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

Mary Wilson

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

Mary Wilson

Students interviewed Mary Wilson of North Harpswell. Mary Wilson was raised on Highhead Farm, which was in her mother's family since before the Revolutionary War. It was a dairy farm where life was hard work but fun.

Mary and her family lived on the farm with other relatives. She had many chores to do every day before going to school like washing dishes, making beds and helping her father around the farm. She always found it thrilling to walk through the dew on the grass in the morning to get to the cows.

She went to North Harpswell Elementary School, which was a one-room schoolhouse with nine grades and one teacher. The older students helped with the younger ones. The teacher was strict but fair. They learned writing, reading, social studies, English, penmanship and, on Fridays, the teacher read aloud to the class from a book. This was the high point of the week.

For fun Mary would play baseball, look in tide pools at low tide and go bird watching. She liked to go skiing and sledding in the winter. Her favorite thing to do was to read and take walks in the woods.

The farm, Highhead, was lost in 1943 to a fire. During a very unusual thunder and lightning storm, both the house and barn were hit by lightning. Within an hour, the entire farm was burned to the ground. This was during World War II and there was a blackout every night. They were worried that the Germans would find them because of the light the fire gave. They had to go live with her grandfather for several years after that. The land was developed into numerous house lots and a yacht club.

Mary tells of a time when a small propeller plane landed in her father's field during a hailstorm. The pilot waited the storm out and asked her father to sit in the plane with his foot on the brake while he turned the propeller to start the plane. Her father didn't want to because he was afraid the brakes wouldn't work and he would end up flying up into the air without a pilot. The pilot convinced him it was okay and he did it.

Mary loved living on a farm. “Farm life seems dull compared to today, but it was lots of fun. Life was different when I grew up but basically boys and girls are still pretty much the same today.”