G. W. Raitt - Schooner

On one of my many searches for Raitts, I came across a schooner named G. W. Raitt from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ever curious I endeavoured to find out more. From 'Volume IV: Vessels Built in the Piscataqua Section, including Coast of New Hampshire and Lake Winnipesaukee' of the work 'Early U.S. Customs Records and History, Portsmouth, N.H.' compiled 1930-1932, by George L. Nelson, it seems the ship was built in 1871 by the Tobey & Littlefield Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was 74.8ft in length by 22ft wide and 5ft deep with one deck and two masts, and weighed some 60 tons. The schooner was owned by Thomas C. Coleman who took delivery on 27 April 1871. On 18 August 1899, the ship, under master C. R. Anderson,  struck Portsmouth Bridge over Piscataqua River (which connects Portsmouth with Kittery, Maine) and was a total loss. It would appear that Captain Coleman retired shortly after this incident.

This volume is available on the Portsmouth Athenaeum website which also has a half-hull model of the schooner made by the Tobey & Littlefield Shipyard in 1871 out of maple and pine and 25.75 inches in length. The description given notes that it is is a "half-hull lift model, port side, of schooner G.W. Raitt; model is black with two gold trim lines above waterline, burgundy/brown below; two visible lift pins; mounting board painted black; one black and gold tin label."

Looking for more, I came across a Heritage Walking Tour around Dover, NH in 1991 which provides a little more information on Thomas Coleman and his schooner. He lived at 34-36 Atkinson Street, Dover. "This double house, built ca. 1850, had two owners for most of its existence. The front half (#34) was owned originally by Alfred Caverly and by the late 1870s was acquired by Thomas C. Coleman (1826-1906), a renowned sea captain from Dover. Coleman learned the seafaring life at age eight, his father being a sailor on the Dover shipping between here and Portsmouth and along the coast when Dover was once of the greatest shipping ports for all the country north of here. Young Coleman soon commanded his own packets and schooners along the New England coast.  The 79-foot schooner G.W. Raitt was one of his early vessels. It was used for general freighting business as it could carry a heavy cargo on a very light draft of water - a good ship for the shallow Cochecho River!  In 1895, Coleman’s next schooner Lilly sank in Boston harbor with 50,000 bricks aboard.  The vessel was struck by a fishing boat and sank in under three minutes. The 69-year-old captain Coleman and his four man crew escaped in a small boat and rowed 8½ miles to Boston.  This was Coleman’s first accident in over 40 years of service. He retired from the sea at age 72 and devoted his landlocked life to study of poetry and astronomy."

Besides the Heritage Walking Tour booklet on the Dover Public Library website, there is also the history of Dover. Dover is the oldest continuous settlement in New Hampshire, having been settled by Europeans for almost four centuries. For a few years Dover was an independent colony named Northam, which in 1692 became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The location chosen by the first setters comprised a wooded peninsula at the convergence of several rivers and the bay with the waterways providing the main means of transportation. These first settlers were engaged in fishing and both banks of the settlement were lined with numerous slips, landings, and shipyards. Dover Point thrived as a waterfront village for about 150 years, until the Industrial Revolution moved the centre of activity to the Cocheco River. 

But the real question is - who was G. W. Raitt - and why was a schooner named after him either by Thomas Coleman or the shipyard? With Portsmouth being so close to Kittery, Maine then I assumed he was one of the Maine Raitts, but just based on the information on old Kittery Raitt families, there is no-one who stands out. A George William Raitt from Eliot, Maine died in 1945 - but he was not born until 1885 and his father was Charles Andrew. He could be the George W., son of George Raitt and Eliza Hamilton of Kittery who married  in 1820; or the George W., son of John Raitt and Harriet Gale who married in 1847 in Somersworth, NH; or he could be the George W., son of Gilman Raitt and Mary Nason who married in 1843, who died in March 1870 - though he might actually have been named John W. The Dover Public Library has several Raitts in its obituary archive but only dating back to 1900.