Owned By: (Private)
A shipyard stood at this site from 1645 to 1842. A bronze plaque marks the shipyard spot. It can be viewed from the river, but there is no public access.
Thomas Nichols was the first to operate a shipyard here, around 1645. His daughter Rebecca married Samuel House Jr. in 1664. House continued the shipbuilding trade at this site, followed by Jeremiah and Walter Hatch. In 1676, Israel Hobart settled here (thus the name Hobart’s Landing) and worked as a shipbuilder for many years. The Briggs family began building ships at this site around 1750, beginning with James Briggs, and followed by Briggs men bearing the first names Cushing, Henry, William and Charles.
While other ships were very likely built before it, the first *recorded* ship built on the North River — a brigantine named The Swallow — was constructed here in 1678.
Local lore claims that James Briggs built the 220-ton ship “Columbia” here, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. (Some say the ship was actually built in Plymouth, but that its keel was constructed here.) It’s entirely possible that James Briggs constructed the three-masted ship at Hobart’s Landing in 1773. It was 83 feet long, with a 24-foot beam and an 11-foot draft. Owned by John Kendrick or Joseph Barrell, its captain was Robert Gray. Gray was active in the gold and silver trade with China. However when he found that European traders were consistently outbidding him, he began instead to purchase fur in the Pacific Northwest. In 1792, he observed the Columbia River near what is now Portland, Oregon, and named it after his ship. The Columbia River became a major venue for the fur trade. The ship itself was decommissioned for salvage in 1806.
Our local shipbuilding industry sometimes employed slave labor, including an enslaved man named Jemmy, who worked at this yard. Both Boston and Newport were slave trading hubs, and some of the ships built on the North River were use in the slave trade. On a brighter note, a woman named Maria or Mariah, who was enslaved by the Briggs family beginning in 1673, later gained her freedom. In 1717, she and her husband, another formerly enslaved local named Tony Sisco, successfully sued the Briggs Family estate for the freedom of Maria’s daughter, Molly. Click here to learn more about this and other stories on the North River Early Black Heritage Trail.
The Hobart/Briggs Yard was also a packet landing — one of many on the North River. Packet ship lines were established prior to 1670, and thrived until railroads came to the South Shore in the mid-to-late 1800s. Over time, White’s Ferry, Little’s Bridge, Union Bridge, Hobart’s Landing, Foster’s Landing (aka Curtis/Wanton Yards), Job’s Landing, Brick-Kiln Yard, and the North River Bridge in Hanover became regular stops. Farmers would meet the packet ship and barter their home-grown vegetables and dairy products for goods from China and Mediterranean, such as coffee, sugar and spices. In addition to home-grown goods, packet pilots also bought wood, fish, pot iron, and charcoal from locals, and sold them lumber and ship supplies. A typical packet run, up and down the river, could take three or four days.
Habitats and Wildlife
Watch for osprey hunting for fish in the North River. White-tailed deer can be seen grazing on the salt marsh hay. This historical site was once a major shipbuilding center. Almost all of the trees are second growth because the previous generation of trees was cut down to build ships.
Historic Site: Yes
Boat Launch: No
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Water access only. No public parking.
Trail Difficulty: No trails.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: North River watershed