The September program of the St. George Historical Society was presented by Dale Pierson and was on “Ships, Shipbuilding, Captains, Crews and Cargoes of St. George.” Dale told us about how he “volunteered” to do the presentation:
“My quest started with an interest in several ancestors who are listed as Captains or Ship Masters in local references and cemetery inscriptions. Somehow, I agreed to do a talk about “Ships, Sea Captains, Shipbuilding and the Age of Sail.” Who were they, what ships did they sail, when did they travel the oceans of the world, where did they sail to and why did it all seem to cease? These are some of the questions I wanted answers to. After re-reading works by local authors, I went to the Penobscot Marine Museum with a list of ancestors, in pursuit of more information. There I realized that much of the information is not cross-referenced and the search was to be a rather tedious affair. Some data was listed in one reference while other data was listed elsewhere. It was then I decided to gather the information of our local sailing history and put it into a document that is searchable by categories. Using a spreadsheet, which helps to keep my scattered thoughts organized, I began entering information from many sources that I will share with you. Trying to limit the presentation to information pertaining to St. George is not easy. The boats, captains (masters), crews, and cargos traveled all over the globe. These local builders and owners moved their chess pieces to different ports of call constantly.”
The time frame of Dale’s talk was from the 1830s to the end of the early 1900s, when so many sailing ships ended up beached on our shores. He spoke of the vast number of sailors, sea captains and sailing vessels that called St. George home. There was mention of the various shipyards and their locations in St. George. Jim Skoglund showed the audience a top hat that belonged to Capt. David Watts and spoke of the fact that sea captains regularly wore a top hat to distinguish themselves from others. Dale mentioned some of the cargo—southern pine brought north, paving stones carried to Boston and New York, and even a shipload of Mormons who were transported from Liverpool, England, in search of a new home in Utah. He also told the story of the Hattie Dunn, a three-masted wooden schooner captained by a St. George native that was sunk by a German U-boat in May 1918 off the coast of Virginia.
There were close to 75 people who packed into the Ocean View Grange that evening, and it appeared that there was interest in having a similar program again next year.
PHOTOS: Top, courtesy of St. George Historical Society; bottom, Betsy Welch