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Raynham Hall Museum Staff Meets, Greets Tall Ship Lynx

The Waterfront and History are at the Heart of the Oyster Festival

History came alive this year at the Western Waterfront Pier as the American Privateer, the Lynx, was greeted by staff members of Raynham Hall Museum who interpret the Townsend family of Oyster Bay, merchants and ship owners. The American Privateer The Lynx, is a replica of a ship that took part in the War of 1812, and was here as part of the Oyster Festival waterfront events.

Theresa Skvarla, Raynham Hall Museum assistant director and Steven Waldenburg, education coordinator, dressed in historic costumes, went to meet the Lynx to meet the crew, also dressed in historic outfits. Raynham Hall Museum interprets the Townsend family as it lived in Oyster Bay during colonial and Victorian times.

Good things are in store for the museum. Steve Waldenburg, RHM education coordinator, was excited to share the good news for the museum. The town has purchased the “Mavros” house next door at 30 West Main Street for $540,000 that they will use for a visitor’s center, gift shop, offices and to store its collection. “As soon as I heard the news I said can I move my stuff now! But we need to do renovations on the first floor – the building was apartments – so it doesn’t work to set up there immediately,” he said.

What is most important is that the house has a lot of stories to tell. One of them involved their Tall Ship history. Mr. Waldenburg said, “Samuel Townsend owned four or five merchants ships. They were much larger, slower and less maneuverable than the Lynx. They would have a lot more weight which impacts the maneuverability. They traded between Manhattan, the Caribbean and Europe. In England, they came in and out, via Liverpool, and made stops throughout the coast line of Europe to sell and to buy.

“The trade at the time worked: England manufactured goods that were sent to the Caribbean; the Caribbean traded those manufactured goods for sugar cane, rum and molasses – all sugar products. Those sugar products were then brought to the American colonies and they were traded for the raw materials, the wood and timbers needed by England for the manufactured goods.

“England had the textile industry; English colonies were not allowed to make manufactured goods. The central purpose of the colonies was to feed the mother country with manufacturing goods and send them back to the mother country enabling the mother country to get its piece of the pie.

“The trading ship story continued to his descendants. Robert and Solomon, his sons, who went into the merchant trade. Solomon II, who expanded this house, made his money more specifically in the coal trade. He made his fortune selling coal to the Union troops during the Civil War.

“During the War of 1812, there were English raiders off the coast trying to catch the merchant ships and capturing the sailors. That is because it was very time-consuming to train a sailor to know all the skills required to sail aboard a ship. It was much easier to train soldiers. That is why the British were stopping American merchant ships and taking the sailors into service on British ships to fight in the Napleonic Wars. The French did that too in the “Quasi War” in what was an undeclared war from about 1798 to 1800.

“The Townsends shipping business flourished from the time of Samuel, his sons Solomon and Robert and through his grandson Solomon II.

“Besides the English, the French Republic was impressing American sailors onto French ships. That was one of the reasons the country was involved in the War of 1812,” explained Mr. Waldenburg.

Samuel’s son Robert Townsend, a.k.a. Culper, Jr. worked as a spy in George Washington’s spy ring, which helped win the Revolutionary War and which set the stage for the War of 1812.

The Revolutionary War was where we declared our independence and the War of 1812 is where we defended it for the first time. This is the 200th anniversary of the war that saw: The Star Spangled Banner, the USS Constitution, and the Battle of New Orleans. All important parts of what made the United States what it is today.

The Lynx Connection

Lynx Captain John Beebe-Center of Northport, Rhode Island said, “During the War of 1812, the American fleet had 12 boats and the British had 800.” Letters were given to owners of private vessels, authorizing them to act as American naval boats. They brought the war to the British, attacking their ships and catching 2,000 British seaman. The captain said the War of 1812 is basically ignored nowadays by Americans. The British call it, “That little bit of unpleasantness,” he said.

That is changing as in 2012, the War of 1812 will be commemorated, and is the reason the Lynx has come to the Eastern Seaboard.

Captain John Beebe-Carter (who has sailed into Oyster Bay Harbor three times before,) said, “The Lynx was in the Great Lakes during the fall of 2007, giving tours for school troops and went down the south eastern seaboard to Florida and Georgia.

“We came into the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway for the Great Lakes & Tall Ship American Sail Training Association.

“The next time we make the trip I plan to go through the Erie Canal. It will mean lowering the masts but the canal is deep enough at 12 feet to accommodate her. They also require a 14 foot air draft, measured from the boat at the line the ship is out of the water. It will take a lot of work to lower the masts but the trip will be 1,000 miles shorter than going through the St. Lawrence Seaway.” But he said the timing would be right since next year, the masts will be taken out for their 10-year general maintenance.

Captain Beebe-Carter said of Oyster Bay, “It’s a lovely port and everybody has been very nice.” Wistfully he said, “I’m sorry the lightship Nantucket is gone but today it is a Newport Conference Center.”

Captain Beebe-Carter is married to a Captain Deborah Hayes, who does sail training on the Geronimo, out of St. Georges, Newport. “We get to sail for each other. It’s nice. Nobody understands what it takes to be a captain but another captain. (She has kept her maiden name, for obvious reasons, he added.)

Captain Beebe-Carter said on a visit to France he discovered his family were French. “We are a mix of Irish, English, and French with some German thrown in, but I found we are 50 percent French. The family lived in Blois, on the Loire River. My Grandfather John Beebe-Carter (I’m the third. My nephew is the fourth.) Came to the United States to go to Harvard. He went to St. Georges, Rhode Island and went to Harvard in 1911. In 1914, during the first Would War, he went back to France as an ambulance driver.”