The Cameron family, who came from Scotland before 1790, originally owned this house. Their first home was built on what is now the corner of Ebenecook Road and Route 27. The foundation stones are still there, though overgrown by bushes. This house is thought to have been built about 1810 when John Cameron married Sarah M. (Sally) Dow. It stood about 500 feet north of the first Cameron house. The property stayed in the Cameron family for 100 years and then was sold to Elsworth Besaw in 1910.
Elsworth had been a baker in Bath before coming to Southport. He continued his trade in a small way when he was here. Later the Besaws sold the property to Ezra Pratt who in turn sold it to his son, Lawrence. It remained in the family until it came down to Ezra’s great grandson, Perry Luke. Wishing to commemorate his family, Perry gave this building to the Southport Historical Society, providing it could be moved to its present location.
The windows of the house are hand-made by Cecil Pierce and Maurice Sherman. Cecil found an original window in the attic. He used it for a model to create similar muntins for the 9 over 6 windows downstairs, and 6 over 6 upstairs. Old glass was donated and used. The sand from which the glass was made can still be seen in a few panes. Building these windows was a two-winter labor of love on the part of these loyal men.
The original house is being kept, as much as possible, as an example of family living for over 180 years.
This is the Charles E. Pinkham Room. It is so designated because his daughter, Ethelyn P. Giles, made it financially possible to move the house. She said her father would have done it had he been alive. Charles Pinkham ran the local store for many years and was a leading citizen of the Island.
It is believed the Greek Revival trim around doors and windows in this room and in the parlor was added after the Camerons became prosperous. It seemed to be the custom in those early days. The original narrow trim is still to be seen in all the other rooms.
The fireplaces and chimney had to be rebuilt during the winter of 1989 after the house was moved. A beehive oven, at the left of the fireplace, had been walled in. The wall was removed and the oven rebuilt. It can be used. The crane in the fireplace was found in the debris when one of the first houses on Pratt’s Island was torn down. The fireplace mantel is higher than the other mantels so that the housewife would not bump her head while cooking. The artifacts in this room are mainly those which would be found in an 1800-1930 kitchen. The tall wooden cabinet was made by Jaruel Marr when he was keeper at Hendricks Head Lighthouse. Its purpose was to hold lighthouse logbooks and other records.
THE FRONT HALL
The stairs are very narrow and steep. Please don’t use these stairs. The handrail most likely replaced a cruder one when the decorations were put on the staircase and the woodwork was improved. It is interesting to go under the stairs to see how the three fireplace flues and the baking oven are joined together in one chimney. Watch your head! This area was also used to store items that might freeze in the cellar.
Notice the Greek Revival trim. It is a little more elaborate than that in the kitchen. The windows are slightly recessed. Originally, this room was probably used only for weddings, funerals, and when the minister came to call. The sofa is of the early Empire style. There are two Queen Anne tables; one is a genuine antique, dating back to the 1760’s. It came down through Cecil Pierce’s family. The other is an exact replica made by Cecil. The glass case was built in 1992 to protect the more delicate artifacts. It contains a collection of collars and jabots, beautiful beaded work done by a lady with excellent eyesight and infinite patience. Also on display are fine china vases, antique silver and jewelry.
On the table is a notebook with many old post cards of Southport .
Among the maps displayed is Dr. Rose’s 1815 map, which was drawn up after the General Court of Massachusetts stepped in to settle land disputes and to give clear titles to owners who could prove they had a legal right to the property. There is an 1828 map, which shows the State of Maine and much of Canada. Rockwell’s 1948 map identifies the name and location of every property owner.
There are also navigational charts and two fine, boxed octants, which probably belonged to ship captains as they are too expensive to have been owned by ordinary seamen.
The desk was hand-made by George W. Pierce for his daughter Caroline, when she and Silas Pierce were married on January 20, 1859 . A portrait of George hangs over the desk.
This was possibly the birthing room. When it was not needed for that purpose, it probably was the bedroom of the person whose duty it was to keep the fires going through the long winter nights. For some unknown reason the fireplace mantel was installed off-center. When the fireplace was rebuilt, it was left as it originally had been. The room now contains a collection of fishing gear. It represents an era that was very important to the prosperity of the town. Greene’s History of Boothbay, Southport and Boothbay Harbor reports in 1860 there were 59 bankers and mackerel vessels owned on Southport giving employment to every able-bodied man and boy on the island. During the height of its prosperity, no town in Maine made its own business and earned so much per capita as Southport. One season a Cameron vessel flew the “high line” flag from its mast. The flag proclaimed that this vessel had taken more fish than any other claiming Southport as its home port.
The sailing vessel in the shadow box over the mantel is on loan from Ronald Orchard. It was carved by his grandfather, who used only a pocket knife. Even the sails are whittled very carefully from thin wood.
The Indian artifacts were found in the area around Cape Harbor at Newagen.
