ROCKPORT, MA – There are a lot of people on the coast of New England that have interesting stories. Some claim they do not have a story, but then they turn around and describe their time growing up, events they were part of, the people they knew and the changes they have seen over the years. Some may think they have led a non-exciting life, but everyone adds to preserving certain aspects of our history.
I met Pete Haskell at Rose’s Marine in Gloucester several years ago and we have been friends ever since. He is one that has had an interesting life around the waters of Rockport, Massachusetts and has helped me document some of the history of the North Shore.
Pete started by telling of Solomon Haskell, who was born in 1810, and who married Nancy Brown of South Bristol in 1839. He added, “He had a boat called EMERALD, and with his five sons, they fished out of Rockport. She was probably built in Essex and then it went to Maine. I am thinking that is when he got married. He may have bought it there and brought it back to Rockport. I don’t know.”
Pete’s great grandfather was Emerson Haskell born in Rockport in 1851. At some point a person at Snug Harbor in New York made a model of EMERALD for him and that model, with a square stern, has been in the family ever since. “The only thing is that one list says it was a pinkie, but a pinkie has a tombstone stern,” said Pete. “I believe this is a Chebacco dog boat. So, this is kind of where it started with me and boats and every boat I have ever owned has been named EMERALD.”
Very little is known about Edward Haskell, but Emerson married Naomi Barton and they had seven children. Pete added, “He fished on his father’s boat the EMERALD and then he worked for U. S. Life Saving Service and I guess he lobstered a little bit. He was also a pilot for the stone sloops that came into Rockport. He’d go down by Loblolly Cove, which is adjacent to Thacher’s Island, and see the schooners coming up the coast. He’d take his dory and row out and they called him “Foghorn” Haskell because he would yell out to the boat and he’d bring them in. It is a pretty rocky area out here if you are not familiar with these waters. He’d bring the schooners into the different harbors and he made his living doing that. Down Loblolly there was a Humane Society building for people who were shipwrecked where they could get shelter and some food. He took the shack over and started cooking lobsters up in seaweed. He did it for a few of his friends, well, it got very popular so he bought the shack. It was just a little shack and they had sails over the thing. It was made out of driftwood as there was something like 45 wrecks off of Loblolly Cove in at that time period. So, they started a little restaurant and they ran this restaurant up into the 1920s, but it survived up until 1940s. People started coming, wealthy people, like Haze Hammond of Hammond Castle and Charlie Chaplin. The most famous person was President Taft, he ate there a couple of times. His summer home was in Beverly.”
Francis Haskell, is Pete’s father, who was born in 1922 and married Gladys Kerr in 1948. He would help his father and grandfather at Loblolly Cove. When he was about 16 years old he would take people out to Thacher’s Island in one of the dories. James Allison had married one of Emerson’s daughters and they lived at Thacher’s Island in the early 1900s where he was second in charge of the two lighthouses. The whole family was out there and since there were a number of children on the island they had to start a school. Due to the difficulty of raising children on the island, the Allisons moved to Chatham on Cape Cod and ran that twin lighthouses there. Pete added, “A funny story that goes with that, my father’s cousin Jim Allison that lived down there, he was in his 80s when I was a kid. He used to say that he came to Cape Cod on the MAYFLOWER and he wasn’t lying, because when they transferred him from Thacher’s Island to Chatham they had a buoy tender at the time, named the MAYFLOWER and that is what brought him to Cape Cod.”
Pete’s grandfather was Frank and he married Annie Goodridge and they worked at Loblolly Cove running the restaurant. “My grandma Annie was actually a young lady that came with her family from Melrose to have dinner down there and fell in love with Frank,” explained Pete. “She became part of the cooking staff and a lot of the donuts and puddings and things like that. In the winter they lived in Melrose some of the times, I think at her parent’s house. He did a few different things. He worked on barges in New York City. He later got a job as a police officer at MTI, Cambridge so he would do that during the school year. My Dad was an only child and my mother was an only child. My Dad went to Burma during World War II and they made him a cook and a medic so he did double duty. Quite a thing to think about from growing up around here in a little peaceful seaside town and all of a sudden you are in the jungles of Burma. While he was in Burma my grandfather, Frank was sick and he lived long enough to see my Dad came home and died soon after that. My Grandparents were elderly, and there’s a lot of rich people and they basically forced them out. They hired a bunch of lawyers and they didn’t have enough money to fight it. So, they ended up losing the property.”
