The Salisbury-Sharptown boat-building connection

Salisbury Marine Railwa Co_1

What does a story about a Sharptown boat builder have to do with Salisbury?

Read on.

During the process of drafting an article about shipbuilding in Salisbury, I included words once written by Sharptown native John Edward Goslee. Then later in the day I saw the obituary of the man, for he had died two days earlier at the age of 89.

I had tried to contact him this past November but he was ill, so I told his wife how much I had enjoyed reading an article he had written. The topic of that article was his memories of steam engines.

Goslee was a woodworker who built boats, most notably shad barges. He grew up in Sharptown and joined the Army in 1943 and became a member of Troop E of the 43rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron serving under Gen. George S. Patton. When he returned home he worked for Chesapeake Wood Pulp.

At a young age Goslee was introduced to Capt. Lloyd of Salisbury.

Otis Lloyd was born to a farming family near Athol in Wicomico County where he took odd jobs on the boats of local watermen. He learned quickly and eventually went to work at the shipyard in Whitehaven.

Lloyd moved from Whitehaven to Salisbury in 1900 and purchased the local shipbuilding business known as the Salisbury Marine Railway Company, described as a marine railway on which could be placed vessels up to 150 tons.

Goslee’s father worked for Capt. Otis Lloyd who had branched out to build wharves and bridges. One day Lloyd said to Goslee’s father, “Why not bring John to work with you and let him learn some of your talents?” So, at the age of 8, John began learning all about pile drivers and anything else he could pick up.

Goslee described Lloyd as kind and talented. From his father and Lloyd, he learned how pile drivers worked, lifting heavy timbers and beams and a driving head that drove deep into the water and mud bottoms.

They operated the “Hercules,” a pile driver which was towed to work sites on a small tugboat named “Bulldog” built by Lloyd. An engine from an old Model T tractor, which had to be cranked to start, was used to run the pile driver.

John remembered both Lloyd and Lloyd’s son, Otis Jr. Capt. Lloyd played a tenor banjo and Otis Jr. played a violin. Goslee took up the harmonica and later the trumpet and bugle, the instrument he used officially while in the Army.

Otis Lloyd Jr. recently described to me his memories of his father and of life in Salisbury.

Both Lloyds had an amazing family history, as Otis Sr. was in his 60s when Otis, Jr. was born. Otis Sr. was born about 1861, making this an extraordinarily long father-son generational span.

Capt. Lloyd’s favorite vessel was the bugeye Norma that he designed and built in 1901. A model of the bugeye built by Otis Jr. has been displayed by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels.

It seems Sharptown was home to a number of skilled shipbuilding craftsmen, as many were hired by Salisbury Marine.

Lloyd went on to focus almost exclusively on building wharves, bridges and structure foundations. Goslee’s father would work as a sawmill operator.

Influenced in his youth by Lloyd and later by skilled shipbuilder family members, Goslee spent a lifetime with his own talents, shad barges being his specialty.

Goslee was described as a boat builder who could do it all. He would be in his boat on the Nanticoke River, spy a suitable white cedar, lasso it down, take it home and build his shad barge from scratch.

And he was remembered for his visits to the Veterans Cemetery near Hurlock every Memorial Day to play taps honoring the veterans.

So as you look at Chesapeake Shipbuilding on the Wicomico River, think of Capt. Lloyd and Salisbury Marine Railway Co.

And next Memorial Day, hopefully someone will play taps for the Sharptown craftsman.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at


As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.
Facebook Comment