From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

            Due to its distance from Rochester Center, North Rochester developed almost as a separate town with its own church, tavern and quite a bit of industry. As mentioned in previous articles, there was at one time a flourishing fur and felt hat manufacturing business, the Stillwater Mills, Chaduck’s Academy and Coombs Tavern as well as more than one store.

            Along with these businesses, there was also a fulling mill in the 1800’s operated by a man named Leonard. For many years he was engaged in manufacturing broadcloth. There were also carpenters building and selling furniture in this area.

            One listed business in particular caught my attention. While North Rochester has always had its share of brooks and streams; is close to Big and Little Quittacus Ponds and abuts Snipatuit Pond, it was a considerable distance from the ocean. However, around 1838, Jethro Coffin bought the farm of Marcus Maxim (later known as the Nute Barrows homestead) and for five years or more was in the business of building whaleboats.

            Whaleboats, of course, are the smaller boats carried on whaleships. The originals were double-ended boats of a lapstrake design. They were open to the weather and meant to be rowed by a crew of six using rising single banked oars as well as a steering oar. There would be a “loggerhead” by which the “whale-rope” attached to the harpoon would be controlled.

            Whaleboats would be launched from the whaleship to chase and harpoon a whale. When a watcher in the crow’s nest of the mother ship would see that a whale had been caught, the ship would move next to the whaleboat and the dead whale would be lashed to its side before being processed for its oil.

            I wonder how Coffin got his whaleboats to their purchasers on a logging type transport or floating down some brook or river?

By Connie Eshbach

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