Fox Hill Shipyard

Barque Hill’s Shipyard Park is named for Fox Hill Shipyard, which operated from 1690 to 1869. It was located between the easterly slope of Fox Hill and the foot of Sunset Hill – possibly the end of Barstow Ave. It was located essentially at the end of what is today Fox Hill Lane. A sign at the current park landing, erected by the North River Historical Association, marks what was probably the eastern extreme of the shipyard. The sign reads:

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SITE OF
FOX HILL
SHIPYARD
1690 TO 1869

OVER 56 VESSELS
WERE BUILT OF
29 TO 390 TONS

MANY more than 56 ships were built in this yard, but the exact number cannot be determined. Detailed records of the ships built between 1690-1813 have not been found. The first shipbuilders here were probably Nathaniel Church, and John Palmer, about 1690.

The first recorded ship launched from the Fox Hill Shipyard was the schooner “Orient,” 42 tons, built by Barker Turner in 1813. The largest vessel ever built in the yard was the 1833 ship “Hilo,” 390 tons, built by Waterman & Bates, used as a whaler. The last ship built at the yard, and the next to last built on the river, was the schooner “Hope On,” launched in 1869.

In operation for 179 years, Fox Hill shipyard was occupied by many generations of numerous families. A listing of the known ships and their builders is provided below. The following information on relies heavily on (and in many cases paraphrases and takes excerpts from) information printed in Briggs’ “History of Shipbuilding on North River.” Many thanks to the Norwell Historical Society for their assistance.

DATES SHIPS SHIPBUILDERS
1690 – ? ? Nathaniel Church, John Palmer, and their descendants
1813 Barker Turner
1814
1815
1816 Barker Turner and William Copeland
1816
1816 William Copeland
1817 Barker Turner
1818 Caleb Turner and Barker Turner
1818
1819
1819 William Copeland, Capt. Thomas Waterman, and Joseph S. Bates
1820 Barker Turner
1820
1824 William Copeland & Co.
1825
1826
1827
1828
1829
1839
1830
1832
1833 Waterman & Bates
1833
1835
1836
1837 Capt. Thomas Waterman
1838
1840
1841
1842
1845
1847 Capt. Elijah Barstow and Capt. Thomas Waterman
1848
1848
1849
1849
1850
1851
1851
1852
1852
1854
1855
1856
1859 Capt. Elijah Barstow & Thomas B. Waterman
1860
1862
1863
1864
1864
1865
1866
1866
1867
1869

Orient

Schooner, 42 tons, built in 1813 for Ensign Otis, Jr., Thomas Rider, and Shadrach Standish, Scituate. According to an account by Capt. John Manson, she was taken by the British out of Scituate Harbor in 1813 (during the War of 1812).

Beaver

Schooner, 29 tons, built in 1814 for Lemuel Vinal and Isaiah Alden, Jr., Scituate

Heroine

337 tons, built in 1815 for William Shimmin & O., Boston, William Copeland, master carpenter. In 1829 she was added to the Fairhaven whaling fleet, and made voyages in the So. Atlantic until 1839, when she went into the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In 1852, during a severe gale, the second mate, C. Fuller, and five other men were washed overboard and the “Heroine” was badly damaged. In September later that same year she was badly injured by fire. She was condemned at Honolulu in December, 1852, her 38th year.

Morning Star

Schooner, 65 tons, built in 1816, of Orleans, afterward of New Bedford. The oak for this schooner cost $7 per ton. She was begun in Oct., 1815 and launched May, 1816.

Milo

Schooner, 53 tons, built in 1816, of Boston.

Friendship

Schooner, 53 tons, of Hull, built in 1816, owned by Paul Billings, James H. & Martin D. Merritt, and Reuben Damon of Scituate. Owned in 1850 by Jacob Walden & O. at Boston, William Copeland, Jr., M.C. Probably built on the same model as the “Milo.” These two latter schooners were pink sterns, or “pinkies,” or “pinkas,” as they used to call them, and built for fishing smacks. They were launched on the same ways; one was on the stocks ahead of the other and both were launched at dusk in the early evening of the same day. Mr. Turner signalized the event by lighting a number of tar barrels, the illumination being visible for miles around.

