Extraordinary first engineer

By Barbara F. Dyer | Oct 23, 2011
Courtesy of: Walsh History Center Taken prior to World War I, this photo shows Camden Harbor with Sherman's Point in the background. Of the three large yachts anchored in the middle harbor, the Lyndonia (the first) is in the middle. There are eight portholes aft, but only six can be seen because the gangway is lowered.

Two luxury yachts, both named Lyndonia,  graced Camden Harbor in the 1920s and 1930s and their chief engineer was Albert Bradley Bennett. They were owned by Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis, the founder of the Ladies Home Journal and The Curtis Publishing Company empire.

Mr. Curtis’ daughter, Mary Louise, married Edward Bok.  The Curtis and Bok families made Camden and Rockport what they are today.  Although the Lyndonia hailed from Philadelphia, Camden felt that this finest private yacht in the world belonged to our little town.  Its magnificent presence in Camden Harbor has never been forgotten.  The first Lyndonia was 175 feet in length and had 21 crew members.  The second Lyndonia was 230 feet in length and carried a crew of about 36.

Chief Engineer, Albert Bradley Bennett, kept the two steam engines and engine room immaculate.

His grandson, Professor Albert Bennett of the University of New Hampshire, spent years compiling a book, "The Lyndonia Collection." In the early 1990s, he was researching the genealogy of the Bennett family and from finding the involvement of his grandfather, Chief Engineer Albert Bennett, on Cyrus Curtis’ yachts both named Lyndonia was the beginning of the wonderful Lyndonia Collection, that was presented to the Camden Public Library. No one could write a better account of Albert Bradley Bennett  than his grandson, Professor Bennett.

With his kind permission, I am quoting him verbatim: "Albert Bradley Bennett (8/23/1870 – 12/8/1948) was chief engineer on two ships owned by Cyrus H. K. Curtis, the first Lyndonia (1907 -1917) and the second Lyndonia (1920 -1939).  He was born in North Bucksport into a seafaring family, the son of William Henry Bennett (10/15/1825 -2/12/1899) and Elizabeth Jane Smith (8/6/1828 – 8/14/1914).  He was the youngest of nine children that included three brothers who became captains, one sister who married a captain, and one sister who married a marine lawyer.

“In 1906, Chief Engineer Bennett’s third son was born, named Herman Curtis after Cyrus Hermann K. Curtis.  Chief Bennett was employed by Mr. Curtis in 1906 and was involved in the installation of the engine room machinery during the construction of the first Lyndonia.

“Two of Chief Bennett’s brothers lived in Camden at various times, and from 1904 to 1906 his brother Edgar and Edgar’s wife, Eva, had a home there on 57 Chestnut Street. In 1907, the year the first Lyndonia was launched, Chief Bennett purchased land and a home at 115 Elm Street in Camden across the street from the property of Capt. Rich. In 1918-19, during the period when the second Lyndonia was being constructed, he built a few cabins and called the business the Cedar Crest Overnight Camps.  Later the business was called Cedar Crest Cabins and eventually the Cedar Crest Motel. A 1949 survey shows the Bennett property had 9.425 acres and was bordered by Elm Street and John Streets.

Family of Chief Engineer Bennett

“Chief Engineer Bennett married Margaret Elizabeth Hart in 1898 and they lived in the port of Winthrop, Massachusetts.  In August 1899, the Bennetts had their first child, Stephen Sinnett ((8/20/1899 – 2/11/1945), left back row. A letter to Mr.Bennett from his mother in the fall of 1899, mentions that she believes he soon may be able to get onto the ship with his older brother William D., who is the captain.  She also mentions the new child, Stephen.  Mr. Bennett’s father, William H., had died in February of that year and sometime after the birth of Stephen, the Bennetts moved into the family home at 85 Holyoke Street in Brewer.  Their remaining children were born in Brewer: Irving Bradley (7/30/1900 – 12/11/1943), right back row; Alice Southern (11/29/1902 -6/16/1988), left front row; Catherine Hart (11/25/1903 -11/14/1998), right front row; Herman Curtis (12/15/1906 – 7/26/1984), center front row; Winfield S. (9/11/1908 -10/17/1908); and Albert Bradley Bennett, Jr., (8/25/1910 -10/23/1960), unborn at the time of the above photo.

“In the summer of 1916, when the Bennett family was still living in Brewer, Margaret died of typhoid fever.  Following her death, Chief Bennett moved his children to their new home at 115 Elm Street, in Camden.

“Stephen Bennett did not marry and lived with his father at 115 Elm Street.  Irving Bennett married but did not have any children.  His ship the Suffolk went down in a storm off Long Island on Dec. 11, 1943. Alice Bennett married George Bernard Atkins and they had four children: George B. Jr, married Sandra Jean Patterson; Robert Albert who married Betty French; Marilyn Ann who married John Rusyn; Eunice Margaret who married Thomas John Lynn. Catherine Bennett married John Barr and they had two daughters; Catherine Lindsay who married Carl Joseph Vesper and Edith Alta who married (John) Cutter. Herman Bennett was a ship’s engineer and later worked for many years at Aldermere Farm for Albert H. Chatfield, brother of William H. Chatfield who was Camden Yacht Club Vice Commodore in 1940. Herman married Edna Dearborn and helped raise her four children. Albert Bennett married Neva McDermott and they had four children: Albert Bradley who married Jane Chapman; Joan who did not marry; Mary Alice who married first Kenneth Loring and second Clarence Yohe; and Roy Emerson who married Jeanne Call.

“The house at 115 Elm Street that Albert B. Bennett  purchased was on a hill about one-half mile from  the downtown area of Camden.  It was facing southeast and most of the cabins were facing north east.  There was a good view from the cabins as well as the house of Mt. Battie and Mt. Megunticook, and Penobscot Bay could be seen from the upstairs windows of the house.

“After Chief Engineer Bennett moved his family from Brewer to Camden, Mr. Curtis would sometimes visit at 115 Elm Street and at Christmas time would bring gifts for the Bennett children. During some of the years that Albert B. Bennett was chief engineer on the second Lyndonia (1920 -1925), he had two of his sons  Irving and Herman working for him in the engine room.

"In 1925 Mr. Curtis had steam engines on the Lyndonia replaced by diesels, and at that time Chief Bennett retired from the Lyndonia to spend time with the management of Cedar Crest Cabins.  He died Dec. 8, 1948, and out of his five brothers and four sisters, only his younger brother Edgar Bennett was still living.  In spite of his age, he was still operating Cedar Crest Cabins in 1948 and was planning on opening for another season.  Chief Engineer Bennett and his wife Margaret and three of their sons are buried in the family lot in Mountain View Cemetery.”

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