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Home: Surnames: Megee Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: The Delaware Megees
Posted by: Fred Kelso Date: September 25, 2000 at 13:58:18
In Reply to: The Delaware Megees by Dave Megee of 36

I have a Marcus Megee, Master of the "Tigress of Vienna," which carried white pine lumber from Port Deposit (Cecil Co.), MD. Please see my article below. I'd love to trade notes on this family with you for my research into Port Deposit shipping.


       One after another the lumber ships sailed up the Susquehanna and into Port Deposit harbor. They filled the town wharves of the 1830’s, these scow schooners with names like Lovely Sue, Antelope, Cinderella, E Pluribus Unum, South America, and Seagull. In 1833 alone, 120 different captains frequented the Port Deposit storehouse of Thomas Bond and William Morgan to purchase food, drink and utensils for their crews. Given enough firepower, this fleet could have put a hurting on the Spanish Armada.
       What precipitated the need for this flotilla? It seems that there was a building boom going on at the time, and the ancient pine forests of Pennsylvania were crashing to Earth in response. The loggers massed the trees into huge rafts and rode the spring freshets from Williamsport and vicinity all the way down the Susquehanna to Port Deposit.
       At this end, dozens of steam sawmills sprang up to transform the trees into lumber. Also putting down roots in Port were many of the schooner captains - among them David Gilmore of the Port Deposit, Edward Glacken of the Volunteer, David White of the Cinderella, and James Lyon of the Marietta.
       The scow schooner was a craft designed specifically for navigating long, shallow waterways such as the Chesapeake and its tributaries, and for carrying heavy loads. The fore-and-aft sails took advantage of the winds which tend to blow along the length of the Bay. The flat bottom and square ends allowed the ships to ride high in the shallow water even when weighted down with lumber stacked almost to the booms.
Boatyards throughout the Upper Chesapeake were kept busy building this merchant fleet. The Catherine Jane was built in Baltimore in 1830 by William Skinner for John Edmonson of Baltimore - skipper Jacob Edmonson commanded the 49-ton, 45-foot-long vessel (she was 19 feet wide and 5-and-a-half feet deep). George Daniel constructed the 50-ton Orizembo in Dorchester County in 1822 - the owners were Samuel Keen and Samuel C. Harrington; her captain was James Williams. Displacing a whopping 101 tons, the United States came out of a Dorset yard in 1822, paid for by William Miles, commanded by James Frazier. Abel Cator was Master of the Orolong, built on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County - Stephen Dice put her together in 1822 for Roger and Joseph Thomas.
The business of commanding the schooners seems to have run in families. The Captains Applegarth included George, Thomas, and William - they owned the Perry Spencer, a 79-ton ship built for them in Dorchester County in 1832 and frequently used to haul granite from the Port Deposit quarries. Abel, Joseph Jr., Thomas, and William were all known as Captain Cator. Five Hubbards plied these waters - Charles, Elijah, Henry, James, and William. As did five Marshalls - Denton, Henry, Leven, Robert, and William. Some captains sailed more than one ship. Daniel Myers patronized Bond & Morgan in 1833 as captain of the schooners Citizen, Mexico, and Owego.
Smith and Rowland were notable lumber dealers of the era who shipped products all over the region. On November 5, 1834, Edward Glacken, Master of the schooner Volunteer, carried 23, 324 feet of white pine for them to Joshua Simmons in Wilmington, Delaware. Shipments to A. B. Waller in Washington, D.C. included 12,000 feet of ark plank and 39 pieces of pine timber aboard the Carthagena (Levin Wheatley, Master); 60,000 feet of white pine inch boards via the Tigress of Vienna (Marcus Megee, Master); and 50,000 feet of white pine boards which Henry Hubbard carried on his Hero of Oxford. Edward C. Johnston, captain of the Pocahontas, hauled lumber to George Smoot in Alexandria. The Blue-Eyed Stranger (William Reeves, Master) and the Patriot of Vienna (Henry Absalom, Master) took shingles and boards to Thomas Irwin’s substantial fishery at Indian Head on the Potomac.
The going rate for lumber-hauling in the 1830’s was $1.75 per thousand board feet throughout the region. Most of the shipping contracts contained the following clause: “I promise to deliver the above-named load in like good order and well-conditioned, the dangers of the sea excepted.” I suppose that this was a standard maritime clause, as the waters of the Chesapeake, the Susquehanna, and the C&D Canal bear little resemblance to the open sea.
As you can see, the forests of Pennsylvania supported a huge economy covering dozens of industries. Loggers, raftsmen, sawyers, shipbuilders, sailors, carpenters - they all owed their livelihoods to the trees. Port Deposit was the centerpiece of this economic activity, and earned its name from its role - the logs were deposited here, they were processed, and the lumber sailed out of the port to its final destinations. If we looked hard enough, we could probably find some of that lumber still in place in buildings around the Chesapeake.

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