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Historical Materials: Maine Locales & Buildings
Castine – Dresser's Ropewalk
John Dresser built a ropewalk in Castine; by 1826 the family had two ropewalks (one in Thomaston run by his brother Israel, and one in Castine run by John). Ropewalks were long wooden structures built so that men could walk the length and weave hemp into the line. They were apt to burn.
J. W. Dresser was John's son and born in 1826. He later operated the Castine rope walk, which remained in the family until 1900 despite having burned twice and having to be rebuilt. "The foreman was a pleasant and capable Italian who was called 'Mr.Surry' (which was not his name but easy to pronounce). He devised an improvement in the process which kept the line from kinking or snarling easily and the 'Castine line' was famous from the Maritime provinces to at least Boston" (Sargent MS letter at Wilson Museum as in Doudiet p. 65).
Among the collection of Stevens papers at the Wilson Museum is a receipt received by Joseph L. Stevens, Sr. from John Dresser in 1838 for rope purchased (A00778).
On the back of the photo, written:"Business was run by John Dresser – but the sacred process of curing the lines was devised by an employee – and Italian– but called "Surry." "The Castine Lines" were well known in fishing interests from Boston to the Provinces.
After the long lease was out of this land, Mr. E. H. Carpenter built a new factory on rhe north end. The new factory was struck by big storm."