Tag Archives: South Orrington

The Launching of the “James E. Coburn”

by John Wedin
from material submitted by Evelyn Ryder Prior

Transcribed by Pauline Bickford-Duane 6/27/2017

The advent of World War I brought about a tremendous demand for American shipping tonnage. Many large ships were constructed on the Penobscot and one of the largest was built at the South Orrington shipyard.

The location of the shipyard in South Orrington was ideal – direct access to the river, good oak and pine available, and most important in any enterprise – excellent skilled labor available in the immediate area. The yard was leased from Captain C.W. Wentworth of South Orrington.

In 1918 the Boston and Penobscot Shipbuilding Company was incorporated with offices in Boston, Mass. Mr. Don Sargent of South Brewer was made General Manager and in that year it was decided to begin construction on a four-masted general cargo schooner.

In July, 1918, work started on the four-masted “James E. Coburn” in South Orrington. About 90 men were working on the “Coburn” with about 40 men supplying oak and pine planking from the nearby sawmill supervised by Roy Clark.

Ruel Dodge was the Master Builder, Daniel DeCourcey of Bucksport, scientific blacksmith; George Getchell of Brewer, liner; Edward Snowman of Bucksport, master caulker; Herbert Hoxie, South Orrington, boss painter; Henry Gardner of Castine, rigger; S. L. Treat of Bar Harbor did the lettering; Amos Simpson of Searsport did the joiner work and spars were made by Sidney Hathorn of Bangor.

The “Coburn’s” frame was of native oak, and her planking and ceilings were made of hard pine. The spars were of Oregon pine and the fore and aft houses were finished in natural sycamore, oak, and cypress.

She had four staterooms, a chart room, pantry, engine room, and the captain’s room. The “Coburn” had two anchors weighing 4100 and 3600 pounds supported by 180 fathoms of 1 ⅞” chain. She was 228’ over all, with a 39’6” beam, a 175’ keel, and 19’ depth of hold. The “Coburn” weighed 987 gross tons and had a capacity of 1700 tons.

She was painted white with a red stripe and blue waterways. The lettering on the stearn and bow were all done in gold leaf. The “Coburn” flew the flag of Rogers and Webb of Boston and was commanded by Captain James F. Chase of Machias who stayed at the yard from January through July, 1919 during construction.

It was quite a day on July 15, 1919 when the “Coburn” was launched. Many people from Bucksport, Bangor, Brewer, and Orrington were on hand. As the “Coburn” started to slide down the ways she stuck half way, to the surprise of the crowd. Many seafarers present predicted a terrible end for the ship after such a bad omen at launching. Several days later she was launched successfully and was towed to bangor for final fitting and chartering.

Days later the “Coburn,” with full sails set, eased her way down the Penobscot River and out to sea.

On April 1, 1929 she cleared Baltimore with a cargo of coal bound for Port de France, Martinique, and Port au Prince, Haiti. Twelve days later she passed Cape Henry and on April 17, the “Coburn” was battling for her life in a terrible storm. Later during the day she floundered beneath the waves.

Nine of the crew were saved after being adrift for over a week without food or water. One crewman was lost. So was the end of the “James E. Coburn.”

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A Brief Review of Orrington Cemeteries, by Henry Wiswell

Thank you to David Swett for his research efforts.
This text was retyped by Philippa Harvey in March 2011.

          Helen Tupper asked me to give a talk today, and I dragged my feet long and hard because I do not consider myself a good or interesting speaker.  I finally agreed as she said I could speak on town history or my family history, which has been written.  This way it would not require a lot of research on my part as I was not up on the history of cemeteries in Orrington.

          I made the mistake of asking David Swett if he knew where information on the cemetery that was near the old meeting house might be.  He gave me two large, 500 page books transcribed from Historical Society papers and a hundred pages that he had transcribed from the town clerks’ Book #1.  He also gave me his transcriptions of the gravestones of Orrington cemeteries.  WELL!  I am President of the North Orrington Cemetery Association and had wanted this information on the Marston Cemetery to make our files more complete.  I put all this data along with our cemetery data on a spreadsheet and alphabetized it.  Mary Bowden and Abigail Williamson checked it and corrections were made.  I could not seem to stop so I have done the same to all the cemeteries in town, active or not.  The data on the other cemeteries is being checked and these files will be up-graded.  That info, along with cemetery plans, is here for you to look at if you wish.  What a job Helen got me into.  But then, this is the way that most of the jobs that are supposed to be of little effort turn out to be.

