The following was excerpted
from the pamphlet "
Shipbuilders of Mattapoisett"
by Charles S. Mendell, Jr.
The present Shipyard Park ( Mattapoisett) was the site
of the famous Holmes shipyard, started in 1812 by Josiah Holmes Sr. and
continuing until the Bark Wanderer, built where the
bandstand sits now, slid down the ways in 1878, the last vessel ever
launched in Mattapoisett.
The first seven years of the 1850's marked the peak of
the whaleship building in Mattapoisett. Only three yards were in
operation - Wilson Barstow, Holmes, and Meigs - but in eight years these
three yards launched 47 vessels. These were the yards that carried
Mattapoisett's reputation far and wide, and brought forth such comments as
these in in the New Bedford newspapers:
"This thriving town ranks high in shipbuilding and is distinguished
for its naval architecture." (W.S.L.6/20/1851)
But the death knell of this splendid business had
already sounded. 1856 was the last big year - nine whalers, three in
a row looming up in Shipyard Park. The blows were coming; 1856 -
petroleum discovered; 1857 panic and Meigs Yard closed forever; 1861 -
Civil War, and the Alabama and the Shenandoah; after the war, the scarcity
of whales and the losses in the Artic ice. During the war the
Holmes's built a small steamboat and a tugboat; in 1866 Wilson Barstow
built his last ship - the Contest, for Gibbs & Perry of
New Bedford. After the war the Holmes's built a schooner and four
whalers - the Alaska for Jonathan Bourne, the Concordia
for G. & M. Howland, the Gay Head 2nd. for
Gifford & Cummings, and in 1878 the Wanderer for the
It seems entirely fitting that the mizzen mast of the Wanderer
should stand as a flagpole in Shipyard Park, a few feet from where
it was built. And even more, it seems a proper coincidence than the Wanderer,
the last vessel built in Mattapoisett should be the last whaleship to sail
from New Bedford, whose whaling industry was responsible for Mattapoisett's
a comprehensive index to whaling crews, ships and whaling voyages from New
Bedford from 1800 to 1850 follow this link.
additional information on our whaling history, follow this interesting
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