George Lawrence Hosmer.

An historical sketch of the town of Deer Isle, Maine; with notices of its settlers and early inhabitants online

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afterward removed to the town of Montville. His farm
was purchased by Otis Little, Esq., of Castine, who ac-
quired land adjoining it, and had in all about four hun-
dred acres which, a little before 1830, he sold to Captain
John Gray, of Sedgwick, who lived upon it about thirty-
five years, and then removed to the town of Brooksville,
where he died. He had previously sold a part of his land
to Mr. Shadrach Black who occupied it from 1836 till his
death, not long after 1870. His wife was a daughter of
Mrs. Gray by a former husband. Another portion of his
land he sold to his son, the present Mr. Jonathan D. Gray
who, a few years ago, sold it to Mr. John Douglass who
now occupies it. When Captain Gray removed he sold
the remainder of his land to his son Jonathan who occu-
pies it at present. Mr. Black's land is now occupied by
his son.

Timothy Billings who, as we have stated, was the first
child of white parents bom in the town, settled the farm
on the northwestern end of the island. His wife was a
Miss Wells, a relative, doubtless, of those of that name
who lived in what is now the town of Brooklin. She died
many years before him, leaving a family of three sons, of

Town of Deer Isle, Maine. 175

whom wc have had knowledge, and two daughters. Two
of the sons were Captain John Billings and Amaziah Bill-
ings, who lived in Sedgwick. Of the daughters, one was
the wife of Mr. James Gray, of Brooksville, and the other
that of Captain Robinson Crockett, Jr., who lived at one
time on Stinson's Neck. The other son of Mr. Billings,
Jeremiah Billings, who remained here and occupied the
farm of his father, died very suddenly, in 1840. After
his death his widow married Mr. John L. Lawry, who
came here in 1841 from some town in the county of Waldo,
and in whose family Mr. Billings, the subject of this notice,
resided till his death, after which the farm was sold, and
the family removed to Winterport, where Mr. Lawry
died. It is now the property of Mr. Michael D. Snow-
man, who removed there from Brooksville. That which
was said of Mr. Daniel Billings, as to character, might be
repeated of his brother.

William Swain was the first settler on the southwest
side of the island, upon the lot of land adjoining that of
Captain Gray on the southeast. He was a native of Scot-
land, and came with the British army to Bagaduce in
1779. He was a master-mariner, and in former years a
man of enterprise. He was at one time worth a very good
property. His wife was a daughter of Mr. Samuel Mat-
thews, of what is now Castine, whose farm, a valuable
one, was afterward owned by Mr. Jonathan Hatch, and
occupied by him at the time of his death. A cove on the
shores of which his place lay is known as Swain's Cove;
but the e.xact time of his coming here is not known. He
did not pay for his property, but the proprietors never
molested him. After his death his son, Mr. George Swain,
made a contract to purchase it, but failed to pay for it, and
did not acquire a title. After the removal of Mr. George
Swain. Mr. Horatio X. Haskell contracted with the owners

176 An Historical Sketch of the

for its purchase, but he also failed to meet his payments.
Afterward it was purchased by Daniel Billings, Esq., who
resided upon it till his death, a few years ago. It is now
owned and occupied by his widow. The time of the death
of the wife of Mr. Swain is not known, but he died about
1835. I^ the family there were, to our knowledge, four
sons, namely, William, Samuel, Walter, and George
Swain. All are now dead. Mr. George Swain removed
to Winterport, where his widow and descendants resided
till the last of our knowledge of them.

Noah Blaster was the first settler upon the land
adjoining that of Mr. Swain upon the southeast. Of him
but yevy little is known either of the place he came from
or the time of his death. He left one son and one daugh-
ter, but of the latter we know nothing. His son was the
late Mr. Samuel Blaster, who died in i860, at the age of
eighty-three, having been born in 1777, and whose wife
was a daughter of Mr. Christopher Gray, of Brooksville.
At the time of her marriage she was the widow of Mr. James
Hendrick, by whom she had two sons, Christopher, now
dead, and the present Mr. Stillman Hendrick who resides
on Little Deer Island; and a daughter, now dead, who
was the wife of Mr. Solomon Eaton, Jr., who died in 1849.
They were the parents of Mr. Isaiah V. Eaton, who died a
soldier in the Union army during the war for the sup-
pression of the Rebellion. Mrs. Blaster died several years
before her husband, by her marriage with whom there
were a number of daughters, and one son, the present
Mr. William Blaster.

