Individual Summary for COL. GEORGE CLAGHORN

Builder of USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides")


Name:                     Col. George CLAGHORN1,2,3,4,5,6

Sex:                         Male

Father:                    Shubal CLAGHORN II (16 Sep 1696 - 14 Jan 1754)

Mother:                  Experience HAWES (14 Nov 1706 - 19 Sep 1778)


Individual Facts

Birth                       6 Jul 1748                                               Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard, MA7

Death                     3 Feb 1824 (age 75)                              Seekonk, MA7,8,9,6



1. Deborah ??? BROWNELL (Mystery Person - ?)

Marriage                ? 20 Dec 1769 (age 21)  (See below*)                 Dartmouth, Bristol Co., MA4,7,10

Children                 Henry CLAGHORN (abt 1770 - 17 Sep 1801)

                                Tim CLAGHORN (bef 1 Feb 1771 - 1 Feb 1771)

                                Benjamin CLAGHORN (8 Feb 1772 - 23 Feb 1789)

                                Polly CLAGHORN (1776 - 14 Jun 1842)

                                Deborah CLAGHORN (1776 - )

                                George CLAGHORN Jr. (abt 1779 - )

                                Charles CLAGHORN ( - )

                                Grace CLAGHORN (10 Nov 1782 - 27 Nov 1883)

                                Lydia CLAGHORN (Feb 1791 - 16 Aug 1863)


Notes (Individual)

Birth: [Judy Goldbaum's data gives birth place as New Bedford, MA.]

Death: [Tim Cushman's and Judy Goldbaum's data, as well as the Cushman Family Group Sheets, give death date of 5 Feb 1824; Judy has marriage place as Seskank, RI; several sources have Seekonk, RI; one source had Leekonk; Nat. Soc. of DAR, Vols. 52 & 54, have his death at Rehoboth, MA.  Today there is a town of Seekonk, MA, which lies close to the RI/MA boarder, just southeast of Providence, RI.  The town of Rehoboth, MA, which lies just a few miles further to the east, was originally called Seekonk, encompassed a much larger territory, and in the early days was described as being "in the southwest corner of the (Plymouth) colony, touching the Massachusetts and Rhode Island borders." (Plymouth Colony, p. 77) 

    This area changed its name to Rehoboth in 1643.  Later, Seekonk, MA, was set off from Rehoboth and incorporated as a separate town Feb. 26, 1812 (12 years before his death), according to the 1883 book, History of Bristol County Massachusetts, which is now on-line at:  This book further states, "The territory embraced within the present town of Seekonk originally formed a portion of the ancient town of Rehoboth, where the record history, names of early settlers, etc., will be found." (Chapter XXXVII)

    In 1862 the western part of Seekonk was transferred to Rhode Island by the establishment of a new line between the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  This western part of Seekonk is now mostly East Providence, RI, but also includes Pawtucket, RI.]


General: U.S. Navy "Fact File" on the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") has "Builders: Col George Claghorn, Edmond Harrt's Shipyard, Boston, Mass (1797),"  Constitution further described as "Wooden hull, three-masted frigate.  The oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.  One of six frigates authorized to form the United States Navy for use against the Barbary pirates."

A Memo of unknown origin states the following:

  "George Claghorn of New Bedford, Mass., was Colonel of a Massachusetts regiment during the War of the Revolution. He was the master builder of the New Bedford vessel 'Rebecca' said to have been the first American whaler to double Cape Horn.  She sailed from New Bedford September 28, 1791 and returned Feb. 22, 1793 with a full cargo of whale oil.  Claghorn was appointed a Constructor in the US Navy and ordered to take charge of the building of the CONSTITUTION at Boston assisted by Mr. Hartley.  The deal and plans for the ship(?) had been prepared by Joseph Humphreys, the first US Naval Constructor. The construction was commenced November 1794.  She was ready for launching September 20, 1797, but stuck on the ways.  A second effort to launch her was made two days later; this too was unsuccessful and Constructor Claghorn reported to Hon. James McHenry, Secretary of War Department, that the reason for the ship's not taking the water successfully was owning to the settling of the wharf from which she was to be launched and that this would be remedied and the launching would take place in October. October 21, 1797 the CONSTITUTION was successfully launched.  Of Constructor Claghorn's subsequent career nothing has been found of record; but his name is found number two of the Naval Constructors in Goldsborough's Naval Chronicles."

    Excerpts from the Claghorn Study are as follows:  "George Claghorn was in the Battle of Bunkerhill and shot in the knee. Went lame ever after. ... At a town meeting at the town of Dartmouth, Mass. Jan 12th 1781, George Claghorn was appointed one of a committee to enlist the soldiers for three years for the Continental Army, pay bounties, etc. ... George Claghorn assisted in establishing American Independence in capacity of 1st Lieu., Capt., and Major and was breveted Col. ...  He was considered a rich man in the times worth about $30,000.  He had a ship yard at New Bedford, and employed many hands.  He was ruined financially by a wayward son, and his heart was broken. ... He died of cancer on the lip, eating an artery he bled to death."

