Category Archives: Cape Neddick

Bartholomew Gosnold’s encounter at Cape Neddick, 1602

copyright Artist Frank Handlen
Gosnold’s Encounter at Cape Neddick

Bartholomew Gosnold: First European to “smell the earth” at Maine’s southern coast. (Or was he?)

Bartholomew Gosnold  was born in 1572 with a silver spoon in his mouth and a passion for adventure in his heart. His parents, Anthony and Dorothy (Bacon) Gosnold, were both of notable families in England during the reign of the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth I. Anthony Gosnold had a royal descent from King Edward III of England. Bartholomew’s mother was of the same gene pool that produced Lord Francis Bacon. In fact, the branches of the Bacon and Gosnold trees crossed more than once.

Young Bartholomew was trained as a lawyer, attending Cambridge University and Middle Temple. While at school he was inspired by a lecture given by the Geographer of the day, Richard Hakluyt, whose The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation was published in 1600. Gosnold was so inspired, in fact, that he lost all interest in practicing law. When Sir Walter Raleigh invited him on a voyage to the new world, he eagerly agreed. The voyage failed to meet its mission but there was no turning back for Batholomew. He continued to sail as a privateer chasing Spaniards and dreams of glory across the Atlantic.

Gentlemen explorers like Raleigh and Gosnold did not venture forth to uncharted territory to escape religious persecution. Nor were they wholly altruistic in their efforts on behalf of England. They were interested in money, power and immortality; real people with still familiar, human motivations.

In 1602, Raleigh was falling out of favor in England. His failure with the lost colony of Roanoke had offended many of his supporters and the Queen. Queen Elizabeth encouraged adventurers to search for a Northwest Passage. This presented a loophole to Raleigh’s 1584 patent to colonize North America. Bartholomew Gosnold, at just 30 years of age, seized this entrepreneurial opportunity to sail stealthily through that loophole.

Plans for a voyage were hastily made. It would be financed by William Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southhampton. The mission was meant to discover a route to America on a more northerly tract as allowed by the Queen’s decree but there was a secondary mission. Gosnold intended to establish a small colony in the “North part of Virginia”.

The barque Concord departed from Falmouth, England on March 26, 1602 with a crew of 8 and 23 “Gentleman Discoverers”, some of whom intended to remain in the new world. The Concord was in poor condition and dangerously small for such a voyage but in spite of some contrary winds, she made the trip in a record breaking 49 days. Gosnold and his crew could “smell the land” at Cape Porpoise by May 14.

Two of the gentlemen along for the voyage, Gabriel Archer and John Brereton, journaled their impressions of the trip to the “North part of Virginia”. These firsthand accounts have been invaluable historical research sources ever since. Both diarists described an encounter with Native Americans at “Savage Rock”, calculated by scholars to be near Cape Neddick. A Basque Shallop, with sails and oars, carrying 8 natives, boldly approached the Concord. Archer writes of the encounter,

“One that seemed to be their commander wore a waistcoat of a black wool, a pair of breeches, cloth stockings, shoes, hat and band, one or two more had also a few things made by some Christians; these with a piece of chalk described the coast thereabouts, and could name Placentia of Newfoundland; they spoke divers Christian words, and seemed to understand much more than we, for want of language could comprehend.”

Gosnold’s company proceeded southward with confidence relying on the chalk map for navigation. They established a temporary settlement at what is now known as the Island of Cuttyhunk. Gosnold called it Elizabeth Island in honor of Queen Elizabeth whose edict had made his voyage legal. Marthas Vinyard was named after Gosnold’s recently deceased infant daughter. He named Cape Cod for the abundance of fish that virtually “pestered” the Ship. The naming of the area seems at first glance to be sentimental but it was probably more territorial than sentimental. Gosnold was naming territory that was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s patent. Meanwhile, Raleigh was back in England worrying about his lost colony of Roanoke and totally ignorant of Gosnold’s voyage.

Gosnold traded with the Natives in Raleigh’s patent for sassafras and supplies. Sassafras was considered the new wonder drug in Europe. Profits from a good sized cargo would be considerable as the Americas were the only available source of the plant.  When the Concord’s hold was full the “Gentlemen Adventurers” could not agree upon a fair division of profits or of supplies between the colonists and those returning to England.  In fear of being unfairly compensated or worse, of suffering the same fate as the lost Roanoke colonists, all those who had intended to remain at Cuttyhunk could not be persuaded to stay.  The entire company returned to England with the undivided provisions.

