A Seafaring Village
Reprinted with permission from the Cohasset Historical Society, Cohasset,
MA (Town of Cohasset, Mass., 2005), pp. 73-74.
For the first two centuries of its existence, Cohasset was a seafaring
village. Several generations of young Cohasseters went to sea at an
early age, sometimes making their first ocean voyage before they had
reached the age of ten years to serve on the numerous family-owned fishing
schooners making up the Cohasset fishing fleets. Families with names
such as Bates, Tower, Snow, Wilson, and Collier made their living from
the sea as shipbuilders, shipowners, fishermen, and merchants.
An example of the early family-operated fishing businesses was the
one established by Captain Abraham Tower. Descended from John Tower,
a first settler of Hingham, Abraham Tower had been a member of the Boston
Tea Party and served in the Revolutionary War. Returning from the war,
he built a stone wharf at Cohasset Harbor adjacent to the older wharf
built by Samuel Bates.
Both ancient wharves still exist, and Tower’s wharf is now the
site of Hugo’s Lighthouse Restaurant [Atlantica]. Captain Tower
maintained a “fleet” of fishing schooners and constructed
several large buildings at the wharf site for the maintenance of his
vessels and for the processing of their fish . . . By the 1800s Tower
schooners were voyaging north each summer to Canadian Atlantic waters
for the catching of mackerel. When the schooners’ holds were full,
they would return to Cohasset and unload their valuable cargo at the
Cove. Here it would be processed and shipped to markets. Founded in
about 1790, the Tower family business lasted until 1928. Of the original
buildings at Tower wharf, not one remains, the wharf having been cleared
to make room for a new restaurant building in the early 1930s.
Captain Abraham Tower, the founder, was born in 1752 and died in 1832.
He is listed as having been a “Master shipbuilder” and fisherman.
His son Abraham Hobart Tower, born in 1801, inherited the family business
at the Cove, and its name became A.H. Tower Company. Abraham Hobart
Tower was known as having engaged in commerce, navigation, and farming.
By the mid-1800s Tower’s fishing fleet was sizable, and the business
had become one of the largest commercial ventures in Cohasset. Continually
expanding, A.H. Tower Co. added a lumber wharf to its holding, now the
site of the Gulf Mill boatyard. Abraham Hobart Tower died in 1881, and
the family company passed to his two sons Abraham Hobart Jr. and Newcomb
Following the years of the Civil War, Cohasset’s fishing industry
faced a slow but steady decline, and in 1894 the last of the family-owned
fishing schooners, the . . . Charlotte, left Cohasset for Canadian waters,
never to return. Charlotte was impounded by Canadian authorities for
customs violations and was sold to a Nova Scotia fisherman the following
With the decline of the local fishing industry, Abraham H. and Newcomb
B. Tower decided to diversify their business at Cohasset Harbor, and
Tower Brothers Company (as it was called at the time) became a general
store and hardware company. The Border Street buildings at Tower’s
wharf were filled with everything from lumber to molasses, house paint
to bamboo fishing poles, and from marine fittings to barrels of sugar.
The store and its appurtenant business flourished well into the twentieth
century, and not until Newcomb Tower’s passing in 1928 did its
doors shut for the last time.
From David Wadsworth, “The Seafaring Village of Cohasset,”
Cohasset Mariner, September 8, 1982. Reprinted by permission
of the author. For more information on shipbuilding and the fishing
industry in Cohasset, see Bigelow, Narrative History, pp. 312-326, 395-434.