Colby’s Groceries passes into history
Although there is not currently a general store on the Island, there have been several over the years. One of them, Colby’s Groceries, still stood until recently. The wear of the years finally forced its current owners to have the decaying structure demolished last month.
There are still residents on the Island who have memories of buying candy and ice cream at Colby’s as children. In 2014, the only sign inside the small structure of its former commercial history was a Cigarette License still clinging to the wall. The license was issued to Ellsworth Colby on February 26, 1947. Earl Grant turned the license over to the History Committee as a momento of the little store’s past. Farewell Colby’s Groceries…
Looking back on a one-time Island store
In the post civil war years, the building pictured on the right at the corner of Main and Post Office Roads was owned by Civil War Veteran, William McKinney. Around 1870, he opened a store in the building where he sold such things as candy, food staples, tobacco, sewing and school supplies, fish lines and patent medicines. When McKinney became the Postmaster in 1889, his store also became the post office. It dispensed stamps and postal supplies until the Island’s post office was discontinued in 1907 — two years after rural free delivery service started.
Although McKinney died in 1904, according to Cora Tarbox’s 2011 Westport Island History, someone else in the family may have operated the store until 1930. The building was then vacant until 1949 when Herbert Cromwell, Sr. purchased it. A year later, Herb Cromwell moved the building to his home property at 638 Main Road.
Herbert Cromwell’s Grocery Store operated as the largest store on the Island until the first supermarkets in Bath took hold in the early 1960’s. At Herb’s store, residents could get all the basics — and fill up their cars with gas. His daughter, Virginia, also operated a small snack bar next door to the main store until the late 1950’s when the snack bar building was moved north on the Main Road. (There for almost 20 years it was part of Edwin and Jenny Cromwell’s Bayside Oaks Snack Bar and Picnic Area overlooking Montsweag Bay.)
Today, the old post office, aka Herb Cromwell’s store, waits for its next life. The building has been vacant and used only for storage. It is familiar to Island residents because the addition on the right side currently serves as the Westport Island food pantry. If wishes come true, the newest residents in the old Cromwell house may add another chapter to the store’s history.
Credits to: “Westport Island Maine 1605-1972” by Cora J. Tarbox (2011) and the history and photographs provided by Calvin Cromwell