Living on a Harpswell Farm
Mary and Eleanor Wilson are sisters
who were born and grew up on the family farm at High
Head in North Harpswell. Their farm was surrounded
by water on three sides. It was near the end of High
Head and the farm was two miles from the main road.
The farmhouse at High Head was built
in 1881 for Elizabeth Curtis, her son John W. and
daughter Rebecca, all adults at the time. (It
replaced a smaller house which was built during the
Revolutionary War times, on what is now lot 71, east
of the lilacs.)
Mary and Eleanor's parents were
Elmer Wilson and Katie Curtis Wilson. The farm that
the Wilson's owned was first settled by Katie's
ancestors in 1762. These early settlers came from
Hanover, Mass. and before that from England,
Near the farm was a mill. It was a
gristmill and it was run by waterpower.
Tide Mills: several early Harpswell grist and
saw mills depended on the tide for power. One of the
earliest mills which is believed to have been so
operated was located on the Cundy's Harbor Road,
just north of the Bethel Point Road. Another was
located at the entrance to Basin Cove on Harpswell
Neck. Still another was located on Mall cove; the
causeway on the High Head Road is built on the top
of the dam for this mill.
The Wilsons had a dairy farm. They
had Jersey cows and hens. They had a sheep named
Pollyanna. Most of their cows were named. They also
had a dog and cat.
Mary and. Eleanor Wilson's dad sold
cream and milk, which he took to Brunswick to the
train station. Then it was sent to Turner Center.
The Wilsons grew a lot of
vegetables. They had two apple orchards and they
also went to the grocery store to get food. The two
girls helped their mother and father milk the cows.
Mary drove the tractor and they helped during hay
season. They usually didn't get paid. The two girls
enjoyed their farm most of the time. They gathered
eggs to help at the farm.
There was always work to be done on
a farm: caring for the animals, raising crops,
spraying apple trees, cutting wood for the stoves,
haying and weeding, preparing silage for the cows,
milking the cows (by hand), and transporting the
cream to Brunswick.
Mary and Eleanor's mother worked on
the farm. Every morning was very busy. It began
early. The cows had to be milked twice a day. They
had to work in the garden and mow the hay. It was
hard because they didn't have electricity.
The Wilsons always cut wood in the
winter. The Wilsons had a homemade plow so they
could get to the main road. When the roads were
really bad they used a horse and wagon.
In a way they did have electricity
and in a way they didn't have electricity. They had
a machine in the cellar, but usually it didn't work.
They also used lamps.
Their mother's family would have
used a horse and wagon for equipment. Sometimes they
used wooden racks. Their father used a tractor and a
hay loader. Their mom's side of the family would use
pitchforks. Their dad would have used a fork that
The Wilsons had a bathtub in the
barn. It was the only bathtub on the farm. They used
the bathtub for a water tank so that the cows could
Mary and Eleanor would play together
a lot. They would play with their cousins sometimes.
They lived in North Harpswell. The nearest house was
one mile away and the main road two miles away. They
would play with dolls and small metal cars. They
made villages out of bricks. They had a little red
wagon and a bow and arrow. They didn't have a lot of
toys. They liked to go for walks on the beach. They
also liked to dress up in old clothes from the
attic. Sometimes they would go to Portland and
Massachusetts. They called their friends their
"Aunt" and "Uncle."
They went to school at North
Harpswell School. They did not walk to school. Their
dad would drop them off at school. They had no
homework. They liked school.
Mary and Eleanor had no Girl Scouts.
Once they put on a play with the school and they
also had church activities.
On April 14, 1943 there was a big
thundershower. The chimney of the house was hit and
the barn was hit by lightning. The fire started at.
4:30 in the morning. The father woke up the rest of
the family. Everyone got pails of water and they
worked hard pouring water in the attic. Suddenly
Mary looked out the window and saw that the barn was
on fire. The father ran out to the barn and found
that the cows were all dead. They had died
instantly. The father told the family there was
nothing they could do. So the family got what they
wanted to save, like bank books. They had to pull
the grandmother out to the shed in a rocking chair
because she was blind. When they were all in the
shed they heard a “Meow.” It was their cat. They
saved the cat and dog. At the time the family was
not scared because they were in shock. After that
the family went to live with their grandpa George
After the fire their father worked
as a janitor at Longfellow School. Following the
fire there were some good things that happened..
Mary and Eleanor said that more people were around
and their parents didn't have to work so hard.
Mary and Eleanor went to Brunswick
High. Mary also went to Gorham Teachers College and
they both attended Providence Bible Institute.
Mary and Eleanor have not always
lived in Harpswell. Mary lived in Sanford ME, where
she worked as a librarian at the junior high school.
Eleanor lived in Providence, Rhode Island where she
was a college librarian.
Twenty years after the fire two men
came to buy land and make house lots. That's how all
the houses were built on High Head.
Besides the differences on High
Head, Mary and Eleanor mentioned that there are a
lot more people in town now. The roads are better
and there are a lot fewer farms, but better