NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 21, 2014

Fond memories of 17 Ship St.

I was saddened to read in The Daily News of the final decision to demolish the house at 17 Ship St. in the South End of Newburyport.

I have been following this story through the newspaper as well as through the family grapevine, as Ship Street has a very significant connection to me and my family that spans back to the early 1900s.

My grandmother, Laura (Souther) Wright, settled down at 15 Ship St. with a fisherman named Capt. William Wright at the turn of the 20th century. There they raised nine children in a very small saltbox house. My mom, Edith, was the eighth child of the nine.

I have often wondered how they managed, but my thoughts are short-lived, realizing my mom also raised a family of nine in one-half of a duplex home on Hancock Street.

Capt. Will, unfortunately, passed before I was able to meet him, but my mom and her family members were able to forward some of the tales of his life to me. I have pictures of him that corroborate the stories that he was not a distinctly overwhelming man of stature, but anyone who is called to the sea does not necessarily have to be of brawn and brute.

Moreover, they just need knowledge of the sea, passion for a life on the water and a strong will to fight whatever wind, tide and weather throw at them, in order to eke out a living from the ocean.

Somehow, between selling most of his catch on a fish truck with my oldest uncle, Will Jr., and my grandmother growing what little food she could in a small garden in the backyard, they all managed to survive, even during history’s most trying Depression.

My mom told me stories of how Capt. Will sometimes gave away much of his catch to others who were struggling more than they.

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