by Pendleton & Mirick, in Camden, where the Camden Public Library grounds are today. It was formerly the Issac Coombs Yard that they purchased after 1850.

Pendleton, Mirick and Joseph Jones each owned one-third of the vessel. Pendleton went as master in 1854 and then Capt. Jesse Hosmer, of Camden, took the helm in 1856.

According to Sailing Days on the Penobscot, there was another ship, Joseph Jones, built in 1840, and was the first full-rigged ship built in Camden. It was owned by Joseph Jones, et al, but was lost in 1860.

Another ship, Tennessee, was 125 feet long by 28 feet wide and drew 14 feet.  She was the first full-rigged ship built in Rockport by Enoch Eastman.

Other ships built in Camden and Rockport included Megunticook, Alice Gray, Wandering Jew, Benjamin Howard and some others.

From 1792 to 1919 most of the vessels built in Camden and Rockport were schooners.

There were also some barks such as the Chanticleer, whose size was 105 x 24 x12. She was built built in 1838 by Caleb Thomas, et al.

Then there was Tarquin built in 1939 by Benjamin Cushing, et al, and was 99 x 28 x12.

Others were Montpelier in 1841 by James Stackpole of Rockport 102 x24 x12; General Greene was sold to Germany; the Howland built by Carleton, & Norwood in 1845 and which was sold for a whaler.

There were some brigs, such as Harriet & Lucy, which was the first recorded vessel built by Deacon Stetson in the Noah Brooks Yard taken over by him that year 1819.From that date until 1853 the Deacon built more than 70 vessels in Camden. Other brigs were Elba, Sally & Esther, Danube and Borodino.

Besides, ships, barks and brigs, there were barkentines, brigatines, and hormaphodite brigs and topsail schooners. They were such beautiful vessels, it would have been nice to have been around to see them sailing by the light.


Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.

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