Shipmasters of Dennis
Not even in the seaports of Boston or New York do the great long bowsprits and jib booms of squareriggers rise these days out and over the wharves bordering harbor streets. For the square rigger with her intriguing spars and lines, and her odor of cargoes from foreign ports, is gone her way as surely as the ships of the ancient Viking.
So it is hardly to be expected that any of the Cape towns which once were home ports for clipper ships and whaling vessels should now claim any such craft.
Yet even a single Cape Cod town alone Dennis could boast, more than a century-and-a-half ago, that the anchors of a coastwise fleet of eighty-five ships, and of a fishing fleet of forty-eight craft, with crews totaling some twelve hundred men and boys, were dropped into the mud of her harbor as the haven where they would be.
Moreover in the eighteen-fifties the quiet little Dennis that we see in these days, had one hundred and fifty of her men sailing deeper waters and entering ports all over the world. They skippered ships active in foreign trade. Some of these men were youngsters of only twenty one or not much older, but they were all captains, masters of as proud a fleet of ships as ever sailed the ocean blue.
Not all these master mariners returned to Dennis. Some of them the sea took to her own heaving bosom forever, and cast up the bones of their ships on distant strands, there to whiten and decay or be interred in sands deep and glistening.
In Dennis graveyards there are stones raised to these men, stones marking no grave, but memorializing captains courageous, to whom “Dennis” and “Home” were words synonymous and precious beyond telling.
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