Richard Banks settled upon the lot of land lying south-
east of that of Mr. Blaster. He came here from the town
of Hartford, in Oxford County. He brought a part of
his family, and, we believe, married the daughter of Mr,
Blaster after he came here. One of his sons whom he

Town oj Deer Isle, Maine. 177

left behind was the late well-known Silas Banks, who fell
into distress in that town, and, after his father gained a
settlement here, this town was hoi den for his support, and
was obliged to provide for and remove him. He was a
pauper till his death in 1872, or not far from that year.
He was a very witty non compos person, and in some
things possessed a good deal of shrewdness. None of the
other children of Mr. Banks resided here, and in 1835 he
removed to the town of Mount Desert, where he died.

The lot on the southern end of the island is the one
which was occupied by Mr. Benjamin Weed, whom, with
his family, we have noticed. After his exchange with
Captain Peter Hardy, the latter moved upon the lot,
and resided there several years. It was a valuable farm.
When he moved from it, it was occupied by his son, who
was known as Peter Hardy, 3d, and after the death of his
grandfather, in 183 1, as Peter Hardy, Jr. He remained
there till his death, in 1859, at the age of sixty -one years.
His wife was Miss Joan Billings, the eldest daughter of
Mr. Daniel Billings; she died in 1876, at the age of eighty-
two years. Before his death Mr. Hardy bequeathed his
farm to his son, Mr. George W. Hardy. His mother
resided with him till his death, after which she removed
to Babbidge's Neck and resided with her daughter, — now
the wife of Mr. Hiram Gross, — where she remained till
her death. After the death of Mr. George W. Hardy his
widow and children occupied the farm a few years; she
then married and moved away. It is now the property
of Mr. William Blaster.

Abijah Haskell, Jr., has been named as the person
occupying the property of Mr. Eliakim Eaton after his
death. He was a resident of the island over sixty years.
He was a son of Mr. Abijah Haskell who was a son of
Deacon Francis Haskell. They both have been noticed.

178 An Historical Sketch of the

He was bom in 1781. His wife was Miss Susannah Hardy,
a daughter of Mr. Peter Hardy, Sr. By their marriage
they had one son and three daughters. The son is Mr.
Abijah W. Haskell, who now resides in the town of Sedg-
wick. The daughters were the wives of three brothers
of the family of Mr. Jonathan Hardy, — Silas L. who
died in 1849 on the island; she is now dead. Another
was Mr. Jonathan Hardy, Jr., who removed to Winterport,
where he died a few years ago. The other is Mr. Peter
Hardy who now resides in that place. Mr. Haskell died
in 1872, at the age of ninety-one years, and his wife in
1874, at the age of eighty-five. They lived together in
wedlock about sixty-five years.

We have noticed the settlers on Little Deer Island, and
will now take up a sketch of the settlements in that part
of the town which was set off and incorporated as the
town of Isle au Haut, in 1874. The first was made in
1772 on what is known as Merchant's Island. We will
state first what is known about the titles of the lands in
that town, and the islands lying south of Great Deer
Island, now included within the limits of this town. But
few of the settlers on the islands acquired titles to the
land occupied by them until after the separation of the
State of Maine, when both States had a joint ownership
in the public lands in this State, and not long after sales
of the most of them were made at a very reasonable rate.
Thurlow's Island was purchased before the separation by
Joseph Colby, Jr., and David Thurlow, and we think that
Merchant's Island was bought by the occupant, or his son,
Anthony Merchant, Jr. Kimball's Island was purchased
not long after the death of Mr. Seth Webb, in 1785, by
Mr. Solomon Kimball. We think that many of the settlers
on Isle au Haut had also acquired titks. In 1802 a sur\ .y

Town of Deer Isle, Maine. 179

was made of the island by Mr. Lathrop Lewis, and the most
of it was divided into lots ; but a portion of over thirteen
hundred acres lying west of the pond on the island was
left in one body, and sold after the separation to the late
George Kimball, Esq. Another of three hundred and
thirty-nine acres, lying near the southwestern point of the
island, was purchased by David Thurlow and parties in
Castine. We have understood that, before the separation,
the late Peletiah Barter was appointed as an agent by
the residents who had taken up lots, to go to Boston and
take measures for the acquirement of titles, and from the
fact that the persons who were in possession of lots at the
time of the sales made by the land agents of both States,
were not disturbed, we judge that they had acquired titles
to their lands. Some of the occupants of islands between
Great Deer Island and Isle au Haut neglected to purchase,
and others bought them, and after the larger part of them
were sold, there remained a number of smaller ones which
were sold to the late Hezekiah Rowell, Esq., as also was
the island known as Hard Head near Eagle Island. He
at one time owned quite an amount of that kind of prop-
erty, and many of the present owners derived their titles
from him or his grantees.

