National Park Service
Return to Maritime home page
Maritime Landmarks
Back to Large Vessel Landmarks Main Page
Back to Landmarks Main Page
Governor Stone
National Historic Landmark Study
by James P. Delgado, 1990
Designated December 4, 1991

Present and Historic Physical Appearance

Under sail in 1990. Photo courtesy Apalachicola Maritime Institute, Inc., Kristin Anderson, photographer.
The two-masted schooner Governor Stone, official number 85508, is a historic vessel homeported in Apalachicola, Florida. The vessel is operated on "historic sailing program charters" that offer one-, two-, or six-day charters and sail training from March to November of each year. Governor Stone sails in "the shallow waters for which she was designed," the shallow bays and inland waters along the Upper Gulf of Mexico.


As built in 1877, Governor Stone is a wooden-hulled vessel with a sharp stem and a round stern. Stone was and remains a single- decked centerboard schooner 39.0 feet long, with a 12.6-foot beam and a 3.3-foot depth of hold. Her length overall is 66 feet. Governor Stone has a 3.9-foot draft. The schooner is registered at 14.6 gross and 12 net tons.[1] The ship has a yellow pine keel and stem and double-sawn Cypress frames, planked with spike- fastened Cypress, and white pine and juniper decks and bulwarks. Governor Stone has been described as a "hog trough," in that she is planked to the keel with no deadwood and is nearly double- ended.

In most respects the schooner closely fits the lines and model of the typical Gulf fishing and freighting schooners of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, with a slightly raked stem forming an apple-cheeked full bow, and a straight stern with a skeg aft and the keel rabbet straight forward, with the rudder post fitted at the end of the skeg so that the rudder is well inboard, with a counter aft.[2]

Governor Stone was built as a two-masted, gaff-rigged topmast schooner. The vessel has retained her rig throughout her 113-year career. The masts are longleaf yellow pine, rising 38.8 feet from the forestep to the truck and 39.8 feet from the main- step to the truck. The mainmast is fitted with the topmast. The height of the mainmast, from waterline to the topmast truck, is 52 feet. The schooner is fitted with a bowsprit.

Governor Stone was first outfitted with an engine in 1923, when she carried a small 16-horsepower gasoline engine that drove a single screw. The schooner was fitted with a small gasoline- powered 50-horsepower Gray engine in 1940. By 1947, the engine was replaced with a 110-hp Chrysler Marine engine, which was removed in the early 1980s. When the schooner was restored in 1989-1990, a new Perkins 4.236 Diesel engine was installed that drives a single screw.

Governor Stone has a single raised cabin built onto her poop deck, and the flush deck is occupied by large hatches that lead into the open hold, which is divided by the centerboard trunk. A longleaf yellow pine samson post forward mounts the schooner's original cast-iron windlass, which is bolted to cheeks on the samson post. Forward of the samson post, the bowsprit is stepped inboard and secured by chain shrouds. The forestay passes through the end of the bowsprit and leads to the single bobstay, which is reeved through a deadeye and chain to the shackle at the gripe. The bowsprit also mounts a traveler for the forestaysail club, which can be run out from deck to tighten the clew. The original cast-iron steering gear, reinforced with a stainless steel piece welded to the weather side of the shaft, is housed in a wheel box aft. The teak wheel was reportedly added in the 1940s.

The schooner was recently restored using original materials. A number of frames and outer hull planks were replaced, while the majority of major structural members, including the floors, were retained. In excellent operating condition, Governor Stone possesses a high degree of integrity and readily evidences the form and style of the shoal centerboard freight and fishing schooners of the Gulf coast.


1. See Annual List of Merchant Vessels of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1878) as well as later editions of the same, such as 1923.

2. The characteristics of Biloxi and other Gulf-built schooners are discussed in Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of American History, 1960), pp. 234-235.

Statement of Significance

The most common American vessel type was the two-masted coasting schooner. Developed in the mid-to-late 18th century, these vessels reached a more or less standard form by the mid-19th century, a design that continued to be built into the first decades of the 20th century. The only variation of note in the two-masted schooner, aside from the underwater form of the hull, or the lines, was the presence of a centerboard. Tens of thousands of these vessels were built and operated on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts, and on the Great Lakes in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The "freight trucks" of their time, the coasting schooners carried coal, bricks, iron ore, grain, oysters, and numerous other bulk products between ports.