The return trip to England was accomplished in only 37 days with the help of prevailing winds and the fact that they had cut their Shallop loose to lighten the load on the Concord. This was a common practice and may explain how the Native Americans at Cape Neddick came to be in possession of such a boat.

Once Bartholomew Gosnold returned to England, damage control with Sir Walter Raleigh commenced. Raleigh discovered the patent infringement as soon as the sassafras market was flooded by Gosnold’s cargo.  He wrote a letter to the Queen’s Principal Secretary demanding that Gosnold’s portion of the cargo be seized and given to him.  Brereton’s account of the trip was then “edited” to include a glowing dedication to Raleigh.  This account was published and at once became a bestseller.  Archer’s account would not be published until 1625.

Bartholomew Gosnold had not established the first permanent English settlement in New England as was his intention but his bold ambitions had changed the course of our history. Had his voyage in 1602 not inspired Martin Pring to make a proper discovery of the Kennebunk River in 1603, French explorer Samuel de Champlain would be credited for discovering our coast in 1604.

Read Gabriel Archer’s account of the 1602 voyage here.

Read John Brereton’s account of the 1602 voyage here.

1832 catastrophe off Cape Neddick

The Rob Roy on her beam ends.

Captain Christopher Bassett sailed the 53-ton schooner, Rob Roy, out of Newburyport harbor, with a fair wind, on the morning of June 28, 1832. Nine passengers headed to Portland, Maine were his only cargo. He was sailing the vessel pretty light, as there were no dark clouds that morning to foretell the destined consequences of a “swept hold.”

Fifty-five year old Capt. Bassett was a seasoned master, having followed the sea since his ninth birthday. Had he been sailing to Cuba without a cargo, as he sometimes did during his otherwise estimable career, he would have gone to the trouble to load ballast for the vessel’s stability, but it was typical in the 1830s for the hold of New England coasting schooners to be left empty or “swept,” unless a storm seemed imminent.

At about 2 p.m. a white squall came out of nowhere. According to later coverage in the Boston Courier, “The ‘Rob Roy’ was under a fore-sail, double reefed main-sail and jib, with her fore-top gallant-sail handed.” She had Boon Island E SE 5 miles and Nubble Point N NW 4 miles when a sudden, violent gust of wind took hold of her sails and flipped her on her beam ends.

Five passengers were trapped inside the cabin as it filled with sea water in an instant.

Mr. Samuel Cutler, the 80-year-old former Town Clerk of Newburyport and his wife, Lydia, tragically succumbed at once, as did Mrs. Hall. She was the sister of Capt. Stallard of Portland, who had recently lost the brig Hariet — in nearby Wells bay. The two other passengers trapped in the cabin were the widow of Newburyport grocer Moses Bailey and her 5-year-old son.

Capt. Bassett struggled unsuccessfully to pull the Bailey child up the companionway, but sinking twice, he almost lost his own life in the process. The passengers who had been above deck when the squall struck were Moses Clough of Portland, and George Roaf, Joseph L. Huse, and George Rogers of Newburyport. They, and an exhausted Bassett, clung for their lives to the side of the capsized schooner. The mate and two of the crew were able to get the schooner’s boat afloat and attempted to go for help.

Meanwhile, Capt. Littlefield had just left Wells harbor for Boston with the sails set on his year-old, Wells-built schooner Miriam. She was about the same size as the Rob Roy, but with a full load she was far more stable and maneuverable. The wind was unusually high on shore from the northwest. Nevertheless, Littlefield and his crew managed to rescue Bassett and the four surviving passengers and put them ashore at Wells. The next day, the survivors of the sudden calamity made their way to their respective home towns.

The Rob Roy and Capt. Bassett’s trunk, which had been onboard, were thought at first to be lost. The trunk contained $102 in money (a significant sum in 1832) and some copper currency plates for a new bank in Portland.

Several days after the accident it was reported in the Newburyport Advertiser, “It is thought that the accident having happened so near the land, the schooner, which is a good vessel, will be saved.”

And in the Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics on July 7, “The schooner ‘Rob Roy’ has been towed to Portsmouth and the bodies of those that perished were found and interred in that place on Sunday.”

The people of Newburyport mourned the death of Mr. Samuel Cutler with formal ceremony and his life was honored in the Newburyport paper. “Mr. Cutler was for many years a merchant, President of an Insurance Company and a vestryman and warden of the Episcopal Church of Newburyport.” He and his wife were removed to Newburyport and buried in the Episcopal churchyard.