Fame

Schooner, 47 tons, built by Barker Turner for Isaiah Alden, Jr., H. Damon, Cummins Jenkins and James Turner Ford, Scituate.

Roxanna

Schooner, 73 tons, built in 1818 by Caleb Turner and Barker Turner, for John Beal, Snell Wade, Simeon Litchfield and William Vinal, Scituate, and afterward sold to Boston. She was commenced in November, 1817, and launched in May, 1818.

Mary Jones

Schooner, 56 tons, of Scituate, built 1818 by Caleb Turner and Barker Turner, owned by Cushing Otis, James and Asa Litchfield, Caleb Baily 3rd, and Haywood Vinal of Scituate. Used in fishing and coasting.

Cyrene

Schooner, 58 tons, of Boston, built by Caleb Turner and Barker Turner, Owners, Howard Vinal, Silas Prouty and Cushing Otis of Scituate, & O., Caleb and Barker Turner, master carpenters. Begun in November, 1918, and launched in April, 1819.

George Washington

In 1820 this schooner, 67 tons, was built by Barker Turner for Isaiah Alden, Jr., Ichabod Alden, Colman Jenkins, Cushing Otis, and Elisha Foster, Jr., Scituate. This vessel was afterward lost at sea.

Lark

Schooner, pink stern, 40 tons, built by Barker Turner and sold to Kingston. Not long after this, Barker Turner removed to the Brick Kiln shipyard in Pembroke.

Cashier

Brigantine, built 1819 by William Copeland, Jr., Thomas Waterman and Joseph S. Bates, 73 tons, of Boston. Woned by William Copeland, Jr., Thomas Waterman, Scituate; Ebenezer Chadwick and Joseph S. Bates, of Hanover &O. This vessel may have been built in Hanover, as her register states, but as two or three vessels were sometimes on the ways at the Fox Hill Yard at the same time, she may have been built here.

Byron

Built in 1824, a 193-ton brig, by William Copeland & Co. for William Lovering of Boston, afterward sold to New Bedford.

Lexington

Brig, built in 1825, 197 tons, of Boston. William Copeland, Jr., M.C., condemned at Mauritius, 1856.

Moscow

Built in 1826, brig, 277 tons, of Boston, William Copeland, Jr., M.C. Lost off California before it was annexed to the United States.

Samos

Built in 1827, a brig, 243 tons, of Boston, owned by Windsor Fay & O. Owned in 1844 by Vernon Brown, of Boston. William Copeland, Jr., M.C. In 1838 Capt. C. B. Graves went in this brig from Stockholm to New York. She used to sail between the West Indies and the Baltic, regularly. Page Brewer was master of her, after him the late William Reed of Chelsea. Capt. Graves thought she was later put under the Spanish flag.

Leda

Brigantine, built in 1828, 258 tons, by William Copeland & Co., William Copeland, Jr., M.C., for David Eells, or Ellis, of Boston.

Orion

Schooner, built in 1829, 60 tons, of Cohasset. Built by William Copeland & Co., William Copeland, Jr., M.C.

Odessa

1830 brig, 180 tons, this ship may have been built either in Hanover or at Fox Hill. Built by William Copeland & Co., William Copeland, Jr., M.C., owned by Isaac Hall and Thomas Curtis of Boston.

Lyceum

1830 schooner, 65 tons, owned at Scituate by John Beal, Peleg Jenkins, Melzar Litchfield, Edw. J. Porter, Michael Ford, Elias W. Pratt, built by William Copeland & Co., William Copeland, Jr., M.C.

Mary Ballard

Bark, 1832, 260 tons, of Boston, by William Copeland & Co., William Copeland, Jr., and Elias W. Pratt, master carpenters. This was the last ship built by the firm. She was built for William Fay, of Boston, was used in the liquor trade. Mr. Fay sent down from Boston a quantity of liquor when she was launched, and the Rev. David Barnes Ford remembered dealing it out. He was probably obliged to do this, as he would not likely have wished to do so in that day. The ship was lost while in the liquor trade.

