As early as 1644 Theophilus Eaton, Stephen Goodyear, Thomas Gregston and perhaps other merchants at New Haven entrusted the construction of an ocean-going vessel to John Wakeman, Joshua Atwater, Jasper Crane and Richard Miles. Though ill built and very "walt-side," in due course the ship was completed. Entrusted with a cargo of wheat, peas, hides, beaver and peltry and manuscript writings of John Davenport at New Haven and Thomas Hooker at Hartford, about the middle of January, 1646, the vessel ploughed its way through three miles of ice in New Haven harbor and tackled the stormy Atlantic. On board were Thomas Gregson, Nathaniel Turner, George Lamberton, the wife of Stephen Goodyear, and Francis Austin. After many months, a mirage of the ship was said to have appeared over the harbor at New Haven, but the vessel itself neither reached its destination nor returned to its port of departure. Despite this initial setback, on October 7, 1646, a second vessel was about to be launched at New Haven; in the summer of 1648 a third vessel was under construction; and in the spring of 1661 Charles Glover laid a fifty-foot keel at Southold.

Phantom Ship
Two Quinnipiac Indians along with John Davenport (dressed in a black robe) and other New Haveners, watch the "Phantom Ship" depart on its fateful journey in 1646.
"Embarkation of the phantom ship" Jesse Talbot
From the collection of the New Haven Colony Historical Society

The Phantom Ship
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In Mather's Magnalia Christi,
Of the old colonial time,
May be found in prose the legend
That is here set down in ryhme.
A ship sailed from New Haven,
And the keen and frosty airs,
That filled her sails at parting,
were heavy with good men's prayer.
"O Lord if it be thy pleasure"--
Thus prayed the old divine--
"To bury our friends in the ocean,
Take them, for they are thine!"

But Master Lamberton muttered,
And under his breath said he,
"This ship is so crank and walty,
I fear our grave she will be!"
And the ships that came from England,
When the winter months were gone,
Brought no tidings of this vessel
Nor of Master Lamberton.
This put the people to praying
that the Lord would let them hear
What in his greater wisdom
He had done with friends so dear.
And at last their prayers were answered:
It was in the month of June,
An hour before the sunset
Of a windy afternoon,
When, steadily steering landward,
A ship was seen below,
And they knew it was Lamberton, Master,
Who sailed long ago.

On she came, with a cloud of canvas,
Right against the wind that blew
Until the eye could distinguish 
The faces of the crew.
Then fell her straining topmasts,
Hanging tangled in the shrouds,
And her sails were loosened and lifted,
And blown away like the clouds.
And the masts, with all their rigging,
Fell slowly, one by one,
And the hulk dilated and vanished,
As sea-mist in the sun!
And the people who saw this marvel
Each said unto his friend,
That this was the mould of their vessel,
And thus her tragic end.
And the pastor of the village
Gave thanks to God in prayer,
That, to quiet their troubled spirits,
He had sent this Ship of Air.

1644 Bibliography