Among others we would name what is now known as
Fog Island, which was formerly known as Cutter's Island,
lying east of the northern part of Isle au Haut, which was
occupied by a man named Cutter who was drowned in
attempting to land some cattle from a gundelo some eighty
years ago or more. With him were a Mr. Sheldon with
his wife, two sons, a daughter, and a colored man named
Hall — none of whom escaped. Mr. Sheldon left one
daughter who became the wife of Mr. John Pressey, 3d,
the son of Mr. John Pressey, Jr., who has been noticed.
Her name was Mar}', and by the marriage he had one son

i8o An Historical Sketch of the

and one daughter of whom we have had knowledge. The
son was Mr. Henry Pressey, who was, in the winter of
1849 and 1850, lost with Captain John G. Green in the
schooner Tamerlane, bound to this place from Boston.
The daughter was the wife of the late Mr. Samuel Howard.
After the death of Mr. Pressey his widow married Mr.
Nathaniel Merchant who then lived on Camp Island, on
the southern side of Deer Island Thoroughfare, upon which
he died a few years prior to 1830. After that she became
the third wife of Mr. Thomas Colby, who died in 1837, and
she then married Mr. Thomas Cooper, of North Haven.
When he died she remained here, supported by that town
till her death, which was about the year 1859, at the age
of eighty-nine 3'ears. The island then called Fog Island,
by which name it is at present known, was, prior to 1830,
occupied by Mr. John Crockett, not a relative of the fami-
lies of that name here, but a half-brother to the first wife
of Mr. John Closson. Not far from the year mentioned,
he was drowned between that island and Isle au Haut
in the sight of his family. His widow afterward became
the wife of Mr. John Gross.

A number of those islands were inhabited. The one
known as Saddle Back, over sixty years ago, was occupied
by Mr. Edward Howard, whom we have mentioned as a
son-in-law of Mr. Theophilus Eaton. Not far from 1820,
when he became a very old man, he removed to Brooks-
ville, where he had children who took care of him, and
died there. Worthy's Island was occupied for some time
by Mr. Charles Gross who failed to pay for it to the
owner, H. Rowell, Esq., and in 1839 he removed from it,
and it was purchased by Sullivan Green, Esq. Russ
Island was the residence, for many years, of Mr. George
Harvey, a soldier of the War of 181 2. He died there, and
the island is now the property of Captain Stephen B.

Town of Deer Isle, Maine. i8i

Morey. Mr. John Coombs occupied what is known as
Devil Island, and in 1836 he sold it to Mr. Avery Fifield
and moved to the town of Islesborough. Mr. John Har-
vey, a soldier in the war of the Revolution, occupied Bear
Island for some time, and it was afterward the property of
Captain David Thurlow who also owned several other
islands by purchase from the land agents, and Camp Island,
which was sold him by Robert Merchant. On the one
known as Round Island, Mr. Hezekiah Robbins resided
for several years. Afterward he removed to a small island
at the head of Webb's Cove, connected with Deer Island
by a bar, upon which he died. It is near the property
of Mr. Jack Stinson. Wreck Island was, many years ago,
occupied by Mr. Joseph Colby, Jr., for some time, and for
the last thirty years or more it has been occupied by Mr.
Robert Barter, and by his family since his decease. The
island known as Burnt Island, near Isle au Haut, was for
several years occupied by Mr. Henr\^ Barter, and York's
Island was occupied by Mr, Robert Knowlton, who, in
1842, removed to Deer Island and purchased the Sylvester
farm near Webb's Cove. The two latter islands are within
the territorial limits of the town of Isle au Haut, and the
former ones mentioned are within those of Deer Isle.

Although there were many disadvantages in a residence
upon those islands, still there were advantages which were
of value to the occupants whose chief business was fish-
ing, digging clam-bait, and in later years the taking of
lobsters, — the last of which has been a lucrative employ-
ment to those engaged in it. For those pursuits they
were very convenient, but social and educational advan-
tages must, of course, be limited. The male inhabitants
were skillful in the management of small boats, and they
felt as safe in one as others do in carriages upon the main-
land It is surprising to one who has not that skill how

