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Edward O'Brien moves to Thomaston - 1850s

Ship Frank F. Curling, Thomaston, 1878
Ship Frank F. Curling, Thomaston, 1878
Thomaston Historical Society

Thomaston’s waterfront has seen over 1,000 vessels launched, ranging in size from pinkies to schooners and barges to full-rigged ships called Down Easters.

The Honorable Edward O’Brien and Captain Samuel Watts were two of the most successful shipyard owners, both of whom were among seven of the nation’s first millionaires during the 19th century. In the 20th century, several draggers and sardine boats were built for New England fisheries, as well as an increasing number of pleasure vessels.

In the 1850s Edward O’Brien moved his shipyard business from Warren to the yard surrounding Knox’s Wharf in Thomaston, becoming one of the most prominent shipbuilders in Thomaston history. His ships were known around the world, distinguished by a broad unpainted “bright line, some six planks just below the deck beading kept unpainted and clear varnished.” O’Brien was one of seven millionaires listed in America at the time of the Civil War.

O’Brien’s son-in-law, William Campbell, complemented the business by establishing a sailmaking business in the Carr O’Brien Block, a building built by O’Brien in 1852 at the corner of Wadsworth Street and County Road. It is now at the intersection of Route One/Main Street and Wadsworth Streets, and currently serves as the Prison Store.

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