          Most of the material I will be presenting this evening is information from David Swett’s research.  Not enough can be said about the effort and determination that he has put into this.  He has or is in the process of copying items about Orrington up to the early twentieth century.  These records include but are not limited to: town clerk records, historical society papers (two volumes), registry of deed records, court records, probate records – and David even went to the county seats of Wiscassett and Ellsworth to do this.  I have arranged the cemetery information from his work chronologically, hoping that it makes sense.

          Orrington was incorporated in 1788.

          In 1780 Joshua Chamberlain (grandfather to Civil War Joshua Chamberlain of Brewer) deeded to the town for $45.00 one hundred fifty square rods, or just over nine-tenths of an acre of land, for a meeting house near where the Town Pound is located on the Main Road with the stipulation that it would be used only for a meeting house, outbuildings, and sheds.

          In 1799 the town elected a committee to see to clearing a road on the town lot to the burying ground and to clear the same.  It is hard to tell if this reference is the meeting house or the Old Settlers Cemetery, but in any case the first cemetery by name or location is from a deed dated 1803, again from Joshua Chamberlain.  It looks like the same lot, only he waived the Meeting House only requirement and allowed a burying ground to be located there.  By 1806 Joseph Rooks, who apparently owned the land on the other side of the road, deeded four-tenths of an acre to the town for $24.37.

          In 1809 the town voted to look into the question of a cemetery located on Benjamin Snow’s property (this had to have been Baker Hill) to see if the town had the title.  Apparently they did not because nothing else is written for this cemetery.

          In 1811 the town bought the private cemetery which is now called Dean Hill from Rev. Enoch Mudge.  They bought one-fourth acre for $75.00.  This was a triangular piece not bordering the road.

          By 1826 the town chose a committee to look into buying a lot from Mr. Wheelden.  This is the Old Settlers Cemetery that is no longer active.  A committee was to procure a deed and fence it in.  The next year the town voted to fence the cemetery near Ephraim Goodale’s.  This must be the now discontinued cemetery on the Goodale Road, which is also discontinued.  In 1828 the town voted to purchase and fence the Old Settlers Cemetery. I believe that your group has recorded the names of these two cemeteries previously.  Swett’s list agreed very closely with yours.

          Again in 1829 the town voted to fence in the burying ground near the meeting house.

          In 1834 a piece of land was bought from Samuel Swett for a cemetery.  This plot became the Oak Hill Cemetery.

          In 1836 the town again raised the question of whether to fence the Meeting House cemetery and the new one purchased from Samuel Swett.

Some of the expenses paid on the cemeteries work were as follows: 

          One day myself on fence ………. $1.00

          A boy for four hours …………….. $.12

          A horse ………………………………..$.12

          In 1850 the selectmen were requested to lay out a graveyard in the vicinity of Nathaniel Marston’s property.  By that fall the selectmen had made a deal with Mr. Thomas Barstow to purchase one and one-fourth acres of land opposite old Mr. Marston’s house.  The property measured ten rods on the road and twenty rods deep.

          In 1855 a committee on burying grounds was appointed, and they finally got down to business.  They (J.H. Nickerson was chairman) purchased eight or ten acres of land from Warren Nickerson Esq. for $500.00 to be paid for over a three year time frame.  Notes and deeds were taken in a private capacity.  The chairman reserved two and one-fourth acres for the burying ground (this abutted the previous lot purchased from Mr. Mudge) and sold the rest for $525.00 with $250.00 down and the rest to be a note for three years.  After deducting $5.00 for interest the town ended up with the cemetery and $20.00 to boot.

