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wooden crates. Barrels especially those made by Bath coopers like Blackbeard’s Edward Salter were the colonial
version of today’s cardboard boxes. They were sturdy, easy to roll in and out of ship’s holds, extra parts for new
barrels could be stored flat to save space (staves and hoops) both on board ships and in merchant cellars. Once
cargo was cleared for unloading by port officials, barrels could be rolled on and off boat decks, then hoisted by
rope and pulley onto horse and mule drawn wagons and carts.
Each slave or free servant working for a plantation or merchant making port cargo deliveries would eventually
know all the British Customs Service Port officials: most often seen around the wharves and the Port Bath
Customs House were the customs collectors and naval officers. But there were other employees as well such as
deputy collectors, riding surveyors watching the river and sound for sails on the horizon, tidewaiters boarding
vessels upon arrival, stevedores and slaves for loading and unloading cargo, and a comptroller to verify
paperwork. The officials were appointed by the Lords Proprietors and reported to the London Customs House
which was a division of the British Treasury. Some customs service officials also were appointed by the Carolina
Governor. At each colonial port outbound cargo was weighed and inspected by naval officers and customs
collectors. Sometimes goods were transferred to larger merchant sailing vessels like two masted sloops and
schooners, or even larger ocean going brigs and merchant ships. Carolina commodities were used to provision
visiting merchant ships and warships passing through the mid-Atlantic and of course they were sold in other
American colonies, the West Indies and by early English, Scottish, Irish and French merchants with oceangoing
vessels. Local Port Bath merchants and wealthy planters exported cypress and other wood shingles, staves for
barrels, lumber, tar and pitch, farm produce and even whale oil, honey and tallow to make candles They also
imported rum, sugar and spirits in wooden barrels and kegs. In some cases cargo of olive oil and other liquids
were loaded by merchant shippers into Mediterranean type ceramic clay pots and jugs the openings were sealed
with either muslin and wax or cork plugs.
Young Philander may have even aspired to become a skilled river sailor or a mariner on larger ocean going vessels.
Both slaves and free men of color with river, sound and sea navigation and piloting skills were known as
plantation watermen and highly valued.
Barbadian and St. Croix
two masted periaugers
used at West Indian
sugar plantations.
Image credits: School of
London Tropical Medicine
and Public Hygiene
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