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Island Life

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We think of the 1800s & early 1900s on Great Cranberry as being a quaint, quiet time, but it was actually more active than now.  The 1830 census lists 170 persons living on Great Cranberry year-round.  Many of those early settler's names are still around: Bunker, Spurling, Stanley, Bulger, and Gilley, joined by Manchester, Preble, Phippin, Harding, Young, Rice, and others.

The shoreline was dotted with active fish-houses and boathouses: two in Preble Cove (no longer there), with more all along the shore of Spurling Cove, and a fish house and dock on Jimmy's Point.  The Pool was alive with boat building activity: boathouses, ways, docks, wharves, and more fish houses.

Most of the land was cleared and put to grazing or farmed for hay.  Several farms had dairy cattle and sold milk, butter, cheese, and produce on the island and in the neighboring towns, then beginning to grow into summer colonies.

The church was filled every Sunday, holding two services.  Many of the men sang in the choir.  Children attended Sunday school.

The Island was divided into two school districts in 1831, with a school near the current Town Garage and another on Schoolhouse Hill.  Later the two were consolidated into one, the current Longfellow schoolhouse.  In 1898, the town voted for "a free high school," meaning parents of grammar school graduates were provided funds to allow their children to attend high school in Southwest Harbor.  For a short time there was a high school on the Island.

There were 4 gin shops on Great Cranberry in 1831, but in 1834, it was voted "that no license be granted to retailers of spirituous liquors."  The island remained "dry" through and after Prohibition, until the law was again changed to allow the second owners to open a bar in the Cranberry Cove Restaurant (since closed.)

Men socialized at the local general stores, but many spent long days away fishing at sea.  At home, chores were numerous: cutting wood, carrying water, or tending animals.

The woman met weekly at the Ladies Aid, originally called the "Benevolent Sewing Circle," and also had a weekly study-social group.  They had the full responsibility of child rearing, caring for the home, and tending the garden and chickens.  They knitted or made clothes and, of course, lived without what we would consider "necessary" modern conveniences.

The children also had their chores after school, but during the long winters they did have time for ice skating and sliding with their sleds, and in summer they played about the boats, and went berrying, sailing, and swimming--not to mention an occasional prank to vex their parents and neighbors.