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

Gerry York

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

Gerry York

Harpswell Islands School is the school that I went to. At the time, there were eight grades. My brother went to a two-room schoolhouse on Orr's Island. There were about twenty-five children in the Eighth Grade. There wasn't any hot lunch program. We brought sandwiches and ate in the classroom. You cleared off your desk and had lunch.

As far as home chores go, my primary one was to shovel show out of the driveway. Then scrape the ice off. My Mom was pretty particular about this.

Our house had an outhouse until I was born. My parents put in an indoor bathroom when I was born. My brother, who was twelve years older, had to use an outhouse. As far as cost of living and prices go: I can tell you about candy. The general store had a big glass case. There were about thirty different kinds of candy. They had penny candy. Back then they had returnable soda bottles and we used to collect them for candy money. Five cents was a lot to pay for a candy bar back then. We'd load right up.

In the 60's, cars were powerful but not very good on gas. Gas was maybe 25 cents a gallon. It was typical to pull into a gas station, buy a dollars worth of gas and ride for quite a while on that dollar's worth of gas.

During the summer, there was tuna fishing. One summer there were one hundred and two tuna boats, aside from lobster boats and fishing boats. When I was ten or eleven, I got my first boat. I bought 25 lobster traps. My dad actually bought them and I paid him back. I fished out of my boat for a couple of summers. In high school I was a “sternman” for Don Brown. After high school I worked in some other places: Louisiana and other places but I always came back to Maine.

On our free time, I spent a lot of time in my boat. We would be in and out of boats all day long, like some people drive cars. We would go up and down the coves. On rough days, we ran our boats as fast as we could and try to jump from the top of one wave to the next, but it tended to ruin the boats kind of quickly. Sometimes we'd go camping on the islands. About ghost stories: Have you heard about The Dead Ship of Harpswell? There was a ship built in Freeport around the time of the War of 1812. It was one of the faster ships that came out of Casco Bay. It was given a “Letter of Mark” which meant that during wartime, the Government said it didn't belong to the Navy but had the right to attack enemy ships and keep the goods of that ship. This ship was names “The Dash” and it was pretty successful, as it had captured a lot of goods. One day, in 1813, it left with another ship to race. They sailed into a snowstorm and that was the last that anyone ever saw of the Dash. A few years later, some fisherman, during a foggy summer day, saw a ship coming up the sound between Orr's Island and Harpswell. It had sort of a glow around it from the fog. People watched it and all of a sudden, it turned around and at the last minute, it just kind of faded away. Shortly after that, a person who had seen it, died.

He was a relative of one of the crewman on The Dash. After that, there were several more incidents of people related to Dash crewmembers running The Dash.

On Pond Island, there is a story of a ghost who guards a keg of gold. There was a pirate whose last name was Lowe, who supposedly came up here and buried gold on Pond Island. The pond is now dried up. That was where the gold was buried. Not many people go there any more. They keep seeing someone walking around at night after they've been digging.

There is also a story of a ghost horse on Bailey Island. People hear a ghost galloping, run to their windows to see the horse, but never do.

There was a lady who lived out near Bailey's Island who had a lot of homemade cures and remedies. Some people thought she was a witch. No one liked witches and people wouldn't talk to her. She always said that when she died, she didn't want to be buried at the Indian graveyard on the way to Cundy's Harbor. When she died all the people decided that they would bury her there, just because it wasn't what she wanted. Everyone who helped bury her, started hearing strange noises in their homes, strange footsteps, things would fall off counter tops. After 4 or 5 days of this, the people who buried her got together and decided that they had made a mistake and should have listened. They re-interred her to the regular cemetery. That was the end of the noises.