          At some point in 1855 the committee examined the burying ground near the old meeting house.  They found very little good ground left and there was no opportunity to enlarge.  They also recognized that the fence was out of repair so they recommended discontinuing this ground.  They also found the graveyard at South Orrington was about all occupied, and it too had no room for enlargement.  They looked around and could not find any other area that would justify paying the price being asked.  A very depressing report was given for the condition and status of all the burying grounds in town.  The committee recommended having one large centrally located cemetery in town.

          Also in 1855 an article was placed in the town warrant in which the committee recommended the corpses be removed from the Meeting House Cemetery.  Friends of the deceased would be consulted to see where they would like the remains moved.  In September of that year the committee was instructed to move the corpses of those for whom consent had been given by the survivors.  Other corpses would be moved to condense the yard, and they would fence in the same.  The Committee on Graveyards gave their second and final report at the September meeting in which they stated that much pains were taken to consult the friends of the deceased and that all had finally consented to have the corpses removed.

          Forty were moved to the upper yard in town. (No doubt Marston)

          Three were moved to Brewer.

          The remaining thirty-eight were moved to the Dean Hill lot. 

          There were one hundred eighty-one moved total.

They were instructed to build a fence around the Dean lot, which they did and described it very well in their report.  Some of the fence from the old yard was used for this.  They also reported that they were able to find suitable land in South Orrington for a cemetery from Mr. Wheelden at $1.50 for two acres, which became Pine Hill Cemetery.  The total cost listed by the Committee was:

          Lot purchase at South Orrington ……………………… $1.50

          Fencing the same …………………………………………….$95.78

          Blasting and digging stones ………………………………$132.71

          Moving one hundred, eighty-one corpses …………..$160.34

          Total……………………………………………………………….$539.29

Note:  This does not add up to the mentioned figure so no doubt there is something left out.  The labor for moving the corpses was typically billed at three days labor at $5.50.  For the next few years several bills were submitted to the town for digging stones and blasting rocks in graveyards.

          By 1859 it appears that one of the old graveyards on Center Drive between Johnson Mill Road and East Dow Road was dug up and the bodies were taken to Oak Hill.   

          It would seem miraculous today if we could get a cemetery moved from conception to completion in the span of one year, but it was accomplished then.

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Orrington Waterways

Edited work by Lois-Ann Holmes, formerly of South Orrington, April 2011.

Clark Falls on Johnson Mill Road, Orrington, Maine

The Clark Falls location is documented back to 1839, when a member of the Freeman family built a flour mill at this site. This mill did not prove successful.

In 1850, Vinal Cooper took over this mill site and operated what was probably the first paper mill in the area. The mill made paper from rags, not wood pulp. Rag paper is superior but cannot be produced in large quantities. The mill was still operating in 1860.

Sometime after that date, the paper mill burned. Vinal Cooper replaced the mill with a shingle mill which the Johnson Brothers took over after 1880 and converted to sawing barrel headers. They also added a gristmill and cider mill to the operation.

The 1900s arrived with automobiles and electricity; there was a decline of industry in town. As of the 1920s, there seems to be no findable record of this mill. There also seems to be no record of the destruction of the buildings which must have been on this site.

The site has plenty of remnants of the old mill with some concrete footings, stone foundation remnants, etc.

For a video of Clark Falls, see the OHS Facebook page.

Walin’tuk Creek from Swetts Pond to the Penobscot River, Orrington, Maine

Another waterway connected to Clark Falls spills into the Penboscot River at the boat landing in South Orrington.  It is Walin’tuk Creek.  Located in a historic area of Orrington, the name of this creek is now Mill Creek. If one looks upstream, visible are the footings where an old mill used to rest.

If you were to follow that stream back from the Penobscot to its origin, you would be at Swetts Pond by the dam.  From Swetts Pond the stream meanders down along Dow Road, crosses under the road, crosses below the dead end of Stump Lane, coming down along Clarks Falls Road, going under Johnson Mill Road, over the Clark Falls, meandering some more along Johnson Mill Road, and crossing under Rt. 15 by the railroad tracks near Quarry Road on its way to the Penobscot.  In fact, were the concrete and earthen Swetts Pond Dam to breech, this is the flood plain it would affect as has happened twice due to beaver.