Capt. Christopher Bassett went right back to work as soon as repairs to the Rob Roy were completed. Within the month he was delivering a cargo of molasses to J.B. & T Hall of Boston on the schooner Rob Roy.

Death at sea was still a fairly common occurrence for seamen and their passengers in the 1830s and 1840s, but a large percentage of the casualties that occurred on New England coasting schooners were blamed on instability caused by a “swept hold.”

The Ark of Maine and the Misogynist of Cape Neddick

Oddity attracts
Oddity attracts

Self-proclaimed, World’s Champion Woman-Hater, Albion L. Clough, lived in a converted boat on Cape Neddick’s River Road from 1936 to 1944. A master of public relations, the long-haired artist made a living selling postcards, folk art and inflated misogyny. When asked if specific women had turned him against the entire sex, Albion always said, “I’ve had two of ’em; one soft as a squash, the other a holy terror.”

Albion Clough told anyone who would listen that he had walked away from a lucrative fishing camp business in Brighton, Maine, to escape his second wife, Eleanor’s caustic disposition. In 1936, Cape Neddick fishermen allowed him to drag a decrepit, 28 foot sailboat from the Cape Neddick River to a lot near the Atlantic Shoreline Railway tracks. He roofed it over for summer habitation and christened it the Ark of Maine. A stuffed snake was nailed over the front door to scare away the ladies. Brother Bill, a homemade dummy, sat in front of the ark with a sign around its neck that read, “Now forming woman-hater’s club.”

The dummy, Albion said, was there to entertain the multitude of females he expected would try to court him at his ark. His contention that “women prefer dummies” smacks of sour grapes in light of the fact that, contrary to Albion’s claims, Eleanor had actually left him some 20 years earlier. Census records indicate that by 1920, without the benefit of divorce, Albion’s wife had moved to Harmony, Maine, and was supporting herself and her youngest son on a nurse’s salary. Albion continued to eek out a marginal existence operating Clough’s Trout Farm on the road between Brighton and Wellington, Maine, until his retirement at age 70.

The transplanted retiree built a winter shack next door to his ark that bore the name Eleanor Lambert. One might surmise the shack was named after the long lost wife he claimed to despise. It became the headquarters of a woman-hater’s club that boasted over 100 members. Men came from far and wide to compete for the championship of woman-hating, but Cape Neddick’s titleholder never relinquished the crown.

Albion Clough, who looked much younger than his years, had a shock of snowy white hair that tumbled over broad shoulders. He played the organ, the banjo, the guitar and reportedly had a beautiful tenor voice. Though referred to as a hermit, he was exceedingly sociable. In 1937, popular radio personality Phillips Lord invited him to star on an episode of NBC’s “We the People” and the hermit jumped at the chance. York, Maine historian Peter A. Moore wrote about the radio program in his 1993 “Unknown History” column. “Appearing on the same show with him was Mollie Tickle Pitcher from Turnip Top Ridge,” wrote Moore. “Upon learning that he was a woman hater, she remarked ‘he ain’t never met me yet.'” Mollie wasn’t the only woman to take Albion’s professed misogyny as a challenge. Women, undeterred by the reptilian guard, cued up at the ark to try to change his mind. The woman-hater cheerfully indulged them.

In October of 1937, “The Story of Albion Clough in his Eyeless Ark,” appeared in the Chicago Herald & Examiner and a similar article was printed in the New York Times. Albion Clough became a bona fide celebrity. Universal newsreel photographer, Dick Sears came to Cape Neddick to make a movie about the woman-hater’s life and reportedly got “two good reels for Stanger than Fiction.” Albion told a reporter for the Portsmouth Herald that whether or not he made it big in the movies, his plan was to go on hating women. “In spite of his so-called hatred there was one concession that he did make,” wrote the correspondent. “And that is his friendliness for a neighbor who brings him a baked bean supper each Saturday night. His appreciation to her is gratefully expressed whenever he mentions her delicious beans.”

As Albion’s notoriety grew so did his marketable skills. In 1937, he claimed to know the future. His weather predictions were vague at best. The date he prophesied for his own demise was off by four four years and one month. At the end of August, 1944, the Portsmouth Herald reported, “The Hermit of Cape Neddick is dead. The white leonine mane of Albion Clough will be seen no more bending above his paintings or shaking in wrath as he gave his reasons for being a woman-hater. He leaves a wife and two sons.”