Ten, six-masted schooners were built during the brief span of 1900 through 1909.  As America grew, so did the need of cargo vessels for the Atlantic coastal coal trade. The bigger the ship, the greater the profits. These beautiful ships, with their smaller crews, were economical to operate and met the demand. Launchings proliferated on the USA northeast coast. Alas, their lifetime was sometimes short and, unfortunately, disastrous for some.

George W. Wells

   The first of six masters, the "George W. Wells", was Launched on August 4, 1900. It was built in Camden, Maine at the shipyard of Holly M. Bean. Measuring  342 feet in length with a 45 foot beam, she had to be a record setter for schooner size. Her fifteen year life ended when wrecked on Diamond Shoals, Cape  Hatteras, during severe weather.

Eleanor A. Percy             "I remember the black wharves and the slips,
 And the sea-tides tossing free:
 And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
 And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
 And the magic of the sea."

   Two months later in 1900,  following the "WELLS" down the "ways", was the "Eleanor A. Percy". Ways is a nautical term referring to the groundways down which a hull slides when being launched. The Percy & Small shipyard was less than a quarter mile from our childhood home in Bath, Maine. When they built the "PERCY" there, it was even larger than the "WELLS" schooner. Of more interest to us, her first Captain, "Uncle Linc", Lincoln Jewett was of my wife's family. The "PERCY" ended her days in 1918, sinking in a storm near Bermuda.

Addie M. LawrenceCapt. Elmer E. Ross

   Less than three years later in 1903, the Percy & Small "yard" turned out another of the great six-masters christened the "Addie M. Lawrence". Her 14 year career encompassed the first World War and the "ADDIE M". served well as carrier of war supplies through submarine infested waters. Then in 1917 she ran out of luck and sank in a bad storm off France. (Also pictured is Capt. Elmer E. Ross who served aboard the "ADDIE M".)

William L. Douglas
   Number four in the line of six-masters was the "William L. Douglas".  Launched at the Fore River Shipbuilding in Quincy, Massachusetts, she had a longer life than any of the ten six-masters.  The only one of steel construction, she ended her long period of service, demasted, as an oil barge.   The above photo was apparently taken at the time of her launching in 1903 evidenced by the 'colors' flying from the topmasts.

Alice M. Lawrence
"Nubble Light"
Cape Neddick, ME

   The "Alice M. Lawrence" was built in 1904 as number five in line of six-masters. It was also the third born in Bath, Maine, "The Shipbuilding City".  At a cost of only $130,000, she may well have paid for herself in her brief five year life before losing that in a hurricane near Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1909.

Ruth E. Merrill  

Portland Head Light
Cape Elizabeth, ME

   "Ruth E. Merrill" was another one for Bath. Her 20 year service time, 1904-1924 surly was a successful investment for the mere $100,000, construction price. Said to have been a coal carrier for many years, she was Captained by a George 'Wallace' (our name). No relation.  Under command of Robert Johnson, she grounded near Martha's Vineyard.

Edward B. Winslow
   Percy & Small shipyard builds still another schooner, the "Edward B. Winslow" in 1906. After 11 years of seafaring, it was believed to have been sabotaged during World War I.  Carrying war materials overseas, arson was suspected as she was consumed by fire in the North Sea. As on all of the big schooners, lifeboats were slung astern by davits for such emergencies and, one would expect, utilized on this occasion.

"Race Point Light"
Provincetown, MA
 .............................. Mertie B. Crowley
     Number eight of the these 300 feet and more in length vessels was completed in Rockland, Maine in late summer of 1907.  The "Mertie B. Crowley" exceeding many "sister" ships in size. This monster was just over 400 feet from stem to stern.  Ordinary cargo for many of these schooners was ice from Maine. They delivered to major cities south of Boston long before electrical refrigeration ended the need. Only three years after launching she foundered off the Massachusetts coast in a violent wind driven snow storm.


Seguin Island, ME
Edward J. Lawrence

   The "Edward J. Lawrence" also built by Percy & Small, like eight others, of  floatable hardwoods. No telling her potential life time. Had it not been for a 1934 fire aboard when docked in Portland, this schooner might have survived far more than her twenty six years. She managed, with good seamanship, to stay clear of shoals, ledges and other misadventures for a remarkable long time.


 Wyoming pictured at launching - Courtesy of Andrew Toppan 

   The "Wyoming" was the last of the six-masters. The Percy & Small shipyard in Bath launched this "state named" schooner in 1909. It was a "whopper" on the ways, her stern was down at the Kennebec and her bow up on Washington Street. This tenth and final six-master was around until 1924 when she was lost with her entire crew off the coast of New England.

Captain and Mrs. William H. Haskell on the Mertie B. Crowley in 1910.
Captain and Mrs. William H. Haskell on the Mertie B. Crowley in 1910 
Spring Point Ledge Light
South Portland, ME


Thomas W. Lawson
 Seven-Masted Schooner - Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum

The "Thomas W. Lawson" was a seven masted steel schooner designed by Bowdoin B. Crowninshield and built by the Fore River Ship & Engine Building Co., Quincy, MA, in 1902. She was 369 feet long and carried 25 sails in all, made by the sailmaking firm E.L. Rowe & Son of Gloucecester, MA. Originally used in the coal trade she was rebuilt in 1906 at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. for carrying oil in bulk. Bound for London loaded with oil she was caught in a storm off the Scilly Islands on the 13th of December 1907. It was decided to try to anchor, but during the night her anchor chain broke and she stranded on the Scilly Islands.

In Conclusion

The era of building the super sized six and seven masters was just ahead of this writer's time.  Am feeling a kinship however, being old enough to remember the Percy & Small shipyard before it's closing.  Recall mother took me to the launching of a four master, either the "Miriam Landis" in 1919 or the "Cecilia Cohen" in 1920. As "guests", mother and I were allowed on deck. So, we were aboard when she slid down the ways. Launchings were exciting affairs. The masts flagged with buntings, the christenings, cheering crowds attending were then as inviting as a spaceship launch today.

The Percy & Small shipyard in Bath, Maine was never fully dismantled.  Today with the "mill" still intact it is the home of the Maine Marine Museum drawing thousands of visitors each year

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Except as noted, all schooner photos are Courtesy of:
The Mariners' Museum Newport News, Va. 
 FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY.  There may be no other use without specific written 
permission from The Mariners’ Museum, Photographic Services & Licensing.

In Memoriam of Stanley B. Wallace
December 18, 1913 - October 18, 2002
Survived by his lovely wife, three children, seven grandchildren and
five great-grandchildren. A good person - missed and remembered fondly.
  Read Stan's Obituary  
 View Memorial Book 

  Add Me! HomeStan's 
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