Friends of the Southport Historical Society
P. O. Box 3, Southport, ME 04576
HENDRICKS HILL MUSEUM
Newsletter ***** November 2013
Donald Duncan, Editor
So many reports of sea serpents have been definitely proven to be other creatures, and no known authentic sea serpent has ever been captured that the sea serpent has come to be classed with the unicorn and the camelopard as a mythical creature. However there are cases where reliable witnesses have reported seeing sea serpents and their reports have not been questioned. The Encyclopedia Britannica observes, “When, however, all these and similar possibilities have been explored, there remain a number of independent and apparently credible stories, which are not satisfactorily explained.” The adjoining painting is in the Hendricks Hill Museum and the painter is unknown.
Much of the following comes from The Shipping Days of Old Boothbay by George Wharton Rice.
Mr. John Blair in his old age stated that his father, Benjamin Blair, and a Mr. Campbell, while rowing across the harbor of Boothbay, sighted a sea monster which looked above water like a row of kegs or barrels. They put about and rowed for the shore. They had a large hook made and baited with a quarter of beef, attached the hook by chain to a barrel buoy; then anchored the buoy. They caught nothing, but the monster was about the harbor for three days.
Years later Elizabeth Oakes Smith wrote an account of it well worth quoting:
On the eastern shores of Maine is a well-known and beautiful harbor called Booth Bay. Off the harbor is a little island on which is a lighthouse known as Burnt Island Light. In the first years of my marriage I not infrequently visited this region and was never tired of wandering about the rocky coast, gathering shells and mosses, listening to the roar of the ocean and the melancholy cry of sea birds. Burnt Island is small – not more than half a mile across – a high bluff but covered with grass (enough to yield support to the cow of the keeper). I often went to the Light, taking my baby with me and passed a whole day with the family of the keeper, regaled with shortcakes and strawberries and cream. They were a simple pious family and always gave me a warm welcome. There was on the landward side of the island a small cove which I, in my childlikeness called the Fairy Cove – so crescent-like and lovely was its form. Two miniature capes extended from the land leaving a semicircle of beach hard and white as marble, over which flowed the crystal waves. Here was our favorite bathing ground.
Mr. Chandler, the keeper, used to go out in his wherry to fish, and in good weather to row himself up to the village for the newspaper, family stores, etc., leaving his somewhat delicate wife and her two children alone on the island.
When I paid my last visit to the family at Burnt Island, I found them in a great state of excitement, and full of regret that I had not gone the day before. “But yesterday we had such an adventure.” I was at once an eager listener and they went on to tell me how Mr. Chandler seeing a school of mackerel had taken his wherry and gone out ‘a-fishing’ where he had had wonderful success. During his absence the children, of three and five years old, went down to Fairy Cove to sail their boats, the tide being at ebb. Suddenly, said Mrs. Chandler: ‘Back they came, their eyes big as saucers, screaming, “Mother, Mother, there’s the biggest eel you ever see in your life, got into the Cove.” I clapped on my shawl and run after them and there sure enough was an eel — only ’twas a snake, for it hadn’t a sign of fin from head to tail. It seemed to be asleep, for it did not move, and 1 went down both “pints” and got a good look at him — keeping the children back, for I didn’t know but he might of a sudden snap one or the other of them. He was so long that his head lay on one pint, while his tail was at the other- thirty feet and nothing less. He staid there and I watched him till the ebb tide made him touch ground, and then he started and wriggled and snapped himself about till he got afloat, and stood off to sea, carrying his head above water.’
Mrs. Chandler declared she ‘expected every moment he would come on shore, and there was no telling what he would do.’ The fishermen of the coast of Maine often speak of having encountered these creatures. The years marked by their presence are sure to be deficient in the mackerel ‘catch’ as that species of fish seem to be a favorite food with them. Commodore Preble, in one of his letters, speaks of having seen a monster of the kind.