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Remarkable Record of Capt. Brown, Who Made 101 West India Voyages

This article was likely published around the year 1919. Although the author and newspaper are unknown at this time, it’s possible that it was published in the Bangor Commercial.

Remarkable Record of Capt. Brown, Who Made 101 West India Voyages

The death last week of Captain Joseph Atwood Brown of Orrington marks the passing of one of the last old time ship captains. He was born in North Orrington July 1, 1831, oldest of the five children of Cornelius and Eliza (Smith) Brown.

His father being a ship captain, he was early attracted to the sea and at the tender age of eleven went summers as cookee with his uncles Charles and Stillman Brown. At sixteen he began in earnest, making long voyages to foreign ports. He continued in this chosen calling for fifty-one years, making 101 round trips to the West Indies alone, besides visiting many European countries.

In 1854 he married Rebecca Bartlett, daughter of Samuel and Mary (Snow) Bartlett, who died nine years ago. He leaves two daughters, Mrs. Cara M. Conley of Brewer and Mrs. Leland B. Blake of South Orrington, and two grandchildren, Mrs. Charles Spinney of Brewer and Mrs. Fred Dionne of Dorchester, Mass.

In the early seventies he made a trading voyage up the west coast of Africa, sailing up and down that coast and trading at the different ports. He remained there eighteen months, the entire voyage taking about three years. While there he contracted the dread disease, yellow fever, the effects of which followed him through life.

Two other times he was stricken with this disease. Once in Pensacola, Fla., where the Masons saved his life by taking him into their private hospital and nursing him until he was able to join his ship. The third time was in Havana, Cuba. His vessel was due to sail and the American consul said he must leave her and go to a hospital, but he pleaded so hard that they put on board an old negress, who had relatives in New York and who understood handling the fever, and he sailed. The negress tended him so well that when the ship reached New York he was able to be on deck.

For many years he commanded the schooner Fred Smith, sailing for the old firm of Smith Brothers of New York. On many of these voyages he carried his family, visiting many South American and West Indian ports and remaining away from home months at a time.

Later, leaving the Fred Smith, he turned his attention to barging, at the time when that business was in its height. Among others, he commanded the barge Roman, remodeled from the old steamship of that name. On a voyage in her, heavily laden with 1,700 tons of coal, and having with him as mate his son-in-law, the late Capt. Samuel M. Conley, he was shipwrecked off the coast of Virginia. Thinking the barge was riding heavily, Mr. Conley lowered a lantern into the forward hold, when the rush of water swept it out of his hands. Hurriedly reporting the condition and signaling to the tug boat, he rushed to the captain’s cabin, seized a dunnage bag and filled it with what he could find, ordered the life boat to be lowered and then went to report to the captain, whom he found calmly steering.

“Come, captain,” said he, “the boat is ready.”

“My place is here; I shall not desert my ship,” was the reply.

Mr. Conley did not stop to bandy words. He called the men and they bore him kicking and struggling to the boat, where he collapsed in the stern. As they pushed off from the sinking ship it was discovered that a great hole had been made in the boat while lowering her. A sailor thrust his oil jacket into the aperature, Mr. Conley took charge; the sailors rowed with almost superhuman strength, and the boat made its way over the waves mountain high to the tug, Storm King, which, a few days later, landed them safely in New York. A humorous incident of the affair was that, although the dunnage bag contained quite a number of boots, no two were mates, and when the captain reported at the office in New York he had only the water-soaked garments in which he stood. All his nautical instruments, marine glasses, charts, etc., were lost, as well as his clothes.

In 1892, being a yellow fever immune, Capt. Brown was sent to Santos, Brazil, to recover the bark Archer, whose crew all had died with the fever. Orders were to take her to Turk’s Island, load with salt and proceed to New York. The bark had lain so long in that terrible heat of Brazil that her calking was poor, but, in spite of this, picking up a scrub crew in the fever-stricken port of Santos he set out to follow directions. All went well till the salt was loaded and they were started homeward, when the vessel began to leak like a sieve. The crew became mutinous; they said they would leave her, would not pump, etc., and when told by Capt. Brown that they must, said they would soon dispose of that little man and desert the doomed ship while land was near.

