The principal occupation of the first settlers of Harpswell is said to have been cutting cord-wood and shipping it to Boston, Salem, and other ports, although farming and fishing were doubtless carried on to some extent. Bailey's Island, which is now nearly barren of trees, was at that time densely covered with wood. After a while the settlers devoted themselves almost exclusively to farming and fishing.


We have been unable to obtain any statistics of this business, at an early date. At the present time there are caught, dried, and cured in Harpswell about 20,000 quintals of fish annually, consisting of cod, hake, haddock, pollock, and cusk. Smaller fish, such as mack-erel, porgies, and herring, are also caught in abundance. In the month of September the herring come in very plenty, and it is not uncommon to see, in Mackerel Cove and Jaquis' Harbor, from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty sail of vessels. Large quantities of the fish are taken to Portland, where they are packed and shipped to various parts of the country as "Portland Herring." During the months of March, April, and May, most of the fishermen are engaged in the lobster fishery. The fishing smacks are so arranged that the lobsters are kept alive, and large numbers are shipped to Portland, Boston, and New York.

In former years the clam business was quite an important branch of the fisheries, but it is not so now. About the year 1863 there were put up, and sold at prices ranging from $8.00 to $14.00 per barrel, not less than 2,500 barrels. The principal dealers in fish are S. Watson, A. T. Trufant, and John Power, of East Harpswell; Smullen & Prince and .J. M. Johnson, of Orr's Island; E. C. Simpson & Co. and J. B. Pinkham, of West Harpswell.

Owing to the fact that Harpswell possesses no streams large enough to afford sufficient water-power, but little attention has been given to manufactures in this town.

Previous to 1758 there was a wind-mill in the town and a tide-mill called Jones's Mill.1 The location of the wind-mill is not known. The tide-mill was situated near the farm of Arthur Orr, and was at one time owned by him. It was originally built by a family of Quakers, by the name of Jones. Captain James Sinnett, of Bailey's Island, remembers a very old mill at Widgeon Cove, which was standing as late as the year 1804. It was then owned, in part, by Silas Allen and Deacon James Wilson.

About the year 1800 there was a wind-mill near Charles Merryman's. It was built and owned by Major Paul Randall. The great shaft for the mill he hauled from Brunswick, and it was so heavy he nearly broke the backs of his oxen drawing it over some of the hills. The mill did not do much business. It was situated down near the shore, instead of upon the ridge, which would have furnished more wind-power. The present saw and grist mill was erected about the year 1850. It is owned in shares, about twenty in number.

In 1855, or thereabouts, there were two grist-mills on Great Island, one owned by Stephen Purinton, Esquire, and the other by a Mr. Ridley.


During the Revolution salt was very scarce. An Irishman on Great Island, who understood how to make salt from sea-water, sug-gested the building of salt-works on that island. A company was formed, a building erected, and kettles and other appliances were pur-chased. The Irishman, whose name was Millay, had charge of the kettles. A yoke of oxen was employed to draw wood for the ovens. Sixty bushels of salt per week were manufactured, and it was sold in Boston for two dollars per bushel.


The population of Harpswell is so scattered that it has been found no easy thing to obtain an account of the various trades pursued in former times or at present. The following is all that we have obtained any information about.

BAKERS. - Early in the present or late in the last century a Mr. Ryan had a bakery on Great Island. He moved to Brunswick in 1804 or 1805.

BLACKSMITHS. -Nehemiah Curtis, whose shop was one mile above the Congregational Church on the Neck, was the first blacksmith in

1. Memoranda of Reverend Samuel Eaton, in Pejepscot Papers.

town of whom we have any account. He was succeeded in the business by his son and grandson, of the same name. The grandson kept the shop until 1820. Somewhat later in the business were Benjamin Curtis, whose shop was half a mile northwest of the church, and Barstow Curtis, whose shop was where Abijah Stover now lives.

BOAT-BUILDERS. - David Doughty was the first boat-builder on Great Island. He was engaged in this business as late as 1847. He was succeeded in the business by William Doughty. Since then the business has been carried on by quite a large number of persons.

BOOT AND SHOE MAKERS. -James Merryman, on the Neck, near the Baptist Church, and William Orr, on Orr's Island, were engaged in the boot and shoe business for some years. They moved away about 1847.

BRICK-YARDS. -In 1805 there was a brick-yard owned by a Mr. Douglass, situated on the Neck, about three miles above the Congregational Church. It was in operation only a short time. There was another one carried on by a Mr. Reed in 1812 to 1815, on Orr's Island.

CARPENTERS AND JOINERS. -John Curtis, in 1802 to 1804, and Waitstill Webber, an apprentice of Curtis's, in 1804, worked at this trade. Their shop was on the Neck, about two miles above the Congregational Church. In 1806, John Bibber pursued this occupation.

GUNSMITHS. - A man by the name of Nason lived on Bailey's Island about 1856, and carried on the business of a gunsmith. His shop was where Prince & Smullen's store is now.

HARNESS AND SADDLE MAKERS. - A man by the name of Barstow carried on the above business for one year in 1816 or 1817.

MASONS. - The only mason that we have received any account of was a man by the name of Ewing. He lived on Great Island, but at what date is not known to us.

SURVEYORS. -The only surveyors of land of whom we have any account were Paul and Benjamin Randall, who lived about two miles and a half above the Congregational Church. Paul died about 1874; Benjamin, about 1847.

TAILORS. - From 1800 to 1806, D. Merritt carried on the tailoring business in town. He moved to Durham.

