In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Mount Desert Island: Shaped by Nature

Northeast Harbor: Rustic to Rusticators

Northeast Harbor Fleet Race, ca. 1930
Northeast Harbor Fleet Race, ca. 1930

Item Contributed by
Great Harbor Maritime Museum

In 1761, Abraham Somes moved his family to Mt. Desert Island and settled at the head of what is now Somes Sound, followed later that same year by James Richardson and his family. They were the first white people to settle at Mt. Desert, though it had been the summer residence of Native Americans for generations and had been given the name "Pemetic" by them. Area land was purchased from the Natives for amounts of rum, and birch bark deeds were given the buyers.

Mt. Desert Island was a wilderness when these early settlers arrived, and remained such for a number of years. In 1790, a bounty was paid on bears, wildcats and wolves. The population of Mt. Desert increased quickly after the first settlers, and in 1768, ten residents sent a petition to the Royal Governor asking for help in keeping outsiders from coming to the island to get already cut and dried hay and lumber.

The early Mt. Desert families were industrious and hard working. They were often multi-talented families, and were not only seamen, but farmers and lumbermen as well.

In 1789, the Town of Mt. Desert became official, encompassing all of Mt. Desert Island, the Cranberry Isles, Bartlett's Island, Robertson's Island and Beech Island. More than 100 men showed up for the first town meeting.

In May of 1795, the Town of Eden separated from Mt. Desert, giving the Island two towns.

By 1800, many people were living on the Island, and many of the villages still in existence today had been settled. Northeast Harbor, then called Sand Point, was an example of one of these towns.

This exhibit looks at the changes made to this village between the end of the 18th century until the beginning of the 20th century.