At the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Penobscot Bay, Belfast's harbor has a rich history.
Jennie Flood Kreger
On March 5, 1919
the Jennie Flood Kreger slid down the ways into Belfast harbor. At 245 feet overall and almost 1844 tons, she was the largest vessel ever built in Belfast and the only five–masted schooner. She was the result of a brief ship building boom at the end of World War I when freight rates soared.
The Jennie was built by Mathews Brothers, a Belfast wood products company, whose president, Orlando Frost, personally supervised construction. She was built for Crowell & Thurlow of Boston and commanded by Captain William R. Kreger. The ship was named for Kreger’s wife, Jennie.
The Jennie was described by the Republican Journal newspaper as being “a beauty as she stood on the ways ready to plunge into waters of the Penobscot Bay”. No other Belfast ship had captured local interest and imagination as had the Jennie. It was an event just to visit the ship while under construction and an even greater event on launch day. Crowds of excited on–lookers cheered when she entered the water and once she was safely at anchor a number of lucky people were ferried out by the steamer Golden–Rod for a tour of the ship.
It was reported that a “moving picture man” was aboard documenting the excitement and Charles Townsend, a local photographer, captured each phase of the construction and made his photos into postcards for sale. Sadly, the Jennie’s launch ushered in the end of ship building days in Belfast and in 1920 the Blanche C. Pendleton was the last schooner to be built.
About the Builders
Mathews Brothers Company was founded in 1854 by Noah M. Mathews and Spencer W. Mathews. A third brother, Sanford, joined the family business in 1860. It was originally a window sash and millworks company, but by 1872 the brothers expanded the product line to include doors, blinds, shutters and window and door frames.
Mathews Brothers is still going strong and is the oldest continuously operating manufacturing company in Maine.
Belfast Harbor was kept clear during cold winters by ice breakers creating channels.
Launched in 1909, the “Boston Boat” connected Belfast with coastal New England on a daily basis until 1935.
The 350 horsepower steam tug Seguin was the workhorse of the Eastern Maine Towage Company in the mid-20th century.
The Blanche C. Pendleton
Launched on May 20, 1920, this ship was the last of the wooden sailing vessels built in Belfast.