Franklin Roosevelt Visits Shag Harbour on His Private Yacht The Half Moon 1906-1920

Captain Herbert Kendrick was born in Shag Harbour, and lived near the brook in Lower Shag Harbour. At the turn of the 20th century, he worked on several American yachts along the Eastern seaboard; among them The Half Moon, the private schooner of the young Franklin Roosevelt. It all began with a letter.

 

April 25, 1906

Herbert E. Kendrick

58 Lonsdale St

Ashmount

 

My friend Mr. T.P. Beal Jr. has written to me that you are looking for a position as Captain and that you have been with Mr. Bigelow on the Pantooset.

 

Our yacht is the Half Moon, a schooner with a sixteen horsepower gasoline engine. We carry three men, the captain, and two sailors, one of whom must understand the gasoline engine. We pay the captain eighty dollars a month and fifteen dollars board.

 

I should very much like to see you before doing anything more, so if possible would like you to come on to New York by the Fall River Line, and of course your expenses will be paid. Will you let me know what day to expect you as soon as possible, and what time, and I will be here to meet you.

 

The Half Moon is at Beverly (MA) and we should want you to begin work on her May 15. We shall be at Campobello—opposite Eastport, Maine, most of the summer and we shall want you until October 15, five months. Hoping to hear from you at once.

 

Very Truly Yours

 

Franklin. D. Roosevelt

 

Evelyn Richardson interviewed Captain Kendrick in the early 1940s and wrote:

 

“…in May (1906), Capt Kendrick began his ten years on the Half Moon. He himself ran the engine and he signed on two men from his own neighbourhood as deckhand and cook. When the first cook left he was replaced by another acquaintance, James Atwood (of nearby Atwoods Brook). At Campobello the three men lived aboard the yacht but the captain often visited the Rooosevelt home. Sometimes in speaking of those days Capt Kendrick remembered to say “Mr and Mrs Roosevelt,” in due respect to their later status-but usually he reverted to the “Franklin and Eleanor” by which he had known his sailing companions.

 

 

One of the Half Moon’s duties was to meet (Roosevelt) at Easport (Maine) and was to make a similar weekly trip to pick up the large hamper of fresh vegetables shipped from Hyde Park. At other times the schooner-yacht cruised leisurely along the Maine coast and into St. Andrews, New Brunswick, with the family aboard. Once a summer at least she made longer trips with Franklin and his friends, usually companions of Harvard days. Two friends that Capt Kendrick best remembered were Gracie Hall Roosevelt, Eleanor’s brother, and the T.P. Beal mentioned in Franklin’s letter…

 

 

Eleanor Roosevelt …”almost always went along (the cruises). There was one night I wished she wasn’t quite so keen a sailor. We were taking the yacht to Easport to meet Franklin that evening. It was thick fog. And blowing! The dirtiest kind of weather. But just as we were about to cast off didn’t Eleanor appear bound to go with us…It was not for the Half Moon’s crew to tell Eleanor Roosevelt she could not come aboard, but nobody made her very welcome. Easport lies on a point, with the St Croix river on one side and a bay on the other. It would be easy enough what with the fog and the currents to miss the point. We’d be all right; I could run up the river and anchor safe for the night. What concerned me was Eleanor. We all knew her baby was due most any minute. And what in the world would we do if it decided to arrive whilst we lay waiting for the fog to clear…I said to myself, “Now stop worrying. If the worst comes to worse the cook will have to officiate, for I know I can’t…”

 

Luckily the Half Moon made Eastport with no trouble. The small boat went ashore for Franklin and when it loomed again through the fog, Eleanor called out gaily, “Isn’t this dee-lect-able weather?!”..”Dee-lect-able!” (Franklin) agreed, climbing aboard and settling down beside his wife. “I could see him drawing the fog in deep and laughing as spray slapped him,” (recalled Capn Kendrick) “He was always happiest on the water.”

 

 

On the longer trips, without the family, Franklin liked to poke into unfrequented harbors along the Nova Scotia coast, and twice Capt Kendrick brought him into Shag Harbour. Once the Half Moon anchored in Barrington Bay, and Franklin went ashore with his shotgun to walk among the lonely Sand Hills, hoping to add to the collection of stuffed birds he had started at eleven when his father gave him his first shotgun.

 

(In 1916, Cap’n Kendrick left the Roosevelt’s employ. Roosevelt had no plans for the Half Moon with the encroaching World War I. Mrs. Richardson provides an amusing postscript to Cap’n Kendrick’s experience with the Roosevelts).

 

“…one squally day a few years later Capt Kendrick looked out the window of his Shag Harbour home to see a yacht coming through the tricky entrance to the shallow anchorage, and making rather uncertain way. “It can never be the Half Moon!,” he

exclaimed to his wife and children, “but it looks like her.” He watched the small boat pull to the shore, and before his shocked seamen eyes made the yacht fast to a tree.

 

Soon there could be no doubt as the identity of craft or crew, for Franklin Roosevelt and several companions (Hall Roosevelt and Mr. Beal among them) appeared at the Kendrick’s door to ask the Captain’s help. Franklin was doing his own navigating while his friends acted as crew, and when dirty weather came up Franklin had thoughts of Shag Harbour and his erstwhile Captain. He and his friends were dripped wet, and since the Half Moon was in no immediate danger, Capt Kendrick opened his sea chest and found the sailor’s dry clothes before he went to anchor their yacht safely.

