Passages of a small town…
As the sun smiles and summer beckons, island life awakens. People gathered to vote, the Ferry Landing buzzes with boats and blossoms, summer “improvements” are underway and the season of island weddings began.
Sixty percent of those voting expressed their wish to safeguard Squam Creek for the future by supporting the purchase of 144 acres for a public preserve. Appropriating the $50,000 necessary to fund this wish will be decided at the upcoming Town Meeting on June 25.
The Ferry Landing park and boat launch is showing the love of the Horticulture Committee as its plantings mature — with irises, peonies, catmint, lady’s mantle and more. Thank yous for transforming the landing from a grassy lot to a “garden park” go to Donna Curry, Gretchen McNamara, Elizabeth Lee, Deborah Williams and Brad and Emily Adler.
The chandlery at McCarty’s Cove was put up on “blocks” to shore up its foundation for restoration and renovations…the Town Report was finished and honors WWII veteran Joseph Hoerth and friends for their military service and time as POW’s…and, a young military couple said their “I do’s” facing the Sheepscot from the rocky outcroppings of the historic Woodbury Hodgdon House.
But in the warm welcome of summer, a shadow passed over this week with the sudden passing of Carole Bodmer. As Second Selectman Jerry Bodmer’s wife, she was a partner in serving the town and its people — making town business a priority in family life and being a part of and contributing food,talent and time to the many celebrations and events that sustain a small community. Visiting hours will be 4-6 p.m. Thursday afternoon, June 23, at the David E. Desmond & Son Funeral Home, 638 High Street in Bath. Blessings to Jerry and the Bodmer family as we remember…
Today, spring bliss. Welcome to the greening of Maine, the promise of summer and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens tulip bloom! There were 80 degree temperatures in some parts of Maine today after a record 4.5 inches of snow in Caribou and 5 inches of snow in New Sweden and Caswell, Maine just five days ago.
Westport Island did not escape last week’s unexpected spring snow as our resident osprey will attest from atop their new island home. Thankfully, snowy memories of last week’s slipping and sliding along island roadways are now a faint memory. But we were left with some interesting visions of winter unwilling to yield to the onward march of spring…
The osprey have taken an option…
You may have seen the property listing at the Westport Island Town Office. The iconic osprey “property” was listed for sale after Central Maine Power (CMP) “condemned” and demolished the original nest. In its place, CMP constructed a replacement nest platform — without a “ready-made” nest.
The property listing was a light take on island-wide concern that Ma and Pa Osprey would return to find a turkey decoy perched on the power lines in place of their home; and a hi-rise fiberglass platform for building a new nest a little too lacking in the comforts of home. The three plus “starter sticks” left on the platform fell considerably short of a nest. So, the waiting and watching began. The First Selectman, the Fire Chief, the Chair of the Planning Board, bird lovers from the island’s north end to the south end…
The usual return date a week or so before tax day came and went. Then, the first sightings of Ma and Pa Osprey came in on Friday. Over the course of the afternoon, they landed, circled, landed, circled, flew away and flew back. They flew south on the island on Friday evening, and were absent from the nest on Saturday. On Sunday, they returned; the decision made; the work underway. Now, a new wait begins…
“Exclusive property listing” for the nest site courtesy of Fire Chief Bob Mooney
Celebrating 79 years; 61 years on Westport…
Born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts and raised down the road in Dresden Mills, Althea Fitch came to Westport when she married Jud Cromwell in 1955. She’s been here ever since.
In that time, Althea has been an active participant in island life. Her proudest achievement was raising three sons — Thomas, Michael and Brian — largely on her own. And, as any one of them would tell you, the three of them were a handful. They have great admiration and love for their mom. To show it, they worked with friends and family to organize a surprise celebration to let her “feel the love” for all she is and has done.
Althea was a charter member of the Wiscasset Ambulance Service — serving Westport as an EMT in the 1970’s. In the 1990’s, she ran the Pumpkin Press with a partner. The Pumpkin Press was an antique letterpress shop on the island. Its published works included a reprint of another islander’s poetry — Henry Swanton’s 1922 “The Coast of Maine and Other Verses” and a historical booklet, The Wiscasset Ships, a remembrance of the Hesper and the Luther Little.
