Boston Seaman's Friend Society

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Survivors of 1898 shipwreck. Seamen's Chapel, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts; a project of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society

The Boston Seaman's Friend Society (est. 1827) or Seafarer's Friend is a charitable religious organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. It aims to improve the welfare of mariners.[1]


19th century[edit]

"Lyman Beecher and a group of congregational ministers organized" the society in c. 1828. "They appealed to the public for funds and interested a number of prominent shipowners in the welfare of the sailors." The Boston Seaman's Friend Society incorporated in 1829.[2]

The society oversaw the Mariner's Church (built 1830) and the Sailor's Home on Purchase Street, Boston, the latter located in the former home of shipping merchant Lott Wheelwright (1836-1845), and replaced by a new building in 1845. "The building presents a front on Purchase street of sixty-two feet in length, and thirty-five feet on Gibbs' Lane, now Belmont Street, with an L extending in the rear of about thirty feet. It is four stories high, with a basement and attic, presenting an elevation from the street of about seventy feet. The basement and first story are of hewn granite. On the top of the building is an observatory, mounted with a flag-staff, which commands the whole view of the harbor. The rooms and apartments of the house are admirably arranged. It contains, among other rooms, seventy-two dormitories for the use of the boarders, and a large and spacious reading-room, which is furnished with a library, the newspapers, and periodicals of the day."[3] In 1841: "the Mariner's Church has now about 150 members, more than half of them males, two-thirds of whom were once living in all the wretchedness and vice of drunken sailors. The Sailor's Home received the last year 873 boarders."[4]

In Boston the society also ran the Seaman's Chapel on Hanover Street (c. 1880s). In 1887, "the chapel and reading-room of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society is at 175 Hanover street. They have a large, well ventilated hall, which will accommodate about 350 persons. The society has a chaplain, Capt. S.S. Nickerson, who has been a 'deep-water' sailor for twenty-four years. ... He is assisted by three missionaries."[5] On Martha's Vineyard the society oversaw the Seaman's Chapel, Vineyard Haven (c. 1900).

Officers and staff of the society have included George W. Bourne (pastor c. 1850s), Jonathan Greenleaf (pastor 1830-1833), Alpheus Hardy,[6] Elijah Kellogg (pastor 1854-c. 1865),[7] Daniel M. Lord (minister 1834-1848).[8] Anniversary events commemorated the society's activities through the years, held for example at Park Street Church (1842),[9] Tremont Temple (1850-1851, 1855, 1862),[10][11][12][13] and Boston Music Hall (1853, 1856).[14][15]

The Boston Seaman's Friend Society was described in 1900: "Its ministry is to the 3,000,000 sailors of the world, and in particular to the 160,000 who annually visit Boston, and the 50,000 who yearly make harbor at Vineyard Haven. Its chapels and reading-rooms are open to sailors of all nations every day in the week. Its chaplains and missionaries supply relief to destitute seamen, comfort the sick in hospitals, and bury the dead. They give social entertainments to men in port, and good reading matter to those going to sea."[16]

21st century[edit]

As of 1999, "the society is now known as 'Seafarer's Friend' and its geographical reach extends to ships arriving in Portland, Maine, and Portsmouth, N.H., as well as Boston."[17] While Seafarer's Friend has historic ties to the United Church of Christ, it is now an independent, non-denominational ministry.[18]


  1. ^ "Boston Seaman's Friend Society, 1828". Boston Notions. Boston: N. Dearborn. 1848. 
  2. ^ Writers' Program (Mass.), Boston Port Authority (1941), Boston Looks Seaward: the Story of the Port 1630-1940, American Guide Series, Boston: B. Humphries, OCLC 1383624 
  3. ^ Gazetteer of Massachusetts. Boston: J. Hayward. 1846. 
  4. ^ Monthly Miscellany of Religion and Letters, 5, Boston, July 1841 
  5. ^ Lend a Hand: a Record of Progress and Journal of Organized Charity, 2, May 1887 
  6. ^ Seamen's Friend, July 1866
  7. ^ Wilmot Brookings Mitchell (1903), Elijah Kellogg: the man and his work: chapters from his life and selections from his writings, Boston: Lee and Shepard 
  8. ^ Quarterly Register, 7, American Education Society, August 1834 
  9. ^ Fourteenth anniversary of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, at Park Street Church, May 25, 1842 
  10. ^ Order of services at the twenty-second anniversary of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, at Tremont Temple, May 29, 1850 
  11. ^ Order of services at the twenty-third anniversary of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, at Tremont Temple, May 28, 1851 
  12. ^ Order of Services of the Twenty-seventh Anniversary of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society: At the Tremont Temple, May 30, 1855 
  13. ^ F.D. Huntington (1862), Our duty, as Christian citizens, to the sailor: An address delivered May 28, 1862, before the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, at their thirty-fourth anniversary, in the Tremont Temple, Boston: T.R. Marvin & Son 
  14. ^ Order of services at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, at the Music Hall, Winter Street, May 25, 1853 
  15. ^ Twenty-eighth anniversary of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society: at the Music Hall, May 28, 1856. Order of services 
  16. ^ Historic Boston: Sight-Seeing Tours around the Hub, Boston: Young Men's Christian Associations, International Jubilee Convention, 1901 
  17. ^ Diego Ribadeneira (March 20, 1999), "When sailors are in port, Seafarer's Friend lives up to its name", Boston Globe 
  18. ^ Current Executive Director at Seafarer's Friend
The Sea Breeze 1903

Further reading[edit]

Published by the society[edit]

  • The Sea Breeze, 13-19, Boston Seaman's Friend Society, 1900–1907 
  • Sea Lanes: news and information for and about seafarers from the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, Boston, Mass.: Boston Seaman's Friend Society, 1997-  Check date values in: |date= (help)

About the society[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]