In the corner is a street light that used to stand near Cozy Harbor. In the early 1900’s Southport residents bought, installed, and maintained their own street lights. Each lamp stood on a wooden post and the owner was expected to keep it sparkling clean. A lamp lighter with a can of kerosene filled and lit them each evening and put them out in the morning. This Dietz kerosene lamp belonged to Royal Luther, a builder of lighthouses, and was new in 1900.
This long narrow room is filled with an assortment of pewter, candle molds, kerosene lamps and household items.
POST OFFICE ROOM
This room is named for the Newagen Post Office that closed in 1997 and which now occupies the rear section of the room. Much more information on the Post Office appears at the end of this Guide. The glass case with the sloping front came from Charles Pinkham’s store, which served the Island for many years. The sloping glass faced the customers and the door at the back provided access. There is a poster showing many of the Island Boarding Houses as well as a spectacular fire that destroyed the Squirrel Island Inn in 1962. Don’t miss the collection of aerial photos taken circa 1955.
The new staircase to the second floor is easily ascended, as the risers are a very comfortable height quite different from the two sets of stairs in the original house. The newel post is made from a beam that was removed when the doorway upstairs was cut through into the old building. The hand hewn adz marks are visible. The thirty-five growth rings in the heartwood prove the tree was living about the time of the American Revolutionary War.
The Marrs were some of the early settlers of the Island and the present Cozy Harbor was originally known as Marr’s Harbor. Jaruel Marr and his son, Wolcott, were keepers of Hendricks Head Light. The room is named in their honor.
On display are Civil War materials, children’s shoes held together with wooden pegs as well as World War II items and police gear given by a visitor from Southport, England. The small flag with a blue star was hung in the window of a family who had a member serving in the Armed Services in World War II. A gold star indicated that a family member had been killed in the War.
Pierce also is an old Island name. George Wesley Pierce wrote a wonderfully informative book about the fishing industry under sail and Cecil Pierce was a founder of this museum. Cecil was a master carpenter, inventor and historian and several of his creations are on display. Admire the dovetailing in the chest in the Child’s Bedroom. Here are various Town Reports and records as well as an old school desk.
The smallest room has been set aside as a child’s room. There is a replica of the ruby red slipper worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” Margaret Hamilton, who summered at Newagen, played the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Noah’s Ark was a cottage industry project in Germany in the 1800’s, which employed every member of the family from the youngest to the oldest. In America it was often the only toy children were allowed to play with on Sunday. It came to be known as a Sabbath Day toy.
There are also several books illustrated by Gustav Tenggren who was a local artist.
Three of the rooms on the second floor are set up as bedrooms. Each has a rope bed. The ropes had to be tightened from time to time with the wooden wrench which is on display. This is alleged to be the origin of the expression “sleep tight”.
UPSTAIRS FRONT HALL
On the little platform beside the stairs are sleds, skates and soapstone foot warmers.
The spool bed in the master bedroom was used in the present Southport Yacht Club when it was the Pierce homestead. There is also a fine linen wedding dress circa 1900, all hand made. A lovely black beaded cape and other clothing articles are on display as well as several handmade quilts.
Here are several housekeeping items. When the house was moved in 1988, we found a brand new kerosene stove, still in its original crate! This is on display in the Back Hall with a copper wash boiler and various laundry items. Note the clever design of the drying rack that hangs on the wall.
THE BOAT SHOP
The need to shelter wooden boats was recognized by the Friends of the Historical Society, who financed the building of the boat shop in 1992. It houses one of Southport’s first powered lobster boats, owned by Lincoln Webber as well as a seine dory owned by three generations of Brewers. Also a Poole dory which was used locally for lobstering and also was taken to the Grand Banks on board the fishing schooners for hand lining. There is a skiff built by Osbourne (Ob) Brewer. There is a good collection of tools for ice harvesting, which was a big industry at one time. There are also marine and woodworking tools as well as fishing gear and half models.
The Bell originally hung in the belfry of the Newagen school. The two granite doorsteps and foundation blocks are original and were moved at the same time as the house was moved. The cylindrical, corrugated granite block on the doorstep is a boring from a ledge in Cozy Harbor. It was saved during the replacement of the inner spindle. The horse hobble was used to tether a horse while its owners were visiting.
Two boats are displayed. The one with the mast is called an SYC, the only one remaining of five class-boats built in the 1930’s for the Southport Yacht Club. This one was built by Sid Gray of Southport and was donated to the Museum by Jeanette Ingersoll in 1998. The smaller boat is a work punt donated by Jean Thompson in 1999. It is a unique combination of a square ended punt and a standard flat bottomed skiff. Neither boat is fit for the sea, but both welcome children to climb aboard.
True to tradition, there is an herb garden outside the kitchen door. It contains several common herbs as well as some not so well known. They are all identified. Lavender grows abundantly beside the front steps. It is said to keep moths away when bunches are hung in a closet. Visitors are welcome to cut a few sprigs of the herbs for personal use. Ask the volunteer on duty for scissors.