When oral historian Susan Bowditch interviewed Althea, two things struck her — one expected: “what you see is what you get” — she is firm in her opinions and frank. …Another was less expected: Althea loves to dance… Lessons started as a young child continued until she was 17. Dance is her passion — her favorite is tap dancing. To this day, you might get a glimpse of her dancing to Lawrence Welk on a Saturday night as you pass by her house.
As the wife and mother of lobstermen, Althea is “one” with cruising the island’s waters. She loves sitting in the back of Mike’s lobster boat and feeding the seagulls — not so good for his lobstering business, because the seagulls get more bait than the bait bags. Inside pastimes include sewing, needlepoint, knitting and crocheting — valuable skills when she was a member of Westport Willing Workers. The Willing Workers, active from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, organized fundraising dinners and made crafts and quilts for raffles to benefit the town. They cleaned the Town Hall (including the outhouses), bought the first tables and planted the shrubs at the Town Hall. Later, she was a contributor to the 2011 Westport Island quilt that was designed and assembled by 18 island women to create a traditional fabric narrative of life on Westport. She created “The Lincoln County Flag” square.
If you’ve fallen on hard times and need a hand from Helping Hands’ Island Food Pantry, you’ve likely met or spoken to Althea who is the neighbor with a key and commitment to helping Island families. And, if you are more fortunate and have donated to Helping Hands, the carefully written thank you notes initialed “AC” come from Althea.
Happy Birthday Althea!
The osprey nest will return next week if the weather is favorable
For those of you who enjoy watching Ma and Pa Osprey keep house on the Island from spring through summer — they will have a home to return to this spring.
As many of you noticed beginning on Tuesday, the osprey nest at the head of the Island was gone. One of the first alerts came as a text:
“Crisis on Westport…the osprey nest is gone…” Then, there were phone calls and emails — “the nest is gone, will it be back?” “Where has our osprey nest gone?” Two residents offered to sign a petition to Central Maine Power (CMP) Company to bring the nest back. Westport’s osprey are iconic — witness Erin Bailey’s square for the 2011 Town Quilt: “Mr. & Mrs. Osprey” (pictured above).
Based on past discussions with a CMP lineman from the Wiscasset field station, workers are trained on state and federal laws protecting the osprey and work with the the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to protect the birds and their nests where possible. According to a state biologist, nests can be moved as long as there are no eggs or baby chicks in them.
Janet Dyer, from CMP’s Environmental Department, said they are planning on putting up a new platform next week, weather permitting. The nest was replaced because it was in bad shape and rotting — which presents a risk to both the birds and the power lines. The platform will be going on the new pole that was put up last fall, so the nest will no longer be on the transmission pole where falling sticks and debris from the nest pose a potential risk of fire and power outages. Dyer said CMP realizes it has a limited timeline to work within, because the birds are usually here by the first of April; and the mild weather may mean an earlier arrival. So, stay tuned for nest construction activity and a, hopefully, happy housewarming.
What you need to know…
If Westport Island is any indication of voter interest in the Maine presidential caucuses this weekend, there is a lot of interest.
Westport Island’s caucuses are scheduled as follows:
The Republican caucus will be a countywide caucus on Saturday, March 5, 11 a.m. at Wiscasset High School, 272 Gardiner Road, Wiscasset.
The Democratic caucus will be on Sunday, March 6, 1 p.m. at Wiscasset Elementary School, 83 Federal Street, Wiscasset.
One hour before each caucus starts — beginning at 10 a.m. at Saturday’s Republican caucus; and beginning at noon at Sunday’s Democratic caucus — Town Clerks/Registrars are on site to take new voter registrations and enrollment changes for unenrolled or “undeclared” voters. An unenrolled voter may enroll in a party with the Town Clerk/Registrar at the caucus and is eligible to participate immediately. (However, a voter declared Republican or Democrat who elects to change their party may not participate in party caucuses or other party activities for 15 days.)
