Nathan G. Fish Papers

Manuscripts Collection 252

Overview of the Collection

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Fish, Nathan G. (Nathan Gallup), 1804-1870
Title: Nathan G. Fish Papers
Dates: 1826-1865
Extent: 31 items
Abstract: Correspondence and diaries, relating to Fish’s daily life. Subjects include his command of the schooner HUDSON, brig EMELINE, and others and his shipbuilding career, associated with William Ellery Maxson, Simeon Fish (his son), Benjamin F. Hoxie, and Capt. William Clift, operating as Maxson, Fish & Co. (included shipbuilding during the Civil War). Other vessels represented include schooner ELIZABETH, brigs SAMSON and SARAH, and barks PILGRIM and WILLIAM H. BRODIE. Correspondents include Emeline F. Miner Fish and Mary and Henry Stark.
Identification: Coll. 252

Biography of Nathan G. Fish

Captain Nathan Gallup Fish (1804-1870) was one of Mystic’s most successful shipping investors. From 1825 to 1845 he led a seafaring life, eventually commanding the sloop PRUDENCE, schooners CREOLE and HUDSON, and brigs EMELINE and LION. Upon retiring from the sea, he opened a retail business in Mystic, specializing in outfitting and provisioning vessels. He also operated a large coal yard in connection with his store. Within a few years he was able to invest frequently in vessels.

Fish’s career as a shipbuilder began in 1853 when he associated with William Ellery Maxson, Simeon Fish (his son), Benjamin F. Hoxie, and Captain William Clift. They operated as Maxson, Fish & Co. In February of 1861, just prior to the outbreak of the war, Benjamin F. Hoxie and Captain William Clift sold their interests in the firm to Nathan G. Fish. This transaction unofficially changed the firm name to Maxson & Fish. However, most sources, including the journals of Nathan G. Fish, still continue to refer to the yard as Maxson, Fish & Co., probably because Simeon Fish continued to hold an interest in the company.

During the Civil War, Maxson, Fish & Co. built fourteen steam vessels, including the gunboat GALENA, launched in 1862. Her designer, the well-known naval architect Samuel Hartt Pook (1827- 1901) of Boston, supervised her construction. In addition, the sloops DAPHNE (1862), JEWELL (1863), ECHO (1864), HEBE (1864), ship CREMORNE (1863), bark SILAS FISH (1864), the half brig HAIL COLUMBIA (1865) were all launched during the war.

The well-known ship SEMINOLE was launched in the fall of 1865. Thereafter, Maxson, Fish & Co. launched four schooners and three more square-rigged vessels: the bark CALEB HALEY (1866) and ships HELICON (1868) and DAUNTLESS (1869). The DAUNTLESS was the last ship-rigged vessel built at Mystic.

Since much of the capital supporting the company, especially after 1860, was provided by N.G. Fish, his business misfortunes, brought on by the general depression in shipping after the Civil War, had a direct impact on the shipyard. With too few orders for new vessels and most of the firm’s capital tied up in poor or failed investments in other sailing craft, Maxson, Fish & Co. had run into severe financial difficulty by 1869. In 1870 the death of Nathan G. Fish forced the company into receivership. Their last vessel, the schooner ETIWAN, was launched in the fall of 1870.

N.G. Fish was an exemplary citizen of Mystic. Deeply religious, he was devoted to the Union Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon and trustee for many years. He was a director and later president of the Mystic River Bank. Active in local politics, Fish served several terms in the state legislature as representative and then senator from Groton.

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Restrictions on Access

Available for use in the Manuscripts Division

Restrictions on Use

Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the G. W. Blunt White Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.


Clift, William, 1803-1882 Fish, Emeline F. Miner–Correspondence Fish, Simeon Hoxie, Benjamin F., 1810-1899 Maxson, William Ellery, 1818-1895 Stark, Henry S., d.1857–Correspondence Stark, Mary–Correspondence

Corporate Bodies (Including Vessels):

Elizabeth (Schooner : 1846-1855)
Emeline (Brig)
Hudson (Schooner)
Maxon, Fish & Co.
Pilgrim (Bark)
Samson (Brig)
Sarah (Brig : ca. 1813-1816)
W. H. Brodie (Bark)


United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Naval operations


Voyages and travels

Document Types:



Ship captains–Connecticut–Mystic

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 252, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Index to Personal and Corporate Names

NOTE: The fraction(s) indicate the Box and Folder numbers where that particular reference can be found. For example, the researcher will find information about Owen Avery in Box 1, Folder 2 of the collection.
Avery, Owen 1/2
Clift, William (Capt.) 1/1
Denison, Elder 1/1
Fish, Betsy Ann 1/1
Fish, Emeline 1/1, 1/2
Fish, John 1/2
Fish, Nathan G. 1/1, 1/2, 1/3
Goldsmith, D. 1/1
Greenman, Thomas 1/1
Mills & Denison 1/1
Mills, Thomas H. 1/1
Morgan, Calvin 1/1
Morgan, Caroline Watrous 1/2
Morgan, Charlotte 1/2
Page, Richardson & Co. 1/3
Randall, William (Mrs.) 1/1
Sawyer, ? (Capt.) 1/3
Smith, E.N. 1/2
Stark, Henry (Capt.) 1/1, 1/3
Stoddard, ? (Dr.) 1/1
Tainton, M.S. 1/2
Wheeler, Hannah 1/2

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Index to Vessel Names

NOTE: The fraction(s) indicate the Box and Folder numbers where that particular reference can be found. For example, the researcher will find information about the schooner ELIZABETH in Box 1, Folder 3 of the collection.
ELIZABETH (Schooner) 1/3
HUDSON (Schooner) 1/2
LION (Brig) 1/1, 1/2
PILGRIM (Bark) 1/3
SAMSON (Brig) 1/3
SARAH (Brig) 1/2

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Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Correspondence; 1826-1865
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence: Letters written to Nathan G. Fish by Emeline Miner Fish; 1835-1840
2 Correspondence: Letters written to Emeline F. Miner Fish; 1826-1865
3 Correspondence: Letters written to Mary and Henry Stark; 1851-1853
Pocket Diaries; 1855-1863
1 Pocket Diary, kept by Nathan G. Fish; 1855
2 Pocket Diary, kept by Nathan G. Fish; 1858
3 Pocket Diary, kept by Nathan G. Fish; 1859
4 Pocket Diary, kept by Nathan G. Fish; 1860
5 Pocket Diary, kept by Nathan G. Fish; 1861
6 Pocket Diary, kept by Nathan G. Fish; 1863

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