1 82 An Historical Sketch of the

safely a boat can be managed by a person who has experi-
ence in the matter. Those islands were valuable for keep-
ing sheep; if one was present to take care of them, they
could be kept the year round with but little expense. The
occupant, when but one was on an island, had no neces-
sity for maintaining line fences, which is a serious matter
to those that have to meet it, and so such stock can be
kept upon them with great profit. The late George Kim-
ball, Esq., at one time had about four hundred on Kimball's
Island, and the late Mr. Asa Turner kept about as many
upon Isle au Haut. In both cases the expense of wintering
was very small, which made it a profitable business. The
only drawback was the danger from thieves, who could go
to one of the small islands where sheep were kept and upon
which no person resided, and obtain both wool and mutton
without paying for them. I recollect hearing of an instance
where a small vessel from some place up the bay or river,
anchored in a little harbor on the southwestern end of
Kimball's Island, which lay at some distance from the
house, and, undiscovered, those on board drove up,
butchered, and carried off several. Upon the islands lying
between Deer Isle and Isle au Haut such depredations are
often committed upon those having no inhabitants, by a
worthless class who have opportunities for plunder. Were
it not for that, those islands would be of more value than
they now are,


Anthony Merchant, who come from the town of York,
Maine, was the first person who settled within the limits
of the present town of Isle au Haut, and, as has been
understood, he came the same year that his father-in-law
did to Deer Island. It must have been in 1772, and the
island he settled upon has been ever since known as Mer-

Town of Deer Isle, Maine. 183

chant's Island. His wife was Miss Abigail Raynes, and
was a daughter of Mr. John Raynes, St., the father of
Messrs. John, Johnson, and William Raynes. Mr. Mer-
chant was a master-mariner and made voyages to the
West Indies. They had three sons and five daughters.
The sons were: Nathaniel who, as has been stated, resided
upon Camp Island; John who removed to Vinalhaven;
and Anthony Merchant, Jr., who lived and died upon the
island settled by his father. Of the daughters one, Abi-
gail, was the wife of Mr. Joseph Arey, of Vinalhaven.
Another, Eleanor, was the wife of Mr. John Smith, of that
town, who lived near what is known as Smith's Harbor, on
the eastern side of the island, and both her husband and
herself lived to a good old age. Another, Miriam, was the
wife of Mr. Henry Barter who will be noticed. Another,
Martha, was the first wife of Captain Tristram Haskell, of
this town, who has been noticed. One, Susan, died un-
married. Mrs. Haskell died not far from the year 1803,
but the others, with the exception of Susan, lived to be
very old. Mr. Merchant was a very quiet man and a good
citizen. The year of his death is not known to us. His
wife died not far from 1833, and was at the time consid-
erably over eighty years of age.

Nathaniel Merchant was the eldest son of the family.
He married in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and had
two sons and two or more daughters. The sons were
the late Mr. Nathaniel Merchant who died, we believe, in
1879, on Isle au Haut, and Mr. Robert Merchant who
resided, after the death of his father, on Camp Island, which
was for many years the residence of the latter. In 1845
he sold it to the late Captain David Thurlow, and since
that time he has been here only a part of the time, as his
wife abandoned him. His present place of residence
we do not know. One of the daughters of the family

184 An Historical Sketch of the

was the wife of Mr. John Gott, Jr., who formerly resided
on Swan's Island. About the rest of the family we have
no knowledge. Mr. Merchant, the subject of this notice,
for his second wife, married the widow of Mr. John Pressey,
Jr., the daughter of the Mr. Sheldon before referred to, who
was drowned near Fog Island. For many years they
resided on Camp Island, where he died not far from the
year 1830, as before stated. His widow has been noticed.

Anthony Merchant, Jr., was the youngest son of the
family and was born in the year 1790, or about that time.
His wife was Miss Eunice Smith, a daughter of Mr. David
Smith, of Swan's Island, who was well known here man}^
years ago. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War,
By his first marriage Mr. Merchant had one son, the late
Mr. David S. Merchant, and one daughter, who became
the wife of Mr. Willard Matthews, who at that time resided
upon Merchant's Island, but after his marriage soon
removed to Belfast, out of which place he sailed as a
master-mariner. After the death of his wife Mr. Merchant
married Mrs. Maria Gross, by whom he had a family, of
which there how remain two sons. One of the sons, Mr.
John Merchant, was drowned a few years since, having
been knocked overboard from a small vessel while sailing
down the bay. The remaining sons have removed from
the' town. One of the daughters is the wife of Mr. James
Childs who has ever since his marriage lived on the island.
The other, the wife of Mr. John Cross, is now dead. Mr.
Merchant was for many years a collector of taxes in what
was then known as the Isle au Haut collection district,
and was a faithful and efficient officer. He died not far
from the year 1865. His widow married a Mr. Clark, of
the town of Brewer, Maine.