    Major Massachusetts Militia in 1781.

    "Architect and builder of the US Frigate Constitution (launched 1797) known as 'Old Ironsides'" (Yellow sheet) (This is partially in error as he was not the architect.)

    At the Waterfront Park in New Bedford, MA, there is a memorial to Col. Claghorn.  The following is from the New Bedford Area Visitor Guide's web page ( ):

Col. George Claghorn was a Revolutionary war patriot, Naval Constructor, and master shipwright. He was a New Bedford resident and had a shipbuilding operation on the New Bedford waterfront in the 1790's and early 1800's.    Col. Claghorn's most notable accomplishment came between 1794 and 1797, during which time he moved his family to Boston to build the U.S.S. Constitution. The U.S.S. Constitution is the the US Navy's oldest commissioned warship and celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1997.   Among other vessels, Col. Claghorn's shipyard also built the whale ship Rebecca, the first whaler to double Cape Horn.   The Claghorn memorial was first dedicated in 1936 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, New Bedford chapter. The plaque was taken down in the late 1960's during New Bedford's urban renewal period and placed in storage. It was rediscovered in 1997, and on July 6th, 1997 the memorial was rededicated with proper ceremony. In addition to the Daughters of the American Revolution and local dignitaries, several of Col. Claghorn's own descendants were on hand for the rededication.

    Vol. II of "A History of Bristol County Massachusetts," F.W. Hutt ed., 1924, quotes an old manuscript that gives the following: 

"The ship 'Rebecca' was the first ship built in New Bedford.  She was launched in the spring of 1785.  George Claghorn, who afterward built the frigate 'Constitution,' the pride of our navy, was the master carpenter.  The 'Rebecca' was owned by Joseph Russell and his sons ... She measured about 175 tons, which was considered so immensely large that she was the wonder and admiration of the surrounding country. ... was the first American whaleship to double Cape Horn.  She ... made a successful voyage, obtaining a cargo of sperm oil on the coast of Chile, returning in about twelve months.  The 'Rebecca' finally made a disastrous end. She sailed from Liverpool for New York in the autumn of 1798 ... and was never heard from." (courtesy of a "lookup" by Ann D'Amore, DE)

    DAR information indicates that he entered the service as lieutenant in 1776 under Capt. Manassah Kempton and commanded a company at Dartmouth Alarm; served as captain, 1779, and as major, 1780, under Col. William Turner, in the sea-coast defense; later promoted to colonel (other information indicating that he was a "breveted Col." would indicate that he was commissioned a colonel but did not receive that rank's pay).  

    The following is a quote from "Colonel George Claghorn, Builder of Constitution," Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches, Jan 1931, No. 56:  

"Claghorn's highest military title did not come from his Revolutionary service. Some years later he was commissioned a colonel in the militia, commanding the Second Regiment, Second Brigade, Fifth Division.  It was considered a great honor to attain such high military rank. In the issue of the New Bedford Medley of May 29, 1793, was printed a set of regimental orders issued by Colonel Claghorn. ...  An inference has been given up that he did not bear his honors modestly.  Eventually he sold his property (in New Bedford in 1804)... Colonel Claghorn and his family removed to a farm in Seekonk, where he lived for nearly twenty years until his death, Feb. 3, 1824, in his 76th year.  He had seen fulfilled the hope expressed in his utterance of 1797 that the Constitution would 'become the pride and ornament of the American race,' or as perhaps might be better said, of the American Navy."

    In the The History of Martha's Vineyard, Volume III Family Genealogies, pp. 80-87, "THE CLAGHORN FAMILY" compiled by Dr. Charles Banks in 1925, the following is given for "108. GEORGE CLAGHORN:"

       ...  b. 6 July l748; res. C., shipwright. He m. DEBORAH BROWNELL 20 Dec. 1769 [in Dartmouth], dau. of Jeremiah and Deborah (Burgess) Brownell of Dartmouth. He rem. to Dartmouth, prob. at the time of his marriage. He served in the Revolution and held the rank of Colonel in the militia. His most famous product was the U.S.S. Constitution which he built for the Government in Boston. He d. 5 Feb. 1824 at Seekonk, R. I.