There are now only five surviving two-masted coasting schooners in the United States--Lewis R. French (1871); Stephen Taber (1871); Governor Stone (1877); Grace Bailey (1882); and Mercantile (1916); all subjects of separate studies. Of all of these vessels, Governor Stone is the only surviving Gulf-built schooner of thousands constructed and employed in the busy and nationally important Gulf fishing and general freight trades. Governor Stone is the sole known survivor afloat of the indigenous sailing schooners of the American South. After more than a century in service, including time as an auxiliary-powered oyster buyboat, Governor Stone was restored and placed in operation as a museum-operated historic vessel, carrying passengers on charters and sail training cruises along the Gulf coast.

The preceding statement of significance is based on the more detailed statements that follow.


The use of two-masted schooners for "coasting," i.e., the transport of cargo from one Atlantic coast port to another from the early 19th century to around the outbreak of World War II was one "so common that nobody paid much attention to them."[1] Designed to run close to shore, the coaster lacked the fishing schooner's ability to ride out a gale offshore on the fishing grounds. The coaster never approached the scale of the great four-, five-, or six-masted coal schooners which arose late in the 19th century to transport coal from southern to northern ports. Deepwater sailors, who occasionally took a large schooner across the Atlantic, scorned the useful and ubiquitous little coasters, sometimes accusing their skippers of "setting their course by the bark of a dog."[2]

One of the earliest depictions of a schooner is shown in an engraving by the Dutch artist, Van de Velde, who died in 1707, depicting a two-masted vessel with a gaff-rigged sail on each mast. By 1780, Falconer's Universal Dictionary of the Marine defined a schooner as "a small vessel with two masts, whose mainsail and foresail are suspended from gaffs reaching out below by booms, whose foremost ends are hooked to an iron, which clasps the mast so as to turn therein as upon an axis, when the after- ends are swung from one side of the vessel to the other."[3]

The origin of the term "schooner" is itself obscure. The Oxford Universal Dictionary assigns it an origin of about 1716 and Websters calls it of "origin unknown."[4] It has been noted that in Scotland, "to schoon" is to skim along the water.[5] There is a persistent bit of American folklore which attributes the word's origin to Marblehead, Massachusetts, about 1721, but later scholarship has thrown significant doubt on this theory.[6]

"Coasters, in the United States," according to maritime historian Howard I. Chapelle, "have been schooners since 1800, if not earlier. The early coasting trade was carried out in vessels of all types...but the schooner gradually monopolized the trade."[7] It is said that "the straight fore-and-aft-rigged schooner is decidedly a coastwise vessel, and attempts to use such craft for long voyages have invariably been disappointing and disillusion- ing, if not disastrous to the adventurers."[8] However, coasters occasionally ventured as far as the Caribbean, the American schooner Success being reported in Jamaica, bound for Santo Domingo, in 1801.[9] Other surviving accounts from the 19th century indicate a considerable Caribbean trade.[10]

The schooner supplanted the squareriggers in the coasting trade for practical reasons:

The fore-and-aft rig came to be preferred for coasting vessels for several reasons. Fewer sailors were re quired to handle the vessel, and a schooner could be worked into and out of harbors and rivers more easily than any square-rigged craft. Her trips could also, as a rule, be made in quicker time, as she could sail closer into the wind, and it was hardly necessary for her to sail from Maine to New York by way of the Ber mudas, as some square-rigged vessels have done during baffling winds.[11]

Another student of schooners commented that

Such vessels were handy, economical and easily built of readily accessible materials, perfectly suited to their task, and their number was legion. They were the errand boys, the short-haul freight droghers, and the passenger buses for many a year, and their contribution to coastal community life, especially in New England, was substantial.[12]

These unromantic little vessels, described by a man who spent his youth in them as "no more than seagoing tipcarts, hauling their prosaic cargoes from one coastal port to another" were nonetheless important. "Without them the country could hardly have been settled.[13] They were the pickup trucks of coasts in an era before the advent of good, all-weather highways made land transportation practical year-round, and ubiquitous for several generations.


The schooner Governor Stone was built at Pascagoula, Mississippi, for merchant Charles Anthorn Greiner. Built in 1877 and probably launched in November of that year, the schooner was named for John Marshall Stone, the first Governor of Mississippi elected after the Civil War and Reconstruction, and Greiner's close friend. Governor Stone was built for Greiner to haul materials from his ship chandlery and sawmill in Pascagoula out to deepwater sailing ships anchored off the mouth of the shallow Singing River.[14] Until harbor improvements and dredging projects in the late 19th century improved conditions, schooners like Governor Stone formed an important part of the maritime commerce of the South and the Gulf coast, particularly the Upper Gulf Coast, where shallows and sandbars made the employment of shoal centerboard schooners essential for the transfer of freight and goods to and from large, oceangoing sailing vessels that could not come into port. After the period of harbor improvements, the Upper Gulf coasting schooners were adapted to fishing and oystering, and their form and lines inspired the next generation of fishing schooners, many of which were built in Biloxi, and thus are known as "Biloxi schooners."[15]