Joseph C. and Samuel Tolman, Jr., did the joiner work on the “Mary Ballard.” George B. Tolman, son of Elisha, who was a descendant of Charles, fell from a staging on board she ship, and was injured. Some verses, presumably relating to this incident, were written concerning this vessel of which only the following lines have been preserved:

One day it chanced to cross my roving thought
That James and I would take a walk,
Down to the ship yard we would go,
There was a lady for a show.

* * * *
Mary Ballard was her name.
* * * *
If to the ship yard you would go,
Take care and not be climbing so.

When lost the “Mary Ballard” was owned by John H. Pierson; she was cast away on the Bahamas in the spring of 1843, loaded with ice for the Gulf of Mexico.

Hilo

Built in 1833, 390 tons, of New York, by Waterman & Bates. The Hilo was the largest vessel ever built at Fox Hill Shipyard. It is said it cost $1,000 to get her out of the river. She was used as a whaler.

Ontario

Built in 1833, 367 tons, of Sag Harbor, by Waterman & Bates. Her length was 108 feet, breadth 27 feet, depth 13 feet. She afterward hailed from New Bedford.

Almina

Brigantine, built in 1835, 175 tons, of Boston, by Waterman & Bates. A fruiter, used in the Mediterranean trade.

Rienzi

1836, 108 tons, of Boston, built by Waterman & Bates. In 1863 she was captured and burned at sea by a rebel privateer. This was the last vessel built by Waterman & Bates, as Joseph Bates retired in 1836. Capt. Waterman carried on the business alone after that, until 1846.

Vintage

Built in 1837, a brig, 199 tons, of Boston, a fruiter used in the Mediterranean trade. She was the first vessel built by Capt. Thomas Waterman after his partner, Joseph Bates, retired.

Otho

Brig, built 1838, 132 tons, of Boston, by Capt. Thomas Waterman.

Lake

Schooner, Built 1840, 99 tons, owners: George M. Allen, Eaton Vinal, Thomas L. Manson, John Manson and Thomas Waterman of Scituate, who built her. The “Lake” was commanded by Capt. Vinal in the West India logwood trade, etc., and during her second or third voyage she ran off Maguena Reef, near Crooked Passage, and was totally wrecked.

Wave

Bark, built in 1841, by Captain Thomas Waterman, 197 tons, owned by Nathaniel H. Emmons, George w. Wales, Thomas B. Wales, Sr., and Jr., and Samuel Quincy of Boston.

Thomas B. Wales had a son, Thomas B., whom he whished to send to sea, probably thinking this to be the most advantageous way of starting him in a mercantile life. To induce him to go he had this bark built and fitted up with fancy cabins, and expense was not spared to make it an attractive and comfortable vessel. As a further inducement he put his son in as captain, but as he had never been to sea before, it was necessary to have for the first mate an experienced “old salt;” so Capt. Winsor went as first mate on her first voyage, which was to be around Cape Horn to the Northwest coast, trading. It was the custom in those days for the captain to stay below, leaving his mate in charge of the ship, and it is fair to presume that Capt. Wales let the mate run the ship most of the time. The “Wave” probably did not go to the Northwest coast, and young Wales may have disappointed his father and never have gone in her, but the above is the story as told to Mr. Briggs.

In 1841 she made a voyage from Boston to Rochelle; in 1842, Rochelle to Boston with brandy, fruit, etc., and Norfolk, VA to Rochelle with staves, etc. In 1843 from Rio de Janeiro with coffee, and from New Bedford to Cowerand with 288 casks, 447 gross gallons of oil and 10 tons of logwood. In 1843-4, Norfolk to Rochelle and back again with potash, rice, staves, etc. In 1884 she was owned in New Bedford, then 42 years old.

Manson

Schooner, built in 1842 by Capt. Thomas Waterman, 93 tons, owners Geo. M. Allen, Moses R. Colman, John, Thomas L. and Joel L. Manson, Eaton Vinal, the builder Thomas Waterman, and Michael Ford, Scituate. She was commanded by Capt. Moses Coleman and ran between Boston and Venezuela, taking out mixed cargoes and bringing back goat skins.

