In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

The Savage Family of Mount Desert

Text by Samuel Savage McGee and Betsy Hewlett

Families on Mount Desert Island form the connecting web that is history here. The island has its enduring and localized family clans, most who settled in the mid-18th century and were immigrants of European descent. These pioneering families migrated in by sea from either the lower Massachusetts colony or the nearby Maritime Provinces. The town of Southwest Harbor claims many Carroll, Stanley, Reed, Worcester, and Corson descendants while Bar Harbor counts among its first white settlers the Higgins, Thomas, and Eden families. Somesville and mid-island, with the extended Pray, Somes, Richardson, and Higgins clans, and Tremont with its Reeds, Goodwins, Lawsons, and Murphys, are two other island towns with complex family histories established during the same time period as our story.

This is a record of one of these earliest white pioneer clans, the Savage family, who settled on Bingham Heirs’s Lot #67 in a hamlet they called “Asticou” at the head of Northeast Harbor in the town of Mount Desert. John Savage and his wife Sarah Doliver first arrived in 1798 from Massachusetts at nearby Harbor Brook where it flows into the ocean just north of Bear Island. Their children, including son John II in 1801, were born in Northeast Harbor. John Savage II married Climena Roberts, a member of the newly settled Roberts family from neighboring Seal Harbor, and they established a permanent homestead just southwest of Harbor Brook at Asticou.

In three exhibits, we focus on the branch of the family created by John’s only grandchild to live long enough to establish a family and home here, Augustus Chase Savage, and his wife Emily Manchester Savage, both born on Mount Desert Island and married in 1854. Like other early families living on the island in these times, the Savages interacted with the natural resources available nearby to establish themselves—land, lumber, and the sea. They traded for their other needs by participating in the robust import-export business that thrived in coastal waters off Mount Desert Island. Their story illustrates how one family works to become embedded in its environment, creating a community and a sense of place that is uniquely its own yet part of the larger and shared Mount Desert Island history.

We have primarily used the uncatalogued but extensive Savage family private collections of original correspondence, photographs, maps, written and oral histories, business records, and ephemera to develop our exhibits. We appreciate the assistance of many extended family members and the expert advice of the Northeast Harbor Public Library and Mount Desert Island Historical Society staff.