New Bedford Welcomes Home Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey in Grand Fashion
NEW BEDFORD (1420 WBSM) — The Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey – a ship that operated as a fishing, exploration, and immigration vessel during the 20th century – has finally returned home to New Bedford after a seven-year refurbishing in Boothbay, Maine.
Docked at New Bedford State Pier, the schooner received a warm welcome Saturday morning from philanthropists, members of the public, Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva of Cape Verde and his delegation, and several elected officials from Massachusetts.
A ceremony commemorating the Ernestina-Morrissey was held at the pier, hosted by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The event highlighted the ship’s history and its symbolism of friendship between the two countries.
Prime Minister Correia e Silva said the Ernestina-Morrissey represented unity, as it was the ship that carried immigrants from Cape Verde to Massachusetts throughout the mid-1940s. He also noted the work in 1977 to bring the vessel back to New Bedford was a collaboration between both nations and their citizens.
“The destination vessel represents the arrival, from a long history that unites us,” Correia e Silva said. “I would like to recognize the institutions of Cape Verde and the United States that made this restoration possible.”
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito (R), who also spoke at the ceremony, offered words of praise to State Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) and State Representative Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford). The two sponsored a bill to secure state support and preserve Ernestina-Morrissey from money raised by philanthropists.
The ship will be cared for by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. It will serve as both a landmark for tourists and a classroom for students at the academy to learn necessary skills when at sea.
“We are making sure that the Cape Verde history is heard through here forever,” Polito said. “So I believe that the decades of determination and discipline around having this project completed is out of love and pride for your country.”
Sen. Montigny was unable to attend the celebration, but Rep. Cabral, who was present, thanked Polito for her comments and thanked his constituents and his colleagues in both English and Portuguese.
“This is a great day. I am proud to represent not only one of the oldest but one of the largest, Cape Verdean communities throughout the country,” Cabral said. “The Ernestina is important to all of us.”
First built in 1894 at James and Tarr Shipyard in Essex Massachusetts, the schooner – then known as the Effie M. Morrissey – was owned by Captain William E. Morrissey and the John F. Wonson company, where it was commissioned as a fishing vessel off the shores of Gloucester Massachusetts.
In 1925, the ship was sold to Captain Bob Bartlett, who embarked on explorations to the Arctic circle for nearly two decades.
After Bartlett died in 1946, the schooner entered the packet trade – transporting mail, packages, and immigrants in a trans-Atlantic crossing to Cape Verde. There, it was renamed Ernestina after the daughter of Captain Henrique Mendes.
In the late 1960s, many groups and philanthropists sought to raise money to bring the schooner back to the United States, after it fell into disrepair in Africa. In 1977, the people of Cape Verde agreed to return the ship, and in 1982, it sailed home with a fully repaired hull and a crew of Cape Verdeans and Americans.