History of Swan's Island

A History of Swan’s Island, Maine

Upon the very threshold of this historical sketch we find ourselves quite destitute of early public records for Swan’s Island. For over half a century from the settlement of this island until its organization as a plantation no municipal records were kept. But we are fortunate that H. W. Small saw purpose in bringing to light many private family records, old deeds showing what lots were occupied by the pioneer settlers; and written mutual agreements, which seem to have been often the result of arbitration on any disputed point where different claims to land conflicted with one another.

A great deal of the information which he received concerning the early settlers was obtained from the oldest inhabitants of the island at the time, many of whom were children of the first settlers, and in a few instances the latter of the pioneer settlers themselves. In this part, which he obtained from the memory of aged people, some errors may appear, but in the main it will be found correct, as a great deal of pains has been taken to verify these records.

The location of Swan’s Island is in Hancock county, thirty-six miles south of Ellsworth, and is separated from Mount Desert by four miles of water. The island proper contains 5,875 acres, besides a number of smaller islands which are included in the town. It is entirely surrounded by the Atlantic ocean, yet several islands intervene between it and the open sea. The surface contains no great eminences, but is generally hilly. The ocean has made great indentations into the island, cutting it into great peninsulas which, in some instances, nearly unite, the enclosure forming excellent harbors which offer safe shelter to vessels of the largest size. Excellent crops reward those who till the soil, yet on account of the rocky nature of the land, farming was never carried out to any great extent. An inexhaustible supply of granite forms the southern part of the island, but the fishing business now, as ever in the past, is the leading industry.

Mr. Small thought best to include in this work a notice of the early settlers of Gott’s Island, as the people from that island have so often intermarried with the people of Swan’s Island, and many of them have changed their residences from the one place to the other that their histories are almost inseparable.

Table of Contents

Biography, History,


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