A sewing machine that went to sea

The great-granddaughter of Capt. Henry Giles, Sylvia Keene of Nobleboro, recently donated the sewing machine shown here to the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. She said that it had gone on board several seafaring vessels captained by her great-grandfather and had been passed on down through the family.

Capt. Henry Giles was born in 1828 in St. George and went to sea at an early age. The first sailing vessel he captained was the two-masted schooner Boyne in 1847. Other sailing vessels on which he served as captain were the brig John A. Taylor, schooner Almira Ann, schooner Levi Hart, schooner Clara W. Elwell, and the ships Baring Brothers and Sarah Newman. The Downeaster Baring Brothers was the last vessel he captained, leaving the sea in the 1880s. He retired to his hometown of St. George and lived in the house that is now known as the East Wind Inn Meeting House Annex on Mechanic Street in Tenants Harbor. The sailing vessels John A. Taylor, Levi Hart and Clara W. Elwell were all built in St. George.

One of the other great-granddaughters of Capt. Giles, Laura Cliff, amassed quite a collection of family history and upon her death it was left to the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Included in the collection are several journals and diaries of family members who accompanied Capt. Giles on some of his voyages. These papers are available for viewing at the library in Searsport and some of the material will be copied and placed with the sewing machine in the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. It will give a great understanding of the day-to-day life on a sailing vessel.

The treadle sewing machine dates to the mid-1800s and is amazingly heavy. It would be interesting to find out how they fastened it so it wouldn’t move with the motions of the sea. The journals mention sewing to pass the time and the effort to have certain items done by the time they returned to port.—John Falla

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