Governor Stone was built for Charles Greiner as a cargo freighter for
his chandlery business and named after the first elected post
Civil War Governor of Mississippi, Mr. Greiner's friend John Marshall Stone. The Governor
Stone is the last known survivor of a class of vessels once numbering in
the thousands. Initially she carried equipment and materials to deep-draft
ships lying off shore, and hauled general freight between ports along the Gulf
Coast. For 60 years in the hands of Nathan Mulford Dorlon and Patrick and
Thomas Burns, this schooner travelled the near shore waters of the Gulf
and operated as an oyster buy boat, visiting the oyster tongers as they worked
and transporting their catch to market. Mr. Dorlon was 69 and a
successful terrapin farmer when he purchased the Governor Stone for
$425. 'Mul', to his friends, had distinguished himself earlier in life by
doing in the last of the Gulf Coast pirates, Spud Thompson. Mul called
him out for disturbing his brother in law and dispatched him with one
blow, as the story goes.
his age, no wonder Mul soon tired of the oyster trade and passed the labor
on to his new partner Patrick Burns who trained up his son Thomas to captain
the vessel during much of her career as a buy boat. Much to the dismay of his wife,
during Prohibition Thomas Burns added a 16 HP motor to the vessel and
augmented his oyster buying income by bringing ashore contraband rum shipments
from Cuba at $500 a trip. While he successfully eluded capture by the
Coast Guard, he did suffer searches and once had to jettison precious cargo.
vessel sank twice under Burns ownership. The September 26, 1906 hurricane
devastated the gulf coast and caught a fleet of schooners that included the Governor
in Heron Bay, Alabama. Twenty one men were lost. Captain Burns
(on the Ethel at the time) was saved by clinging to a skiff. The Governor Stone was washed on shore
worth of damage. The fact that she was repaired for such a huge
indicates the value placed on these vessels at that time. It is
2 skeletons were found on board when she was finally salvaged. If
true, perhaps they guard the vessel to this day, as she has led a
Thomas Burns operated the Governor Stone for 33 more years before she
again sank in a storm. By 1939 the age of the wooden coasting
schooner had past. Power boats, trains and pick-ups had replaced them, so
this time Thomas did not save the vessel.
Mr. Isaac Rhea was seeking a day sailer for his luxury resort, Inn by the
Sea, in Pass Christian, Mississippi. He salvaged the Governor
Stone and had her rebuilt top to bottom. He named her the Queen of the Fleet after another vessel that lay nearby,
and under the direction of Charles Merrick she ferried tourists around the area
from 1940 to 1953 with a noteworthy intermission. The U.S. War commission
purchased the vessel for $1.00 in 1942. She
operated as a Navy training vessel through the War. She was returned
to Mr. Rhea in 1947 with a 110 HP Chrysler Marine engine installed.
names and owners later the Governor was purchased by John Curry in 1965.
He and his wife learned to sail and lived on the boat, now a private
yacht with some modern conveniences. They literally sailed the history of the
vessel interviewing people who remembered her past, researching in libraries
and newspaper archives and discovering her original name and her astounding
career. He also funded a restoration that made her a cargo freighter once
more, all frills gone except the ever convenient head and an 80 HP Perkins
engine. He gave the vessel to the Apalachicola Maritime Institute in
1991 where she served as a sail trainer for at-risk youth and a charter vessel
in conjunction with the museum for 11 years.
Governor Stone in many ways resembles the schooners of the Atlantic
coast which were her precursors. She is a two masted, fore and aft
gaff-rigged, centerboard, shallow draft schooner ideally suited for coastline
and bay travel. Two masts means a smaller vessel for maneuvering in tight
quarters. Fore and aft rigging allows her to sail close to the wind,
wasting less time tacking. It also increases cargo space and reduces the
number of crew members. The Governor Stone sails with a crew of
three. The centerboard configuration, shallow draft, small keel and apple
cheeks distinguish the Governor Stone as a uniquely gulfwise
vessel. These fine little schooners handled the shoals and shifting
sandbars along the coast. Where roads and railroads were nonexistent
and sand and streams blocked the passage of land vehicles, the coastal
schooners provided the communication and transport that made the development of
the coastal South possible.
Governor Stone Today
the restored vessel is devoted to educational programming and historic and
cultural tourism. As it floats today, Governor Stone embodies maritime
heritage as a moving museum and a reminder of the slower-paced past and the
140+ year old labor-intensive traditions of the Gulf Coast. Restored several
times and repaired constantly, as befits a wooden seagoing vessel, the Governor
vessel was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1991 through the
United States Department of the Interior. Now owned and maintained by the all
volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit group Friends of the Governor Stone, Inc., the
vessel sails as an enhancement to cultural, historical, and ecological education and
community events along the Northern Gulf Coast. Maritime construction
explanations are available as well as the history of the vessel, of the
schooner fleet, and of the times and people that the fleet supported.
extensive restoration undertaken in 2013-14, partially funded by the
Florida Department of State, Bureau of Historical Resources, Division
of Historic Preservation, not only preserves her for the future, but
also restores distintive features of coastal schooners. You can
find her at rest at her home port in St. Andrews Marina in Panama City,
Florida, sailing St. Andrew Bay or offering guests a unique historical
experience at ports of call along the Gulf coast.
this was, of course, interupted by Hurricane Michael October 10, 2018.
Follow us as she enters a new chapter in her long history.