    This from page 235, under "APPENDIX No. 9 Page 34," of INDIAN HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY AND GENEALOGY PERTAINING TO THE GOOD SACHEM MASSASOIT OF THE WAMPANOAG TRIBE AND HIS DESCENDANTS, With an Appendix by Ebenezer W. Peirce, 1878, as found on the Internet at:

Col. George Claghorn had been a captain in the patriot service in war of American Revolution, viz., in 1778, 1780 and 1781; promoted to major, July 1, 1781; raised to colonel, July 10, 1788. Honorably discharged in 1798. While he was colonel the field and staff officers of his regiment were as follows: Field Officers: George Claghorn, of New Bedford, colonel; Benjamin Weaver, of Freetown, lieutenant colonel; Robert Earl, of Westport, major. Staff Officers: Samuel Willis, of New Bedford, adjutant; William Almey, of Westport, quarter master. Lieutenant Colonel Weaver resigned in 1793, and was succeeded by Robert Earl, and Earl was succeeded by Sylvester Brownell. 

 Notes (Family #1)

* Marriage: [Claghorn Study has marriage date of 16 Dec 1769 at New Bedford; J. Goldbaum's data has marriage place as Bristol Co., MA (New Bedford is in Bristol Co.); Bonnie Hubbard has marriage date of 20 Dec 1769; a CD-ROM of Bristol Co., MA, vital records indicates that both George and Deborah were "of Dartmouth" when they married there on 20 Dec 1769. (This latter CD-ROM information from a e-mail response dated 10 Mar 1999 from Linda Mathew volunteering to do "lookups" on the Bristol Co. Internet site of the Massachusetts US GENWEB Project.)]  For more information on the "problem identity" of Col. Claghorn's wife see the Deborah ??? BROWNELL page.



1.  Yellow sheet - notes on Claghorn lineage copied in the hand of Keith Wheeler from an unknown source.

2.  Navy Fact File: USS Constitution (as found on the internet, US Naval History, Dec. 1996).  US Navy.

3.  unknown author.  Memoranda relating to George Claghorn of New Bedford, Mass.  (A poor, difficult to read copy of typewritten document).  unknown date.

4.  Smith, A. K. (Apparent descendant of Grace Claghorn who was Col. Geo. Claghorn's youngest child.).  Genealogical study of Col. George Claghorn compiled & handwritten by Mrs. Anjianette K. Smith; forwarded by USS Constitution Museum Foundation (10 May 1976) to Ross Mehl, then forwarded to Doris Birch/Wheeler/Carter.

5.  Hubbard, Bonnie Cushman.  Large pedigree chart of William Henry Cushman's ancestors dated May 1988; handwritten family data of Wilfred Lysander Cushman & his descendants (no date), mailed (with permission) to Keith Wheeler by Richard Cushman of Dixon; large loose leaf binder of Richard Cushman containing 16+ chapters of "Proposed Chapters for Cushman Family Genealogy" written by Bonnie Hubbard.  These chapters are based on her research of the various Cushman ancestral lines, and, in addition to her narrative, contain pedigree charts and reprints of relevant material.  The narrative of these chapters were also furnished by Bonnie Hubbard to Keith Wheeler on computer disc.  La Jolla, CA.  Claghorn chapter, pp. 3-5.

6.  author unknown.  Collection of individual Family Group Record sheets for Cushman, Howland, Claghorn & Valentine families copied about 1975 by Carol Cushman of Chrome, CA, from an old family book that belonged to Fredrick Brewster Cushman (1897-1972) of Orland, CA.  Each sheet references standard genealogical books and journals.

7.  Goldbaum, J..  Family Group Sheets provided by Judy Goldbaum, 1621 Windybush Rd., Wilmington, DE 19810.  Jan 1997.

8.  Stratton, Eugene Aubrey.  Book:  Plymouth Colony; Its History & People 1620-1691.  Salt Lake City, UT; Ancestry Publishing, 1986.  p. 77.

9.  Cushman, Timothy "Tim".  GEDCOM database file containing 4,550 individuals sent to Keith Wheeler, plus personal communication by phone.  Sandia Park, NM: Sep 1998.

10.  Hubbard, Bonnie Cushman.  Large pedigree chart of William Henry Cushman's ancestors dated May 1988; handwritten family data of Wilfred Lysander Cushman & his descendants (no date), mailed (with permission) to Keith Wheeler by Richard Cushman of Dixon; large loose leaf binder of Richard Cushman containing 16+ chapters of "Proposed Chapters for Cushman Family Genealogy" written by Bonnie Hubbard.  These chapters are based on her research of the various Cushman ancestral lines, and, in addition to her narrative, contain pedigree charts and reprints of relevant material.  The narrative of these chapters were also furnished by Bonnie Hubbard to Keith Wheeler on computer disc.  La Jolla, CA.

11.  Banks, Dr. Charles.  The History of Martha's Vineyard, Volume III Family Genealogies: pp. 80-87, THE CLAGHORN FAMILY, Transcribed and prepared for the web by C. Baer 1999.


Prepared by:

O. Keith Wheeler

Mad River, CA 95552

(707) 574-6595


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