Nathaniel Service, Seaman, Sailmaker

Nathaniel Service. Born in 1746 or 1747, nothing is known of the parentage or place of birth of Nathaniel Service of Boston. According to the payroll records of the Alliance in the Barry-Hayes Collection at Independence Seaport Museum Library, Nathaniel Service entered on board the frigate Alliance on 15 December 1781. According to the ship’s ledger in the same collection, that same month in which the Alliance sailed from Boston for L’Orient with supercargo Marquis de Lafayette; Service was issued a knife, shirt, jacket and shoes. The frigate departed from France for home on 16 March 1782, arriving at New London on 13 May. The ship remained at New London until she departed on a cruise on 4 August 1782, about the time of Nathaniel’s only other Ledger entry which included a shirt and soap. The Alliance took a number of prizes before reaching L’Orient on 17 October 1782. According to his testimony in the pension records, Nathaniel Service likely manned a gun at the bow of the Alliance during the capture of these ships, “I was captain of Gun number three and was often in the time of chace stationed at the Forecastle.” His immediate superior during engagement Gunner’s Mate Jonathan Merry, elaborates in the pension application; “He was employed in the capacity of a seaman on board especially in time of action or chase and was on such occasions stationed at a great gun as commander of said gun or on the Forecastle where the services of the best seamen were required and I particularly remember that he was one of the best seamen on board said frigate.” Merry further testified that, “Service was a good sailmaker and was put in charge of the sails of said ship and when his duty as a seaman did not prevent, kept the sails in repair and from that circumstance acquired the title or name of sailmaker.” Service himself carefully notes that he was known as sailmaker for the Alliance only by common acknowledgment and not by warrant. However, the Payroll of the Alliance lists his rate as sailmaker with monthly wages of $12 and not as a seaman who were paid $8 monthly. The Alliance departed L’Orient on 8 December 1782, returning by way of the West Indies. While on the homeward bound leg of the voyage, the frigate participated in an intense engagement with the British warships Sybil, Alarm and Tobago on 10 March 1783 during which Nathaniel Service no doubt manned the great No. 3 gun during the forty minute cannonade. Shortly after this last major naval action of the Revolutionary War, the Alliance sailed into Newport on 20 March 1783, shuttling to Providence several days later. According to the payroll records of the Alliance in the Barry-Hayes Collection at Independence Seaport Museum Library, Nathaniel Service was discharged at Providence, RI on 1 April 1783 having served sixteen months and sixteen days. Service’s actual discharge signed by Captain John Barry on 11 April 1783 in Providence Harbor stating his date of discharge as the tenth is included in the pension records. Nathaniel Service received a pension of eight dollars per month for his duty on the Alliance beginning 27 March 1818. As little is known of his personal life after the war as before other than his constant change of residence. The Boston Directory records the various addresses of sailmaker Nathaniel Service as Hanover Street in 1796, Purchase Street in 1798, Kilby Street in 1800, Elm Street in 1803, Horn Lane in 1805 & 1806, North Square in 1807, Cross Street in 1809, Back 69 at Middle Street in 1810 and #8 Cross Street in 1813. The common denominator for all of these addresses is their close proximity to Boston Harbor in Boston’s Third Ward or Fleet Street Ward. The only record of Nathaniel Service in the census data is from the 1810 Census where the family is living on Middle Street. His household of eight persons at that time includes: himself, one boy born between 1795-1800, another young man born between 1785-1795, one girl born between 1800-1810, an older female born between 1766-1785 and yet three other adult females. Presumably one of the adult females is Nathaniel’s wife. There are two marriages recorded for a groom named Nathaniel Service in Boston during this era. One officiated by the Reverend Samuel Stillman on 18 March 1781 between Service and Elizabeth Jones and another performed by the same clergyman between Service and Eunice Norton Leachman on 29 October 1795. Based on the data, it could be speculated that Nathaniel Service married Elizabeth Jones just nine months before entering on board the Alliance and shared an older daughter and younger son by her prior to her death and his remarriage to Eunice Norton Leachman in 1795. By this conjecture, another middle son and youngest daughter were shared with his second wife prior to her death by the time of the 1818 pension application. No documentation has been discovered to date to confirm this speculation. According to his testimony at age 73 in May 1820 in pension application #S-33639, Nathaniel Service was “dependent for support on the little work I am able to do and on the charitable aid of my friends and relations.” His testimony further noted he owned no real estate and had “no family but pay for my board to one of my children whose charge is moderate.” It is likely he is living in the home of an unnamed married daughter as no records for Service can be found in the 1820 Census. The only other potential family identified in the records to date may be a brother, David Service. David is noted in The Boston Directory of 1780 as a fisherman providing food and drink in the same Third Ward neighborhood that Nathaniel lived. David Service is also noted as operating a boarding house in the 1803, 1805 and 1806 directories at the foot of the Fleet Ward district on Ship Street along the Boston Harbor waterfront between Hancock’s Wharf and North Battery; probably in a position to offer modest assistance to an ailing and aging brother. The date and circumstances of the death of Nathaniel Service are not presently known.

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One Response to Nathaniel Service, Seaman, Sailmaker

  1. Jessica says:

    Nathaniel Service was the son of Samuel Service, a Scotchman, who was a coppersmith on Union Street in Boston, immigration information and city of birth not known to me at this time, and his third wife Joanna Mountfort, the daughter of Jonathan & Hannah (Nichols) Mountfort. This from Monks and Mountfort family records, which should be conformable in the Memorial of the Mountfort Family housed at the Boston Athenaeum.

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