St. Paul

Schooner, built in 1945, 94 tons, the last vessel built by Capt. Waterman alone at Fox Hill yard. Owned by Capt. John Cushing of Hanover and William H. Talbot, of Scituate. She was commanded by “Capt. Bill Talbot” and used in the coasting trade in the Gulf of Mexico. William Clark of Hanover was one of the crew of three that went before the mast on the first voyage of the “St. Paul.” They went to Matanzas and New Orleans with general cargo and brought back molasses, sugar, etc. She was finally lost.

Tom Corwin

Bark, 250 tons, launched in 1847. This was the first vessel built by the partnership of Captains Elijah Barstow and Thomas Waterman. Owned by Joel L., John and Thomas L. Manson, George M. and William P. Allen, of Scituate Harbor. Commanded by Capt. John Manson. Charles Le Roy, of So. Scituate, went in her on her first voyage to St. Petersburg, Russia, in the spring of 1847. In 1859 she was owned by Elisha Atkins, at Boston, and was lost when an old vessel.

Capt. Manson, her commander, was born in 1805 at Scituate Harbor, where he died July 14, 1889.

Zion

Bark, 199 tons, built in 1848 by Barstow & Waterman. Of Boston, owned in 1848 by Pierson and under Capt. Reynold, a part owner.

Abram

Brigantine, 158 tons, built in 1848 by Barstow & Waterman. Owned by Moses R. Coleman, George M. Allen, Michael Ford and Thomas Waterman, of Scituate. She took the place of the “Manson” in the Venezuela trade and was built of oak, copper and iron fastened. Owned in 1861 by Vose, Livingston & Co., New York.

Adelia Rogers

Bark, 199 tons, built in 1849 by Barstow & Waterman. Owned in 1861 by Taylor & O., and Capt. Snow. In her registers she was sometimes called the “Adelaide Rogers.” She was commanded by Capt. George Taylor, of Chatham, and was afterwards lost on the Southern Coast.

Robert Raikes

Schooner, 81 tons, of oak, iron and copper fastened, single bottom built in 1849 by Barstow & Waterman. Owned in 1874 by E. & E. K. Cook, of Provincetown, and used as a fishing vessel. Captained by J. J. Corrigan. Capt. Swift, the largest owner, had this vessel named the “Robert Raikes” because of his strong sympathy with this great Methodist (founder of the first Sunday school, prison reformer).

Sarah

Brigantine, 165 tons, built in 1850 by Barstow & Waterman for Capt. Moses Coleman, of Scituate, who used her in the West India trade.

Antarctic

Schooner, built in 1851, 101 tons, of oak, iron and copper fastened, single bottom, whaler. In 1872 she was owned by J. E. & G. Bowley, of Provincetown, Capt. Hill. In 1884 she was down North River when Minot’s light was blown over.

Joshua E. Bowley

Schooner, built in 1851, 95 tons, owned in 1884 at Provincetown, Mass.

Kernisan

Her. brig, 127 tons, built in 1852 built by Barstow & Waterman, on the owners’ account. Sold to William F. Weld & Co. Owned in Boston by N. J. Weld, in 1859, deck cabin. It is reported that she was lost with all on board on a voyage to the West Indies.

Sea Drift

Schooner, 99 tons, oak, iron and copper fastened, built in 1852 by Barstow & Waterman. Owned in 1865 in Scituate.

William Martin

Schooner, built in 1854, 130 tons, flush deck, built by Barstow & Waterman, owned by William Martin of Orleans, Mass. Registered at some ports as having been built in Hanover, but this mistake is easily explained. The builder’s address was Hanover, and the owners, in registering, thought the vessels were built in Hanover, but this mistake in registry has been corrected wherever found. Built of oak and hackmatack (larch, or poplar). Iron and copper fastened. Sheathed with zinc in October, 1867. In 1862 she was transferred from Orleans to Boston and sent whaling in the Atlantic. On July 6, 1889, under Capt. Howard, she arrived in Boston from a 25-month whaling voyage in the Atlantic with sperm oil to Heman Smith.

