Kingsport’s most famous native son undoubtedly is Ebenezar Cox, 1828-1916; for a 30-year period beginning around 1864, Cox designed and built some of the finest sailing ships in Canada. At the very least, Cox ranked among the best as a shipbuilder and if he wasn’t first in Canada, he was number one in the Maritimes.
The Cox shipyard was located in Kingsport no more than a stone’s throw from the rejuvenated wharf and new marina. Cox is famous for having turned out some 30 schooners, brigs, barks and barquentines from his shipyard, a shipyard noted for producing some of the largest sailing ships in Canada.
Among the many outstanding ships that came from the Cox shipyard was a series quaintly named the K ships, the “K” obviously standing for Kingsport. Each of these ships, 10 in all, were given names beginning with the letter K, Katahdin and Kelverdale, for example.
The K ships of Kingsport were constructed between 1876 and 1890. Cox built them in partnership with Peter R. Crichton and Wolfville shipbuilder and merchant C. Rufus Burgess who also was involved with the Cornwallis Valley Railway. Crichton and Burgess apparently financed the building of the K ships and in his later years Cox may have been in the employ of one or both these gentlemen.
One of the odd things about the K ships of Kingsport, besides the unusual series of names, is that most met with violent ends, either as a result of submarine attacks or as victims of catastrophic weather. A number of the K ships ended their days sailing under foreign flags.
The last K ship built in the Cox shipyard was the barque Kings County, which was launched in 1890. Marine historian Leon Barron says the Kings County was one of five or six of the largest sailing ships built in Canada. Due to her size, Barron said, she had to be loaded and offloaded at moorings well away from shore.
Before the Kings County, Cox built the ship Karoo of 2031 tons. Launched in 1884 with C. Rufus Burgess as the major shareholder, the Karoo later sailed under a Norwegian flag.
The ship Kambira, 1952 tons, was launched in 1882, again with C. Rufus Burgess as the major shareholder. The Kambira was abandoned at sea in off Uruguay in 1905. The barque Kelverdale, 1132 tons, was launched by Cox the pervious year and was financed mainly by Peter R. Crichton. In 1903 the Kelverdale was sailing under a Spanish flag.
In 1880 the barque Kedron, 1160 tons, came down the ways at Kingsport and C. Rufus Burgess was the majority shareholder. In 1894 Kedron was under a Norwegian flag. The barque Katahdin, 1145 tons, was also launched in 1880 with Peter R. Crichton as a shareholder. Katahdin was abandoned at sea in 1904 while under a Norwegian flag.
The 1099 ton barque Kelvin was launched from Cox’s shipyard in 1879, again with Crichton as the major owner. The Kelvin was condemned and sold in Buenos Aires in 1899. Crichton financed the ship Kingsport, 1161 tons, that was launched in 1878. The Kingsport was wrecked near Buenos Aires in 1897.
The first two ships built by Cox in the K series, the Barque Kentigerm, 1877, and the barque Kingsport, 1876, were destroyed by German U boats in 1916.