The site of the south (or western) half of Bubala’s by the Bay was occupied at the turn of the 20th century — shaded, perhaps, under the same abundant elm that stands there now — by the two-story Matheson home. It would have been denominated 182 Commercial Street, under the old numbering system. Capt. John A. Matheson (1856-1941) lived there with his wife, Thankful C. “Thankie” (Bangs) Matheson (1859-1940); her mother, Rebecca (Frelick) Bangs (1840-1909); and their children, William B. Matheson, Maud J. Matheson, and Lizzie Matheson. The captain’s schooners over time included Edith McIntyre, F. H. Smith, Gleneig, and Matchless.

Most notably, John A. Matheson was the master of John A. Matheson, owned by Dix & Wilkens, coconut importers out of Baltimore. Matheson appeared before the United States Shipping Commissioner A. L. Kirwan in May 1904 to sign the papers acknowledging his command of the schooner.

“Commissioner Kirwan was in doubt,” The Baltimore Sun reported. “He thought it possible that the master who signed had the name of his coming charge so deeply rooted in his mind that he forgot his own and wrote the name of the vessel instead. But this idea was soon dissipated. Captain Matheson said he never knew the vessel and was in no way related to the man after whom the schooner was named when she was built for the cod fisheries.”

Be that as it may, there were at least two other John A. Mathesons in Provincetown at this time. One was also a captain, who moved in the 1890s to Washington State. The other, resident of 8 Carver Street, was the president of the First National Bank and the Fisherman Cold Storage Company. (I believe the two Captain Mathesons were uncle and nephew.)

It seems a reasonable guess that the development of a huge fish freezing complex next door drove the Mathesons to 426 Commercial Street, which was owned by Thankful in her own name. Her own wonderful name. A property transfer from John A. Matheson to the Fisherman Cold Storage Company was recorded in 1909. The structure was razed some time in the 1920s.

Vernon Osborn and Richard Saldamando opened an art gallery named simply “Gallery” in the summer of 1957 and gave its address as 181 Commercial Street. I don’t know to what building they were referring, but the Matheson house was long gone by then.

Left: John A. Matheson, in a 1917 passport application. He identified himself as a “coconut buyer.” Right: Thankful C. Matheson’s 1917 passport photo. Both images from Ancestry.com: “U.S., Passport Applications, 1795-1925. Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925. 1917-1918. Roll 0411 – Certificates: 67901-68200, 03 Oct 1917-05 Oct 1917,” Page 554.

181 Commercial Street is highlighted in this detail of a Bird’s Eye View of the Town of Provincetown, Barnstable County, Mass., 1882, by A. F. Poole. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library, Call No. G3764.P78A3 1882.P6.

181 Commercial Street is highlighted. It’s labeled “Off[ice] & D[welling.” An 1889 atlas labeled it “Ship Store.” Detail of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map From Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts (1902), from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. Digital ID g3764pm.g038261902.

¶ Last updated on 4 January 2021.

Thumbnail image: Detail from Bird’s Eye View of the Town of Provincetown, Barnstable County, Mass., 1882, by A. F. Poole. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library, Call No. G3764.P78A3 1882.P6.

In memoriam

• Rebecca (Frelick) Bangs (1840-1909)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 51100587.

• Capt. John A. Matheson (1856-1941)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 51204720.

• Thankful C. “Thankie” (Bangs) Matheson (1859-1940)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 51204730.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.