I have often heard my husband’s sister and brothers speak of a similar incident. One morning the former rose quite early, before the sun was up, and having an eye for the picturesque, stood watching the fleecy clouds disperse themselves before the rising beams, and the white gulls as they wheeled and dipped into the water and careened in the soft air. She observed the water was dimpled with mackerel, which seemed to press into the harbor in great numbers while in the distance was a long, dark object which slowly made its way inward. She supposed this at first to be a log, but, presently, she saw the mackerel leap and jump from the water as if from the pursuit of some foe. Procuring a spy-glass she instantly saw it was no log, but an immense creature, making its way in the wake of the fish, and its undulations presenting the appearance of a long row of floating corks. The slant rays of the sun began to glitter upon its back as her brother came and took the glass from her hand, but they were not alone; the inhabitants of the ‘East and West Harbor’ had seen the same thing and the entire population thronged the shore. ‘The sea-serpent! The sea-serpent!’ passed from mouth to mouth, and all eyes were intent beholding his approach. Steadily he came on, volume on volume, sometimes his head lying flat upon the surface of the water-sometimes he would dash forward lifting it several feet in the air, and then, for a space, he would press against the waves and come on with a majestic movement like a ship, which, in sailor phrase, ‘carries a white bone in her mouth.’ All had a free sight of the creature which soon neared the shore.
Sister Ann ran down a promontory at the base of which the water was bold, followed by many young girls of the place. Seeing this, the serpent came directly to the base of the rock, and she could see his head of a dark brown, nearly black color rough with what seemed to be barnacles or scales. His eyes were large, prominent and like those of an ox. The head was much larger than that of a horse. As he lay quiet the appearance of humps disappeared, but were apparent as he moved. Crowds watched him for half an hour in this way, when suddenly he lifted himself five or six feet from the water and made as if he would take one of those Iphigenias from the rock. It may well be supposed the girls scattered in great terror, while a general cry was raised by the on-lookers.
There was a sturdy blacksmith of the place who was bent on a nearer inspection. His name was Webster and he launched his wherry and began to paddle softly toward him, when he lifted his head, seemed to listen, and then darted in the direction of the devoted blacksmith, who pulled might and main to the shore amid the cheers and jeers of his neighbors who had not been well pleased with his foolhardy temerity. The man declared he could feel his breath over his shoulder. Seeing the man was beyond his reach, the monster turned upon the mackerel and for a while kept them spinning in the air. After amusing himself in the harbor for several hours he went out to sea with the ebb tide. He was estimated to be at least one hundred feet in length.
I see no reason not to believe this circumstantial account with its specific observations and many witnesses. You are at liberty to disbelieve and to try to pick holes in the story or to say flat out you don’t believe it. But you can’t say it couldn’t be true. I believe it.
Ed Note: The Portland Press Herald of October 16, 2013 contains the adjoining picture and news item on sea serpents:
LOS ANGELES – A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted something out of a fantasy novel: the silvery carcass of an 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish.
Staffers at the institute are calling it the discovery of a lifetime.
“We’ve never seen a fish this big,” said Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour; Catalina Island Marine Institute’s sail training ship. “The last oarfish we saw was 3 feet long.”
Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings of the creatures are rare and they are largely unstudied, according to CIMI
The oarfish, which can grow to more than 50 feet, is the longest bony fish in the world, according to CIMI.
They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.
From the Guest Book
From a small child, carefully printed:
“THIS WAS AN AMAZING VISIT.
THIS WAS NICE.
IT WAS FUN AND INTERESTING.”
Two long time volunteers have decided to retire after many years of service to The Friends. Kit Sherrill has been keeping the address lists up to date for over ten years. This is a job full of updating addresses, recording your generous gifts and depositing the checks. Kit has done it well. Cathy Messmer has agreed to take on this important service.
Joyce Duncan served as President of The Friends from 1997 to 2007 and has been Treasurer from 2007 to the present. No one knows better than your editor the hours she has given to us all. She shepherded us through the application process of getting the 501(c)(3) status for the IRS and has provided detailed Treasurer’s Reports at every meeting. Becky Singer has agreed to take over the Treasurer’s position.
For Kit and for Joyce we are eternally grateful. “Well done, thou good and faithful servants!”
Fifteen years ago, Jeanette Ingersoll gave her SYC sailboat to the museum. For twelve years we displayed the boat outside the boatshop during the summer, and the Fire Department moved it inside for the winters. Time worked its evils, and the boat began to fall apart. Gerry Gamage kindly offered to take it to his shop for refurbishing and painting, and the result is now on display in the new section of the boatshop where young people can climb aboard and “sail” to their heart’s content.
The following is condensed from an article written in 2012 by Denis McWhan and which is currently on the Yacht Club website.
Competitive class racing was initiated at the Southport Yacht Club in the late 1930s with as many as 15 to 20 boats on the water on some Saturday afternoons. There were three different class races just as we had in the 1970s with the Turnabouts, O’Day Daysailers, Rhodes/Mariners, and Christmas Coves. In those early days, however two of the three classes were home grown.
