A Mariner's Tale


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Submitted 1999 - John F. O'Hanlon - vacuum@dakotacom.net


The following letter was sent to my grandfather Robert E. Foote, b. 1853 Carbonear, Nfld, d. 1932 in Fort Edward, NY, by his nephew Orestes Foote Taylor. Grandfather's mom died when he was three, and he spent his youth living with older sisters and brothers. One older sister was Lydia Mary Foote, wife of Orestes Joseph Taylor, a seaman, fisherman and planter of Carbonear. Orestes Foote Taylor, the author of the following letter, was his youngest son, b. 1864, four months after Orestes Joseph Taylor died. In 1881, Grandpa set out for Colby, Wisconsin, and never heard from his nephew until his letter arrived in the spring of 1902. Oresetes F. died of yellow fever in Surinam in 1904, and the mate sailed the Charlevoix home. Punctuation unaltered, but paragraphed for ease of reading.

Schooner Charlevoix
O. F. Taylor, Master
Cable Address ORESTES

March 23, At Sea, Lat. 26.00 N, Long. 68.00 W. Robert Foote, Esq. Colby, Clark County, Wisconsin.

Dear Uncle Rob:

I know you will be a surprised to get a letter from me this is the first one since you left home, but although not writing you I think many a time about you and wondering how you are getting along and how you like the farm business. Now I am going to give you a little sketch of all my doings since the morning you left me in your bed in the old house when you got up to leave Carbonear to seek your fortune. I not being very old but not remember my age at that time but I know I felt very lonesome sleeping alone all that spring in your end of the house and the most of my time without a light. Anyhow some years after that in the winter I got a little job in the Udell's shop and went up to Lehave for lumber cook of the Alpine and come home and went to the Labrador with Uncle Jim again and the next year I started to go to sea in good shape and wasn't many years I got second mate two years more past my examinations for 1st mate.

Then I went mate out of Rorkes in the winter time and went down to the Labrador for Uncle Jim and done his business for him he was sick as you know all about yourself the next spring after coming home Udell gave me the Schr Jessie to go to Charlottetown for a load of oats and I stayed in her all the summer down in the straits fishing trading and everything else with very poor men and no cook and to eat hard bread and pork So one summer done me down there but any how the next spring after coming home he gave her to me again to go to the Island again and I got acquainted with a man by the name of Toombs and he ask me if I would sail a Schr for him if he bought one. I said yes and I went home and give the Jessie up to Uncle Joe and thanked him very much for the first start and I ever shall owe him thanks for my first start in life as a very poor boy and not many troubled much about me.

Now I went to the Island and took charge of a new Schr named Laurier about 90 tons. I sailed her for four years only staying ashore one voyage to pass a Master examination. I also had 1/3 of her to clear for myself in two years I owned that after four years she looked to small for me and I sold out and bought in one 173 tons with the same man named the Neva I am ahead of my story now. While I was in the Laurier I got married and my poor wife only lived one year. Now I sailed the Neva four years and I sold out of her and bought 2/3 of a brig 245 tons.

Sailed her 2 years and lost her on the rocks going to Halifax with salt from the West Indies.

Then I bought a three mast Schr 415 tons. I sailed her 18 months and I made a good bit a money in her and I went ashore to buy another Schr 469 tons and give the mate in charge the B. C. Borden and he abandoned her from Coding to Halifax.

The Charlevoix I bought. I am in her now and I had one built for Joe 430 tons. I named her the M.J. Taylor after my little boy. She is in Barbado now loading for Montreal. This is her first voyage. I commenced this letter at sea and now am in port of Surinam Dutch port and the weather is very warm here and some yellow fever. I don't know how much more to tell you now.

I can't tell you anything about Newfoundland because I don't know anything about it now. I got my family with me and we are all very well. My wife joins me with

best wishes for you and your good wife and family. Write me to Charlottetown P E Island P O Box 334 and it will be forwarded on to me and I will drop you a line from every port and I expect some day to drop in and see you and I'm sure you won't know me. I weight 225 lbs. I am a big fat boy now.

I will close for now.

Yours very truly,
(signed) O. F. Taylor

Enjoy! John F. O'Hanlon

Tucson, Arizona.


I am including the following, not only because of its obvious connection to this story, but also to point out a wonderful reference tool provided by the Memorial University of Newfoundland Maritime History Archive. The following references are from the "Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada" CD released last year by the Archives. It is a collection of Certificates of Registry from the major ports in Atlantic Canada, Crew Agreements for ships out of several ports in Atlantic Canada, and finally, a one percent sampling of crew agreements from non-Canadian Vessels. Please see more information on this CD on the Register's "Books, Cd's, and Reviews" Page… [Dave]

Vessel : Jessie

Registration Number S887038
Owner's Surname: Udell
Owner's First Name: Joseph
Occupation: Trader/Dealer
Place Constructed: Carboneer, C.B. (Conception Bay, Nfld., not Cape Breton)
Year Constructed: 1886
No. of Decks: 1
No. of Masts: 2
Type of Vessel: Schooner
Length (ft): 61
Width (ft): 19
Depth (ft): 8
Gross Tonnage: 52
Net Tonnage: 48
Year Registered: 1887
Official Closure Year: 1901
Reason for Closure: 12 (Lost at Sea)
Place of Closure: Blanc Sablon, Quebec
Actual Closure Date: 1901

And for the Laurier, also mentioned in the story above, this is likely the record:

Vessel: Laurier

Registration No.: 1889007
Official No.: 094991
Owner's Surname: Clark (also Builder)
Owner's First Name: Solomon C. (also Builder)
Place Constructed: Mount Stewart, PEI.
Year Constructed: 1889
No. of Decks: 1
No. of Masts: 2
Type of Vessel: Schooner
Length (ft): 79
Width (ft): 24
Depth (ft): 8
Gross Tonnage: 79
Net Tonnage: 74
Year Registered: 1889
Official Closure Year: 1895
Reason for Closure: 9 (Wrecked)
Place of Closure: (Newfoundland Coast)
Actual Closure Date: 1894


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Last Updated: 05/01/2002 4:46:13 PM
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