 

Memories of FDR’s Visit to Shag Harbour: July 1936

 

BLANCHARD ADAMS:

 

We went out in my brother’s boat and were one of the first to get there, so we could get right up alongside the President’s yacht. When word got out, there was some swarm of people around here. They put a screen around the President’s yacht. Secret service men circled in boats so you couldn’t get but so close. Could still go up alongside the other boats, they were bigger; but they put a screen around the President’s boat. But we were one of the first to go out there and we were able to get up close; even got to talk to him. He was in a little launch, one of them hardwood boats, and he had a line overside fishing. We told him you’ll never catch no fish there. Nothing but Pollock and such. He was a nice fellow, I remember that; talking back and forth with us; no big stuff, fishing and whatnot; a nice man to talk to. Had that big cigarette holder in his mouth. Jovial, I’d call him. He was here twice, you know. Stopped on his way down on his vacation and then stopped again on the way back. This place was swarming with people. Folks come down from the States, they’d never seen their President that close before. There were boatloads going out there to see him. Back and forth, everybody wanted to see the President. I remember up to the wharf there was this old lady going down the ladder front ways, and my father (Robbie Adams) grabbed at her to keep her from fallin’. She flew into a rage!

 

GLADYS BANKS:

 

The boats were all anchored in the Sound, off by the lighthouse. We got there in a skiff, I believe; must have—can’t imagine how else we would have got out there. I don’t remember much else. Not sure there is much more to remember. There was this Mrs. Richan from Barrington. She was getting into a boat by going down the ladder front-ways, I remember that. A wonder she didn’t fall, and I thought, I don’t think she’s been down too many ladders…

 

AUSTIN NICKERSON:

 

Excitement! I guess there was the day Franklin Roosevelt showed up. He was on a yacht and there were navy boats and a press boat; they anchored off the point at Emerald Island, just opposite the lighthouse. When word got out about the President’s yacht, why,

man, you could walk between the two islands on all the boats. Papa (the Old Chairmaker Gilbert Nickerson) went out to take pictures for the paper. And, there, wouldn’t you know it, not a one of the yacht turned out. All blurry. What a mess. He kept them all in his album, but they were no good for the paper. He never went on the yacht; people could only get so close; but we all got to see the president. I saw him a couple of times. Sat near the stern; waving at all the boats. Seemed to enjoy the people and all the fuss. That yacht was a beautiful thing to see; I’d say the president had himself a nice boat. Shame we don’t have a decent picture of it.

 

VIOLA NICKERSON:

 

We were raking hay up where Joshua Greenwood lived; way up on a hill in upper Shag Harbour that looks out over the harbour; and we saw all these ships coming in. We were kind of surprised and fearful; scary, really, seeing all that coming in the harbour. I thought we’d had it! But then word got out it was Franklin Roosevelt, and the wharf was full of cars and people from all over; I’ve never seen so many people in Shag Harbour all at once. Boatload after boatload went out to see the yacht. I don’t remember people taking pictures, so maybe it wasn’t allowed; but there weren’t too many with cameras back then, so maybe that was it. We could only get so close, maybe about 50 feet or so; but they were very friendly, they threw fruit down to us, apples and oranges, maybe some candy. I should remember more because I went on just about every trip that went out. Bowman Adams was taking people out to see the yacht, and just as soon as he came in he was turning out with another boatload. I don’t believe I missed many trips on that boat, me and my friend Leona. Seems to me I must have seen Franklin Roosevelt, I went out on nearly every trip I could. I know quite many said they saw him; probably I did, but I was so young, and there was so much to see, I can’t honestly remember what he looked like! They stayed here I want to say 2 maybe 3 days, then steamed away.

 

NATALIE PIERCE:

 

I was 17 at the time and remember going out to the yacht in my stepfather’s boat. One of the sailors on the yacht threw down an orange and I caught it. I printed the date on it and kept the peeling for a long time. I want to say the name on one of the boats was the Potomac. I remember pronouncing it Pot-o-mac, like a Indian name; but later I looked it up in a book and realized it was pronounced Potomac. Of all the things to remember and forget, now, why would I remember a thing like that?

 

EDNA KENDRICK:

 

I was 16 in 1936, and a very eager member of the Temperance division. I was on the committee for the entertainment, and it was my turn to prepare the refreshments for the meeting. I made home-made ice cream. Division was still big back then and I had to make enough for a lot of people. And then the big day came and no one showed up. Everyone was down to see the President’s yacht. So that’s what I remember about Franklin Roosevelt visiting Shag Harbour. Nobody was around to eat my homemade ice cream!

 

JOLLY CROWELL:

 

We were heading out fishing up to Cape Breton, and when we got to the Sound, off Bon Portage, we saw them coming. The presidential yacht, and the Naval escorts, I think there were two; and there was another boat, I believe. We knew from the radio that the President was coming. I can’t tell you much about what went on after he got here; we were heading out to sea and missed all that. I don’t believe they came ashore; and no one could go on the yacht, of course. But it was something. Not very often we get a visit from the President of the United States.

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