By Frank Milan
The people of Swan’s
It has been 76 years since Dr. Small’s history was published and few now are living who were contemporary with the events that happened in the years immediately after the history was published. I happen to be one of those few, having been born on the Lighthouse on Hockomock Head in June of 1898.
This discourse is titled ‘Swan’s
Although my people were on one side of the so-called doctors’ war, I will try to give an unbiased account of what happened.
Dr. Small left Swan’s
Before 1900 there were several
granite quarries on the
I believe the wharf belonged to Addison Bridges. The last load of granite was loaded onto a schooner and the boat hauled out into the harbor to await a favorable wind to sail. Something happened and the schooner sank right there in the middle of the upper harbor. All during my growing up years she lay there half submerged and half above the water. At one time Frank Bridges had a car moored along side the hulk and bought lobsters and sold gas there.
By far the largest and long lived quarry was situated further down in Minturn and continued to run for quite some time after the above event occurred. It was at this location that Stinson Hooper had his accident which was described in a recent issue of Down East and where he finally met his end in a similar accident.
This was a paving block quarry situated on a hill some 6 or 7 hundred yards from the shore. Stone in large chunks would be taken out of the quarry and then carried by rail car to stalls situated along the track where they were quarried into paving blocks. Periodically the blocks would be put onto the car and taken to the dock for loading onto a schooner, usually three-masted. Since the quarry was on a fairly steep hill, the car could go down by gravity then would be pulled back by a winch in the engine house at the quarry site.
The quarry is now used as a swimming hole with the swimming area closed off with a fish net and a lifeguard standing nearby for safety.
The present generation often wonder out loud what we ever did in those times for recreation. I can assure you that even if we didn’t have autos, cigarettes, liquor, or dope we had a very full recreational life and found little time with nothing to do.
The Redman’s Hall was built in 1908
and the Odd Fellow’s Hall a year or two later and I believe the Seaside Hall in
Atlantic was built sometime before either of the above and I believe socials
were held in the Epworth League Hall opposite the Methodist church. At Fourth of July time a dance was held at
the Odd Fellow’s Hall the night before the Fourth and two more the afternoon
and evening of the Fourth. The Redmen
would hold sort of a carnival all day the Fourth and have dances in the
afternoon and evening. All these events
were well attended. Then dances were
held at the Seaside Hall in
At other times we would go skating in the evening at either the ice pond or the Goose or Lilly ponds which were over on the Minturn side of the Harbor. I remember once my feet were so sore that I took off my shoes and walked home in my stocking feet. We didn’t have skates in those days permanently attached to a pair of skate shoes. At first we had skates that clamped on to the soles of our shoes and many a shoe was destroyed by the clamps pulling off the soles. Later we had skates that screwed into the heel and was strapped over the foot. These skates had little brads to help keep the skates from slipping but if the straps got loose these brads would cut the soles of the shoes completely in two. Another pair of shoes for Pa to buy.
About 1914, five citizens including my father, started up moving pictures into the Redman’s Hall; silent, of course. The light for the movie machine was furnished by a carbon arc which wasn’t too satisfactory by present day standards. The carbons were continually wearing away and had to be adjusted. Electricity was furnished by a generator run by a stationary engine. Frequently this engine would break down and then about half the men in the audience would go to the engine room to help get the engine going again or perhaps just to kibitz.
Also about this time the Odd Fellow’s started roller skating in their hall. This was a welcome diversion but didn’t in any way slow up the dancing.
No mention of recreation of those days should be without mention of the picnics that were frequently held in the summer. Usually the women would get together by telephone on some fine morning and make their plans for a picnic. By the time the men got back from their traps all the plans would be made. The Verna C., the Bridges boys lobster smack would pull into a dock and everyone would climb aboard; high water or low, it didn’t make any difference. They would then sail to one of the outside islands, usually Gooseberry about a mile from the Lighthouse. The Verna C. would be anchored and everyone taken ashore in the tender. The first ones ashore would set to gathering the firewood and making the chowder. It was always a fish chowder. By the time everyone was ashore the chowder and coffee was ready. After the chowder came the goodies consisting of cookies, cake, and pies. Then followed a social hour until it was time to go back home. What a pity we couldn’t have some of these times now. Perhaps it would help us forget Watergate and other so called ills of the country.