In the midst of this confusion, Capt. Brown appeared on deck, a small but formidable, figure, with a revolver in each hand.

“The first man who refuses to pump, dies,” he calmly announced. One look decided them. They turned to the pumps.

Before reaching New York, however, they were overtaken by a severe gale, dismasted, and finally driven into Bermuda, where the vessel was sold. This was Capt. Brown’s last voyage.

Later, he entered the employ of the late J. Weston Hopkins, working in the Hampden Creamery, when it was located in Hampden, following it to Bangor when it was moved and remained here till 1899, when he sustained a severe injury, being thrown violently from a high cream cart onto a concrete floor, breaking his collar bone and injuring his head.

After recovering somewhat from this injury, he moved onto his little farm in Orrington, making his home there till the death of his wife in 1913. During the last six years he has lived in the home of his daughter, Mrs. Leland Blake, gradually failing until the end found him in fancy once again the commander on the quarter deck, giving his orders, guiding, directing, until his Ship of Life floated out of the troubled waters and found anchor in the peaceful Haven of Rest.

Twilight and evening bell,

And one clear call for me,

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I put out to sea.

For if from out that bourne of time and place

The tide shall bear me far;

I hope to meet my pilot face to face,

When I shall cross the Bar.

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“Earl on the River” – S. Orrington shipwright models 19th century vessels

by Harry Gratwick

Originally Posted: March 1st, 2005 in The Working Waterfront.

This article has been republished with the permission of The Island Institute

He calls himself “Earl on the River” and when you hear his story, you’ll know why. Earl Morrill is a 58-year-old resident of South Orrington who specializes in building scale models of 19th-century Maine sailing vessels. I first met him in the summer of 2003 while I was doing research for an article on the history of the Penobscot River. I soon discovered, however, that in addition to being a superb builder of historic model ships, Morrill was a veritable storehouse of information about the Penobscot. But that’s another story.

The second of six children, Earl Morrill grew up in South Orrington, eight miles south of Bangor. He was born and raised in a house that was built by his great-great grandfather in 1867. From an early age, he remembers hanging around an old trapper named Joe Hurd who, according to Earl, “knew everyone and had lots of stories to tell about the days of sailing ships on the river.” Morrill credits Hurd with teaching him how to row and “get up and down the river no matter what the tide, by using the eddies.” He also remembers sailing on the river when he was 14 in a flat-bottomed rowboat. “She had a plank keel under her, one mast, a square yardarm, a tough sheet and a tiller on the stern.”

“I guess it was Old Joe,” says Morrill, “who was the beginning of my maritime studies and my desires to build models of Maine sailing vessels.”

Earl’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph H. Atwood, was another influence. Atwood was captain of a three-masted schooner, the CHARLES S. HAZZARD, built in Essex, Massachusetts. In the 1850s and 1860s, the HAZZARD hauled lumber from Bangor down the Penobscot to Boston and New York three times a year. On return voyages she would bring back a load of produce. Winters she was “iced into the cove” behind the house Atwood built on Mill Creek and where Morrill still lives. As recently as 1955, Earl remembers there were still a few hulks lying on the shore. “Even today,” he says, “there is an old two-master washing out of the cove by Ryders Point, just north of here. She has yielded two half-pennies and an 1836 dime. The ship was named the PLANTER and was used for hauling split wood up and down the river to feed the lime kilns in Rockport.”

“All this history, and my great-great gramp being part of it, just got me started researching,” Earl remembers. “The more I found out, the more I wanted to build an historic model from the keel up.” Earl was in his 20s when he began a model of Atwood’s ship, the HAZZARD. “I had done the research,” he recalls. “However, I soon realized that I was way over my head trying to build a model boat.” He stopped for three months and gave himself a crash course in shipbuilding, which included studying everything he could find on the subject in the Bangor library. When Earl finally finished the HAZZARD, he admits, “She was a little crude, but eventually I sold her to the owner of The Harris Co. in Portland.” The owner, Austin Harris, has since retired, but when I spoke with him recently he assured me the CHARLES S. HAZZARD is prominently displayed in his parlor in Yarmouth.

