“You and Leon Barron and others have done a remarkable job of finding information about the Kingsport ship designer and builder Ebenezar Cox,” writes Wolfville historian L.S. Loomer in a letter to this columnist. “Sometimes, however, luck succeeds amazingly where much hard digging finds bits, pieces and frustration.”
Mr. Loomer was leading up to an amazing discovery he had made in old newspaper files, or actually microfilm files of newspapers nearly 100 years old. The discovery was an interview with Ebenezar Cox when he was 75 years old, an interview originally published in the Middleton Outlook and reprinted in the Wolfville Acadian on February 26, 1904.
Cox, along with his grandfather Ebenezar Bigelow, was one of the master builders in the days of sailing ships. Operating in Kingsport, Cox is credited with building and designing some of the finest sailing ships in Canada. For approximately a 30-year period beginning in 1864 Cox designed or supervised the building of an assortment of schooners, brigs and barquentines. Like Bigelow before him, the Cox name was synonymous with shipbuilding and there was no finer in Canada.
Ebenezar Cox is said to have built and designed a total of 30 sailing ships but apparently there wasn’t a complete list and no one was sure of the order in which they came off the ways. Mr. Loomer notes that the Cox interview contained a list of “all 30 of the vessels designed and built by Ebenezar Cox” and the order in which they were constructed. The list was made up by Cox himself for the newspaper reporter who conducted the interview and contains valuable information about the shipbuilder’s career.
“Ebenezar Cox began shipbuilding in 1864 in partnership with his brother William A. Cox and Joseph Woodworth at the site of the later steamship wharf in Kingsport, ” Mr. Loomer’s letter continues. “Their first vessel was the Diadem, schooner, 158 tons, owned by Captain J. Jaline, who was also her sailing master. Diadem was abandoned at sea en route from the West Indies on her first voyage. the second vessel was the Oak Point (the old name of Kingsport) brig, 266 tons, 1865.
“The partnership was dissolved. Woodworth proceeded alone as owner of the shipyard with Ebenezar Cox as designer and master builder. William Cox left the firm. Under this arrangement three vessels were built.”
Loomer list the three vessels and their fates, and the additional vessels built by Woodworth in partnership with New Yorker Charles Barteaux (whose names is given various spellings by marine historians). Loomer lists all the vessels built by the new partners, all apparently taken from the Cox interview, and the vessels completed by later shipyard owners P. R. Creighton and C. R. Burgess with the Cox as the master builder/designer.
The Ebenezar Cox interview is a great find and undoubtedly will be acclaimed by marine historians. And made use of I hope by the people currently working on rejuvenating Kingsport.
Mr. Loomer is to be congratulated on his discovery. He is noted locally for his ongoing diligent research into old newspaper files, records and journals and he has often come up with material that has enriched local history. His efforts this time have resulted in discovery of a valuable piece of shipbuilding history.