Newburyport: Privateering and the old mindset

the_holy_terror__capt_william_nichols__a_true_storyCan you imagine citizens of Newburyport behaving like a bunch of rednecks all with trigger-happy guns?

I couldn’t – I see everyone heading for the restaurants, coffee shops; families walking our lovely avenues – people with their dogs.

I look back at the Newburyport late in the 19th century with all its industrial mills.

Nope, just can’t see hard-working citizens going crazy, especially trying to raise a family in this leafy town of shoe and textile factories.

The Newburyport of the first 100 years of its existence was composed of citizens with an entirely different mindset.       It was like a population of entrepreneurs who would risk everything for a chance to make it big.    Like bigger than life action heroes risking it all over an issue of character or an ideal.

This was romantic Newburyport – resolve and character and determination mixed with courage and ingenuity and a desire for liberty.        They achieved incredible deeds and yet, when they wrote about it; they spoke of it as if it was the natural out working of any citizen given the circumstances!

They were the stuff of legends. 

And nothing expresses this as much as Newburyport with its privateering ships.

Yet again, this Friday there will be another event at the Custom House at 6:00.     Unlike the First Friday Friends Social, this is open to the public.           Last First Friday, an unprecedented over-flowing crowd gathered to hear about the escapades of just one privateer who was busy during the Revolutionary War; this week; we’ll be hearing about Captain Nichols during the War of 1812.        Coined by the British as, ‘The Holy Terror’; we’ll hear the author of this new book talk about the functions of a privateer under the legitimate flag of a sovereign power: the United States of America.

There will be a reception afterward for a chance to purchase the book and talk with the author.

Would you like to meet this guy pictured below in a back alley?

Captain William Nichols

-P. Preservationist

PS. This will probably be one of the last chances to spy on the major exhibit: Revolutionary Newburyport – of which much of the deeds of Newburyport’s privateers are on display.     It will be closing June 21st to make way for  a new exhibit.           If you haven’t join the Custom House, you need to – never has the romance of the past excited and inspired even our local students who visit the museum and the place has truly been a source of empowerment for the city’s heritage tourism.

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