Capt. Robert McDonald Lavender (1846-1928) and Louise J. Lavender (1847-1920) | Gifford.
What is now the Waterford Inn, 386 Commercial Street, was once the home of Captain Lavender and his brother, Capt. Stephen Snow Lavender. Their father was Allen Lavender (1804-1860). The Lavenders were merchant captains, not fisherman. The vessel they each commanded at one time or another was the three-masted schooner Edwin I. Morrison, out of Boston. She would make occasional trips to Europe but was more steadily engaged in coastal trading — carrying coal, tobacco, paving stones, ice, and guano, among other cargoes. In fact, loaded with guano on an ill-fated trip to Savannah, Morrison managed to enter the law books in a liability case that made its way to the Supreme Court in 1893 (Bradley Fertilizer Company v. Schooner Edwin I. Morrison.) Louise Lavender, to whom Robert was married, was remarkable enough to have earned the respect of Mary Heaton Vorse, who wrote in Time and the Town: “Many of the older women when I first came here had traveled far seas with their husbands, like Mrs. Lavender who, when her husband fell ill, navigated his packet to Havre, France. The children traveled with her and she taught them about the stars of heaven and the wonders of the deep. She informed their minds with great literature, and when the time came to go ashore to school they were far ahead of other children in their knowledge.”
Robert Lavender more than distinguished himself during the great gale of 27 November 1898, when the fishing schooner F. H. Smith foundered in the pocket of Provincetown Harbor now separated by the West End Breakwater. In horror, those watching the catastrophe noticed that a member of the crew — William Forrest, it turned out — was clinging to the rigging above decks that had been lashed by and submerged under the icy sea. Captain Lavender stepped forward to address the small crowd: “Men, we know that there is one of us out there in the riggin’ — it’s a life, mates, and I am going to try to get at him. I call for volunteers.” The 10 volunteers found an open boat on shore and headed out to the wreck, saving Forrest’s life. The journey almost cost Lavender his own life, as he had fallen in the water and emerged so cold that he had to be carried unconscious to his home when the ordeal ended. The Treasury Secretary awarded Lavender a silver medal in 1899 on behalf of the United States Life-Saving Service. [Lot No. 65.]
¶ Last updated on 24 January 2018.
Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, Key G-27, Page 8.