Timber ships launched from the Waterside
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Cited as follows, the New York Times article published June 23, 1889 recalls the timber ship Columbus which sailed from Quebec on September 5, 1824 bound for England. The piece exudes/includes profuse accolades that: “In 1824 and 1825 great things were expected and accomplished in part by certain attempts on a great scale to export timber from Canada to England.”

[The New York Times article published June 23, 1889 (linked from this link without) --- TIMBER SHIPS AND RAFTS; EARLY ATTEMPTS TO TRANSPORT LUMBER CHEAPLY. THE GREAT SHIPS COLUMBUS AND BARON OF RENFREW - THEIR CONSTRUCTION AND LOSS OVER SIXTY YEARS AGO --- can be found at this link without and also archived at this link within (as pdf format).]

Point of fact, such “great things” were "expected and accomplished" here in the Waterside more than a half century before the aforementioned venture launched from Quebec in 1824-25. Comity cites insight (and hindsight) that well before the War of Independence, timber ships (formed from unmilled timbers floated down river to the Mouth of the River Merrimack) were crafted then launched from Newburyport, destined for England.

This means to transport timber avoided the taxing task of loading and unloading the heavy cargo -- and evaded taxes on the "cargo" of lumber dissembled at its destination. While expedient and economical, the venture would prove perilous from beginning to end --- demanding the skills at every level --- from the master shipbuilders crafting a "tight ship" of timber to the masterful captain and crew navigating the interim "vessel" on open water and to its ultimate destination. Source references follow.


Source reference:  Coffin’s “Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport and West Newbury” found digitized online at Google books at this hyperlink. The excerpt follows is taken from Coffin’s chronicle of the year 1770.

"From the Massachusetts Spy, January seventeenth (1770), I extract the following reprint from an English paper.

'The Newbury, captain Rose, from Newbury, in New England, lies at the Orchard house, Black wall. The above is a raft of timber in the form of a ship, which came from Newbury to soundings in twenty-six days and is worthy the attention of the curious.'

This was one of the three or four ships, built in the same manner, for Mr. Levi, a Jew, one of which was launched December eleventh, 1769, and another October ninth, 1771.

Source reference: Currier’s “History of Newburyport, Vol. 2” page 484 refers to timber ship from the Waterside, found digitized online at this Google books hyperlink --- excerpt follows:

"Oak and pine timber, suitable for ship-building, was sent from Newbury to England in the form of rafts, skillfully constructed and equipped with masts and sails, and manned by a crew of courageous seamen. The following notice, published in an English paper in 1770, announced the arrival of one of these rafts at London: —

'The Newbury, Capt Rose, from Newbury, in New England, lies at the Orchard House Mack wall. The above is a raft of timber, in the form of a ship, which came from Newbury to soundings in twenty-six days, and is worthy the attention of the curious.' *

"Ship-building on the Merrimack river was very active at that date, and several new ship-yards were established in that part of Newbury known as 'Belleville.'"

* Coffin's History of Newbury, Newburyport and West Newbury," page 236

Source reference: E. Vale Smith’s “History of Newburyport,” page 65 refers to timber ships, digitized at Google books at this hyperlink --- excerpt follows:

"Besides supplying many merchants in England with vessels, orders for lumber were as promptly responded to. Perhaps no single circumstance shows more clearly the enterprise of the " water-side" people, than the way in which orders for lumber were in several instances answered. Instead of occupying vessels to carry what would float by its own buoyancy, they secured the timber together in the form of solid rafts, conforming them somewhat to the shape of a ship, and leaving in the centre a small cavity, capable of receiving a few men and some provisions, and having arranged with considerable ingenuity the means of navigating them, adventurous seamen enough were found to undertake the task of carrying them to London. The passages made by these rare craft would hardly compare with those of our modern clippers, but one of them is reported in a London paper as having arrived after a passage of twenty-six days; as good a voyage as was ordinarily made seventy years ago. Her commander was Captain Rose of this place."


The mind-traveling reader is prompted to SMILE (Seek More Information/insight Linked/logged Electronically) about the timber trade, timber ships, and the merchant traders of such local stock --- while gaining broader insight, hindsight, foresight and soul sight at the following sites:

  • Wikipedia webpage on Timber Trade with a general reference re timber ships (though primarily defined as ships loaded with timber cargo) can be found at this link without.

  • Wikipedia webpage compiling a "List of World's Largest Wooden Ships" --- which cites the abovementioned timber ship the Columbus found at this link without.

  • Further insight about construction of ships:
  • Search results of Google books for “Levi” or “Levy” and “Newburyport”:
    • On page 74 of the Massachusetts Register and Business Directory c. 1859 --- (90 years [three generations of 30 years] after the abovementioned merchant adventurer “Mr. Levi” commissioned the timber ships launched from the Mouth of the River Merrimack) --- found at this hyperlink
      • "Levy and Sampson," the proprietor of a shop purveying "fancy goods" in Newburyport;
      • Merrill Levi, proprietor in a "fancy goods" shop in Danvers (Massachusetts) 

  • Duly noting this link without (Wikipedia webpage) for insight about the 18th Century colonial merchant Samson Levy from Pennsylvania (revisit familial ties with Aaron Levy (link without) --- there is also a potential local ply ---
    • Dually noting two references of a (local Newburyport late 19th Century) namesake of Samson Levy at Currier’s History of Newburyport Vol. I, page 385 at this hyperlink and Ibid, Vol. II, page 686 at this hyperlink.
      • Something the mind-traveling reader is prompted to further explore, "looming wisdom" with extant journal entries of of like-minded journeys. More to follow.
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