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MOSELEY, EBENEZER, shipbuilder; apparently b. 14 Feb. 1813 in Dorchester (Boston), Mass., son of Phineas H. Moseley, a shipbuilder, and Sally Tilton; m. 16 May 1840 Anne Jane Cummings (d. 1887) in Halifax, and they had at least six sons and three daughters; d. 18 June 1903 in Dartmouth, N.S.

In 1818 Ebenezer Moseley’s father moved the family to Halifax and began building ships in Richmond, an area in the north of the city. Eben, as he was known, and two brothers attended the Royal Acadian School [see Walter Bromley*], and then joined their father’s business. Moseley constructed his first vessels in the mid 1830s, and he designed many racing yachts, such as the Sir Peter Halket, which took first prize in a regatta in August 1836. He also competed in several regattas, especially in the whaler races.

When Moseley’s father died in 1839 he took over the business. In 1853 or 1854 he sold the yard to the provincial government, a decision he was to regret, and with his younger brother Henry left Halifax in a small vessel, intending to settle in Australia. Forced into the LaHave River by bad weather, Moseley became impressed with the good timber of the region, and in partnership with Henry he built a yard at Bridgewater. The best-known vessel from this yard was the Stag barque of 1854. Constructed for John Strachan, a Halifax merchant, it later sailed for John Esson*. Only 209 tons, the Stag was frequently described as the fastest sailing vessel in the province, and is credited with having twice run from Halifax to the equator in three weeks.

Henry died in 1864, and that year Moseley settled in Dartmouth and opened a shipyard at the foot of Quarrel (Queen) Street, where he constructed vessels for sportsmen and merchants. He became a member of the Royal Halifax Yacht Club in 1865, and in his vessel Whisper (later owned by John Taylor Wood) captured both the Prince of Wales Cup and the Challenge Cup in 1865 and 1866. Moseley left the club after a dispute when he lost the Prince of Wales Cup in 1867. He continued to construct yachts for more than 20 years, and in 1898 a newspaper account claimed that he had “perhaps done more for yacht racing and yacht building than anyone else in Nova Scotia.” Moseley sailed his own yacht in Halifax Harbour until the year before his death.

Moseley maintained a modest output of small vessels, including steamers, into the 1880s, and about 1883 he went into partnership with his nephew Henry, the son of Henry. In the mid 1890s, however, he suffered a disaster when a fire destroyed his yard and damaged a vessel under construction. He does not seem to have built any more vessels and left Henry to continue building small boats at the yard, although he was listed as a shipbuilder until his death. Perhaps because of the decline of the Nova Scotia wooden shipbuilding industry, by the 1870s Moseley had become active in the Copper Paint Company of Dartmouth and its successor, the Dominion Copper Paint Company.

Moseley was regarded as an innovative builder, and his boats were noted for their speed. He not only prepared designs on paper when most other builders were using half-hull models, but also carefully developed the hull shapes of vessels by experimenting with a water tank and with weights to pull models through it. He sent plans, models, and full-size small craft to a number of exhibitions, including the universal exposition in Paris in 1867, the Halifax Exhibition of 1868, and the Columbian exposition of 1893 in Chicago, receiving prizes and diplomas from the last two. Among the models were those of Greenland fishing schooners, coal barges, a half-clipper composite ship, and a screw-propelled barquentine for the West India trade.

Even in advanced years Moseley was active. When he was in his eighties he sketched a design for a cantilever bridge over the Strait of Canso and plans for a tunnel beneath it. The bridge, which had “a tubular arrangement to lie on [its] bottom and through which the trains were to run,” received the praise of the provincial engineer, Martin Murphy, himself a noted builder of bridges. A drawing of the tunnel is held by the Dartmouth Heritage Museum.

L. J. Payzant

Dalhousie Univ. Arch. (Halifax), N.S. shipping reg. Dartmouth Heritage Museum (Dartmouth, N.S.), Town of Dartmouth, assessor’s roll, 1903. Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), Estate papers (mfm. at PANS). Halifax County Registry of Deeds (Halifax), Deeds, 158: f.437; 165: f.494; 172: ff.521–22; 189: f.102; 246: f.255; 263: f.126; 266: f.118 (mfm. at PANS). Lunenburg County Registry of Deeds (Bridgewater, N.S.), Deeds, 16: f.167; 21: f.72 (mfm. at PANS). Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (Halifax), MP400.107 (“Life of Ebenezer Moseley”). PANS, Churches, Christ Church (Anglican), Dartmouth, RBMB (mfm.); MG 4, 259, reg. of baptisms, 1842 (mfm.); MG 100, 193, no.14; RG 32, 153, 16 May 1840. Acadian Recorder, 23 May 1840, 22 June 1903. Atlantic Weekly (Dartmouth), 8 April 1893. Daily Echo (Halifax), 18, 20 June 1903. Dartmouth Patriot, 20 June 1903. Evening Mail (Halifax), 4 Oct. 1898; 18–19, 22 June 1903. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 14 Oct. 1868. Novascotian, 16 Jan., 4 June 1840. Presbyterian Witness, 27 June 1903. C. W. Bayer, Christ Church, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 1817–1959 (Dartmouth, 1960). P. R. Blakeley, Glimpses of Halifax, 1867–1900 (Halifax, 1949; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973). Directory, Halifax, 1901/2–1902/3. Nancie Erhard, First in its class: the story of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (Halifax, 1986). D. C. Harvey, “Genesis of the R.N.S.Y.S.,” Dalhousie Rev., 29 (1949–50): 21–36. J. P. Martin, The story of Dartmouth (Dartmouth, 1957; repr. 1981). N.S., Provincial Museum and Science Library, Report (Halifax), 1928–29. NS. vital statistics, 1840–43 (Holder).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

L. J. Payzant, “MOSELEY, EBENEZER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 30, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/moseley_ebenezer_13E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/moseley_ebenezer_13E.html
Author of Article:   L. J. Payzant
Title of Article:   MOSELEY, EBENEZER
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   May 30, 2023