Jacob Gross was also a resident of Merchant's Island,
and lived upon the western end of it. He was a brother

Town of Deer Isle, Maine. 185

of the Mr. George Gross before noticed, but from what
place he came, or what year he removed here is not to
us known, nor do we know the year of his death. He left
a widow, four sons, and one daughter. The sons were
Messrs. David, Swansey, John, and James Gross. Mr.
David Gross died in 1853; his wife was Miss Parizanda
Merithew, and she died in '1880. They were the parents
of the present Messrs. David and William Gross. Mr.
Swansey Gross married a daughter of Mr. Thomas Buck-
minster, and they are both dead. They were the parents
of Messrs. William B., Hiram, and Thomas B. Gross. The
latter resides upon the homestead of his father. Mr.
John Gross was the third son of the family, and his first
wife, who abandoned him, was a daughter of Mr. James
Robertson. He afterward married the widow of the Mr,
John Crockett whom we have mentioned as residing on Fog
Island and being drowned near there. By that marriage
he had tw^o sons. One was Jacob Gross who was one of
the crew of the schooner Sarah which was lost in 185 1
in the great gale in Chaleur Bay with all on board. The
other son is the present Mr. Edwin Gross. The fourth
son, Mr. James Gross, never married, and for some years
before his death was totally blind. The daughter, Mar\'
Gross, was the wife of Mr, William Matthews, who re-
moved to Merchant's Island from the town of Boothbay,
Maine. He died in the family of his son, Mr. Stinson Mat-
thews, in this town, his widow surviving him a few years.

The next settlement made in the present town of Isle
au Haut was, as has been stated, by Mr. Seth Webb,
whom we have noticed, but the exact date is not to us
known. It has been said that during the ver\^ severe
winter of 1780 he went to the top of the mountain on Isle
au Haut, and from that eminence could see no water for
ice out seaward. If that account be correct, it must have

1 86 An Historical Sketch of the

been the most severe winter ever experienced here since
the first settlement of the town, as in but few winters within
the past fifty years has the ice made to such a degree as to
be sufficiently strong to pass over from Deer Island to Isle
au Haut. After the death of Mr. Webb, Mr. Solomon
Kimball purchased the island now known as Kimball's
Island (the one settled by Mr. Webb), and resided upon it.
Afterward it came into the possession of his son, the late
George Kimball, Esq., who occupied it till his death in
1839. The wife of the latter was Miss Lucretia Amazene,
of Newcastle, New Hampshire, and she died not long after
i860. Mr. Kimball was a man who sustained a good
reputation, and was active and enterprising. He did
considerable business, owning vessels, and was in pos-
session of an extensive property. Besides the island he
occupied, he owned over thirteen hundred acres of land
in one body on Isle au Haut, lying westerly of the pond
on that island. He was, in 1826, representative from this
town to the Legislature, and was for many years a justice
of the peace. One son in the family was George Kim-
ball, Jr., Esq., who removed to Winterport, and in 1850
removed to California, having organized a company which
built a ship of six hundred tons, as we believe, in the town
of Cutler, Maine. With a number of others interested
in the ship he emigrated, and at the last accounts was
living. Another son was Solomon and another William
Kimball — both of whom, we believe, went to California
at the same time. The latter is now dead. Another son
was Mr. Benjamin A. Kimball, who died in 1842, or about
that time, at home. The daughters of the family were
the wives of Mr. Isaiah Barbour, who removed to Camden;
of Mr. Willard Clark, a school-teacher; of the late Captain
Benjamin S. Smith, a son of Mr. Simon Smith, who re-
moved to Winterport and was lost at sea. His widow

Town of Deer Isle, Maine. 187

resides at the present time on the homestead of her father
with her two sons. The other daughter of the family
now living is the second wife of Captain Seth Webb, of
this town. Two of the daughters died unmarried.

Peletiah Barter was the person by whom the first
settlement was made on Great Isle au Haut, and it was in
1792. He was a native of the town of Boothbay, Maine,
and resided on what is known as Barter's Island in that
town. He was bom in the year 1772. His wife was Miss
Mary Trundy, the eldest daughter of Mr. Samuel Trundy,
of this town, and they were the parents of ten children.
Two of the sons grew to manhood, — the late Mr. Peletiah
Barter, Jr., and the present Mr. John Barter who now
resides there. His wife was a daughter of Mr. James

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Online LibraryGeorge Lawrence HosmerAn historical sketch of the town of Deer Isle, Maine; with notices of its settlers and early inhabitants → online text (page 14 of 22)