Okay, last time I had us in the town of Marblehead. I also threatened to say something about “Tucker’s Wharf,” and my weird little fantasies...certainly unrealizable, and probably down-right unwholesome, of the sort that you get when you are removed from polite company and/or elected to Congress.
But maybe I ought to provide a little background to Marblehead itself. Just so I can satisfy local historians and annoy my friends. It’s the kind of a swell guy I am. No need to thank me.
Anyway, Marblehead...has a complicated history to say the least. Rather than explain it all, I’ll just send you to the town’s Wikipedia entry and let you read it all yourself. It is the first footnote below. (1)
About the photos: First, a shot of the “Marblehead Historic District.” Again, it is usually busier than this.
But, I will say that the area was originally occupied by people of the Naumkeag tribe. Sadly, these people were devastated by various epidemics in the 1600s -- smallpox in particular -- that had been introduced by Europeans. This is part of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, you’ll recall...the weapons that depopulated so much of the earth after Columbus’ fateful voyage.
Euro-American settlers then moved into the area and it became a fishing village and ship-building community. Still later, it was one of the birthplaces of the American navy, as its men and boats battled the British during the Revolution. Four score and seven years later, Marblehead continued this tradition by providing sailors, soldiers, and ships to the Union side during the Civil War.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, and first few decades of the twentieth, Marblehead joined the rush to industry. In particular, the town specialized in shoes and ...wait for it...airplanes. Believe it or not, this little seaside town was the home of an aircraft company -- Burgess & Curtis Aircraft, which built biplanes the design of which had been licensed from the Wright Brothers. I gather it operated between 1910 and 1918. It only closed when its factory was destroyed in a devastating fire.(2)
But, Marblehead’s other and more lasting industry then, and now, was yachts. The town turned its ship- and boat-building skills to pleasure craft. In the process, the town became the home or at least the summer home of many a wealthy yachtsman.
After World War II, Marblehead underwent yet another transformation. It became a pleasant residential area, a bedroom community for Boston, and a popular tourist attraction. However, the town was spared the fate of being just another suburb. It retains its own industries. There is also still some commercial fishing going on, for example, and boat-building is still big here.
Which brings me to Tucker’s Wharf. Like I say, if you walk to the sea along the street called “Tucker’s Wharf” you come eventually to the Wharf itself. This is a town-owned facility (at least it was when I lived in New England) for boaters in transit. According to the Town Of Marblehead’s website, boaters may request “transient dockage” there starting on March 1 of each year.(3) And, further, says the webpage, “Tucker's Wharf (the Harbormaster's Quarters) has public laundry facilities, showers, restrooms, water and a small galley. Within walking distance of the waterfront are grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping.”(4)
Second, as per norm, a photo that I like, but which has no connection to the story at all. This is Martha at Liberty Barbecue, a restaurant we frequent in Round Rock, Texas (https://libertybbqrrtx.com/).
Who was the Tucker the wharf is named after? Well, I’m not quite sure. But at least one website I’ve seen says that the Tucker in question was Philip (“Phip”) Tucker, who ran a company that brought in foodstuffs and supplies to the area’s hotels, yachters, and wealthy inhabitants in the 1880s. To do so, he operated a ferry, and where the ferry docked was...of course, Tucker’s Landing.(5)
Was he an ancestor of mine? I’m guessing not. There are a lot of Tuckers in the world, and I’m not related to most of ‘em. Which is a shame because I would have liked to have had a family connection with Marblehead, and its wharf.
Long ago and far away, when I first discovered Tucker’s Wharf...
It did give me a grand idea.
Specifically for my own little country. Or countries.
More about that next time.
5. My specific source is “Marblehead Magazine Presents Tucker’s Wharf,” an article by Peter Sorlien: https://www.legendinc.com/Pages/MarbleheadNet/MM/Articles/TuckersWharf.html
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