Long Careers and Retirement
Many Searsport captains had long careers, some even making the transition to steam vessels. Captain Phineas Pendleton II (1806 – 1896) commanded 33 different vessels, including schooners, barks, brigs, and ships. In 1838 he sold the ship Vistula in New Orleans to a Dutch shipmaster and took in partial payment the clipper-schooner Currency. He loaded her with salt, which he landed in Long Cove, Searsport Harbor.
Captain Pendleton sailed the schooner Abaco to South Carolina c.1829, carrying the first load of stone used for the foundation of Fort SumterFort Sumter
A fort in Charleston (South Carolina) Harbor, which was the site of the first battle of the Civil War on April 12-13, 1861.. The cargo collected for his return voyage included a load of hard pine 6 x 6 railroad ties for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the first pair of white-faced Hereford cattleHereford
A breed of beef cattle, reddish brown with a white face, originally from England. brought to this country, and some new breeds of pheasants.
Captain Clifton Curtis (1858 – 1928) had a long and eventful life at sea. In 1888, while First Officer of the ship Tillie E. Starbuck, Curtis entered the forecastle to disperse a riot and was stabbed and badly wounded by a mutineer. He required several months to recover.
Curtis commanded the ship Belle of Bath from 1888 to 1897. While on this vessel, he saw two of his children born, and his wife and one child die. He rescued the captain and crew of a sinking ship off Cape Horn. While sailing from New York in June 1897, he discovered two weeks into the voyage that the Belle of Bath was on fire. As she was loaded with case oilCase oil
Kerosene packed in five-gallon cans, two cans to a wooden case., the fire could not be put out, and Curtis and his crew abandoned the ship shortly before she blew up, reaching Barbados in boats.
Captain Curtis then made the transition to steam, and in 1905, commanding the S.S. Barracouta loaded with salt for the Russian Government, he was captured by the Japanese off northern Sakhalin IslandSakhalin Island
A large island in the North Pacific Ocean, just north of Japan. It is owned by Russia, but has historically been the subject of territorial disputes between Russia and Japan. Since a treaty had already been signed between Japan and Russia, he and his ship were soon released.
More recently, Searsport’s Captain Edwin Earle Greenlaw (1901 - 1963) was a steamship master with the American-Hawaiian Line from 1937 through and after World War II. In 1943, while in command of the S.S. Alaskan, he was torpedoed by a German submarine in mid-Atlantic. The officers and crew escaped in a lifeboat and on life rafts, and the ship was shelled and sunk. As captain, Greenlaw was the last to leave the vessel, taking time to destroy documents he deemed security threats. After Greenlaw boarded a raft with eight other survivors, the U-boat captain brought the sub alongside and ordered Greenlaw to board the sub. The sub captain questioned Greenlaw, who gave only basic information. According to Searsport Town Historian Charlene Knox Farris, Greenlaw would later tell his sons he noticed the U-boat captain wore a ring signifying his membership in the MasonsMasonic Order Masons
An organization formally called the Free and Accepted Masons, an international fraternal and charitable group with secret rites, rituals and signs.. Greenlaw wore a similar ring. That link saved his life, Greenlaw believed. See also
The German captain told Greenlaw he was sorry the sub sank his ship, “but this is war. Why don’t you tell America to get out of the war?” Greenlaw was then returned to the raft, which began to sink. Just as it was about to go under he and his men spied a submerged lifeboat and managed to push the raft underneath it while they bailed it out. The plugged the holes with whatever they could find, erected jury masts by lashing oars together, and, without any instruments, set sail for the coast of South America. By rationing their food and catching flying fish and sea birds, they survived until the boat made landfall 39 days later, on January 5, 1944. At first, they were suspected of being escaped prisoners from Devil's IslandDevil's Island
A small island in the Atlantic Ocean, lying 9 miles off the coast of French Guiana in South America. It was used as a French penal colony from 1852 to 1953., but eventually the natives were convinced the shipwrecked men were not dangerous and provided them with food and shelter.
Some captains retired from the sea and went on to become successful businessmen. One of the earliest, Captain Jeremiah Merithew I (1792 – 1862) was a successful shipmaster, commanding three coastal schooners: the Harriet & Eliza, lost during a passage from Belfast, Maine, to New York; the New York, lost on the southern shoals, and the Ranger.
In 1826 he purchased several acres of land from Miles Fowler (whose house is now part of Penobscot Marine Museum) and built an impressive brick home (now also part of PMM) in the center of Searsport village. The house was built of brick hauled by oxen from the brickyard at Swan Lake. In 1836 he retired from the sea to engage full-time in trade and shipbuilding. The location of his home then became doubly important: he had a prosperous shipyard, located just minutes away, and he was also the founder and president of the Searsport Bank. Merithew visited his shipyard every day, formally attired in a silk top hat and Prince Albert coat, and carrying a gold-headed cane. On his way to the shipyard, Merithew would have walked by a group of smaller homes that housed shipyard workers. Museum visitors can follow this same route to the waterfront, where a large park now offers a view of Penobscot Bay, the town wharf, and the sites of the old shipyards.
Searsport officially became a town in 1845. Merithew was one of the original incorporators who met in the Methodist Church that still stands across the street from the Museum. He would have passed it daily on his trips to town and to the shipyard.
After being a master mariner for many years, Captain Nathan Pendleton (1808 – 1857) became interested in shipbuilding and sailed some of his own ships. He later went into the ship chandleryChandlery Ship's chandlery
A business selling specialized supplies, such as for ships. business in Bangor, and later still built and owned all the tugboats on the Penobscot River. He built the first marine railroad in the area, at Brewer.