Harpswell Historical Society

Incorporated 1979

929 Harpswell Neck Road
Harpswell, Maine  04079

The Harpswell Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, identification, collection, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of materials relating to the history of Harpswell and its people.

Table of Contents

Historic Park 
and Museum

Links to 
related sites


Life in Harpswell Maine in the Early to Mid 1900's
Becky Longley

By the Third, Fourth and Fifth Graders at
Harpswell Islands &
West Harpswell Schools

A 1997-98 Harpswell History Project

Gladys Abby Allen
Allen's Seafood
Henry Barnes
Alice Catlin
Donald Coffin
Daniel Darling
The Dead Ship of Harpswell
Clem Dunning
Judith Howard
Harpswell Hotels
Bernard Johnson
Roy Knight & Cliff Moody
Arnold LeMay
Arnold LeMay
Becky Longley
Currier McEwen
Rob Miller
Barbara Munsey
Don Rogers
Alice Swallow
Dick Westcott
Malcolm Whidden
Ken & Marge Wille
Mary Wilson
Mary & Eleanor Wilson
The Witch Of Harpswell
Gerry York

Becky Longley

I did a little reading before I came in to talk to you. One of the things I found out was that the word Maine came from a place in France. The Queen of England had just purchased some land in Main, France, so the people settling in Maine (here) decided they wanted some favor with the Queen, so they called their land Maine. Brunswick was named after a place in Germany, but Topsham and Harpswell are named after places in England. Great Island has been known as Great Island for a very long time. It keeps showing up as that throughout the records. The meaning of it is “long carry” or “great measure.” Sebascodeagan was the Indian name meaning long carry. It's also down in the records as a great place to go duck hunting. I saw one instance where the name was written out as “digging” rather than deagan, which goes along with the clam flats and the clam shells, and I know that we have a place here called Indian Rest at the Gurnet area. Gurnet means “fast moving waters”. The Indians would stop at Indian Rest to recuperate before they continued on their journey. My father says that he remembers hearing when he was growing up that Sandy Cove was one of the Indian's camping places, and they had corn fields down there. There was a large Indian bowl at Sandy Cove Beach. It was used for grinding corn. It was about 2 feet across, and when I was young, part of it had fallen into the water, but part of it is still there. There's another Indian bowl on the Cundy's Harbor Rd. between Bethel Point and Dingley Island, an area that is called Spruce Shores now. The Toppers own that property. It's only about a foot across, but it's about 2 feet deep. It's a lot deeper than the other one. It was probably a lot easier to get to the one on the shore. A lot of Indian artifacts have been found in the Cundy's Harbor area. Father said the Indians used to migrate there. In fact one Indian asked to be buried at the height of Cundy's Point so that he could look out over the waters, because he enjoyed it so much. Now that area is all covered with trees, but then you could see all around. I believe that was Lambeau, the Indian Chief. He was buried down there. I understand there were others buried throughout here.

When I was a young child, I remember going over to Oakhurst Island which, on your maps, would be Hen Island. I remember that the salt water ice was piled up on the shores a good 5 or 6 feet where the tide would bring it in and lift it up. I remember watching my father walk across from Hen to Little Hen. I've not seen that since. I remember that my father and his friends would walk over to West Point, across the New Meadows River. They'd take the skiff with them in case the ice wasn't thick enough. They were able to walk the whole way. There were several houses that were moved from one place to another when the ice was thick enough. Rita Allards house, right across from the community hall, came from Bethel Point, and they moved that on the ice. You know up to the Gurnet Bridge, the old green cottage with the red roof? That was moved from Pinkham Point on the ice. Actually that was moved on a raft. I keep wondering how they did that because it’s so steep.

I remember once while father was working on the boat, he gave us fish lines, but that was a short interest. One time we left the bait on the dock and a fish jumped out and grabbed the bait. Father chased after and tried to get back his reel, but he didn't.

You ask about the prices of food when I was a girl. The only price I remember was bananas. They were 10 cents a pound. The reason I remember that is that we went into Portland and there were 5 of us kids, and we had to sit in the car outside the grocery store. It was on the sign in front of us. Milk: I remember walking up to Francis Stuart's and buying milk from her, and bottles of cream, skimmed off the top of the milk. It was almost like watching little icebergs floating around. Usually when we bought the milk, the top 2 inches would be the cream, so it wasn't often that we had to buy the cream. If you wanted the milk, you just shook it all up. It was so good.

Do you know where Shepherd's Point is, it's the island in back of Watson's Store. My father told me that when he was growing up it was a point of land, and now the water has worn through so that it's become an island. During the revolutionary war there was a British ship sailing up the New Meadows River, and a group of men from Cundy's Harbor decided to stop that. They got into their boat and there was a fight. One person died. It was the helmsman of the British ship, so they took him to the point and buried him and they called the place Shepherd's Point. I've been told that down by Sandy Cove there is a point of land, mostly rock ledge where the men built a fort and that's why it's called Fort Point. People have found buttons and other parts of revolutionary war uniforms there. On the back side of Hen Island, there were stories of a British ship that came to the mouth of the river, turned around and left. It seems that they decided not to go in because the point was so heavily fortified. It seems that a couple of the local boys had gone out and built a fort out there to play in, and apparently that was the fort because nobody knows of any other fort. At West Cundy's Point there was a tavern, owned by the Eastmans. The British did come into the harbor and mingle with the English sympathizers.

You asked about churches. There was one at the Cranberry Horn Cemetery. They moved it because one of the preacher's wives didn't like looking at tombstones. There was one over to Bethel Point that was used as a school too, and it was there at a deep water anchorage so that people could bring their children in from the islands and go to school. Sunday was about the only time women got together, because they were staying at home most of the time doing the chores and all.

My family lived on Oakhurst Island, and my father says he remembers Great Grammy taking him out to one of the ledges. They collected all the seagull eggs that they found. It would be a daily chore to collect all the gull eggs. Now a seagull egg is about four times a chicken's egg, and they were so rich! We didn't use them, but my father got one once to show my mother.