In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Blue Hill, Maine

“the charm of its situation, its sparkling bay..."

Long Island: The Forgotten Community

By Rick Sawyer

In the early days of the settlement of Maine many of the communities were located along the coast and on the islands. The reason for this was obvious-- there were no roads. It was easier to travel by boat and it made sense to live near the water and so many of the early pioneers who needed to get supplies and get around settled along the coast and on the islands.

In Blue Hill Bay there still sits an island called Long Island that was once a thriving community but now is void of anyone. A few old stone foundations, a cemetery, and other remnants are all that remain—aside from the newer built camps which remain largely empty most of the year, it is a quiet place.

At one time Long Island like many other islands was filled with people, and like many other islands, had its own traditions and culture which you could say were more oriented toward the seafaring life.

These early settlers in Downeast Maine were proficient navigators; they had to be, especially since this section of the Maine coast is very rocky, and more dangerous than down in Massachusetts or even in southern Maine. By skill and good fortune they learned to stay buoyant through wind and tide and taught the following generations how to maneuver safely along the coast.

The island communities were a close-knit group, a sea-going people who fraternized with each other largely because of the isolation of island living and being in the same boat so to speak. Every Saturday night, weather permitting, they would meet on a different island for a dance. You can imagine taking a boat to an island for a dance would be a lot more involved than taking a car like we would today. It probably meant spending the night, preparing for the elements, and more. There must have been a hearty welcome and an even heartier amount of merry-making. These festive events are probably one of the reasons so many islanders married other islanders and just as they gave each other a helping hand when exposed to danger they also found happiness and confidence in each other.

Long Island is 4 and 1/2 miles long and 2 miles wide. In 1768 the island had a sawmill, and settlement began by 1779. Most of the settlement occurred on the lower or southern end. James Carter complained to Colonel Jonathan Buck in 1779 that dogs owned by the indians were "running his sheep into the ocean." He said he lived alone on the island, but evidently there was no house in 1785 because he was not allotted the usual 100 acres settlers lot for improvements, receiving instead 30 acres.

By 1830 there were 71 individuals living on the island and many included the children and grand-children of James Carter. Other early surnames on the island were Chatto, Fogg, Cain, Day, Friend and Marks to name a few. Historian Captain R.G.F. Candage said that these island people "raised their own corn and grain, cattle, sheep, and swine, for the use of their families, spun, wove, and knit their clothing from the wool of their own sheep, and lived within their own resources."

By 1850 there were 123 people on the island. Some of the occupations included lumbering; farming, which included tending sheep as there were as many as 6000 sheep on Long Island a the time of the Civil War; and fishing as there were dozens of weirs (pronounced locally as 'wares') around the shore.

However, the largest industry on the island was granite quarrying--reportedly 150 workers were employed at a mine called the Brown & McAllister Mine which was in operation from 1890 to 1898. Most of the laborers were locals but there were also quarrymen from Italy and Scotland. The town grew quickly during this time and there was a large boardinghouse run by Mrs. John Leith for the quarrymen. During this period the town and the post office were named 'Granite.' By 1907 this was changed to 'Seaville.'

At the height of the Long Island settlement near the turn of the last century, besides a post office and a large boardinghouse, there were over one hundred residents, a couple of stores, and even a dance hall.

By 1920 almost all of the year-round residents had moved off the island and today only the foundation stones and remnants are all that remain of a once thriving community in Blue Hill.