Westport Island, Maine

rocksWelcome to a journal of Westport Island, Maine.  To locals, Westport Island is also known as “The Rock”. At this Rock Blog, you will find tidbits of island history, photographs, and items of interest. Comments, pictures, and personal histories from those with an interest in the Island are welcome.

Westport Island was originally called Jeremisquam and was a part of Edgecomb.  It came to be known as Westport, because it was the west port of Edgecomb.

Flag Day

A poem from Henry A. Swanton (1907)…

poem by Henry A. Swanton

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Helping to Keep Our Island Green

Thank you 2021 Annual Cleanup volunteers

island clean up sign Although Covid precautions once again precluded a one-day cleanup “event” with a chance to say hello over a cup of coffee before heading out to hunt trash, volunteers once again rallied to welcome spring and “keep our island green.”

To the 25 volunteers who participated, and to those who regularly pick up stray trash, thank you.

Poking along the road, rather than breezing by in a car, gives one pause to enjoy the pretty place we live in and to reflect on what people discard — or what “escapes” without notice — on Westport’s roadsides. It also gives one pause to appreciate the subtleties of spring ground color, including: profusions of little white or pale blue bluets, “Innocence”, and the first splash of common blue violets.

Some reflections on this year’s trash stash:

  • There were “firsts”: masks, dried out sanitizing wipes & an abundance of crumpled paper towels:
  • As always, “escapee” beer cans were more likely to be Budweiser than any competitor. During Covid, there appeared to be less worry about waistlines: Budweiser “outranked” Bud Light containers. In past years, Bud Light was the “#1” roadside container;
  • There was more “decorative” rubber on the roadway this year. Covid boredom?
  • The one newspaper section retrieved, other than advertising pullouts, was ironically an article on land use and land management;
  • After residents, the WVFD bottle collection bin benefits most from the clean up; and
  • It’s satisfying to do a little housekeeping to help Mother Nature refresh her “more beautiful-than-humanoid” groundcover.

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Celebrating a Westport Island Treasure

Happy Birthday Rose Bodmer!

Would our neighbor called Rose… by any other name be as sweet…

There is no doubt.

the familyDriven by a sense of responsibility; an adventurous, can-do spirit; and love of family — both two- and four-footed, Rose seems to always think about how she can make a difference in her circle of caring — which blessfully includes our island community.

Rose initially came to Maine in a work move; husband Dan came back to Maine to be closer to his family. When Rose and Dan joined lives, they first landed in Gardiner, then Whitefield. In Maine, Rose realized her lifelong dream of starting her own business when her hand-crafted, essential-oil-infused hand and lip balms took off. Rose developed the balms while caring for her elderly mother with dementia. Her mom found the inviting aromas of the oils soothing. The resulting home-based business, “Lulu’s Garden”, came with Rose to Westport, along with her “boys” — alpaca best buds Marty, Will, Fleecy and Gussy.

Rose with her alpacasThe family re-settled to Westport to be a support team for our favorite 2nd Selectman Jerry Bodmer after he lost his beloved wife Carole. In Westport, Rose and Lulu’s Garden have evolved. Lulu’s Garden has morphed into “Lulu’s Barn”.

Seeking improved accommodations for her “boys” and a “fit” with her new home, Rose and Dan built a barn with space that doubled as a small stable for the boys with a “Mr. Ed” viewing window into the adjoining “big barn”. The big barn was designed as a space for Islanders to gather. The interior space was carefully crafted using artifacts and reclaimed wood from old Westport structures.

Hoping to meet the Island’s need for a coffee shop, a space to gather, and a place to showcase the work of our talented Island crafters and businesses — as well as create an inviting environment to connect with Marty, Will, Fleecy and Gussy — Lulu’s Barn was born. The Barn quickly became a summer tourist stop to visit Rose’s sociable alpacas and pick up a Maine treat. It also became a place for Sunday coffee, book club discussions, musicians, knitting, and just hanging out — but the retail part of it didn’t seem to fill the niche Rose thought it might, so she adapted.

rose kissing alpaca With the Covid pandemic, retail has gone away and the “alpaca boys” are now the center of Rose’s entrepreneurial evolution. Lulu’s Barn is a place to walk with alpacas, do yoga with alpacas in the warm season, have a birthday party with alpacas, or whatever creative activity — a Monopoly Championship? — one might imagine to share with alpacas.

In her spare time, Rose might be found spending time with daughter Bella, helping clean up the Island, tending to her boys, or working on Westport Community Association activities, where she is now Co-chair with Deb Lorenson. As a part of the the Community Association, she has become the Founding Mother, driving force, and Editor of Westport’s new monthly community newsletter to keep all our full- and part-time residents up to date on Island life.

