Hyannis Historical Society

Mural by  Jackie Reeves and Mary-Ann Agresti

Sea Captains’ Stories

Capt. Alexander Baxter was known as the “Father of Hyannis”. At 16 he earned the title of Captain, master of the sloop Polly. During the blockade, in the early part of war of 1812, he brought grain and provisions to Hyannis. He was responsible for most of the developments of the village in the 1st half of the 19th century: shipbuilding, the railroad, schools, banking, churches, housing and the Masonic Lodge. In 1829, with F.C.Tobey, he built a large store, now “the Cash Block” . He also owned a market in the building location that would later become the Patriot Press. From the Patriot Press, on both sides of the street, during and after this time, would live over 20 sea captains within approximately 800 feet, leading to Hyannis harbor, the “Gateway to the Sea”.

Capt. Eleazer Baker. Just opposite to the north corner down Pleasant St. lived Eleazer Baker, originally born in W. Yarmouth in 1851. He went to sea at age 10 and made a voyage around Cape Horn on route to San Francisco. He would become an expert navigator, who commanded steamers like the Gen. Whitney and H.T. Dimmock before he retired. He lived at 32 Pleasant Street and died in 1913.

Capt. Crowell remains a cornerstone, but we can also see him as a hub in the community long ago, and his influence on those around him. Emily Baker, who lived next door, accompanied Captain Crowell, his wife and daughter, on a voyage to China and Japan. She would later marry Captain Charles Crocker (1847-1907). She traveled the seven seas with him. Capt. Crocker commanded deep water , coasting and steam vessels. During the Spanish American War of 1898, he was the executive officer on the hospital ship “Relief” which carried supplies to Cuba and brought back the sick and wounded. The Crockers lived in the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Baker, who was also a Sea Captain.. It remains today still the original home of Capt. Allen Hallet 1800-1881. The 2nd oldest home and oldest on its original foundation from the Hallet family dating from the 1740’s.

Capt. Allen Crowell, the grandson of a South Yarmouth farmer, lived from 1821-1891. He began his career on the sea at age 10;  at 21, he commanded Clipper ships to foreign ports in some of the finest craft afloat in the day: J.M..Hicks, Annie Reed, Maggie Hart, Schooner Hattie Baker. In 1847 he brought cargo for the relief of the famine in Ireland. On his return, sailing from Sligo to Boston in the “Cabot” along with another local shipmaster, Rodney Baxter of W. Yarmouth in his ship, the “American Belle”, Capt. Baxter would set the fastest record crossing by sail upon reaching New York. Captain Crowell served commanding a merchant transport ship in the Civil War. In his 50 years’ experience he never met with an accident or a shipwreck. He sailed across the seven seas and to almost every commercial port. His home at 35 Pleasant was built in 1852. Today, it remains as a fine example of the Greek Revival tradition found here from that era The barn/stable is a reminder of Hyannis/Barnstable’s roots of a bygone past.

Capt. Joshua Baker. At 105 Pleasant Street, the property there was owned by Joshua Baker, coastal Captain, master of schooners and packets, and owner of a ship chandlery business, with an interest in many ships. The same property was formerly owned by the Edward Bacon Family. Capt. Bacon ran Coasters and was the master of the steamer George Washington which was lost off the Newfoundland coast with all hands including his son George. Freeman Hallet was born in 1810 and died in 1876. In early life, he went to sea in the coasting trade and retired early. He established a sail loft on Pleasant St. where he made sails for ships which Captain Alexander Baxter was part owner. Upon his death, the sail loft became a local center and meeting house. Among the members and organizers was Captain Gibbs of Pleasant St. who went to sea in Barques and ships in deep water in the East India trade and Packet line to Liverpool and Antwerp. He served on U.S.S. Richmond in the battle of Mobile and Mississippi Passes under Admiral Farragut. After the Civil War, he served on vessels operating from California to Alaska and entered the Light House Service. He was awarded a medal for a heroic rescue at sea. Other members included FP Goss, owner and editor of the Patriot Press. He was appointed by Ulysses Grant as the Collector of Customs for Barnstable.

Hyannis Historical Society, 401 Main Street, Hyannis 02601

Email us at: hyannishistorical@gmail.com

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