TANNERS. - In the early part of the century, Thomas Farr had a tannery in Stover's Cove, on the Neck, and Benjamin Dunning had one about three miles above the Congregational Church. In the eastern part of the town, Stephen Purinton had one.


Mr. James Booker kept store as early as 1752 and as late as 1762. About the latter date Andrew Dunning and Alexander Wilson were also in trade; that is, they were licensed retailers, and had a stock of goods which they disposed of to the settlers when called upon, but they probably did not confine themselves exclusively to that business.

Joseph Coney came from Boston in 1795 and opened a store, which was opposite the lower end of Orr's Island. It was afterwards occupied by Bruce & Everett, Silas H. Dodge, and Jacob Merryman. Joseph Eaton kept store near the Congregational Church until his death, about 1846. A Mr. Pinkham once kept store at the end of Potts's Point, but the date is unknown. In 1847, Washington Garcelon, post-master, had one near Paul Randall's.

Bailey's Island. - The old store which once stood at the head of the cove, on the outer end of Bailey's Island, has been occupied by the following men in succession: Perry & Howard, of Brunswick, about 1800; Joseph Coney, Major John Rowe, Zachariah Lambert, and Captain David Johnson. The store now occupied by Lubee was formerly owned by Ralph Sinnett.

A Mr. Dana and a Mr. Twombly both kept store on this island for a long time. The former was at the lower end. The date of their doing business is not known.

Orr's Island. -In the early part of this century Edward Ingraham kept a store on the southwest end of the island, where Prince & Smullen's store is now. He had a brother in business with him, who was probably Nathaniel. S. F. Merrill at one time had a store at Lowell's Cove.

Great Island. -In the latter part of the last, or in the first of the present century, a Mr. Ryan had a store at Condy's Harbor.

Esquire Snow kept a store for many years at his wharf on New Meadows River.


On February 14, 1855, Paul R. Curtis, Shubal Merryman, Isaac A. Johnson, Thomas A. Estes, Thomas U. Eaton, Abram J. Allen, Simeon Curtis, L. H. Stover, Pennell Alexander, Thomas Alexander, and Abel Thompson were incorporated as the HARPSWELL MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY. The first officers were Thomas Alexander, president; Thomas U. Eaton, secretary; Abel Thompson, treasurer. The first Board of Directors were Stephen Purinton, James Orr,

David Webber, Alcot S. Merryman, Thomas U. Eaton, Thomas Alexander, and Henry Barnes.

The losses of this company have been so little that there has never been a necessity for making any assessments upon the members. The present officers are Thomas Alexander, president; William C. Eaton, secretary; Shubael Merryman, treasurer. The present directors are Thomas Alexander, Pennell Alexander, William C. Eaton, Shubael Merryman, Sylvester Stover, Stephen Purinton, and Samuel E. Smullen.


The following charges and credits are taken from various accounts in James Booker's account-book, and are copied verbatim:-

1750Lawful money  
   to two pare of buckels 5/4 & one pare of buttons 1/101100
   one pare of Shoes 6/8 & one pare of Stockens 3/90105
   two yards of striped humspun Cloath & a half068
   eight yards of Checkt humspun Cloath114
   two pare of mittens 2/8 & thre pare of buttons 4/10076
   one Raizer014
   one pare mens shoes060
   one gallon Rum028
   one Centle of fish093
   a Quarter of a thousand of pins007
   half a pound of powder010
   one Jarr of Oyl094
   one pare of pomps068
   one pare plush Briches140
   six pound of Cotton Wool108
   thirty one Cord of wood @ forty shillings854
   one comb011
   two quarts molases014
   one peck Rie meal0011
   one pound of Coffy014
   one bushel Corn024
   one hundred of nales018
   one Sithe0400
   two pound of Chocolat0160
   three pound of Shugar020
   one load of hay1174
   five bunches Shingles0108
   half a dozen puter plates0134
   one pare of silver buttons032
   half a bushel of beans022
   eleven yards of bed ticking1182
   half a pound of peper014

1750Lawful money  
   one barril of flower11111
   two pare of woman's Shoes094
   six pound & a half of tobacco027
   one pair of bed blankets140
   four ounces of homspon thred021
   eight pound of Shoot028
   Quarter of a yard of Cambrick024
   Broad Cloath & trimen for a Jacket.1191
   Ten bizcake [biscuit?]0010
   one cap024
   one thousand shingles0108
   one wheelbarer094


Our account of the valuation of Harpswell is very meagre, and down to 1840 we have no record of anything except the number of polls. The following is all we have been enabled to obtain:-

1780 175  
1790 214  
1800 262  
1830 247  
1840 289estates$250,335
1850 328    345,544
1860 367    410,566
1870 404    426,968


In 1765 there were in Harpswell fifty-five houses, one hundred and eleven families, two hundred and twenty-four males under, and one hundred and eighty-eight above sixteen years of age, two hundred and twenty-four females under, and one hundred and eighty-six females above sixteen, and fourteen negroes. The total population, exclusive of Indians, was eight hundred and thirty-six. Brunswick at this time had a population of but five hundred aid six.

In 1776, Harpswell had nine hundred and seventy-seven white inhabitants, while Brunswick had but eight hundred and sixty-seven.1

In 1778, Harpswell had twenty-seven Revolutionary soldiers, and one hundred and seventy-eight males over the age of sixteen.2

1. Census of Massachusetts, 1765 to 1776.
2. Massachusetts Archives, Book 185, p. 391.

The following is the population for the years in which we have been able to find a census of it:-


It will be noticed from the census of the three towns, that while Brunswick and Topsham have lost in population since 1850, Harpswell has made a steady gain from the very first, and in no decade has she lost in population.