Reviews of Islesford Historical Society Publications

A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine
  reveiwed by Stephen Fay
  reviewed by Earl Brechlin
  reviewed by Richard Dudman

Ray Dwelley of Islesford, reviewed by Judge Herbert T. Silsby II
Pioneer Settlers of Islesford - The Hadlocks, reviewed by Judge Herbert T. Silsby II
Pioneer Settlers of the Cranberry Islands - The Bunkers, reviewed by Carl Little


From The Ellsworth American, Thursday, August 3, 2000

Island Native Dwelley Writes
History of Little Cranberry

By Stephan Fay



Hugh Dwelley (inset) has written a history of Little Cranberry Island that includes this photo of the Hotel Islesford.  In 1887, Loring Adelbert "Del" Stanley had the hotel built on the lot beside the current site of the Catholic chapel.  Handsome and boasting four stories, the hotel had 25 rooms and, according to an advertisement of the day, "broad piazzas, fire escapes, bathrooms and sanitary plumbing."


ISLESFORD -- Hugh L. Dwelley, author of a number of carefully researched historical and genealogical monographs about his native island, has published a hardbound volume titled "A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine."

The text is abundantly illustrated with photos and maps, and enlivened with contemporary accounts drawn from letters, journals and the author's own lucid memory.

Born in 1931, Dwelley grew up in the village of Islesford on Little Cranberry Island.  His grandfather ran the island store and post office "where I could listen to the chat of the resident 'rusticators' after I brought wood for the fireplace on a rainy afternoon.  Over bait shed cribbage games or the puffing of pipes around the stove at my grandfather's store on winter evenings, I heard the island men talk of fishing past and present."

Dwelley attended Ellsworth High School for two years, boarding with his aunt and uncle, Edna and George Hadlock.  He then transferred to the Kents Hill School, where he was awarded a history prize.  He graduated in 1946.

He entered Boston University, graduating in 1954, and then earned a master's degree at American University in Washington, D.C.

After a two-year stint in the Air Force, Dwelley and his wife, former Air Force nurse Shirley Mae Snyder, spent the next three decades traveling the world as he took assignments from the Navy and U.S. Agency for International Development.  He retired in 1988 with the rank of career counselor in the U.S. Foreign Service.

In 1990, Dwelley began research on a history of Little Cranberry.  At the same time, he and some friends established the Islesford Historical Society.

In a recent interview, Dwelley said his intense focus on his home island might be a reaction to his many years so far away.  Evidently, absence not only makes the heart grow fonder but it also revs up an interest in preserving that of which the heart is most fond.

Dwelley's 200-page volume, which sells for $20, is as ambitious in its breadth as it is plain-spoken in its manner.  The story begins in 3000 BC and concludes in 2000 AD.

"Being a fairly orderly person," he writes, "I have wanted to start from the beginning, to get a feeling for island life from the days when its only visitors were the Native Americans, whom we call Indians, up to the present."

We are impressed to learn that before Samuel de Champlain sailed among The Cranberry Islands, Giovanni de Verrazano sailed by (1524).

Chapters address the Native American tribes, French and English land grants, pioneer settlements, more recent town developments, churches, fishing, farming, social life, the summer colony and World Wars I and II.  The book concludes with speculation about the survival of year-round communities on the small islands off the coast of Maine.

This Sunday, Aug. 6, at 8 p.m., Hugh Dwelley and his associate, researcher Ted Spurling, will give a presentation at Port In A Storm Bookstore in Somesville.


Dwelley crafts delightful history of Little Cranberry

Review by Earl Brechlin

In his forward, author Hugh Dwelley notes that he deliberately calls this authoritative work "a" history, rather than "the" history of Little Cranberry Island.  The statement flows from Mr. Dwelley's usual modesty, but should not in the least be construed as meaning the book merely hits a few high points and ignores the details.

In A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine, Mr. Dwelley does a superb job of taking the reader from the earliest days of European exploration and conquest to the modern, cottage era.  Along the way he pours on the details and names and artfully captures the flavor of life in a place most now know as Islesford.

In fact, Mr. Dwelley at first considered referring to the island as Islesford when crafting his history but decided this relatively modern appellation should not supersede a name employed by residents for most of the community's colorful past.

Mr. Dwelley begins, of course, at the beginning with a discussion of visits by Native Americans.  He quickly strides into the island's fate during the turbulent era when France and England were fighting for control of this part of North America.  His description of the relationship between the Bernards and de Gregoires is one of the clearest and easiest to follow yet produced.