Thank you Rose for all you do. Happy Birthday!

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The only things we ever keep Are what we give away,            Louis Ginsberg

Selected photo credits from the Bodmer family.

Westport Island in Times of Pandemic, Epidemics & Outbreaks

An exhibit at the new Westport Island History Center

cover of the 1919 Town Report


In the 1919 Town Report, Westport’s Superintendent of Schools Clara Reed wrote that 1918 was a “memorable one in history” citing the “greatest war the world has ever known”, its accompanying impacts, and “influenza sweeping the world.”  Today, most would likely agree that Covid-19 “sweeping the world” with its accompanying impacts will make 2020 a “memorable one in history.”

The maiden exhibit at the Westport Island History Center, “Westport Island in Times of Pandemic, Epidemics & Outbreaks”, takes a look at current and past public health events – influenza and others — that have impacted Island life. In undertaking this examination, the goal was to heighten awareness of the current pandemic; put Covid-19 safety guidelines and restrictions in historical context; and to preserve a snapshot of today’s evolving history with “Postcards from the Front”, anecdotes about life during Covid-19 from friends and neighbors.

A walk through the exhibit

Although there was limited information on past public health events in our collections, members of the “Pandemic Planning Group” pieced together enough history to make it clear we are living a new chapter of a story with many past chapters.  Whether a pandemic, epidemic, or outbreak, infectious disease outbreaks have each left their mark on the community.

  • Pandemic: multiple countries
  • child's illustration of the Covid-19 virusEpidemic: particular group or country
  • Outbreak: more cases than expected of endemic disease
  • Endemic: disease regularly found in certain areas or groups of people

Notable past pandemics on Westport

  • Viral:  Smallpox; Influenza 1918;[Measles, Rubella, Mumps];Polio
  • Bacterial:  Cholera; Typhoid; Diphtheria; Tuberculosis

Exhibit panels define each of the diseases named above and provide names of some of the Westport Islanders who succumbed to them. Many have the C.E.A. Cromwell house aka the Sunset View Househeard of Camp Molly, a popular dance hall on the island in the early 1900’s that closed soon after its driving force, “Uncle Vest”, died. Fewer knew that Uncle Vest (Everett Sylvester Cromwell) died of Typhoid. Many have heard of “Charlie Gene” Cromwell and his son, Luther, who were both Westport Ferry operators.  Fewer knew that Charlie Gene’s wife Edith — Luther’s mother — died of Tuberculosis at age 34. Their 10-month-old son followed his mother to the grave with Tuberculosis four months later. With the death of Edith Cromwell, the family’s boarding house, the Sunset View House, closed. In a small town, each death is felt and brings change, not only to a family, but to the community.

To put today’s safety guidelines and restrictions in historical context, the exhibit pays particular attention to the pandemics of 1918 and today. Influenza 1918, the so-called Spanish Flu, and Covid-19 have many parallels. These similarities are illustrated with “Westport-centered” timelines that show the progression portion of Alice Blake Williams letterof each pandemic from first identification, to public safety response, to the sobering number of people who were infected and died.

A 1919 letter from Deb Williams’ grandmother, Alice Blake Williams, living in Jonesport at the time, to Deb’s great-grandmother back on Westport provides a poignant view of the human toll of the influenza pandemic of 1918. Alice Williams’ husband, Dr. James Williams, was practicing medicine in Jonesport and surrounding islands with a classmate from Bowdoin Medical School, Dr. John Moulton. Jonesport was a hard-hit community; its death toll included Dr. Moulton’s wife and baby. Deb remembers her grandmother telling her that her “Grandfather spent day and night going house to house among the islands tending to the sick.” She saw the wagons go by with those who had passed.

