Sea Stories in Stone
William Reed (1788-1817) - Old Burying Ground, Harpswell
The United States' 1807 embargo on all foreign trade had been intended to protect American ships and seaman, as well as to punish Britain and France. Unfortunately, it nearly wrecked the New England economy and saw the first soup kitchens open in Portland. The replacement of the Embargo with the Non-Intercourse Act in 1809, while still restricting British and French trade, opened up trade to the West Indies. For shipbuilders, seafarers and merchants, the islands of rum and molasses were a welcome opportunity for economic gain even as the country headed toward war with England.
During these difficult times, William Reed was a growing up in Harpswell. Like his father, two brothers and a brother-in-law, he would become a sea captain.
January 1810, William went to sea with his older brother, Joseph, who was the second in command, or Mate, on the Brunswick schooner Rhoda. William was a seaman, age 20, 5í11'' tall, and of "dark complexion." The next September, Joseph had earned his own command and William served as his brother's Mate on the Harpswell brig Joseph destined for Liverpool with a cargo of lumber.
By 1813, when William became the Master of the 173 ton Harpswell brig Prospect, the British had blockaded most of the east coast, including every port from New York to Georgia. Like the Rhoda and the Joseph, the Prospect had been built by the Skolfields, a successful shipbuilding and seafaring Brunswick family.
The Prospect sailed from Bath July 26th, 1813 (a few weeks before her Captainís 25th birthday), bound for St. Bartís in the West Indies. Three months later she arrived in New Haven laden with rum and molasses. In his first command, Capt. Reed had successfully run the British blockade of New London.
Less than two years later, he was buried in Harpswell. Capt. Reed was 29. The cause of his death is lost to history.
Sources: Harpswell Vital Records; MMM Captains Index; Holdcamper List;
The Skolfield's and their Ships; Erminie Reynolds research notes; Harpswell on Casco Bay; Baker
NEXT: George Henry Carter (1805-1823)
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