Any history of Little Cranberry Island would be incomplete without due attention to the families which first settled the island and whose ancestors still dominate the telephone book there.  The Stanwoods, Stanleys, Gilley, Bunkers, Spurlings and Hadlocks are all covered in great detail, which also provides a wonderful narrative look at life on the coast of Maine in the 1700s and 1800s.  Fishing and farming through the ages is also discussed.

Island institutions are given great play including schools, churches, wharves and roads.  Social institutions including the Neighborhood House, fire department and historical society are also covered.

Societal changes, including the coming of the summer colony, life on the coast in winter, and the effects two world wars had on a small community are included.

The book is interspersed with interesting photos, which help support the clearly written and easy-to-follow text.

Often, local histories suffer from "Three Bears" syndrome. Some give too much information; others leave the reader hungry for more.  Like the proverbial bed favored by Goldilocks, Mr. Dwelley's history of Little Cranberry is just right.  The only suggestion for future issues would be a comprehensive index, although the chapter arrangement and numbering make information comparatively easy to access.

Islesford is the second offshore community to benefit from the attentions of Islandport Press, which recently published Dean Lunt's excellent history of Frenchboro, Hauling by Hand. That book has been so well received it will soon enter a second printing.

In recounting his inspiration for compiling the history of Little Cranberry, Mr. Dwelley rightly pays homage to historian William Otis Sawtelle who, he notes, "planted in the people of these islands a keen interest in and appreciation for the history of their community."  And, while he refers to his book as one which Mr. Sawtelle would have written had he had more time, it is, in fact, a book only Mr. Dwelley could have done.  Toward that end, A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine is not a book which stands in the shade of Mr. Sawtelle's work but rather one that will cast a shadow of its own for many years to come.

Hugh Dwelley, accompanied by Islesford raconteur Ted Spurling, will give a presentation based on Mr. Dwelley's recently published book, A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine, at Port In A Storm Bookstore in Somesville on Sunday, Aug. 6, at 8 p.m.


A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine by Hugh L. Dwelley. Islandport Press, Frenchboro, June 2000, 200 pages, hardcover, numerous balck-and-white photos, $20.  order form


From the Bangor Daily News, Monday July 31, 2000

Tiny community has a big history

Little Cranberry Island native pens volume inspired by childhood memories

By Richard Dudman
Special to the NEWS

A HISTORY OF LITTLE CRANBERRY ISLAND, MAINE, by Hugh L. Dwelley, Islesford Historical Society, 2000, 200 pages, $20.

For a tiny island less than a square mile in area, a half-hour's ferry ride from Northeast Harbor or Southwest Harbor, Islesford has a lot going for it, both present and past.  It has a year-round population of around 80, a thriving lobster industry with a cooperative dock and pound and about 15 lobster boats, a nationally famous post office that sees record numbers of stamps by mail, an elementary school with a dozen students, two churches, an active Neighborhood House, a library, a brick museum, an art gallery a fine seasonal restaurant, and several hundred summer residents.

As for the past, Islesford, or Little Cranberry Island, once had its own steamboat service, a government lifesaving station, a thriving four-story hotel, a boat builder whose dinghies were known up and down the coast, a store that sold freshly made doughnuts every morning to surrounding communities, and perhaps the only small-town, official mosquito commissioner in the country.

All this and more is to be found in the new history of the island, which is part of the Cranberry Isles archipelago off Mount Desert Island, written by Hugh Dwelley. Dwelley grew up on Islesford and then had a long career as a civilian official in the Navy and in the U. S. Agency for International Development. After retiring 12 years ago, he founded the Islesford Historical Society and has published a series of "Occasional Papers" about aspects of the island's past.  Now he has come out with a comprehensive hardcover history, which he calls "a loose flowing chronology of life as it has been lived on this small island."

Dwelley says he explored every inch of the island as a child.  He heard old-timers' stories at the post office run by his grandfather and later worked at the old Woodlawn House Inn operated by his grandfather and grandmother on the north shore.

Originally he planned to call his book "A History of Islesford."  But that name came only recently.  Col. William Hadlock is said to have coined the name Islesford when the post office was established in 1884, to keep mail intended for the island from going to the Cranberry Isles post office on Great Cranberry Island.  Before that it was just Little Cranberry or, for a time, East Cranberry.

Early summer visitors were Abnaki Indians, who pulled their canoes up on the western shore, now Sand Beach, and pitched camp.  The men smoked their pipes and talked, while the women dug clams and wove baskets, according to historian Samuel Eliot Morison.  They paddled back in the fall to their winter homes up the Penobscot, St. Croix and Machias rivers with loads of dried clams and fish and seal and deer skins.  The men must have done some hunting and fishing besides just smoking and talking.

