The Susannah much more than a ship built in Bangor

Posted Oct. 10, 2010, at 6:03 p.m.

Known as “the Treat ship” during two years of construction in Bangor, the schooner Susannah was launched in 1793.

Some five years later the packet was shipwrecked on Oct. 18 off Cape Ann in the Gloucester area of Massachusetts, with no survivors.

Those facts and the Bangor reference are sufficient to earn the ship a place in local history, but sadly, there are many personal connections to the tragedy.

We are fortunate that author Carol B. Smith Fisher of Camden and Brewer brings this information together in chapter six of “Rev. Seth Noble, A Revolutionary War Soldier’s Promise of America and The Founding of Bangor, Maine and Columbus, Ohio.”

Noble, the minister who hand-carried the petition to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seeking to incorporate the community of Conduskeag as the town of Bangor, had moved on to New Hampshire with most of his family by the time the Susannah was wrecked.

But his firstborn, Seth Noble Jr., stayed in Bangor and was among those lost on the Susannah. His father recorded in his diary on Oct. 20:

O Death! My son Seth lost at sea and all who were with him; supposed to be at Boon Island …

The Susannah was headed from Penobscot to Boston with a load of goods when shipwrecked. Few items washed up on shore, one of them “a Chest of cloaths” belonging to S. Noble Jr.

The schooner was 68 feet long, according to information provided to the author from the Penobscot Marine Museum in “Sailing Vessels Built in the Penobscot River Towns in Maine” by Robert Applebee, 1941.

Owners of the Susannah were John Lord of Boston; Robert Hichborn of Frankfort, 1793; Philip Hichborn of Boston; and Robert Hichborn of Prospect, 1795.

Those lost in the tragedy were from Bangor, Boston and Penobscot (now Castine).

Among these were Capt. Daniel Jamison of Penobscot; Robert Treat Jr. of Penobscot; Robert Hichborn’s daughters, Susannah of Penobscot and Eliza of Boston; and Philip Hichborn’s daughter, Sarah.

Fisher found the passenger list in a microprint copy of the Salem Gazette at Fogler Library, University of Maine, Orono.

Fisher also found the name of another passenger not on that list, Sylvia Knapp, daughter of Samuel and Rachel (Grover) Knapp of Brewer.

The Susannah was named not for Robert Hichborn’s daughter, but for his wife, Susannah (Ellingwood) Hichborn. Many references cite the ship as the Sukey, which also is a version of Susannah. That’s a fact I didn’t remember if I ever knew it.

Some cemetery sleuthing gave Fisher an additional poignant fact, that Robert Hichborn died in 1800, exactly two years after the Susannah was lost.

The appendix to this book is a treasure in itself, with documents, maps, letters and the hymn “Bangor.”

“Rev. Seth Noble: A Revolutionary Soldier’s Promise of America and The Founding of Bangor, Maine and Columbus, Ohio” is available for $24 at Lippincott Books on Central Street in Bangor, 942-4398, or at www.HeritageBooks.com

To read my first column on this book, published July 5, 2010, visit www.bangordailynews.com, click on Lifestyle, then on Family Ties.

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Searsport Historical Society will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Curtis Hall, Church Street.

Carl Winters of Hampden, who makes burl bowls, will be the guest speaker. He will present a display and explain the history and art of making the bowls from raw wood to finished product. He also will touch on the importance of sinew in Native American life, what it was, where it came from and some of its many uses.

Winters is a meat cutter at Tozier’s Market.

Another part of the program will be devoted to the solution of a mystery, which began a year ago in October 2009.

Town historian Charlene Knox Farris has solved it and a guest will come to Searsport to deliver a brief explanation.

The public is invited to attend and enjoy refreshments after the program.

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The Millinocket Historical Society’s 2011 calendar featuring vintage photos from its collection is available for purchase. This calendar is one of the fundraising projects the society has undertaken in recent years to maintain the museum and to acquire a larger space to house the ever-growing collection.

Some of the photos included are of Penobscot Avenue in the 1930s, schoolchildren at Halloween, a school record hop and WWI soldiers marching in the 1926 Memorial Day parade.

The calendars are available 1-3 p.m. Thursdays at the museum in the Millinocket Municipal Building, at several local businesses and by mail at Millinocket Historical Society, P.O. Box 11, Millinocket 04462. The cost is $9 plus $2.75 for mailing.

Send queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail familyti@bangordailynews.com

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