Homeport – Centerville
In an era dominated by shipping, many captains called this Barnstable village home.
Thedy Crosby had signed on to a ship due to sail out of Centerville. The ship lay anchored in the harbor waiting for one crewmember. Thedy had changed his mind. He did not want to go aboard so instead, he hid in a barn. His father found him, though, and marched him to the waiting ship. Thedy’s first voyage took him around Cape Horn. He never went to sea again.
Thedy Crosby’s story—as told in Florence Windship Ungerman’s Long Beach: Then and Now—is the opposite of that of many boys in Centerville from about 1820 to soon after the Civil War, when life in the Barnstable village was inextricably tied to the sea. Many of these youngsters, whether eager or reluctant at the outset, went to sea as cooks or cabin boys and eventually worked their way up to captain.
Arthur Scudder Phinney was one of these. In 1836, Phinney earned $37.20 working as a cook for six months aboard the sloop, Glide. He was 14 years old. By the time he was 30, Phinney was captain of the schooner, George W. Whistler, Jr., which carried general cargo to Albany, New York.
In his career, Phinney would travel the seven seas and serve as master of four vessels including the barque, Charles P. Mowe. While in the Mediterranean during the 1850s, it is said he was captured by Turkish soldiers and imprisoned. It may be viewed as ironic, then, that after all the challenges, trials, and storms he weathered in a ‘round-the-world sailing career, Phinney lost his life in 1871 when his small sloop, traveling from New Haven, Connecticut with a cargo of oysters, sunk off the coast of Cotuit, a few miles from his Centerville home on Park Avenue.
Originally called Chequaquet, Centerville, located close to Hyannis on the Cape’s Nantucket Sound side, was established near Chequaquet’s Great Pond (Lake Wequaquet). The most centrally located of the town of Barnstable’s seven villages, it was called Centreville; the spelling was changed to ‘Centerville’ circa 1834, when the village’s first post office was built. The building remains on Main Street today, and over the years it has been home to many businesses.