ated the laden ship, he noted that she listed to one side; he subsequently described her as “walty” (likely to capsize). Nevertheless, the Great Shippe sailed for England in the bitter cold winter of January of 1647. So cold was it, that a three mile passage had to be sawed through the frozen harbor—quite a feat, even for today. The ship was drawn backwards down that passage to open water; the sailors, superstitious as ever, saw in this an ill omen.
The voyage should have brought them back in the fall, but as the months passed, English vessels carried no news of The Great Shippe. The colonists began to despair.
And then, just before sunset on June 28, 1648, shortly after a thunderstorm had passed, a ship appeared in the clouds above New Haven Harbor. Its markings were that of The Great Shippe, and it was sailing northward into the harbor.
The ship drew closer, so close that Captain Lamberton and his crew could be recognized; the captain was pointing his sword toward the sky. Suddenly, in a gust of wind, her main mast was broken off, and left hanging in the shrouds. Then the mizzen broke; finally, all the masting collapsed, capsizing her. Laying on her side, she shuddered once and quickly sank in a puff of smoke, then the sky rapidly cleared. The Puritan witnesses saw in this apparition a sign from God: their ship was gone, along with their fortunes, their crew, and many of their family members.
Thus did Henry Wadsworth Longfellow end their tragic story:
And the people who saw this marvel,
Each said unto his friend,
That this was the mould of their vessel,
And this her tragic end.
And the pastor of the village,
Gave thanks to God in prayer,
That to quiet their troubled spirits,
He had sent them this Ship of Air.
With this unraveling of their Puritan dream of a prosperous mercantile community, the New Haveners were forced to embrace a farming life. Quickly they looked west with increasing interest, to the developing farms of the “West Side,” which today is known as West Haven. These farms would quickly become the breadbasket of the village of New Haven. And so it was that the farmers of the West Side began to contribute to Puritan New Haven’s rise to self-sufficiency.