Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Thank you for publishing Mark Lovewell’s excellent article about Gannon and Benjamin building a whaleboat for the whaleship Charles W. Morgan. A number of people have contacted me asking questions about the ship’s Vineyard connections which I’ve summarized below for them and others who may have an interest. This information certainly underscores how appropriate it is to have a whaleboat built on the Vineyard for the Morgan’s ceremonial 38th voyage, which will bring her to the Island in June of 2014.
The Charles W. Morgan was built in 1841. During her 80 years of active whaling, ending in 1921, she made 37 voyages to oceans and seas around the world.
The Morgan’s keel was laid in January of 1841 at the J&Z Hillman Brothers Shipyard in New Bedford. Jethro and Zachariah Hillman, who were from Chilmark, started their shipyard in 1827 and between 1827 and 1852 built 17 whaleships. The yard was considered one of the finest in New Bedford.
Six of the Morgan’s 21 captains came from the Vineyard and they commanded 14 of her 37 voyages. No other community comes close to these numbers. A summary follows.
Thomas Adams Norton, the first voyage, to the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 6, 1841 to Jan. 2, 1845 (17 of the crew of 30 came from the Vineyard).
Tristram P. Ripley, fourth voyage, to the North Pacific Ocean, Sept. 20, 1853 to April 27, 1856.
Thomas N. Fisher, fifth voyage, to the North Pacific Ocean, Sept. 15, 1856 to April 16, 1859.
George Athearn, eighth voyage, to the Pacific Ocean, July 17, 1867 to August 16, 1871.
James E.A. Earle, 17th voyage, from San Francisco, to Japan and Okhotsk (Arctic), Dec. 2, 1890 to Oct. 31, 1891. This was the first voyage under Captain Earle’s command, he was to be her captain for a total of nine voyages most of which were out of San Francisco. His last (her 31st) was from New Bedford, to the Atlantic Ocean, August 11, 1906 to July 4 1908.
Benjamin D. Cleveland, 34th voyage, to the Antarctic Ocean, Sept. 7, 1916 to Oct. 23, 1917.
George Fred Tilton, a legendary Vineyard whaleman, served as the Morgan’s port captain at Col. Green’s Round Hill estate from 1926 until 1932; thus another Vineyard captain if you will
Matthew Stackpole, West Tisbury
The writer is the Morgan Restoration Ship’s Historian.