Morrill’s second model-building effort was the four-masted schooner JAMES E. COBURN. He remembers finding a picture of her while she was being built on Mill Creek in 1919. “Historic model building took a long time in those days,” he recalls. Mostly this was because of the time it took for research and the fact that everything came by regular mail. Even now, before he begins a project, Morrill does months of research on a ship. His model of the COBURN can be seen today in the Orrington Historical Society. He continued to improve his skills when he next built a model of the S.S. ROOSEVELT, the ship Admiral Robert E. Peary took to the North Pole in 1908. Earl’s great-great uncle, Maynard Wardwell, was Peary’s chief engineer on that expedition. The ROOSEVELT was built in 1905 on Verona Island just south of Bucksport. Appropriately, Earl’s model of the ship has been on display in the Buck Library in Bucksport for the last 10 years.

“By the third ship, you are hooked,” he says. “You know you can do a better job on the next vessel and you drive yourself to a higher level of accuracy.” Earl now waits for orders before starting to work on a ship.

Today he posts pictures of his models on his website, www.geocities.com/mainecoastersriggers. [This article was published in 2005, and this link is no longer valid.] He builds his ships to scale 1/4″=1′, plank on frame. “I can scratch-build a schooner from the keel up in about 7-9 months,” he says. Morrill works only on Maine sailing ships and insists they must be documentable and original (the first model to be built). A number of years ago, the owner of a local newspaper saw the S.S. ROOSEVELT on display in Bucksport and asked Morrill to build him a vessel. After some negotiating, he agreed to build a historic model of the brig TELOS, out of Bangor, for $9,000. In this case, his client even agreed to do the research.

Morrill is particularly proud of the model he made of the SPITFIRE, a fast clipper ship built in 1853. At one point, she held the record of 106 days for the fastest trip from New York to San Francisco. The SPITFIRE is currently on display in the Searsport Marine Museum. His research included examining 19th century maps of the Penobscot River area in an effort to locate a slipway large enough to accommodate a 200-foot vessel. His challenge was that in the 19th century, there were 40 towns on the Penobscot with slipways for constructing ships and he had to find a specific site. After careful study he found both the slipway and house of the builder, Isaac Dunham, in present-day Winterport. Earl finished the SPITFIRE in 2000 and it was sold at the Maritime Museum’s annual fund-raiser for $20,000.

Historic model shipbuilding has always been much more than just a hobby for Morrill, and yet he has had to earn a living. After graduating from Brewer High School (class of ’64) he joined the Navy and served for six years as a damage control man on a nuclear submarine off Vietnam. Following his discharge he lived in Portland, first as an engineer on a coastal tanker, the W.M. MCLOON. Later he worked at The Harris Co. making fishing gear. For the last 15 years Earl’s “day job” has been at U.S. Blades, a knife and saw shop in nearby Hampden. And yet wherever he is, Morrill admits he “always has a model ship building project going on.”

Morrill works up to 30 hours evenings and weekends on his “second” job, rarely taking a vacation. To date, he estimates, he has built almost 20 historic sailing ships from scratch. Included are eight or nine schooners, one barkentine, two brigs, three clippers, two frigates and a packet ship. In addition, he figures he has restored “close to” another 30 ships. Morrill plans to retire from his job at U.S. Blades in the not-too-distant future and yet, unlike many retirees, he has more than enough to keep himself busy for the rest of his life. Over the years he has developed a database of more than 4,000 vessels, including 2,800 built on the Penobscot River from 1780 to 1940. “I am self-taught on the computer,” he says. “I had to learn to be able to do quicker research on maritime history.” Morrill has always had a number of students to whom he sends lessons, compiled from his old model-building records, once a week. “We are all set up with the same graphic software so I can send drawings, pictures and ship plans,” he says. Most of his students live in the United States, though he says a student from Australia built a “really nice Maine schooner a couple of years ago — some guys get it and some give it up. You gotta love it or leave it alone.”

To view the original article, click here.

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