The Original Crosby Shipyards, a brief history
Brothers Daniel and Jesse Crosby, Jr., came to Osterville from Centerville in 1798 and leased sixteen rods of land on the shore of North Bay with the right to build a shop and dock. For this lease of sixty years they paid James Parker nine dollars.
North Bay, at the foot of Bay Street, is quite deep and there is a channel running through North Bay and Cotuit Bay, and then out to Nantucket Sound. There would be no West Bay Cut in Osterville for another ninety years.
The Crosby brothers must have built a number of vessels here, but we have a record of only one, the “Warrior.” The “Warrior” was a two-masted topsail schooner built in 1804 and lost on Block Island‘s north reef in 1834 during a violent storm. The “Warrior” was a “packet” running between Boston and New York on a more or less regular schedule as packets did, depending on the weather.
The Hinckley Shipyard
Oliver Hinckley, born in 1792, was an apprentice to the Crosby brothers. He took over the shipyard at the foot of Bay Street, probably in 1816-1818.
Following the Crosby brothers, he continued to build coasting vessels in this yard until 1857. His last vessel, the “Leanara,” was reported lost in the early 1900s. This vessel was a packet between Boston and Hartford, Connecticut. Hinckley built at least 23 vessels. There was one sloop, the “Echo,” (for which the Osterville Historical Museum has a rare hawk’s nest model), nineteen schooners, and three brigs. His schooner, “Page,” built in 1831, sailed down the coast of South America, around Cape Horn, and up to San Francisco where it worked as a lumber schooner into the early 1900s. He also built the “Spy,” a three-masted schooner, for Captain Jonathan Parker whose house the Museum now occupies. The logbook for the “Spy” can be seen in the Museum’s permanent collection.
A small number of coasting vessels were built by Seth Goodspeed in East Bay. His home is still standing and is located on the west side of East Bay, directly opposite the town landing. He built one of his vessels in his yard and then moved it to the bay. That was considered a remarkable feat at the time.
The Smaller Boat Industry
By 1850, the need for coasting vessels declined. The last vessel built in the Hinckley yard was constructed in 1857. The yard, however, continued operating with marine work until the late 1860s.
The descendants of Daniel and Jesse Crosby, Jr., built boat shops in several places around the bay. In 1850 the first Crosby Catboat was built, and its utilitarian design was quickly recognized. Since then the Crosby family built over 3,000 wooden catboats.
As a matter of interest, after WW II the Crosby family at Crosby Yacht Building & Storage built 230 wooden boats of various designs before the business was sold in the late 1970s. Today, the art and craftsmanship of boatbuilding continues at Crosby Yacht Yard–located just down the road from the Museum. Likewise, Ned Crosby is a ninth-generation boatbuilder at E. M. Crosby Boatworks in West Barnstable.