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Last Updated: Jul 12, 2015 - 6:56:16 AM 

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Down the Road

Down the (Searsport) Rud a Piece
By Milton M. Gross
Jul 12, 2015 - 6:56:15 AM

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I've lived in several towns in Maine over the last I forget how many years, but I've never seen a town as friendly and informative as Searsport.

Dolores went into the old Union building, part of which is the town office, to register the car and came out loaded with information, all of it interesting.

I spent suppertime reading some of the material and decided this information about our new home was worth sharing.

The material here is from the three publications Dolores received, Searsport, Maine, The Museum in the Streets Searsport, Maine, and Head of the Bay, Area Map and Guide.

Materials handed to Dolores at the town office, when she registered our Scion. A wealth of information. Milt Gross photo.

We won't start at the beginning, but when the "town fathers" on February 13, 1845 saw their new town incorporated as Searsport, named after the wealthy David Sears. Sears who lived on Sears Island. I've never wondered about either the name of the town or the island, which is now empty except for a series of trails. You drive to the island from Route 1.

From Wikipedia, "Visitors can drive out to the end of a causeway, and even though there is a road that travels down the center of the island to the southern tip, you can not drive on the island itself, as it is blocked off by large concrete blocks and fencing. You can however walk, hike, bike, and explore the island, not only by the road--appx. 1-mile (1.6 km) long -- which offers spectacular views of Penobscot Bay,Cape Rosier/Castine, and Isleboro Island, among many others), but also by the numerous walking trails that zig-zag their way around the island. There are beautiful beaches that surround the perimeter of the island as well.

"Named after David Sears of Boston after he agreed to grant a large sum of money towards founding of Searsport, Sears Island is currently state-owned land, but is part of the town of Searsport. Formerly it had been known as Brigadier's Island.

"A causeway was built approximately 20 years ago upon what formerly was a tidal bar. At high tide Sears Island was a true island, and at low tide the exposed gravel bar allowed for easy access. Locals would drive over at low tide, always careful to return in time, lest they would have to wade or swim and leave the car stranded until the next tide. Several generations ago there were farms on the island. Only stone cellar holes and a few small fields remain today."

"Mr. Sears gave the town $1,000 for the construction of a town hall and donated his personal library which became the first town public library," from The Museum of the Streets."

Back to the beginning, what became the town was part of Franklin Plantation with 23 families living there. After the Revolutionary War, shipbuilding began due to trade into Searsport's harbor, according to the same booklet.

C.H. Sprague opened the Penobscot Coal and Wharf Company at Searsport's shore. Sprague had been in the business of transporting whale oil and coal. The Civil War caused the company to thrive. With the development of electric lights, the need for whale oil decreased. C.H. Sprague and Son supplied coal to America's allies during World War II, because the company had developed its own coal mines. Its last merchant ship sank in World War II, states the booklet.

Searsport, Maine lists 81 businesses in the town, complete with a number of photos, one of which shows the Union Hall built in 1863 in which the town office now operates. As we would drive through before we moved here, the town seemed to be made up of Route 1 with a dip across a pond, which once was the site of a lumber and grain mill. The Bangor and Aroostook Railroad built a wharf and for awhile operated passenger trains. Brickmaking also became a town industry, states The Museum of the Streets.

"Today, new piers and modern cranes accommodate large container and prepackage ships at Mack Point," according to that booklet.

Tourists today, of course, no longer come by ship and walk uptown to an inn but drive through. I'm sure, like us, few even dream of the town's rich history.

We have driven the back streets, which lead out into the countryside. Those back roads are pretty empty of houses but boast lots of wooded and open space.

We moved here because, when I taught school in Thorndike, I lived in Swanville and got to know the area from Searsport to Camden. Until I have a faulty hip replaced at the Belfast hospital, our "sport" is taking photos, many of which become our iMac screen savers. Once that new hip is in place, we plan to do a lot of walking on the many trails in the region.

This move was the first for either one of us to a location we chose, instead of having to live near our job.

Once we get fully settled in, my role will be to treat retirement as it should be treated, getting up when you want and going where you want to do what you want. We currently spend some time at the town pier, relaxing and taking photos.

For us, Searsport has become our port.


Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014


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