Some takeaways from exhibit research

  • Native American populations in the New World were decimated by infectious diseases brought by European explorers and settlers. Far more died from disease than hostilities.
  • Hospital Island now known as Upper Mark IslandWhile the country and major urban ports are known to have “quarantine stations” to control and keep infectious disease off shore; tiny Westport Island also once had its own “quarantine station”: Hospital Island, now known as Upper Mark Island.
  • The Smallpox outbreak in the 1840’s was documented in Town records. It lasted throughout the decade, involving many Islanders and requiring town financial assistance. Those who did not own a home or who had a home without room for a separate isolation area were quarantined on Hospital Island.
  • Public safety measures to control smallpox included isolating those afflicted, burning their clothes, and burying them at night without a public funeral – often in isolated, unmarked graves.
  • The 1918 influenza, the so-called Spanish Flu, was a catastrophic public health event, claiming more lives than World War I: over 50 million died worldwide; about 675,000 died in the United States; and about 5,000 Mainers died.
  • In the 1918 pandemic, public safety guidelines and restrictions, such as masks, limitations on public and church gatherings, and closures were as controversial as today. Public dissension was more muted, however, because it was seen as unpatriotic with the backdrop of WWI.
  • Westport Island schools have been closed more than once by infectious disease: by diphtheria in 1880, “sickness” in 1908, and Influenza in 1918.
  • Post WWI and the 1918 pandemic, strong advocacy Town Health Officer Quarantine Notice for Mumpsbegan for a child health program in the schools, which gradually took hold by the 1930’s. It took WWII, and the realization that “… thousands of our young men were rejected from service because of the diseases of childhood and malnutrition” for a full-scale child health and immunization program to get underway on Westport in the 1940’s.
  • In the mid-1900’s, houses were visibly posted with Quarantine Notices for those afflicted with infectious diseases.
  • From the time that vital records were available, the infectious disease that claimed the most lives on Westport Island was Tuberculosis.

Postcards from “The Front”

The exhibit closes with a look at the “front” lines of how today’s Covid-19 pandemic has impacted life on the island and its people today. About 180 postcards were distributed to residents or friends with ties to the Island; about 60 were returned, and we hope to receive more to help us capture a slice of today’s history for tomorrow. The postcards provide fascinating, often uplifting, snapshots of how Islanders are taking on the challenges of life in times of Covid-19.

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To see the exhibit

Visit the History Center, Wright Landing, Westport Island, on Sundays from 11 am to 1 pm.  Additional hours will be posted on the History Committee and the Westport Facebook pages. Or, contact the History Committee at wihistorycommittee@gmail.com to arrange a private viewing at your convenience.

Dedication & credits

This exhibit is dedicated to those who are truly on the front lines of infectious outbreaks: our health workers, first responders and Local Health Officers. Thank you to all health workers and support staff for your dedication to the greater good and for your service to others.

collage of health care workers, masks and public health signage

Postcard from “The Front” by Deb Staatz arranged by Laurie Jaramillo

Exhibit credits to:

  • A State of Maine Keeping Maine Healthy/Covid-19 Awareness grant for helping to make this exhibit possible;
  • The History Center design team – Mary & Rich Coventry, Mary Ellen Barnes, Jeff Tarbox, Richard Devries, et al;
  • The Wright Landing House Committee led by Richard DeVries;
  • The Pandemic Planning Committee – Sandy Besecker, Paul Bonyun, Joan Mason-Bradford, Jean Wilhelmsen-Exter, and Gaye Wagner; and
  • All the people of Westport Island who contributed in some way to this exhibit with special thanks to Laurie Jaramillo; Deb Williams; the Longobardi family; and news reporterz Charlotte Boynton, Lincoln County News; & Susan Johns, Wiscasset Newspaper.

collage of life in the time of Covid-19 sites

Postcard from “The Front” by Laurie Jaramillo

Westport Island Town Office “Limited Access” Re-opening

Beginning Tuesday, June 9

Westport Island COVID-19 Services & Resources

Welcoming spring in a world of social distancing

First, some information to make it easier to navigate this new COVID-19 way of being…

Westport Island COVID-19 Services & Resources

Updates from the Selectmen

April 4, 2020 President Approves Federal Disaster Declaration For COVID-19 Response in Maine

April 3, 2020 Governor Mills Quarantine Restrictions on Travelers Arriving in Maine

March 31, 2020 Governor Mills Stay Healthy at Home Mandate

March 24, 2020 Governor Mills Order Regarding “Essential Businesses and Operations”

Town Services

Town Office staff are working remotely and are regularly at the Town Office to collect mail and deliveries in the mail drop slot to the left of the Town Office front door where residents can deliver checks and other correspondence. Staff are conducting town business during regular office hours by phone and email (Tuesdays: 11 am – 6 pm; Thursdays: 9 am – 2 pm). Please leave a message, and staff will get back to you.

Many services are also available via the Town website’s online resources – consult the “I Want To” section for an easy link to what you may need.

Where services rely on proof of identification, please be sure to mail or drop a copy of your license in the night box or take a picture of it and email it.