Voters may also come into the town office during business hours to register to vote or to change from unenrolled to a declared party: Tuesdays, noon to 7 p.m., and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m..
For questions about the caucus schedules, Republicans may call Stuart Smith, President, Lincoln County Republican Committee, (800) 380-6831; and Democrats may call April Thibodeau, Convener for Westport Island, 756-3691
Neighbors lose their home…
None of us knows when we wake up in the morning when a day may be life altering. Today was such a day for neighbors Stan Lane and Norma Dreyfus. After an overnight with the grandchildren, a trip back home was interrupted by a page out for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department — Stan was carrying his pager as a member of the department. The pager tone was followed by a dispatcher’s voice announcing a structure fire and the address. The address was theirs.
Disbelief is an understatement. Thankfully, no one was home, so no one was hurt. But records, treasures and momentos of a life and family are gone. All the accessories of everyday living are gone — favorite clothing, favorite tools and favorite chair. Numbing.
At this point, the cause is unknown. Most days, it’s nice not to have neighbors too close; other times, it’s not. The first calls to 911 came around 2:15 p.m. after the fire was visible above the trees to those driving onto the island. The winds off the water on this balmy day fed the fire. Westport Volunteer Fire Department and mutual aid partners Wiscasset, Edgecomb, Alna, Dresden, Boothbay, Newcastle and Woolwich provided firefighters, hours of labor, and tanks with 2,000 gallons of water to help contain the fire. Unfortunately, the house was a total loss.
Tonight, take stock of your blessings and say a prayer for Norma and Stanley.
Senie Morton and Cheryl Greenleaf have gone west, but left some history on Westport Island
Sisters Senie Greenleaf Morton and Cheryl Greenleaf have moved to Arizona after a lifetime — and generations of family history — on Westport Island. Thankfully for us, they have also left the History Committee with an attic of family and community momentos. Members of the History Committee, along with family and friends, sent them off on Sunday, October 25, with a small thank you potluck for all they have given to their community.
Some may have seen Cheryl’s “Mitten Tree” at The First bank in Wiscasset last Christmas. Cheryl knitted over 400 pairs of mittens for those in need. Some decorated the bank’s Christmas tree alongside a sign to “take pair if you need a pair”. Cheryl’s mittens were given to area primary and middle school children, social service agencies and customers.
Maybe you bought a raffle ticket in years past in hopes of winning a quilt that Cheryl made for the benefit of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department. She was an active supporter of the fire department — volunteering her time for fundraising events, as well as cooking and crafting to support their fundraising.
Genealogists whose searches lead them to Westport Island know the name “Senie” because of her photographs and histories on the “Find a Grave” site, where she has put pictures of gravestones and information on almost every gravesite in Westport’s 70 plus cemeteries.
And, for those who have admired the 2011 Westport Island community quilt in which 18 Island women created a quilted time capsule — three of the patches were made by Cheryl and Senie. Their patches were historical commemorations of the North End School, the Westport ferry and the Island’s logging and sawmill history.
Thanks to the family archives left to the History Committee by Senie (and her niece Dedee Greenleaf-Hodgdon), you may soon see more history relating to the schools, the ferry and the Island’s logging history. Some items from the “Colby-Greenleaf Collection” will be available for viewing on the Maine Memory Network in the coming months. The collection includes journals, photo albums and scrapbooks from Senie and Dedee’s grandmother, Verlie Colby Greenleaf, and Verlie’s sister, Jeannette Colby Fowle. Senie carried on her grandmother’s scrapbooking of Island history — including obituaries and news clippings — and has contributed her personal archives as well.
Best wishes and thank you to friends and benefactors, Cheryl and Senie. We’ll miss you.