N. & H. Gould

Schooner, 142 tons, 91 feet long, 25 feet broad, Draft 10 feet. Built of oak, iron and copper fastened, single bottom. Built in 1855 by Barstow & Waterman, for Capt. Gould, who was drowned off Philadelphia while trying to save a man who had fallen overboard. Just as he was going down he held up his pocket book, then sank. Capt. Gould used this vessel as a freighter. In 1863 she was owned by Yates, Potterfield & Co., of Orleans, Mass., and in 1865 by Eben Sears of Dennis, and sailing under Capt. Crowell. Owned in 1876 by Eben Sears, Boston, Capt. Baker, master.

Spright (or “Sprite”)

Brig, 200 tons, built in 1856, the last vessel built by Capt. Waterman & Capt. Barstow in company. She was used in the So. American trade by Lifkin & Ironside, N.Y. She was owned in 1865 by C. W. Swift, NY. No more vessels were built at Fox Hill yard until 1859, the year Capt. Waterman’s son, Thomas B. Waterman, succeeded him in the firm.

Mary Greenish

Schooner, 140 tons; oak, copper and iron fastened; rider keelsons; built in 1859 by the new firm of Capt. Elijah Barstow & Thomas B. Waterman; owned in 1865 by Fairbanks & Adams, Boston; Capt. J. Greenish. This vessel was named after the captain’s wife.

Abbie Bradford

Schooner, built in September, 1860 by Barstow & Waterman. She was 114 tons, 87 feet long, 23 feet broad; built of oak, iron and copper fastened. She was owned by Macey & Co., Nantucket. Captain A. Baker. She was originally commanded by Capt. Ezra Freeman, of Sandwich. She was named after the Captain’s daughter, Abbie Bradford Freeman, and had for a figurehead the full statue of a little girl. She was one of the first vessels captured by the Confederate privateer “Alabama,” Capt. Semmes, while on her way to the West Indies. He bonded her and let her go. In 1872, Jonathan Bourne, of New Bedford, bought the “Abbie Bradford,” and sent her eight voyages to Hudson’s Bay, whaling. On her last voyage, in 1887, she came out of the Bay in September, went South, and was badly wrecked in a gale in December, obliging her to put into the port of Santos, Brazil, where she was condemned and sold in January, 1888. Mr. Bourne owned her for sixteen years.

Falcon

Hermaphrodite brig, 128 tons, built 1862 by Barstow & Waterman; of oak, iron and copper fastened; yellow metalled in 1870; for J. C. Osgood, of Salem; sold in 1871 to N. P. Mann & Co. Boston, and used in whaling. N. P. Mann sold her to Capt. C. B. Graves and Fowle & Carroll, Boston, for the West India trade in 1874. Commander Graves commanded her for four voyages, then left her due to illness, and Capt. Jordan Cody took her to Santo Domingo. On her homeward passage she was struck by a hurricane between Haiti and Cuba. They had to cut away the masts, and after the storm, they put up jury-masts and reached Port Jago, Cuba, where she was condemned and sold for a coal hulk.

Salinas

Her. brig,150 tons, built 1863 by Barstow & Waterman. Oak, iron and copper fastened; yellow metalled in November, 1870. She was owned in 1872 by Cartwright & Harrison, Bermuda, and was sailing under the British flag. About 1875 her name was changed to “Warren,” and she was owned by Cartwright, Harrison, & Co., Barbados.

Susan N. Smith

Schooner, 150 tons, built in 1864 by Barstow & Waterman for Heman Smith. While on a whaling voyage in the Atlantic she was reported lost August 28, 1869, with the Captain’s wife, Mrs. Rounseville, two children, the first and second mates, boat steerers, and thirteen of the crew. She had 180 barrels of sperm oil.

Louisa A.

A sister vessel to the Susan N. Smith, though a little smaller at 122 tons. A schooner built for a whaler in the fall of 1864 by Barstow & Waterman for Heman Smith, Boston. Commanded by Capt. Kelly, she was lost on a reef near Florida about 1883.