Martha Hayward, Treasurer/Tax Collector          (207) 882-8477, ext. 1
Dedee Greenleaf-Hodgdon, Municipal Agent     (207) 882-8477, ext. 2
Julie Casson, Town Clerk/Registrar                     (207) 882-8477, ext. 3
Gaye Wagner, Deputy Clerk/EMA                        (207) 882-6084 (leave a message)
George Richardson, 1st Selectman                     (207) 882-8477, ext. 4

Bureau of Motor Vehicles Public Notice (Note: Registrations issued by a municipality, including temporary registrations, are extended until 30 days following the end of the state of emergency.)
Registering Motor Vehicles and Trailers (To more easily provide required information to Dedee, please complete & return this re-registration form with your check. If you call or email her in advance, she will provide you with the amount of the fees.)
Registering Boats, Snowmobiles & ATV’s
Hunting & Fishing Licenses
Parental Residency Affidavits to Register Children for School
Registering to Vote or Requesting an Absentee Ballot
Dog Licenses (Note: Dog licensing is canceled for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency plus 30 days.)
Vital Records
Marriage Licenses
Shellfish Licenses
Business Licenses
Burn Permits (Note: The WVFD is not currently issuing burn permits due to the COVID-19 situation.)

COVID-19 Resources

• To have questions answered about COVID-19 at any time, individuals may call 211 Maine by dialing 211; by texting our zip code, 04578, to 898-211; or by emailing info@211maine.org
Lincoln County COVID-19 Resource Page — a one-stop collection of current Executive Orders, Maine CDC, health information, food resources, etc.
Helping Hands for island food pantry and transportation resources
Unemployment claims
Small Business Administration Assistance
Locally produced hand sanitizer

And finally, some reasons to smile…

To welcome spring, some of our neighbors have been busy “dressing up” the town (observing appropriate social distancing, of course). The Horticulture Committee has been sprucing up the Wright Landing gardens; Richard DeVries has been installing new flooring in the Wright Landing House; Ken Shepherd and Cheryl Anderson have been dressing up the Main Road with their artistic mailbox sentinels; and Bailey has been “homeschooling” her children in community service and landscaping while pruning and building a stone walled planter at the Westport Volunteer Fire Department — it seems another of Bailey’s lessons may have taken place at the Town Hall. …Others have just been taking time to smell the daffodils.

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Toast the New Year

With a Westport Island styled glass of bubbly

wooden glass of bubbly champagneHappy New Year! It’s time to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and toast family, friends and neighbors that make our world a better place.

A holiday, a season, a celebratory occasion or a unique piece of Maine or Americana is marked on Westport Island by a mailbox finial at the home of Ken Shepherd and Cheryl Anderson. Today, as we celebrate the dawn of a new year, our creative Anderson-Shepherd partnership is marking the day with a glass of bubbly.

Ken Shepherd and Cheryl AndersonKen — an electrical engineer by profession and a highly skilled wood turner by passion — designs and crafts the novelty wood mailbox finials, and Cheryl — a multi-talented craftsperson — paints them. Their creations include: the Boon Island Lighthouse, Mickey Mouse; a train, a plane and a motorboat; a Valentine; a football; Uncle Sam’s, a Puritan’s, a witch’s and a leprechaun’s hat; an American flag; a Thanksgiving Day turkey; Santa Claus; a snowman; an angel; a Christmas tree… the list of fun novelties goes on and on… and always turns heads when passing through the 200 block of the Main Road.

Ken’s father was also a wood crafter, and his grandfather was a watchmaker – a skill he has also mastered. His creative engine never stops; he is always thinking of new ways to create with wood, and is always taken with the challenge of wood varieties and aberrations. Ken is a member of the American Association of Woodturners; a member and former president of the Maine Woodturners; a woodturning teacher and a 21-year volunteer at the Maine Maritime Museum where he also uses his wood crafting talents to enhance displays.

A visit to the Anderson-Shepherd house is like going back in time to Santa’s workshop when everything was made of wood and handcrafted with love – Christmas tree decorations, vases, housewares, goblets, candleholders, fire bellows, and more…

Thank you Ken and Cheryl for sharing your talents and giving us a Westport Island icon that makes me smile.

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Spreading Cheer

…Bailey style

In this season of hope, we give thanks for those who give of themselves and put a smile in our day.

Merry Christmas!

the fire department Christmas tree

Bailey & faithful friend Clyde beside the fire department Christmas tree decorated by Bailey with buoys from the Lobster Co-op.