Help support Erin Bailey and Team Casco head to the Dock Dogs World Championship
When Erin Bailey saw Dock Dogs a canine aquatics competition on TV, she thought it would be fun — and she had the perfect dog to participate: a young, high energy black lab. What lab doesn’t like to run, jump and swim? The aquatic events include “Big Air” — the long jump; “Speed Retrieve” — racing the clock to run, swim and retrieve; and “Extreme Vertical” — the high jump. Erin’s previous dogs, Moose and Bear, gave an open practice session of Dock Dogs a “paws down,” so Erin let go of what seemed like a fun idea. Then came Casco and the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club in Berwick…
At Seacost Dock Dogs, club members are very supportive and go the extra mile to help dogs get comfortable with jumping into the pool. Casco seemed enthusiastic and was itching to go after the toy. After some coaxing — from both inside and outside the pool — he made his first jumps. Casco took to the sport, and Erin took to being a Dock Dogs mom. The two – often with their support team, sister Jessica and their mom and dad, started taking Casco to practice sessions and competitions around New England, including the Union Fair the last two years.
On September 13, Casco participated in a Dock Dogs Wild Card Event at the Hebron Harvest Fair in Connecticut. In the Speed Retrieve event, Casco was the top scorer running from a sitting position half way down the runway dock, jumping into the pool and retrieving a toy from the opposite end of the pool. He scored 7.254 seconds in the Turbo Division (a 7.000 to 7.999 seconds bracket) — winning himself an invitation to the Dock Dog World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa, from November 11 – 15. Yea Casco!!
Now Erin and Team Casco need to raise money for the entrance fee, the drive to Iowa and accommodations. To support the home team, there is a Go Fund Me page; you can follow Team Casco on Erin’s Facebook page; and you can purchase a sweet treat at a bake sale at Ames True Value on October 17th from 10 – 2.
In a shout out to support Team Casco — 2016 Dog Licensing at the Town Office starts on October 15. One dollar of every dog license is an agent fee (the remaining dollars support Maine’s Animal Welfare Program and Westport Island’s Animal Control Officer). The agent fee for every dog licensed in October and November will be donated to Team Casco — it’s a win/win. Go Team Casco!
Photo credits to the Bailey family and John Thurston, Seacoast Dock Dogs
A folk art masterpiece in the Cornelius Tarbox house
When Callie and Bob Connor, classics professors from North Carolina, considered purchasing the historic Cornelius Tarbox home on Westport Island, their decision was as much about saving a colonial treasure as about having a waterfront refuge. The house — though in need of “TLC” — had good, solid colonial bones and was decorated with an expansive folk art/maritime mural in the front entry that captivated the Connors.
A floor-to-ceiling mural of a colorful coastal panorama extends through the front hallway and up the stairwell. The mural is done in a similar style to that of folk art muralist Rufus Porter who was active from 1825 to 1840. The Connors’ mural is unsigned — a mystery as to who painted it and as to the story that inspired it.
The clues? There is a schooner with flags bearing the initials “WFT”, presumably for Cornelius’s son who died at age 32 — William F. Tarbox (1832-1865), a U.S. flag, a red burgee and a blue rectangular flag with a white circle — possibly a merchant flag? The schooner “William F. Tarbox” was lost with all hands on board in 1857; and the person William F. Tarbox died in 1865 in Nova Scotia where he had moved to stake a gold claim.
The panoramic mural also depicts a lighthouse (Seguin?), a fisherman’s home, a fishing vessel, a seascape with many vessels fading into the background and some grand trees that have a tendency to lean. The type of trees — or the leaning — may be a clue or maybe the brushstrokes, the way people are depicted, or the mural’s resonance with other historical murals in area structures…
By poring through valuation and tax books at the Westport Island town office, Callie established that the Tarbox house was built between 1848 and 1850. Through additional research, the Connors found leads to two additional area murals painted in a similar style. One of the murals is at the Five Islands Baptist Church (built 1841) in Georgetown. That mural was believed to have been done some time after 1864 by “an anonymous itinerant painter”. The third mural is at the Alvah Morse house (built 1847-1852) in Bath. All of these murals are unsigned; experts believe the Connors’ mural and the Five Islands Baptist Church 1864 mural are likely by the same painter.
Are there more murals in our midst that might hold additional clues to who painted the Tarbox House mural? Are there others who may know more about the story or the symbols depicted? The Connors are dedicated to learning this story — a story that promises to add another interesting page to Westport Island history.