Pinta

Schooner, built in 1865, 207 tons, a coaler for Captain Edwin Barstow, by Barstow & Waterman. Drawing 12 feet, oak, iron and copper fastened; yellow metalled January, 1868; owned in 1872 by E. W. Barstow; Capt. J. H. Smith, master. In 1875 she was owned by Capt. Small & others, at Pembroke, Maine, and used as a fisherman.

Heman Smith

Hermaphrodite brig, 123 tons, built in April, 1866 by Barstow & Waterman; oak, iron and copper fastened; yellow metalled in 1869. She was a whaler, and owned in 1872 by Heman Smith and others, Boston; Capt. W. Martin. In 1877 she was still whaling in the Atlantic, and in 1884 owned in Boston. She was condemned in 1886, at St. Michael’s, though then a good vessel.

Lizzie J. Bigelow

In 1866 this whaling brig was built on the owners’ (Barstow & Waterman’s) account, and sold in 1868 to Provincetown parties, the year she first got her register. She was an hermaphrodite brig, draft 12 feet; oak, iron and copper fastened; yellow metalled in October, 1871. In 1872 she was used as a whaler in Provincetown, Mass., by B. A. Lewis, Capt. Josiah Cook. She was owned by C. E. & B. H. Fabens, of Salem, Mass., for about ten years. She was bought March, 4, 1873, of C. G. & G. E. Ryder, for $9,500 and foundered at sea February 12th, 1885, the crew being taken off by a Scottish bark. An account from a daily paper at the time says:

“The crew of the ‘Lizzie J. Bigelow,’ which was abandoned at sea February 12, 1885, were rescued by Capt. Lawson, of the bark ‘Messina.’ The Lizzie J. Bigelow’ sailed from St. Martins, Jan. 28, and about seven o’clock that night, when eight miles northwest of Sombrero Light, James Dawcett, a Nova Scotia seaman, fell overboard from aloft, and was drowned. On Feb. 5, a heavy westerly gale set in, pumps had to be manned every half hour; the gale increased a little every day, and on the 10th blew with great violence; a heavy sea ran dangerously high, and a sharp lightning appeared on the eve of the 12th. At nine o’clock a vessel’s light was sighted. The ‘Bigelow’ was leaking so badly that they made signals of distress, and were taken off with great difficulty.”

Rosa Baker

In the fall of 1866, Barstow & Waterman commenced a new vessel, the “Rosa Baker,” launched in May of the following year. She was built a whaler, for Heman Smith, and Capt. Charles Stetson, of Kingston, went master of her. An hermaphrodite brig, 109 tons, oak, iron and copper fastened; yellow metalled October, 1871. She was whaling in the Atlantic from 1867 to 1877, and in 1869 or 1872 was sold to Jonathan Bourne, Jr., of New Bedford, and went to Hudson’s Bay, whaling. On Sept. 5, 1874, the first mate and boats crew were lost in the ice in Hudson’s Bay. In August, 1889, she was owned in Boston, and lying at National Wharf in East Boston. She is registered at some ports as the “Rosa Barker,” which is a mistake, as she was named after Rosa, daughter of Joshua Baker.

Hope On

In 1869 was launched the schooner “Hope On,” the last vessel built by the firm of Barstow & Waterman, the last vessel built on this yard, and the next to the last vessel built on the North River. She was built on the owners’ account, and was a great loss to her builders. There was no demand for vessels when she was launched, and it was nearly two years before she was sold. For this reason she has often been registered as having been built in 1871. This vessel was 191 tons burthen, 100 feet long, 24 feet broad, draft 11 feet; white oak and yellow pine, iron and copper fastened, single bottom; owned in 1876 by Edwin Barstow & Son, of Boston; Capt. L. Chase, commander. She was rated as having been built first class. In 1877 she was sold to J. T. Richardson, of New Bedford, and sent whaling in the Atlantic, under Capt. M. A. Baker. She was later sold to parties in Talcahuana, Chile, where she has been used as a freighter and whaler.

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