The Launch of the Berwick by John Marr

The Launch of the Berwick:  A Memory of Seventy years Ago.
by John Marr, Rochester, N.Y.
(From Old Eliot, Vol. IV, No. I (January, 1901) pp. 42-43)


BW Hamilton House

Old Eliot is very interesting, and recalls many persons whom I knew, and names familiar in my boyhood.

No event has a more prominent place in my memory than the Launch of the Berwick. This ship was built by Capt. Hanscom in 1832, at the lower-landing in South Berwick, a few rods north of the old Hamilton House, as seen in Miss Jewett’s "Old Town of Berwick."

At the launching of the Berwick I was sprinkled with wine from the bottle broken by Capt. Hanscom in christening the ship. Once I could repeat his eulogy; but my memory retains now but two lines:

    Her timbers were taken from Agementicus broad back,
    So firmly joined that Old Ocean can’t wrack!

    Old Ocean, however, did wrack, for she went down in mid-ocean, in 1833-4, with all on board. I was then ten years old, and the oft-repeated story of her supposed disaster, made a deep impression upon my mind.

    The Berwick was built by Capt. Theodore Jewett, expressly for his son, young Capt. Thode, as the town’s people called him. Tim Ferguson may have had an interest in her. I was present when the young Captain said good-bye to his father, and left for Portsmouth to take command of his new ship.
Samuel Jewett grave    The fate of the Berwick has never been definitely demonstrated. The Master of a home-bound ship, reported that in a certain latitude he encountered a gale; about midnight an unusually high wave struck him as he was running free ; and when his ship fell, she struck a ship as it was sailing upon an opposite course. The next wave carried him completely over the ill-fated stranger.

    The course of the Berwick, so often sailed over by the elder Capt. Theodore, and his knowledge of the usual winds and tides, impressed him with the belief that the Berwick must have been in the latitude described. Time passed without any tidings of his boy; he lost all hope ; the luster faded from his mild blue eyes. I think of him sitting in his favorite slat-back chair tilted against the counter of his store, toying the fobchain and seals that hung by his side, dreamily waiting the coming of the great night that should give him rest forever! God bless my memory of his many kind words and acts to a poor boy!

Capt. Samuel Jewett, not Theodore, was the master of the Berwick when the vessel was lost at sea in 1846.  This monument to Capt. Theodore F. Jewett's fourth son, age 23, was erected in Portland Street Cemetery by the Odd Fellows of South Berwick.  

Note:  This account is also published in Tall Ships of the Piscataqua, p. 18.  There are a few points respecting the accuracy of John Marr's recollection.  The ship was built at the yard of T.F. & T. Jewett at Pipe Stave Landing in 1832.  The insurance records for the Berwick  are included in an account book of Theodore Jewett at the Maine Maritime Museum, where it is noted that the new ship Berwick sailed from Portsmouth on her first voyage February 8, 1833.  The ship did not go down in 1833-34, as Marr claims, but sailed for 13 years.  Her sad fate is recorded in a newspaper account of the period.  Theodore's 23-year-old son Samuel Walker Jewett was the captain in 1846--not Theodore Jr., as Marr says (Theodore F. Jewett was 18 when the ship was launched and may have been its first captain).  The ship was insured in January 1846 for voyages to and from Boston and Calcutta via Mauritius (off the coast of Madagascar).   She left Boston on February 3, 1846 with a cargo of ice and spars and was lost at sea.  The tragedy is recorded in a simple notation in the account book:  "Paid by loss March 6, 1847."   Theodore had five sons, and only two of them outlived him--William and Theodore.  The Odd Fellows Club of South Berwick erected a monument to Samuel that still stands at Portland Street Cemetery. -- Old Berwick Historical Society