The Hermit of Quidnet

by: John Stanton

photography by: courtesy of Nantucket Historical Association

Like all good hermit stories, some of the details are hazy. This story begins during the whaling days prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. A young man of modest means named Fred Parker somehow managed to save enough money to buy a one-16th share in a whaling ship called the Franklin, skippered by Capt. Thaddeus Coffin.

The investment paid off. Here is where the story gets murky. One account has Parker investing once again in the Franklin, even putting up his family’s mortgage. Another has him investing in a ship called the Cynthia. One story has the Franklin, its captain dead and its first mate and crew suffering from scurvy, wrecked off Brazil. The other has the Cynthia wrecked off the coast of Canada, after a collision with a British brig called Highland Mary.

In any case, it was a bad investment.

Just when it seemed as if things could not get any worse, a young woman named Mollie Coffin, a Vineyarder who Parker had
planning to marry, ran off with the captain of a ship bound for the East Indies.

Now he was not only destitute but alone.

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