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Capt. Matthew S. Sears

 

January 26, 1949

Famed Skipper Dies After Long Illness
Many Fishing Records Broken During a Spectacular Career of About 40 Years
Skippered highliners
Funeral Saturday Morning

The port of Gloucester has lost another of its famous master mariners, Capt. Matthew S. Sears, topnotch fishermen of this port for more than two score years, passed away at the Addison Gilbert hospital at 8.20 o'clock this morning at the age of 62 years.

During his brilliant career fishing out of Gloucester, he broke many records, some of which still hold.  His loss will be widely mourned not only here but wherever fishermen of the North Atlantic gather, for he was greatly beloved and highly esteemed by those in every branch of the industry.

His funeral will be held from his late home, 14 Silva court, Saturday morning at 8.15 o'clock, with a solemn high mass of requiem at 9 o'clock at Our Lady of Good Voyage church.  Burial will be at Oak Hill cemetery.

The story of Capt. Sears' success is one that could easily be an inspiration to all youth.  His was a life of hard work, attention to the duty at hand, respecting authority and tempering his own administration of authority as master of fishing vessels, with abundant tolerance to those who served with him in battling the elements.  He was always a "blue-water" fisherman of the highest order, taking his chances with winter storms and with the help of able men, beating the elements at every turn.

Ill health forced him to retire a couple of years ago, and he was like many another seasoned fisherman, homesick for the sea, spending as much time as he could along the local waterfront, eager to talk with anyone who was interested in fishing and what the boats and men were doing.  Fishing has always been a prime interest in his life.  He entered the hospital here the day before last Christmas, and his condition steadily grew worse until the end came this morning.

The late Capt. Sears was born in Pico, Azores Islands, in 1886, the son of the late Joseph and Mary (Consacalve) Sears.  He came to Gloucester when only 17 years of age, and fished out of here until his retirement about two years ago.  His first command in his 34 years as a master of fishing vessels was the 30-ton sch. Esther Gray.   Then came the following commands in order, the Irene and Helen, Henry L. Marshall, Elmer E. Gray, Ellen T. Marshall, Grand Marshall, Killarney, William L. Putnam, Alvin T. Fuller, Old Glory, Raymonde, Ruth and Margaret, and finally the Columbia, his final command and the vessel in which he smashed all records locally for gross stock and share per year, and also a single stock and share.

He was a versatile skipper in that he was equally at home as a dory trawler skipper of the pre-engine days, and later when the trawlers installed small engines, as a swordfisherman on Georges or the Peak of Brown's, and in the modern system of dragging where his records were made.

He never had any trouble getting a crew for it was known up and down the waterfront that anyone who sailed with Capt. Matthew was bound to do well.

He was always a tireless worker, getting the most out of his men, but they knew his leadership meant money in their pockets as well, and they tried to keep pace with him.  He was not one for lingering ashore any longer than he could help. for to him, a fisherman had to keep going, since they never knew when weather or mechanical trouble would cause a "broker" and lessen their earnings.   His crews knew him as a man who saw to it that his vessel was in tip-top condition and that his men were well taken care of.

He served under several vessel owners during his career, among then being the late Attorney Manuel J. Marshall who owned the Marshall fleet, under the United Fisheries headed by his friend, Capt. Manuel P. Domingoes, and also for the past 15 years under his good friend, Capt. Ben Pine of the Atlantic Supply Co. who is one of the owners of the dragger Columbia.

Capt. Sears had always done well as a skipper but his record breaking habit came to everyone's attention first in the early part of 1941 when he had the wheel of the dragger Raymonde from Capt. Pine's wharf.  In the first five months of that year, Capt. Sears and his crew stocked $47,529 which meant for his crew $2385 each or average of $16.80 per day which up to that time was really phenomenal in the fishing game.  That money was made in redfish and groundfish of other species.   He had taken command of the Raymonde the previous October, and in the eight-month period, had stocked $63,201.48 which allowed his crew $3117 each.

Then he became the first master of the new dragger Columbia in which Paul Bauer of Lynn was the principal owner.  Right away Capt. Sears began clicking off new records.  He made this model fishing dragger in reality "the gem of the ocean."  On the craft's third trip completed February 6, 1943, the Columbia stocked $21,996 to establish a new record stock for any fishing vessel of the North Atlantic while for that 12-day trip the crew received $1031 per man which was a record share anywhere for a single trip.  Groundfishing in war times was the reason for the enormous settlement since all species of groundfish were very high in price at the time.

Less than a month later, Wednesday, March 3, 1943 to be exact, the Columbia was home from a six-day groundfish trip with a gross stock of $22,332.76 and a gross share per man of $1151, beating his own previous records.  The share per man still holds as the best for one trip but the stock was afterward exceeded by Boston beam trawlers.

In that year of 1943, the Columbia was out front among the Gloucester fishing fleet for top stock and share, the stock being $342,419.80 the largest stock ever made by a Gloucester fishing boat, while the share was $16,513 per man.  This share is a record for all American ports and has never been beaten.

The Columbia retained her position as top fishing craft for 1944 out of this port when her gross stock was $235,006.36 and her gross share was $10,221.  Capt. Sears was her skipper, OPA ceilings were on fish and therefore cut the earnings by that time.

The late Capt. Sears was a regular and devout attendant of Our Lady of Good Voyage church.  He belonged to the Hold Name Society and the Sodality of that Church.  He was a member of the local DES club, of the Cape Ann Lodge of Moose.

He was twice married, his first wife being the late Jesuina (Silveira).  After her death, he married Emma (Viator), who survives him together with two daughters, Irene E., wife of Samuel P. Fortado, of the city and Helen M., wife of John Oliver of this city; a brother, Frank Sears of San Francisco, Calif.; a sister, Mary J. wife of Anthony Sears of this city, and three grandchildren.

 

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