Uncovering the history of the first vessel to dock at the Port of Gulfport

120 years after the Trojan became the first vessel to dock at the Port of Gulfport, the story behind the ship’s captain is just now coming to light.

In 2019, Coast maritime historian and ship model maker Russell Barnes uncovered an Italian connection to the first ship to ever dock at the Port of Gulfport, the Trojan, and its captain Filippo Avegno.

With the help of the Society of Shipmasters and Marine Engineers in Camogli, Italy, the story of Avegno and his vessel’s role in the port’s history proved to be incomplete and perhaps distorted. Gulfport Museum of History member Jim Miller said, “We had him more or less accepting a bribe to come in and what happened when he got in, Captain Jones had to pay for his silverware because all of the people that went aboard his vessel stole the silverware to use as souvenirs. So, Captain Jones made that up.”

Turns out, Avegno is regarded as a local folk hero in Italy and that sailing into the new and unknown harbor back in 1902 was no easy task, even for an experienced seaman.  Robert Volpi with Society of Shipmasters and Marine Engineers said, “Maneuvering a sail ship with no engine, no nothing and to be at the will of the winds and currents was not that easy. And coming inside the port to help other captain, other ship– and given the possibility to Gulfport to develop a lot of business was really a courageous act.”

To show their appreciation to the Gulfport Museum of History for making the connection, Volpi presented the museum with a commemorative plaque. “It just tells us that historically what we’ve always known that stories and histories diverge and when we can bring the two together you get the facts from both.”

After successfully docking, Avegno became the port’s first pilot.

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