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


Occupations in Harpswell Maine in the Early to Mid 1900's

Memories of Dr. Currier McEwen

By students of West Harpswell School

A 2001-2002 Harpswell History Project

Growing up
Living on a Farm

Memories of Dr. Currier McEwen

Dr. Currier McEwen celebrated his 96th birthday on April 1, of this year (1998) . Dr. McEwen is not a Harpswell native, but he started coming to Harpswell in July 1902 at the age of three months.

Dr. McEwen's full name is Osceola Currier McEwen. His first name, which is an Indian name has an interesting story. Back when his great­grandfather was around, the chief of the Seminoles was taken prisoner in the Everglades where he was supposed to be on a peace talk. Dr. McEwen's great-grandfather was so upset that he named his son after the Indian Chief, Osceola. After that, Dr. McEwen was named for his grandfather so he became Osceola Currier McEwen.

Dr. McEwen had a father, mother, and sister. His father's name was George Floy McEwen, his mother was Mary Antoinette Currier. His sister was Edith and she married a man named Dorian.

When Dr. McEwen first came to Harpswell, he was three months old and it was 1902.

Before Dr. McEwen was born, his grandfather was sailing. He sailed to Portland. There, he took a steamboat to Harpswell.

He saw Auburn Colony being built. Meanwhile, his daughter Dr. McEwen's mother, wanted to go to college but her parents wouldn't let her. She was very upset over this so she started coming to Harpswell because it was a quiet peaceful place.

When Dr. McEwen was a child, he lived in a small house next to the tennis courts near Auburn Colony. They had no electricity. They had no running; water. They had no vehicles. There were kerosene lamps and candles. A pump was next to the house. One of Dr. McEwen's jobs was to go to the pump and fetch some water everyday.

Except for three years during World War II, Dr. McEwen came to Harpswell every summer. He settled here in 1970.

The family had two ways of getting to Harpswell. One was to take a horse and carriage to New York City. Then in New York City you would get on the Bar Harbor Express. In the morning you would be in Portland. They you would take a steamboat to Harpswell. The other way was to take a steamship from New York. The steamships were called Northland and Northstar.

On Harpswell Neck there were two steamboat wharves. On was right by what is now Merriman's wharf. The other was at Lookout Point. When the steamboats came in, it was always a big social event.

Back in the early 1900's, the roads were horrible. They were rough, rocky, hard, muddy, and bumpy. If anyone tried to drive on them, it would be very hard.

Dr. McEwen remembers the three big hotels that used to be in Harpswell. One was the Merriconeag House, which was near the end of South Harpswell close the steamboat wharf. There was also the Germania Hotel. The third hotel was Ocean View Hotel. There were other hotels on other parts of Harpswell Neck. In addition to all these, there were also boarding homes.

The hotels they had back then were very simple. They had no bathrooms as we know them and no plumbing. At Dr. McEwen's home they got their water from a pump and they had outhouses.

The food in the boarding homes was very good. Dr. McEwen remembers that the cooks "were wonderful."

Back then people in Harpswell threw garbage overboard off a cliff. It was done this way until sanitary laws were passed.

When automobiles were invented and roads were better, people began to travel more. They didn't need as many hotels. So hotels began to close.

Auburn Colony was started in the 1800's by a group of people from Auburn, Maine. They paid to have cottages built. They also built a dining room where they ate. The McEwen family ate there a lot.

When Dr. McEwen was a child, he had a very active life. He had no jobs during the summer as a teenager. When he played he always played, with other young people. They would swim, play tennis, and ride in their boats. The teenagers used to go to the dance hall that was in Harpswell, and they would go to the bowling alley that used to be here.

There were two bowling alleys. One was across from the store at South Harpswell and next to the dance hall. The other one was at Auburn Colony. They were very poorly made, but the kids had fun anyway.

When Dr. McEwen was a child he was friendly with some of the year round Harpswell people. He often went to the Hamiltons. They were farmers. Horace Lubee and Dr. McEwen were very close friends. For work they would help with the haying by jumping around on top to pack it down so they could put more on. He thought that it was fun work.

Dr. McEwen loved coming to Maine. He thought about it all year round. He liked to sail, fish, and swim. He loved all of it except for the very cold water. But after swimming his mother made hot gingerbread for him and his sister.

The difference in Harpswell now and then was that people didn't move around as much. The roads were bumpy, muddy, and bad. Automobiles weren't around yet. Everyone knew each other. Dr. McEwen enjoyed the lovely old homes.

He attended high school in Newark, N.J. He attended college at Wesleyan University and went to medical school at New York University. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1926, he spent two years at Belleview Hospital as an intern. He became interested in becoming a medical teacher and spent four years at Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. He then went back to N.Y. University and became assistant dean of the medical school. At age 35 he was made dean and stayed there for eighteen years.

Dr. McEwen came to Harpswell every year of his life except for three years during World War Two when he was in Europe. Dr. McEwen had four children. Their names are Anne , Matilda, Cathy, and one boy Ewen. Now he has six grandchildren.

In 1970 when Dr. McEwen retired to live in Harpswell he started seeing private patients at Regional Hospital. He was 68 then. He kept on until the age of 86. Dr. McEwen wanted to live in Harpswell because he thinks it's the best place in the world." Once when he was flying back from Saudi Arabia he woke up and looked down and he realized he was over Bath. Then he really woke up knowing that he would soon be over Harpswell. He looked at Harpswell and decided that it was more beautiful than any place in the world.

Dr. McEwen said, "Memories are vivid and all my days in Harpswell have been a delight." The major thing that he misses now is the sailing. Dr. McEwen's first boat was small. He used a clothes pole for a mast and a sheet for a sail.

Dr. McEwen said, "When I was in Harpswell, rain or shine, there was hardly a day that went by when I wasn't in a boat."

Dr. McEwen says that the standards of living are better today than in the past. When he thinks about his early days in Harpswell, he says “ But in those old days I think we were as happy and comfortable as we are today.”