For 87 years, this was the home of the Santos family, beginning with and descended from Capt. Manuel Carvalho Santos (1862-1933), a native of São Miguel in the Azores, who earned the distinction in 1904 of being the highliner of the Provincetown and Gloucester fleets, meaning he landed the largest amount of fish that year. He built, owned, or commanded (or all three) the vessels Antone C. Santos, Isabel Parker of Boston, Joseph E. DeCosta of Boston, Margaret C. Santos, Mary C. Santos, Mary P. Goulart, Philip P. Manta, and — when he was 68 years old — Progress.
Captain Santos purchased this property in 1907 from Jerome S. and Elizabeth B. Smith. Two years later, he married Mary Christie Dumas (1876-1947), who was also born in São Miguel and had come to Provincetown in 1908. Among their children were Capt. Manuel Carvalho Santos Jr. (1910-1986), Antone C. Santos, and Mary L. Santos.
151 Commercial Street in 2010. Photo by David W. Dunlap.
Like almost every fisherman in the fleet, Captain Santos had his share of tribulation and tragedy. The gasoline-powered schooner Mary C. Santos, which Santos skippered and owned in partnership with Joseph A. Manta, exploded in Boston Harbor on 24 February 1916, while refueling from the supply boat Smith-Tuttle after unloading at the Fish Pier.
Three crew members were killed: Peter Bent, 32 years old, who left a wife and two children; Joseph Luiz Corriero, 30; and John G. Fisher, 30. Captain Santos was injured in the explosion, as were several other members of the crew, including Joseph Cambra and Frank Souza, who took Santos and Manta to court.
The record in Cambra v. Santos preserves a terrific snapshot of the fishery. In a 1919 decision permitting the case to go forward, Justice Charles Ambrose DeCourcy of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts described the particulars of a “lay” — how the partners in Mary C. Santos apportioned their return and compensated the crew. The judge began by explaining that ownership was divided into 32 shares; 20 were held by Santos, five were held by Manta, and seven individuals each held one of the seven remaining shares.¹
“When the captain [Santos] landed his load of fish and sold it, he first deducted certain charges, called ‘great generals,’ which included bait, trawls, gasoline and all other supplies bought by him for the boat, except the food; then he took out 27 percent for the owners of the schooner, and sent it to the defendant Joseph A. Manta, as their agent; the remaining 73 percent, after payment of the food bills or ‘small generals,’ was divided in equal shares among the crew, including the captain. The plaintiffs [Cambra and Souza] … received as compensation for their services the lay or share of the proceeds of the trip.”
Justice DeCourcy described the rattletrap way in which a gasoline engine had been installed in 1914, a decade after Mary C. Santos was constructed as a pure sailer. The engine room, he noted, was forward of the original cabin — which had two kerosene lamps and a coal stove — but was not separated from it.
“The gasoline storage tank was placed on the deck directly above the engine. It was made of metal, and was enclosed in a wooden casing, with an intervening space of four or five inches. The only openings provided were two in the top of the tank, and corresponding ones in the box over it, through which gasoline was poured into the tank. The gasoline was supplied to the engine through a pipe which extended from the bottom of the tank through an opening in the deck. … [T]he pipe, engine, lamps, and stove were all in the same room.”
The lamps were lit and a fire was burning in the coal stove when Cambra, Souza, and others were ordered by Captain Santos to begin the refueling process, taking on gasoline from Smith-Tuttle.
“The men formed a line between the storage tank on the fishing schooner and the supply faucet on the gasoline boat, and the gasoline was passed along in five-gallon cans, and emptied into the tank. About 100 gallons had been so transferred, when the explosion which injured the plaintiffs occurred in the cabin and engine-room below. … It could be found that the explosion must have been caused by gasoline vapor, mixed with air in such proportions that it would explode, coming in contact with some flame in the cabin and engine room.”
“There was evidence here of negligence in setting the plaintiffs at work without warning in a place which could be found peculiarly dangerous in the circumstances,” Justice DeCourcy wrote. Moreover, he added, they had standing for their claim as employees of Santos and Manta because “the lay or share given to them was in the nature of wages and did not create a partnership.”
