Uriah Hayden: Colonial Shipbuilder
The rising middle class of American artisans and entrepreneurs in the late 1700s were the unsung heros of the American Revolution and the fledgling country that emerged. Their efforts fueled a booming American economy, and in so doing they became a major social and economic force. In effect, they symbolized the can-do, common-man spirit that became synonymous with the USA.
Uriah Hayden (1732–1808) and Ann (née Starkey) Hayden (1736–1813) of Essex and Old Saybrook, Connecticut, who were the 5th great grandparents of our 3rd cousins Jan Marie Hayden, Michael Hayden, and Richard "Rusty" Hayden, as well as of Al Vitter III's brother-in-law Bruce Hayden, were movers and shakers of their day. And they played a direct role in securing American independence.
Uriah came from a family of shipbuilders and was the preeminent builder in his day. He is best known for building the Oliver Cromwell, which played a major factor in the American Revolutionary War. The Oliver Cromwell was the largest of two ships commissioned by the State of Connecticut at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It was later appropriated by the Continental Army.
In its three years of service, it sank or captured nine British ships. One notable victory was the capture of two British ships, Admiral Keppel and Cyrus, headed to the West Indies to pass along instructions from the British government. On board was Henry Shirley, Britain's former ambassador to Russia; he was promptly brought back to Boston as prisoner. The ship Admiral Keppel was sold for £22,321, providing needed funding for the war effort. Ambassador Shirley and the other British officials were eventually allowed to travel to Jamaica under a flag of truce.
Uriah literally built the Oliver Cromwell and several other ships in his own backyard. In 1767 he bought a small house at the foot of Main Street in Old Saybrook, Connecticut with a commanding view of the Connecticut River. There he promptly expanded it into a new, larger home for his wife Ann and their growing family. And he built a new shipyard immediately outside on the banks of the river, which is where the Oliver Cromwell and many other ships were built.
Over the years Uriah and Ann became leading civic figures in forging a vibrant Connecticut and country. Besides an active shipbuilding trade, the Hayden House also hosted a tavern on its ground floor called the "U & A," named after Uriah and Ann; Ann ran the establishment. The Hayden House since 1918 has been the home of The Dauntless Club, which has restored the home to its former glory.
The Old Saybrook region continued to thrive, and many artifacts of the Haydens and shipbuilding can be found throughout the region. The Hayden family itself has spread far and wide in the following centuries. While the Haydens of today are no longer involved in shipbuilding, the brothers Michael and Rusty Hayden, their cousin Bruce Hayden, and Bruce's son Charles run a lumber and fine woods company in New Orleans, and their family involvement with the Louisiana lumber industry spans five generations.