The first white pioneer families to settle the Cranberry Isles were Bunkers, Gilleys, Hadlocks, Spurlings and Stanleys.  Their descendants and those of the Fernalds, somewhat later arrivals, are still prominent in the Cranberries and on MDI.  Dwelley tells of their lives and genealogies in exhaustive detail.

Among the yarns he spins is the tale of the mosquito commissioner.  Mosquitoes had been annoying for many years, and in 1917 residents tried oiling their breeding places.  That remedy never worked well.  In 1927 and 1928, a summer resident, Moorfield Story led a drive to raise $12,000 and hire an engineer to dig ditches to drain the ponds and marshes.  To keep the ditches and drains open, the town appropriated $300 a year and named Frank Butler mosquito commissioner.  He held the job until his death in 1945, when Harry Spurling took over.

In 1950, the town decided that aerial spraying with DDT would work even better.  DDT killed the mosquitoes all right, but it affected birds, bats, frogs and fireflies as well.  Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" triggered a 1963 town meeting that voted to end the spraying.  By then, the ditches were clogged and had become breeding grounds themselves.  Sad to say, little has been done since then, and the mosquitoes have returned with new vigor.

While he acknowledges that times are changing, Dwelley presents a reasonably optimistic prospect that Islesford can continue as one of the 14 remaining offshore islands with year-around communities.

It is hard to think of any detail of island life that he has omitted, but one such should be mentioned.  The island recipe for gingerbread includes flour, molasses, sugar, cloves and other spices, but no ginger.  When a summer resident expressed surprise and asked why not, Eleanor Spurling said simply, "We don't like ginger."

"A History of Little Cranberry Island, Maine" can be purchased from Port In A Storm Book Store in Somesville or from the Islesford Historical Society, lslesford, Me. 04646. Richard Dudman, retired Washington bureau chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, lives in Ellsworth and on Islesford in the Summer.


From The Ellsworth American, May, 1994

Guest Column

Islesford History Project

By Judge Herbert T. Silsby II

Hugh L. Dwelley has written two papers as a part of an ongoing project of the Islesford Historical Society to preserve and publish the history of that community in the town of Cranberry Isles, a town made up of the five islands of Little and Great Cranberry, Sutton, Baker, and Bear, all situated southerly of Mount Desert Island, Hancock County, Maine. Islesford is the post office name of Little Cranberry Island. Both papers are desktop editions and good productions.

Paper Number 5 is a biography of James Raymond Dwelley, called "Ray," the author's grandfather. Ray was born in Franklin, Me., was educated at Kents Hill, Class of 1901, and the University of Maine. He taught school for a number of years, Latin and French, and married Ada Campbell of Islesford in 1907. Four years later they got the opportunity to purchase and operate the Woodlawn House at Islesford. They ran this little inn successfully for 44 years. Ray Dwelley also ran a store for 39 years and was for a time postmaster. He and his wife Ada were active in many community organizations and activities.

Paper Number 6 is a fascinating history of eight generations of the Hadlock family who have lived on Little Cranberry Island. beginning with Samuel Hadlock, born in Ipswich, Mass.,

in 1771, and his wife Sarah Manchester Hadlock of Mount Desert. They were married in March 1791, and settled on Little Cranberry Island. From each of the first five generations, there were Hadlocks who followed the sea. Others were educators, lawyers, clergymen, promoters, writers, a museum director, and others.

The sea provided the early generations a living and at times even affluence, but the sea took an awful toll. Sam and Sarah lost four of their five sons at sea. Their son, Samuel, Jr., for instance, had his vessel freeze in for the winter of 1829-30 in Greenland. He left the ship to hunt one afternoon and was hit by a sudden snow squall. Darkness came on; he lost his way, and was found the next morning frozen solid.

He had led a remarkable life. Ten years before his death, he had talked three Eskimos into leaving Newfoundland with him. He exhibited them in a show in many ports of the United States, England, and in Europe. His first wife died in 1821, and he next married a Prussian woman whom he named Hanna Caroline. The story of this extraordinary romance is also told in Rachel Fields' novel, God's Pocket.

The Ray Dwelley paper is a well told life history -- interesting -- and shows the local culture and economy of a small Maine island in fair amount of detail during the first half of this century.