For the times the
In the early years Swan’s
Up to the
turn of the century there was no form of communication on the
about 1910 a telephone cable was laid from Naskeag Point in Brooklin to the
cable wore out another one was laid from
Of course, Swan’s
Another big industry of the time was haking by means of trawls. A trawl usually consisted of a main line of ten lines long. Since the length of a line was something like 47 fathoms the whole trawl would be more than a half mile long. About every five or six feet a gangling would be tied on the main line and a hook tied to the other end of the gangling. A little arithmetic will show that there were more than 500 hooks on each trawl. Later the ganglings were put nearer together making still more hooks.
trawls were strung out along the ocean bottom some ten miles or more from the
harbor. The men then went back to the
starting point and hauled the trawl back by hand together with what fish
managed to get themselves hooked. The
hauls amounted anywhere from 1,000 pounds to 5,000 which brought a price of 50
cents per hundred pounds just as they came form the water. There were three big fish stands that bought
and processed them. The Ferd Morse and
Stanley Joyce stands were on the Swan’s
were split, the back bone cut out, and then heavily salted in terces which were huge barrels holding some 15 bushels or more. The herring people did and do call them
hogsheads. In the fall or winter they
were taken out and shipped by coaster to
Baiting these trawls was a lucrative occupation for us youngsters and some older men. Most fishermen had nine trawls but only fished 6 at each setting. The other three were baited on the mornings when he went out and then when he got back, anywhere from to , his baiter would bait the other three trawls. If he happened to get in early his baiter would usually have time to bait a couple trawls for someone else. It took on the average of about 45 minutes to bait a trawl and the pay was 50 cents, thus one cold make 3 or 4 dollars a day. This wouldn’t be much by present day standards but was magnificent in those days. It bought a lot of banana splits for 15 cents each, and other goodies.
Speaking of fishing I am reminded of my floundering experience. I used to catch flounders off some dock, skin them and then peddle them to various houses. I charged 8 cents apiece or 3 for a guarded. That was fine until one day she wanted three but bought them one at a time. That did away with the bargain prices.
More about the lobster business. In those days a lobster was measured over his whole length and if one did not quite fill the measure it was a simple matter to grab his tail and body and stretch him a little. Later the measure went from the end of the jiboom to the end of the body. Sometimes he wouldn’t quite go the measure se we just broke off the jiboom then he was measured to the end of the big part of the feeler, and this would be enough to fill the measure. Of course, now the lobster is measured form the eye socket to the end of the body, thus doing away with all those shenanigans.
all the lobsters were bought by smacks, mostly schooners,
that anchored in the harbor. When
they had bought a load they would take off for
of this period would be complete without telling about the steamboats of the
time; the Vinalhaven and later the Governor Bodwell. Since the Vinal started running to the
The Vinal was built in 1892 to run to Vinalhaven in opposition to the Gov. Bodwell which was built the same year. The Vinal was such an horrendous looking contraption and compared so unfavorably with the Bodwell that no one felt badly when she burned at Vinalhaven dock and sank. She was raised, taken to Searsport under her own power, and completely rebuilt and a new engine installed. The new Vinal was a far cry from the first one although still not as powerful or as fast as the Bodwell.
Vinal was the boat that first came to Swan’s
until about 1915 was Capt. Alvah Barbour and the purser for still longer was
Isaac Stinson. They were my heroes. Every day during the three or four hours that
the boat laid in
Barbour, then a comparatively young man, began to get deaf and so was obliged to leave the boat. He moved to
By the late
teens the Vinal was beginning to show the ravages of the rugged 60 mile route
she had traveled for more than 20 years.
In 1920 she was transferred to the Vinalhaven route and the Gov. Bodwell
was sent to Swan’s
above, the Bodwell was launched the same year as the Vinal. She was about the same size as the Vinal
after the 1905 changes to the Vinal but had 120 more horsepower so was
considerably faster. The people of
One day or
night in January of 1924, while entering the harbor in a blinding snowstorm,
the light at the lighthouse loomed so that Capt. Kent thought he was nearer the
light than he really was. As a result
she struck on spindle ledge right opposite the lighthouse. The next day she slid off into deeper water
and her houses washed overboard. The
insurance underwriters considered her a total loss and paid the insurance. She was, however, raised towed to
opinion of this writer she then became the best looking and most comfortable
boat to ply the
followed had best be left to future historians who were on the scene and thus
knew more about what happened. Suffice
it to say that the
In the late
fifties or early sixties the state built four modern steel ferry boats and
among the routes served was the one from
several wrecks of freight schooners during this period. Two of these wrecks occurred on John’s
wreck on this ledge was loaded with hogsheads of molasses. Since each hogshead held 60 or more gallons
of the gooey stuff it wasn’t so easy to salvage it. Nevertheless, there was plenty bread and
molasses eaten on the
Not long after this a three masted schooner loaded with laths foundered on Outer Long Island. Laths are one of the mainstays of a lobster fisherman’s trade. In no time at all, the ship was surrounded with salvagers and they stayed at it long as a lath was left. Soon an insurance man arrived planning to reclaim the laths but he didn’t succeed very well, the laths had already gone back from hence they came, the deep woods and what laths he found he could have carried off in his pocket.
