New Bedford Port Society

The Seamen’s Bethel

Feb 1st 2009


The Seamen’s Bethel is the “Whalemen’s Chapel” of Melville’s Moby-Dick, and because of its association for more than 175 years with the old New Bedford whalemen, and other sailors that “Go down to the Sea in Ships,” has become known in the ports of every ocean on the globe.


The Chapel was built in 1831 at a cost of $5,000. It was dedicated on May 2, 1832. In March of 1866, the Bethel was partly destroyed by fire, but it was immediately repaired and renovated. The Chapel was reopened July 26, 1867.
The Society has had 11 regular chaplains over the years. The first Chaplain was Enoch Mudge who held office for 12 years. The reference to “Father Mapple” in “Moby-Dick is beleived to be a characterization of Rev. Enoch Mudge.

The Chaplains have been:

  • Rev. Enoch Mudge, 1832-1843
  • Rev. Moses Howe, 1843-1858
  • Rev. James D. Butler, 1859-1863
  • Rev. Samuel Fox, 1863-1869
  • Rev. James D. Butler, 1870-1889
  • Rev. Edward Williams, 1889-1909
  • Rev. Charles S. Thurber, 1910-1955
  • Rev. Gene D. Landry, 1957-1965
  • Rev. Sydney Adams, 1969-1980
  • Rev. C. Leonard Newbert, 1980-1989
  • Rev. Roy A. Richardson, 1989 – 1993

The first president of the New Bedford Port Society was Samuel Rodman Jr., a merchant and leading citizen of his era, and the present president is Frederick Toomey.


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New Bedford Port Society
15 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford, MA 02740

Lat. 41°-38'-08'' N. / Long. 70°-55'-26" W.

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