Seal Cove Day Two

Since the crew will be working for the next six straight days, parpicipants took the day off to explore the park. After an evening of fun and relaxation, the crew was treated to a lobster dinner courtesy of a local fisherman. Tomorrow, we will continue drawing profiles of the frames, this time with the assistance of volunteers from the general public and Acadia National Park staff.

As project historian, I will be visiting the William O. Sawtelle Curatorial Center to study the wealth of their archives. In the evening, Franklin Price will speak at the Bass Harbor Memorial Library. This will provide an excellent opportunity to network with local historians that may wish to share with us. The study of Seal Cove’s history has been a valuable experience, especially in light of the excellent aid offered by the Mount Desert Island Historical Society (MDIHS) and their recent collection efforts. Archives at the MDIHS contain shipping records, personal experiences, newspaper files, and the rich photographic history of the island.

The Heath Mill at the outlet of Seal Cove stream contributed greatly to the community at the cove. Analysis of the lumber operations is being made to place the shipwreck in historical context. Prominent nineteenth-century families include Heath, Reed, Norwood, Hodgdon, and Flye. The first two generations of Heaths played a prominent role in the shipping and shipbuilding activities at the cove. The third William contributed to the community itself by teaching, serving on the Tremont school committee, surveying, and marrying various couples as one of the local justices of the peace.

Another local shipbuilder was Hiram Flye who operated a shipyard on the cove itself. Many local historians are fond of Hiram Flye and his habit of not naming his vessels for people. Ships built by him included the Northern Lights and Light of the East.

The working theory that I have so far is that Seal Cove appears to have reached its apex in the mid to late nineteenth century and faded as more industrialized businesses entered the area, such as the William Underwood Company’s canning operations. This drew the labor of Seal Cove to Bass Harbor.

With the decline of the lumber business by the early twentieth century, Seal Cove faded from economic importance. A Bar Harbor Times article in the May 25, 1961 issue, titled “Seal Cove Once Knew Life of Economic Activities – Faint Traces Remain” found at the MDIHS helped me to establish this scenario. My thanks to writer LaRue Spiker!

— Baylus C. Brooks