after the turn of the century, a vessel tried to make the harbor in a heavy
As mentioned before, my father came to the Lighthouse in November of 1897 and I was born there the next June. Since then quite a few changes have occurred. When he went there, there were two light towers. It was what was called a range light. Supposedly if a captain got the lights lined up exactly he could come directly into the harbor no matter how dark it might be. Unfortunately, the lights were so near together, it was possible to think they were lined up and still run right over the top of Quako Ledge. That way wasn’t too good so they discontinued the small light. When I was a very small boy, they put jacks under the back side and just toppled the tower into the brink. Sometime about 1912 they built a bell tower and installed a bell which was sounded in foggy weather. This tower had to be quite high so they could have room to hoist the weights that rang the bell. When the weights were at the very top they would ring the bell for 5 ¾ hours. I have wound them up a good many times and you can take my word that it wasn’t easy. When electricity came the bell no longer needed the weights so about half of the tower was cut off. Then they discovered that there were blind spots out to sea where the bell could not be heard so they installed a siren whistle on top of the main tower and discontinued the bell. The shortened tower still stands there but the bell has been given to the Historical Society as a relic.
There was at first a good sized shed near the house. In the back end of this shed was a coal bin that would hold six or seven tons of coal. That coal was landed on the bank by the crew of the lighthouse tender and my father had to wheel it up to the shed. After the furnace was installed he would have to wheel it again around to a smaller bin in the cellar by the furnace. I presume they now fire the furnace with oil as the shed has now been torn down and there is no longer a place to store a boat.
When I was a youngster there was just a cow path leading up over the ‘Head’ to the Valley. Now they have a nice tarred road leading right to the Lighthouse.
A Mr. Cram
And then there was Monte Annis who made gasoline tanks for lobster boats and made them ridiculously cheap. One day someone asked him how he could make them so cheap. He replied, “Well, you know, I lose a little on each tank but I have such a big business that I manage to make a living.” He didn’t stay in business too long.
There was the fellow who found a lobster trap that some one had lost. He said, “Just go out the harbor with the Lighthouse over your stern until you get abreast of Turnip Point; then look overboard and the buoy will be about four feet under the water.”
Then there was Ralph Gordon who had a bad cold. He bought a box of week’s Break-up cold Tablets, read the directions, and decided that if two pills would help then a whole box would cure the cold right off. He dammed near died.
I had several rather unique experiences in connection with either the Vinal or the Bodwell.
1910, I was coming from
event was the last day of December of 1917.
The harbor was full with ice and the Vinal could only just get in by the
Lighthouse. They dug a hole in the ice
and put the anchor in the hole and went home.
That was one time that the skipper of a boat didn’t have to worry about
the boat moving during the night. The
next morning I, along with the rest of the passengers, walked off on the ice
and boarded the boat. Since
The winter of 1923 was another icy
winter. My father was sick with double
pneumonia and I wanted to go down and visit him. Since the
When a schooner finished loading at the quarry dock, it would run a line to a ledge not far from the dock and haul itself off towards the harbor. When the boat got nearly to the ledge the winchman would stop pulling and someone would unhook the line from the ledge and she would glide out by into the harbor. This time someone goofed and the winchman didn’t stop his winch so the ship was hauled right on to the ledge and stuck there. The schooner (three-masted) was the Waronock and its skipper was Capt. Anderson whose wife was a cousin to my father. That night Capt. Anderson made a call on my father at the Lighthouse. It was quite a thrill to a full fledged captain in the flesh to be in our house. The next day at high water she was pulled from her perch on the ledge and went merrily on her way none the worse for her humiliating experience.
In the fall
of 1918 an epidemic of the flu struck all over the country. This was before the days of the wonder drugs
so no medicine could be given to cure it.
The flu itself didn’t kill anyone but it so weakened the body that the
pneumonia that inevitably followed caused the death rate to balloon. Swan’s
Addison Parker was called to Ellsworth for jury duty. When he got back, someone asked him what kind of a time he had. He replied, “I had a wonderful time, but you know, I found eleven of the most contrary men that I ever saw”.
was the fellow from a town not far from Swan’s
Before the turn of the century there were quite a few mackerel seiners, banks fishermen, etc. but they all disappeared early in this century. When I was eight or nine years old I remember the harbor filling up with seiners just before a storm but that was the last of them.
Capt. Ed Smith, however had a schooner named “Hockomock”. He would start fishing down off
Blanche Tainter was also a fisherman and had just had a new schooner built when he and his wife were both felled by the flu leaving 3 or 4 small children which were brought up by relatives.
Frank just didn’t get back to finish the rest of this or put a closing to
his memories. The manuscript just
Apparently Frank just didn’t get back to finish the rest of this or put a closing to his memories. The manuscript just stops here…………………