Seal Cove Day Five – History Section in the Making


Today was all about outreach.  With new volunteers to train and frames to draw, the archaeology team made steady progress at the site.  Meanwhile, on the historical front…

Yesterday, I focused on learning about the lumber trade in Maine.  Two books explain this quite well.  Both are appropriately titled A History of Lumber in Maine – they merely have different dates: 1820-1861 and 1861-1960. 

Today, I trekked to the southern-most tip of western Mount Desert Island – Bass Harbor in Tremont.  There, across from the Underwood packing plant (recently  turned condominium) is the Country Store Museum.    The red-painted two-story structure itself looks original and is filled with many artifacts of interest.   It lays directly across the water from an old menhaden-trying operation that rendered oil somewhat similar to that of whale or porpoise oil. 

At the museum, I met with Muriel Davisson, a former president of the Tremont Historical Society who happened to grow up across the water and in sight of the museum.  The society’s information-packed search room is housed upstairs. 

The flood of new information thankfully confirmed my original hypothesis that Seal Cove’s economic importance faded soon after the turn of the century due to incoming industrialization – much of the community’s labor traveled south to Bass Harbor.  There was also a wealth of information on the genealogy of the families in Seal Cove, among other villages in the town of Tremont.   There, I found road petitions and orders that reveal families, businesses, their activities and locations.   It was an easy matter to visualize the look and feel of Seal Cove in the nineteenth century, especially with the aid of their photograph collection.  They had family portraits from the 1870s, many school photos, old and new, shots of ice cutting, lumbering, local sailors and their ships, even one of two men moving an outhouse with a small tractor on Dodge’s Point (south side of Seal Cove) – complete with its occupant – clothed, of course.  This trip is certainly worth repeating! 

—Baylus C. Brooks