Left: Capt. Manuel C. Santos. Right: His command, Mary C. Santos, blew up in Boston Harbor. A gasoline engine had been added to the vessel, which was built as a sailer. Both images are from The Boston Globe, 25 February 1916, clipped by rwsj24601, on Newspapers, Clip No. 29616579.
[I’m embarrassed not to know at this writing whether this is the same schooner as the Mary C. Santos from which 13 dory fishermen were lost in a 1917 gale about 65 miles south-southeast of Highland Light. It’s possible that the vessel that blew up in Boston Harbor could have been salvaged and rebuilt. The contemporary Boston Globe account said “she sank in a few feet of water about a quarter of a mile from the southerly end of the Fish Pier.”]
Captain Santos’s last command was Progress, which won fishermen’s races in 1930, according to his obit in The Advocate, but then burned and sank off Chatham.
Capt. Manuel C. Santos Jr. bought the dragger Little Chuck in 1966. She is shown on the rails at Taves Boatyard, 129R Commercial Street in 1975. From the collection of Joseph Andrews.
His son Manuel Jr. worked both as a trap fisherman and as a draggerman. In 1966, he bought the 65-foot dragger Little Chuck, 22 years old but recently reconditioned, with a 200-horsepower engine, from a Newport lobster company. “Captain Santos, a lifelong fisherman, has skippered several boats of his own, including the Stella and Jennie B,” The Advocate reported at the time. “He also captained the Cap’n Bill for another owner.” The Little Chuck accommodated the captain and a crew of four.
Manuel Jr. married Corrine Agatha Dears (1912-1996). Their son Robert John Santos (1934-2005) served in the Navy and worked at the Provincetown branch of the First National Bank of Cape Cod. In 1964, Manuel and Corrine broke off the waterfront portion of the 151 Commercial Street, which had a separate dwelling on it numbered 151A Commercial Street, and transferred the ownership to Robert. Their son Clifford John Santos (1932-2015), also served in the Navy, aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Hale. He was living here in the early 1960s, when he worked as a mechanic at Duarte Motors, 132 Bradford Street. He retired as an area highway supervisor for the state.
Corrine Santos sold 151 Commercial Street in 1994 for $155,000 to Richard Ide II and Matthew Mirisola. A store called Bagarri was operating here in 1996, dealing in hand-blown glass, photography, art, antiques, and collectibles.
In 2003, Valsin A. Marmillion and Juan C. Pisani paid $1.05 million for the property to Gordon J. Siegel, the intermediate owner. They briefly operated a clothing store called Symbology at this address. In 2012, they reopened the former Little Store, at 227 Commercial Street, as Little Red. In that year, their public relations firm, Marmillion & Company, won the contract to handle tourism marketing for the town’s Visitor Services Board. Marmillion and Pisani sold 151 Commercial for $1.16 million in 2016 to Scott R. Bickford and Kevin T. Quinn of Boston.
Detail of the front porch, in 2008. Photo by David W. Dunlap.
Kevin T. Quinn, an owner of 151 Commercial, posted this Halloween picture to his #151commercial Instagram account. Alex Taratuta is at right.
¶ Last updated on 15 September 2019.
151 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 151-151A Commercial:
Thumbnail image: Photo in 2019 by David W. Dunlap.
For further research online:
• Peter Bent (1883-1916)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 162744933.
• John G. Fisher (1886-1916)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 193105931.
• Clifford John Santos (1932-2015)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 150203919.
• Corrine Agatha (Dears) Santos (1912-1996)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 163054236.
• Manuel Carvalho Santos (1862-1933)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 138104119.
• Manuel Carvalho Santos Jr. (1910-1986)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 163054372.
• Mary Christie Santos (1876-1947)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 125248594.
• Robert John Santos (1934-2005)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 183936621.
• Varmillion & Company
“Provincetown Drafts New Marketing Team From Local Talent,” by Cheryl Kane, The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local, 23 July 2012.
¹ Cambra v. Santos, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Barnstable, 24 May 1919, 233 Mass. 131 (Mass. 1919), from Casetext.