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Homeport – Centerville

During this era, Centerville was home to more than 100 shipmasters; most were coastal trade captains, while 25 captained deep water vessels, which transported goods internationally. Approximately 50 of these men built homes on Main Street and its vicinity. Some of these homes are still there today; even with alterations made over the years, the grand originals are recognizable.

In an era dominated by shipping, many captains called this Barnstable village home.

Artwork by Josiah Richardson

Russell Marston was another youngster who got an early start in the shipping industry; at 9 years of age, he began his career at sea as a cook and cabin boy, earning just $3 a month. By the time he was 30, Marston owned and commanded the Centerville-built coaster, Outvie.

Like other Centerville shipmasters that returned to the village to begin second careers in farming, fishing, cranberry cultivation, or business, Marston was ready for a new career by the time he was 31. He foresaw the death knell of the coastal trade and in 1847, docked his boat in Boston and, using the seaman’s “for sale” sign, tied a broom to the ship’s masthead. Marston invested the proceeds from the sale in a food shack. That investment eventually led to the establishment of an elegant and popular restaurant in Boston: Marston’s Restaurant on Brattle Street.

Marston abhorred injustice and took a stand as an abolitionist, even at the cost of his business and social opportunities. At one time, Marston’s Restaurant was the only business place of its kind in Boston that was open to black patrons. Famed abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, was a friend whom Marston greatly admired. He named his daughter, Helen Garrison Marston.

Marston continued, however, to call Centerville home. His absence was lamented at the village’s ‘Home Week’ celebration in 1904. Marston, 87 at the time, was unable to attend because of a business engagement. The booklet published to commemorate the festivities noted that the average age of the 14 oldest persons in the village at the time was 84. Marston’s home at 454 Main Street has undergone revisions over the years but is still recognizable from early photographs.

In an era dominated by shipping, many captains called this Barnstable village home.

Photo courtesy of Centerville Historical Museum

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