Ob Brewer built a number of skiffs in the 1930s – many of which are still in use in Cozy Harbor [one is in the Museum boatshop]. He modified two skiffs by mounting a mast in a hole in the forward seat and adding a centerboard trunk and rudder. The intrepid sailors of these “Skiff Class” sailboats were Norma (Clifford) Smith and Bob and Priscilla Eaton. Bob still has his silver cup for winning the “Skiff Class” in 1938 and Priscilla has a small clock and a plate won the following year. Norma won the overall regatta in 1938.
The Southport Yacht Club developed the SYC Class that is a 13’ catboat. The last remaining boat in the class is on display in the Hendricks Hill Museum. It was built by Sid Gray on the east side of Southport and was donated to the museum by Jeanette (McIntosh) Ingersoll for whom it was built. The original fleet of four boats was built by Herb Decker at his boat shop next to Robinsons in the 1930s. Three of the owners were Noel and Emil Colletti, Janet (Elderkin) Azzoni, and Evelyn (Pratt) Sherman. Evelyn has a beautiful sailboat trophy on her shelf for winning the SYC Class in 1938.
The competitive racing was very active between 1936 and 1941 but the racing essentially came to an end with the start of the Second World War.
The first picture shows Jeanette (McIntosh) Ingersoll sailing the boat in the 40s with an unidentified friend. The second shows Ruth (Harold) Zollinger and Jeanette in the 1940s and the third picture shows Ruth and Jeanette in the same boat in our boatshop in 2013.
The History of the Cozy Harbor Store—An Update!
In June of this past summer I gave a talk on the history of the Cozy Harbor store to the Southport Historical Society’s annual meeting. Many of you turned out for my talk and I appreciated your interest. Such historical topics are always works-in-progress, however, since new information may come to light. That is the case with a significant point about the history of the Cozy Harbor store, and I want to pass the information along to the many of you who have shown an interest.
The story of the early years of the store’s history remains the same. Samuel Pierce Jr., an energetic mariner and entrepreneur, claimed the land in 1771, and by the mid-1770’s had built a house for his family (this same house is today’s Southport Yacht Club building). Samuel probably moved to Cozy Harbor (then called Hendricks Harbor) from Pierce Cove to take advantage of Cozy Harbor’s more ready access to the open sea.
In the years afterward, though exact dates are uncertain, Samuel, with his son Jonathan’s help, started two businesses on the shores of Cozy Harbor. The first was a fish business. Samuel probably started by buying fish catches from local fishermen, drying the fish, and then selling them to merchants in local towns to feed Maine’s growing settler population. As part of this business, Samuel built a “fish house”, which was listed in his probated 1796 estate inventory, which he would have used to store his dried fish, salt (an essential preservative of the day), and related equipment. By the 1790’s Samuel was also operating his second business—a general store, located in the north half of his family house, probably today’s SYC kitchen, where he sold foods, hardware, fabric, etc. This second business was probably a result of the fishermen’s need for re-supplying their vessels, and family needs of a growing number of neighbors.
After Samuel died in 1796, his eldest son, Jonathan, as indicated in an 1801 deed, acquired most of Samuel’s assets and further developed both businesses in coming decades. He, in turn, became a very wealthy man, having created what one historian refers to as a business “empire.” In about 1830, Jonathan built a new fish house, or what he also referred to in an 1831 deed as his fish yard “barn”. This building remains in existence today and is enmeshed in the modern skin of “Oliver’s” restaurant. It is also the building which earlier housed Gus Pratt’s store and restaurant.
This is where the narrative story should begin to be updated. I told you during my talk, at the June annual meeting, that when this circa 1830 new fish house was built, it became the home of both the fish business and the general store. But it now seems likely that only the fish business used this building, and that the general store was located elsewhere. The reasons I thought both fish and general store businesses were combined under the new fish house roof are related to the following: by the 1830’s Jonathan had a large family and probably wanted to move the store from his house to provide more space for both house and store. Further, after Jonathan died in 1847 and the Marr brothers took over the business, their ledgers, found in the Southport Museum’s archives, combine both general store and fish house business transactions.