Pete continued, “I was born in 1949 followed by my sister Karen and two younger brothers, Jim and John. We grew up in this house, which was bought by my mother’s parents, Peter Kerr and his wife. My grandparents were all gone when I was born except for my father’s mother, Annie and she was living here with us at the time. My mother had been a school teacher but her career was over when I came along. My Dad worked across the street for the Water Department and he was in charge of filtration. When we grew up we had an Amesbury skiff and then we had a couple of dories. My father worked down Loblolly Cove and they needed dories to row people to Thacher’s. They used to get the dories that were on the back of the old Eastern rig draggers. Fresh water would get down into the sterns and rot them out so my grandparents would buy them and they would carve a piece of oak and fit it into the stern. The last one we had dad put an inboard well in it and we had like a 7½-hp Martin in it. I always had my oars with me because you’d get outside the harbor and the Martin had enough and would stop so I would row back. When I got out of high school I was doing the local jobs around here. I worked in a restaurant dishwashing, I worked at a gas station down the street and that is where I got my work ethic. My Dad became an avid rock hound and he would collect rocks and minerals and I would spend a lot of time around Paris, Maine. My whole cellar is full of them.”
Pete went to college for two years at North Shore Community College in Beverly, but he was not getting the marks he should have been. His draft deferment became a 1A and then he received a letter. Pete said, “My father said, ‘I think this was from the draft board’ and he said, ‘I wouldn’t open that if I was you. Why don’t you go and show them down at the Armory. So, I went down to the Armory and the guy took one look and said, ‘Don’t open that letter, put your right hand up here.’ He swore me in and he said ‘Open that on Monday.’ I opened it on Monday and it was orders to report to Parris Island. I had to tell the draft board I had already signed up for the National Guard.”
At the same time Pete went to work for Cape Ann Rope & Twine where he made rope for the lobster fishermen. He added, “It was started by a guy named Woodbury, who bought all this old machinery. We would get remnants, cut it all up and throw it in this carding machine and it would twist up into a really soft rope. We would fill up a container then take the container and put it on this roving-frame machine which would spin the rope and would turn it into a string. The string would fill up these bobbins and when you got all the bobbins done, they would go into a machine that would twist them into a small rope. We used to call it 6 thread, 9 thread and 12 thread and we sold it by the pound. Tucker Trap I think was the biggest buyer of it. A new owner came in and he wasn’t very good to work for. He decided he was going to put all new machinery in and he wouldn’t listen to anybody so all the guys left. It went along, but the quality of rope wasn’t as good. The place ended up going under.”
Pete worked there for six years and then he went back to Salem State College and graduated with a BS in Social Work. He then became a counselor at Rockport High School teaching a special education class. He left there and went to work for the Department of Youth Services in Danvers. These were real problem youths as were some of the employees and he decided to move on. Pete then went to work for the Cape Ann Tool Company at Pigeon Cove. He said, “I got hired as a night watchman and I was actually cutting steel at nights on these automatic saws. During the course of that I got hurt and lost my right thumb. It took me a couple years of rehab and I was looking for a job. Rose’s Marine was looking for a machinist so I went down, this is 1981, but they had hired a guy. I tried to go lobstering but they wouldn’t let me go because I was missing my thumb. They were scared I would get hurt and I understood it. I went back to Rose’s and they had an opening in the parts counter. I wasn’t really planning on staying there, but they bought this little machine shop and then they started growing by leaps and bounds. Then Rose’s sold the property next door and the new owner put in the drydock facility and railroad tracks so you could pull big boats. Well, he ended up going belly up and Frank Rose bought it back. He took the building and enlarged it, moved the parts counter over there, moved the machine shop downstairs and changed the drydock they just had the big lift, so that is how my career at Rose’s got started.
Pete was at Rose’s for almost 33 years and really enjoyed dealing with the customers. While he was working at Rose’s he tried getting a lobster license and finally the Commonwealth of Massachusetts gave him one in 1987. Donnie Conrad, a lobsterman in Gloucester, had a 16-foot Amesbury Skiff specially built for him. She had one-inch mahogany plank on the bottom, she was rugged. When I got ahold of this skiff I put a 40-hp outboard on and a little Briggs and Stratton for a winch head. I lobstered nights after work and weekends. Later, I had a chance to buy an 18-foot Eastern setup for commercial lobstering and I bought that. I have had it ever since. I always thought I was going to get a bigger boat. I had made arrangements from a guy that was going to retire for a nice little 28-foot boat, but that never came to pass. Most of the time I fished around 40 traps. I gave it up in 2019 when I sold my license to a guy in Gloucester.”
Pete now is retired and enjoying life with his wife Claudia of 20 years. Together they have been collecting and selling antiques at Todd Farm in Rowley on weekends and having a good time doing it. Pete is a little sad that none of his children followed his interest in the sea, but he understands they have their own interests.