A Time to Plan and a Time to Vote

It’s time to plan to vote to adopt the 2019 Westport Island Comprehensive Plan

chair of the comprehensive planning committee introducing plan at public hearingIn February 2018, a group of fellow islanders agreed to take on the daunting task of updating Westport Island’s 2002 Comprehensive Plan. After 21 months of regular Thursday work sessions; developing, distributing and compiling results of a community survey; an advisory vote on the resulting Vision Statement; public meetings and at least as much time invested in pursuing individual work assignments, our Comprehensive Planning Committee is asking for our support next Tuesday, November 5, with a “yes” vote to adopt its proposed Comprehensive Plan.

Last year’s Vision Statement has guided the development of the Comprehensive Plan now being presented for a vote. The survey which provided the community input to shape the Plan was mailed to 800 island residents and property owners. The Vision Statement was developed by synthesizing comments from a public hearing with the answers and comments collected from 295 survey respondents. The Vision Statement was then ratified by an overwhelming 414 of 467 voters in November 2018.

map of Westport Island with dots showing new dwelling 2007-2018

New dwellings constructed on Westport Island 2007-2018

One might wonder why a Comprehensive Plan is important. It sounds more bureaucratic than relevant to everyday life on the island.

Comprehensive Plans are part of a “growth management” strategy borne of the 1988 “Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act.” This act was passed after concerns that rapid, sprawling development on Maine’s southern coast was threatening the health of local communities by diminishing scenic views, historic villages, traffic flow, wetlands, wildlife preservation, healthy groundwater and the qualities that draw people to Maine. In many instances, Planning Boards had been so busy reacting to requests for individual building permits that they didn’t have time to look at the bigger picture, or the “cumulative impact” of creeping growth on their communities.

Comprehensive Plans are blueprints of “the bigger picture”. They are developed by looking at the past, taking a snapshot of the present and creating a vision for the future with the input of the people who live and work in a community. Our 2002 Comprehensive Plan served us well, but it expired in 2012.

The State rewards communities who invest the effort in a current, community-approved Comprehensive Plan with incentives such as preferred access to a variety of state and federal grants designed to improve communities, including: Community Development Block Grants, Land for Maine’s Future, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and select Department of Environmental Protection grants. We have benefited from these grants in the past when we still had an approved Plan to develop amenities at Clough Point and our public boat launch, the Wright Landing. It would be very beneficial to have access to these monies again for improvements at our public lands, to improve resiliency and safety on our roadways with rising sea levels or for other public services.

Please join your neighbors at the polls on Tuesday, November 5 — or vote absentee through Thursday, October 31 — to adopt the 2019 Comprehensive Plan for Westport Island’s future and to show appreciation for the work done by our Comprehensive Planning Committee: Bob Mooney, Chair; Jerry Bodmer, 2nd Selectman & Plumbing Inspector; Gary Richardson, Code Enforcement Officer; Dick Barker, Planning Board; Dennis Dunbar, Conservation Commission; Jeff Tarbox, History Committee; Jason Kates, Cable Contract Negotiating Committee; Jim Cromwell, Road Committee; Ted Christie, Harbor Master; Richard DeVries, Wright Landing Committee; Joanna Jacobs, Planning Board; and Ron Stoodley, Deputy Code Enforcement Officer.

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The Island Run/Walk Welcomed Both 2- and 4-Footed Participants

And was a great way to start the day

dog with race numberSunday’s 15th Annual Westport Island Shore Run 10K Road Race and 3.5 mile Fun Walk didn’t pull out a crowded field of runners and walkers — but those that came enjoyed themselves, helped support the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and got their blood circulating.

The 10K race winner, William Strachan, Terrebone, OR, outdid the pack of runners with a 6.08 minute pace and a finish time of 38.03. He gave up his well-earned medal to his pint-sized nephew — who took the honor pretty seriously. The 2nd place finisher, Ariel Perry from Portland, ME, conquered the course with a pace of 7:14 and a finish time of 44:54. Andy Smith of Wiscasset rounded out the top three runners with a pace of 7:30 and a finish time of 46.35. All three had great times on a “rolling” course.

Westport Islander Nora Bradford, No. 18, pounded it out into the top 10. She was in 7th place overall, and won a medal for 3rd place among the female runners. Awesome!

The last place 10K runner was first in spirit and “can do”. Judy Phillips from Norwich, VT, in the 60-99 bracket, finished with a smile and then fell into the arms of her waiting husband. She and husband Joseph have come to Westport’s annual Island Run for the last 4 or 5 years because they like the people, the scenery and the lack of traffic on the course. Judy is all about moving and staying active in life, so if all goes as planned, she’ll be back to the island next year.

This year’s walkers brought a record number of canine “four-wheel drive” participants — all of whom finished, met some new friends and made the walk more enjoyable for their “two-wheel drive” companions.

See you next year…

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