History of shipbuilding on North River, Plymouth County, Massachusetts
Several years ago the author began collecting valuable facts relative to the shipbuilding interests that had existed in his own family, thinking it well to put into some tangible form facts that in a few years would be otherwise unobtainable. While thus working for a possible future history or genealogy of his family he discovered much of value and interest to the public in general, and the descendants of all North River shipbuilders in particular. Eighteen months ago he conceived the idea of writing a history of the shipbuilding on North River, making it as complete as possible at this late day. Most of the work has been done out of business hours, and much of this time has been taken in his other duties as President of Ward XVI. Associated Chanties of Boston, Director of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and President of the Hanover Academy Alumni. In compiling this history he has been ably assisted by many sincere friends, and has employed expert clerks among the old Probate arid Custom House records of many cities and towns. Acknowledgments of deep gratitude are due to numerous individuals who have assisted him by furnishing copies of records, old account books, bi Is and receipts, family records, diaries, etc. Were he to name all those to whom he is thus indebted he would include the descendants of many of the families whose ancestors, and in some cases they themselves, were versed in the art of shipbuilding, also the names of sea captains, librarians, merchants, selectmen, probate officers, etc., not leaving out the Hon. Henry B. Pierce, Secretary of State, who has a most systematic arrangement of the old records, manuscripts and maps in his keeping at the State House, nor Mr. John Tower, Editor of the North River "Pioneer," who has ably written many of the autobiographies. The author dare not flatter himself that the work is free from errors, but as a whole it is believed to be worthy of confidence, and where he has been unable to verify traditions and hearsay information bearing on this subject, by records or manuscript in some form, he has not stated such information as facts. Neither time, labor nor expense has been spared to make the volume a valuable collection of facts. The name of North River is familiar to the older generations of seafaring men and especially to the older residents of Nantucket, New Bedford, Sag Harbor, Barnstable, Provincetown, Boston and the South Shore. Great Britain was a market for a large number of North River built vessels before the Revolution. Prior to 1800 North River was known the world over; vessels were not designated as having been built in Scituate, Marshfield, Hanover or Pembroke, but "on North River." The author has unearthed the records of over one thousand and twenty-five vessels built here, and the United States Flag was carried around the world, and among other places, to the following countries for the first time at the mast heads of North River built vessels: Great Britain, Canada, the Northwest coast, to the Black Sea and China. The largest number of vessels built on the River in a single year that the author has found the records of was thirty in 1801,and the year 1818 shows the next largest number, twenty-four. During the five years, from 1799 to 1804 inclusive, there were built here one hundred and fifteen vessels, an average of twenty-three each year. During the ten years, from 1794 to 1S04 inclusive, there were one hundred and seventy-eight vessels built here, or an average of 17 each year. The largest number of vessels found bearing the same name were Betseys and Sallys, fourteen each; twelve Marys, eleven Pollys, and ten Neptunes. Times look a little brighter for the shipbuilders m general now; nine or more vessels are on the stocks at Bath, Me. Currier has just launched a 1200-ton four-masted schooner at Newburyport; a similar vessel has recently been launched at New Haven, Conn., and six or more vessels are building at East Boston. North River may yet see another vessel, and perhaps many more built upon her banks. Several of the old shipbuilders affirm that in building small vessels there are no obstacles but what could easily be overcome, if the men had the courage. The copied manuscript of this volume has been deposited with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.
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Why the stream which has become so historic takes the name of North River, those who named it left no record, but probably it was either because that in going north from Plymouth they found two rivers, and named the southern, South River and the northern, North River; or else, during their explorations along the coast, when they discovered these two rivers, one flowing directly from the north, the other directly from the south, meeting a little way from the coast, and flowing into the ocean together as one stream, they named the one flowing from the north, North River, and the one flowing from the south. South River. Either would be sufficient reason for thus naming these rivers, and in absence of any record, one of these two theories may probably be accepted as correct. The sources of North River are the Indian Head and the Namassakeesett Rivers. For the benefit of those who would like to follow up these streams, I will locate them and their tributaries, and on them the mills, factories, forges, etc., giving as complete a history of each as it has been possible to gather from the material now in existence.