The Hadlock family paper is a well written, balanced, and factual account of a remarkable Maine family. It describes how some of the settlers on Maine's saltwater frontier survived and got ahead and how their descendants had to adjust when their heritage -- the age of sail -- faded from the economic equation in Maine.

The Hadlock paper contains a selected bibliography. This paper has some inevitable errors, errors that seem to occur in every written work. On page 17, it says that Bucksport was once Shiretown. It never was. On page 21, in Footnote 1, Volume 1, Sprague's Journal of Maine History is cited when it should have referred to Volume 12. These little glitches can be corrected in future printings.

These two papers are a good contribution to Maine town histories. Let us hope Hugh Dwelley and Other members of the Islesford Historical Society keep up the good work.

* * * * *

(Hugh L. Dwelley, Ray Dwelley of Islesford, Maine, Islesford Historical Society Occasional Paper No. 5, February 1994, 20 pp., and town map, price $6; and Pioneer Settlers of Islesford. The Hadlocks, paper No. 6, March 1994, 76 pp. and Genealogical Chart, price $10. Either paper may be ordered from the Islesford Historical Society, Islesford, Me. 04646.)

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From The Bar Harbor Times, November, 1996

Cranberry pioneers make compelling reading


by Carl Little

CRANBERRY ISLES -- Hugh Dwelley, director of the Islesford Historical Society on Little Cranberry Island, is fascinated by history. For many years now, he has sought to bring to light the rich past of the Cranberry Isles. with special attention devoted to his native Islesford.

Under Mr. Dwelley's editorship, nearly every year now the Islesford Historical Society publishes one of its occasional papers, simple desktop productions. each of which adds to our knowledge and appreciation of the islands and their inhabitants. Number 8 in the series, Pioneer Settlers of the Cranberry Islands -- The Bunkers, appeared this year and proves an engaging read, be you history buff or not.

Calling on his colleague and fellow Islesford resident Ted Spurling Sr., another devotee of island history who writes a regular Cranberry column for several Island Institute publications, Mr. Dwelley highlights the lives and legends of one of the first families of the Cranberries, the Bunkers. "Bunker's Head, Bunker's Neck, East Bunker's Ledge, South Bunkerís Ledge, Bunkerís Cove, Bunkerís, etc. -- clearly,Ē writes Dwelley in his introduction, "the Bunker family was prominent among the Cranberry Islands back when things were being named around here."

The lives of a few of the earliest Bunkers are highlighted through accounts of various events in the

years 1770, 1775 and 1814. Dwelley opens with an annotated section of The Narrative of American Voyages and Travels of Captain William Owen, R.N. and the Settlement of the Island of Campobello in the Bay of Fundy 1766-1771.

This particular excerpt includes a visit to the Cranberries and relates the activities of islander Aaron Bunker, described as "a very clever fellow, who was to be my pilot, and like most other New England men was Carpenter, Farmer, fisherman and seaman" -- a fitting curriculum vitae for many a Cranberry islander.

Any cruiser of the Maine coast will take special pleasure in following the course of Captain Owen and his cutter the Campo Bello as it makes its way up and down the Eastern seaboard. Captain Owen provides detailed navigational directions, such as the following for anchoring in the Pool

on Great Cranberry: "Coming in, stand over for Isaac Bunker's house, range down close to the larboard shore or Fish-house point, stand over for the Western shore till you open the marsh, then haul up till you form the forementioned anchoring bearings."

Captain Owen has a flair for flavorful language, as when he relates how Aaron Bunker on a visit to Little Cranberry discovered his maiden sister "bundled a-bed" with the son of a rather wealthy settler on Deer Island and how he, as captain, agreed to marry the sister and her gallant "to remove a blot out of the escutcheon of the Bunker family."

More sea adventures are offered in the accounts of the time Cap'n Jack Bunker "cut out" -- hijacked -- the British supply ship Falmouth Packet in late October of 1775 and in Ted Spurling's telling of the Battle of Norwood's Cove, a skirmish related to the War of 1812. "Never mind me, Rob, I am an old man," Thomas Bunker, a captive of the enemy, is said to have shouted to his son Robert, "but give it to these damned Britishers as hard as you can!" While the British ended up burying a number of their crew, the only casualty on the American side was Captain Samuel Hadlock, who had two fingers grazed by a bullet.

Mr. Dwelley and Mr. Spurling conclude their tribute to the brave Bunkers with a genealogy and brief biographies of a number of current family members. The text is illustrated with several maps and images of the various vessels of the time. Both historians are quite thorough in their research, and together they have uncovered a wealth of fascinating material. Bygone days live again through their historical delvings.

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