Ship-Building in Scarborough

Did You Know….

Ship-Building in Scarborough

            By Don Taylor, Historian

The “Oak Hill” by Joseph Hill – Original 20×30 Oil on Canvas.

Did you know ships were built in Scarborough during the latter part of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century; Many were small, but in the late eighteen-forties, some brigs and barks of 200 to 300 tons were launched. The last vessel constructed here was the bark Oak Hill of 909 tons, built by J. Milliken in 1855.[i]

However, The Scarborough Town Register – 1905[ii], says that the “Oak Hill” was built by John Libby. It also mentions that Major John Waterhouse built a 100-ton vessel on Scottow’s Hill two miles from the landing-place. That vessel, “The Sarah,” was hauled from Scottow’s Hill to Dunstan Landing, where it was successfully launched.

'Delia Chapin' construction, Dunstan Landing, Scarborough, 1847

‘Delia Chapin’ construction, Dunstan Landing, Scarborough, 1847

The Register also says that the “Delia Chapin” was launched in October 1847, and it was the first vessel constructed at Dunstan Landing by Major John Waterhouse. The brig “Angelina” was built by Abraham Perkins and Ira Milliken. John Libby built the schooner “Watchman,” and James Thorton built the “Jim Crow.” So there were many ships built here in Scarborough.

Grandfather Tales of Scarborough by Augustus Freedom Moulton includes a short chapter about “The Shipping and the Shipyard” of Scarborough. He mentions that “after the dyke was put in, just above the Eastern Railroad Bridge in 1877, to shut out the overflowing tides from the marshes, all the streams there shrunk to small proportion of the former size, and the once busy landing [Dunstan] lost all resemblance to a port.”[iii]

For more information about shipbuilding in Scarborough, see Vertical File Cabinet FC12, Folder,  Transportation-Shipping-Ship-Building in Scarborough. It includes:

  • Transportation-Shipping-Ship-Building in Scarborough – Four Clippings & Articles.
    • Clipping: “Scarborough Trees Cut for Ships Masts For The King Of England Back In 1666.”
    • Article by Mrs. Elinor Wright 4/1/78 about the Dunstan Landing area.
    • Clipping: “Recalls Scarboro When It Was Ship Building Center – Pine Point’s Only Civil War Veteran Passes His 80th” – 24 September 1927 (A# 92.22.67).
    • Clipping: “Model of historic ship to be dedicated Sunday” – Kennebunk.
  • Letter: William Willard to Scarborough Historical Museum – 30 November 1994 regarding Willard sea captains. The letter includes handwritten lists of ships captained by various Willards, Creightons, Gilchrists, and Haleys (or Hailees).
  • Letter: Walter Nelson-Rees to Mr. Whitten 29 December 1990 regarding a picture of the “Oak Hill.”

Also, see Maritime Tales: Shipyards and Shipwrecks[iv] on the Scarborough Historical Society Exhibits Page.

Finally, The Scarborough Historical Society is an excellent place for research on anything in Scarborough. Come in for a visit.


[i] Fairburn, William Armstrong (1945). Merchant sail: Vol. 5. Center Lovell, Me: Fairburn Marine Educational Foundation. Page 3148, first paragraph. Available at Google Books.

[ii] Town Register, Scarborough 1905 – Compiled by Mitchell & Campbell. Available at Internet Archive (Pages 24, 25).

[iii] Moulton, Augustus Freedom — Grandfather Tales of Scarborough – Available at Digital Maine and the Internet Archive.

[iv] Originally published at the Maine Memory NetworkMaritime Tales: Shipyards and Shipwrecks

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