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About this Print

The Lillian C. Cooper, built in 1902 in Oriole, Maryland, was a schooner.  A schooner is a sailing ship with 2 to 6 masts with the first mast (closest to the bow) being the shortest.  She had one deck, 2 masts, a billet head, and a sharp stern.  Her length was 64.0 feet, her breadth was 18.0 feet and her draft was 4.5 feet.  She had two large cargo holes and an extra wide deck that made for efficient loading and unloading of cargoes.

During her life, she was used year around.  In the spring she transported seed oysters from the famous James River oyster seedbeds to the oyster beds of Virginia oyster planters.  In the summer she was utilized to plant oysters shells from the various oyster-packing houses of the Chesapeake Bay rivers.  She transported coal from the Newport News to the menhaden fish factories and transported agricultural products from Virginia and the northeastern part of North Carolina via Dismal Swamp Canal and the Inland Coastal Waterway to the Tidewater, Washington and Baltimore areas.  During the fall and winter she transported oysters from all over the Chesapeake Bay to the oyster packing houses.

In 1912 a 45 horsepower gas engine was installed; however, the sails continued to be used whenever possible. In 1940 she was purchased by Warwick and Ashburn of Weems, Virginia and used mainly to transport oysters from the Tappahannock, Virginia area to their packing house.  During the spring seed oysters were transported and planted in the Rappahannock River.

During the 1940’s a 255 horsepower engine replaced the gas-powered engine.  In 1973 the engine and equipment were removed and the hull sunk on the shores of the Little Bay area of the Northern Neck to serve as a breakwater.  A custom that was routine for so many boats that served the oyster and agricultural trade of the Chesapeake Bay.  Sadly, she met the fate of so many buy-boats of the Chesapeake Bay due to alternative means of transportation.

Boyd B. Ashburn

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