In retrospect, even at the time of my talk, and for several reasons, I was not quite certain the store had operated from the fish house, at least during the latter decades of the 19th century. For one thing, the pictures of the fish house that still survive in the Museum archives, from the 1880’s and 1890’s do not encourage a viewer to think of the building as a functioning store. It was weather- beaten, unpainted, and without windows. It is true that in 1872 the fish house and fish yard had become insolvent and by the time pictures were taken, the general store was all that remained of the Marr brothers’ business. So needing a coat of paint might have been related to those circumstances. Further, however, in interviewing Evelyn Sherman about the Pratt era of store ownership, she indicated that her mother remembered the general store business being nearby, in another smaller building, just across the road from the house of Nahum Marr (where Mike and Anne Grimes live today). I did mention this in my talk, but made little of it at the time.
The item that made me believe that the Pierce and then the Marr general store may not have been located in the fish house building, at least until the 1900’s, was a letter written by Charles Pinkham, longtime owner of the Southport Island general store. The letter, in the Museum archives (with the original in the possession of Ron Orchard, Pinkham’s grandson), says the Marr store was located in another Cozy Harbor building owned by the Marrs. This building can be still seen (below church steeple) in the picture of the 1880’s Marr-era, Cozy Harbor waterfront. In truth, this building, though in need of a paint job, does look more like it might have been a general store, with windows and doors, and with molding around them. It was located about where the SYC boat launch ramp sits today. Charles Pinkham’s memory is that in 1894 his father purchased and moved this Marr store building up to the location of today’s Southport Island General store. (This building subsequently burned down a year later, in 1895). Young Charles was 12 years old in 1894, and before it was moved, he tells of getting into trouble for tearing down the brick chimney of what he refers to as “the store used by the Marr fish firm”. The brick chimney can be seen in the photo, on the left side of the building.
The concluding thought I have about all of this (at least until the next contravening fact emerges) is that it is important because it means that the early 20th century, tourist-era, store and restaurant of the Marrs, and subsequently the Pratts, were not located in the same building as their 19th century general store counterparts. But they were at least in a building that went back to the 1830’s. Finding out the truth from history is a lengthy, and exacting, process, and sometimes new facts emerge to change our view of what that history actually was.
Books for Christmas
A quick reminder that copies of Island Tales @ $10, Historical Gleanings @ $5, The Old House Book (old edition) @5, Leland Snowman’s Out of the Cape @$5, Luther Maddocks’ Looking Backwards @$5 and I’m Different (Ethelyn Giles) @$5 are available for purchase by mail. Include $5 for postage and packing with each order. Please make checks payable to The Friends of the Southport Historical Society and send to Donald Duncan, 32 Blair Road, Southport, ME 04576.
What Is It?
We have been working on inventory in the boatshop and are stumped by the article pictured here. It is made of black iron and is about 24 inches long. It looks as if it were made to support a round object, but it seems too fragile for a boat’s boom crutch. If anyone has an idea, we’d love to be informed!
We were fortunate again to be able to employ Evan Stevens as our computer guru and general helper for two days per week in 2013. He is off to Bowdoin College this year, and we wish him well. At the end of the season he made a special trip to say goodbye to Ron Orchard, Jean Thompson and Evelyn Sherman, and the adjoining picture was taken. Surely a very proud and happy foursome!
Without our Volunteers we could not operate. They are most visible as the docents who welcome and guide visitors. But they also write and contribute to the Newsletter, clean the Museum in the spring and put her to bed in the fall, supply refreshments for the Annual Meeting and many other public meetings, keep the gardens cared for, put on a volunteer luncheon, record your changes of address and your generosity and keep track of the accessions. Some paint signs and repair boats. Some tame the computer and keep up the website (hendrickshill.org). Many of you write checks and keep us solvent. Some simply smile and encourage the rest. If you have a skill you would like to share, do let us know.
There have been a total of 1127 volunteer hours since last November. This year we had 415 visitors from 21 states, Canada and Germany.
Those who helped in 2013:
Mary Lou Koskela
Ronald Orchard, Chairman
Kathy Bugbee, Secretary
Mary Lou Koskela, Treasurer
Dick Snyder, President
Jean Hawley, Vice President
Carole Zalucky, Secretary
Becky Singer, Treasurer
Cathy Messmer to 2014
Meredith Mitchell to 2014
Tim Hanley to 2015
Larry Crane to 2015
Kathy Bugbee to 2016
Nan Jackson to 2016
Phyllis Cook (Emerita)
 See the following article!
 The entire letter is printed in Island Tales page 151.