Greiner sold Governor Stone to Mulford Dorlon of Dauphin Island, Alabama, in 1880. Dorlon used the schooner to carry freight and, as a buyboat, to purchase oysters from tongers. In 1882, he sold a half-interest in the schooner to Patrick Henry Burns, who operated Stone after Dorlon's death in 1895. In 1906, Dorlon's heirs sold their interest to Burns, who operated the schooner with his son Thomas. In July 1922, the elder Burns transferred Governor Stone to his son, who continued to work her as an oyster buyboat until 1939, when the schooner sank at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. During this period, Governor Stone and Thomas Burns both survived a hurricane on September 26, 1906, that caught a fleet of several schooners on Herron Bay, Alabama. Stone capsized and Burns was washed ashore clinging to a skiff, the sole survivor of the 22 men serving aboard the lost schooners. Stranded 300 yards inland in a marsh, Governor Stone was rolled back into the water on pine log rollers with $600 damage. Repaired and put back into service, she continued to work, carrying oysters from South Mobile Bay to market in Mobile. Burns also used the schooner as a "rum runner" during Prohibition, carrying whiskey offloaded at sea from ships that had brought the liquor from Cuba. Making two trips per month, Burns made $500 on each run.[16]

The sunk and derelict Governor Stone was raised and repaired in late 1939 by Isaac T. Rhea at DeLisle, Mississippi. Rhea renamed the schooner Queen of the Fleet in 1940, and used her for the next two years as a daysailer for his guests at Inn By The Sea, a summer resort he owned near Pass Christian, Mississippi. In 1942, the schooner was leased to the War Shipping Board for use as a Merchant Marine Academy sail training vessel based in Biloxi. Rhea reclaimed the vessel in 1947, and his estate sold her in 1953 to Charles B. Merrick of Pass Christian. The schooner then passed through five owners, each of whom changed her name, respectively, The Pirate Queen (1956-1957); Sea Bob (1957-1963); C'est la Vie (1963-1965); and Sovereign (1965-1967). The last owner, John Curry, conducted research that identified the vessel as Governor Stone, and began a program of restoration that lasted through the 1970s and 1980s.[17]

Mr. Curry negotiated a deal to complete Governor Stone's restoration and display her at Pascagoula, where she was built. This effort failed, and after two years, the schooner was deeded to the current owner, the Apalachicola Maritime Institute, Inc. Apalachicola, once a thriving port and center of southern ship- building, was in the midst of a historic preservation boom in 1989. The schooner was restored between September 1989 and June 1990 and brought to Apalachicola to serve as a sail training vessel and sailing goodwill ambassador.


1. Nicholas Dean, interview with Capt. W.J. Lewis Parker, Camden, Maine, May 1990.

2. Polly Burroughs, Zeb: A Celebrated Schooner Life (Riverside, Connecticut: The Chatham Press, 1972) p. 33.

3. E.P. Morris, The Fore-and-Aft Rig in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927) p. 178, and William Falconer, A Universal Dictionary of the Marine (London: T. Cadell, 1780), p. 257.

4. The Oxford Universal Dictionary (Oxford: The Oxford University Press, Third edition revised, 1955) p. 1806, and Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Springfield: G. & C. Merriam, 1981) p. 2031.

5. Eric Partridge, Origins (New York: Greenwich House, 1983) p. 594.

6. Morris, op.cit, p. 174ff.

7. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, D.C.: United States National Museum, Government Printing Office, 1960) p. 258.

8. William A. Fairburn, Merchant Sail (Center Lovell, Maine: Fairburn Marine Educational Foundation, Inc., 1944-1955) vol. IV, p. 2608.

9. Charles S. Morgan, "New England Coasting Schooners," in E.W. Smith, ed. Workaday Schooners (Camden, Maine: International Marine Publishing, 1975) p. 158.

10. Ralph H. Griffen, Jr. ed. Letters of a New England Coaster, 1868-1872 (Published by the author, n.d.) passim.

11. Henry Hall, Report on the Shipbuilding Industry of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1882) p. 93.

12. Morgan, op.cit, p. 156.

13. John F. Leavitt, Wake of the Coasters (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1970), p. 17.

14. Apalachicola Maritime Institute, "History of the Sailing Vessel Governor Stone," (September 1990), passim. Additionally, John C. Curry provided a notebook with copies of his research correspondence, the vessel's various enrollments and licenses, and interviews with former owners and descendants.

15. Ibid. Also see Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of American History, 1960), pp. 234-236.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

Return to Maritime home page

Last Modified: Mon, Feb 5 2002 2:56:48 pm EDT

Privacy & Disclaimer

Parknet logo