Blog Archives

Sea Pottery: McCarty Cove “Treasure”

Island “treasures”

While walking the tidal flats of McCarty Cove this past winter with trusty beagle Chloe,I landed on “unburied treasure”. On several occasions, I found old pottery shards alongside low-tide stones and shells. A mystery from the past — could they have come from the nearby ship’s chandlery; better yet, might the shards have come from a shipwreck?…or might the terracotta pieces be remnants from Wiscasset Brick and Pottery, which operated on Birch Point Road in the 1800’s?

Stymied in my own research, I contacted Laurie LaBar, Chief Curator, History and Decorative Arts, Maine State Museum; and this is what she said:

What a fun collection of ‘sea pottery’ you have found. There’s quite a variety of pieces. Because the whole coastal plain has nice deep pockets of iron-rich clay, there were redware makers in pretty much every other town, starting in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know whether Wiscasset Brick and Pottery made the terra cotta pieces, unless one had a few intact specimens for comparison, but that’s a strong possibility!

The (redware) industry had pretty well died out (in the late 1800’s ) in favor of more durable stoneware (your 2-gal crock); and later in the century, ironstone (your white shard). If I just had the terra cotta, I’d suggest a mid-1800s date. However, the transfer-printed pieces, together with the stoneware and ironstone, suggest a late-1800s date. Add in that there was a local redware manufactory nearby at that time, and that’s probably your time period.

England produced millions of tons of transfer-printed ceramics for local use and for export. Stoke-on-Trent in North Staffordshire was the center of this industry, as it was until the mid 1900s. The pieces you found suggest to me a typical middle-class household of the area, engaging in what in my archaeology days we called “casual Euro-American dumping practices.” Should you excavate the family privy you might find more pieces of the same pots, or at least of the same services.

That said, the pieces may not be related at all if you found them scattered in disparate places. Of course, they’d still speak to the sort of community one found along the water at the turn of the 20th century, even if they came from several families. If the pieces were found within a 15-20 yard area as you suggest, the pieces are probably all from one family. The shards represent the range of everyday ceramics one family might have.

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Westport Island, Maine Remembers

A Memorial Day thank you

A November 2011 study found that in the last decade, despite involvement in continuous military conflict, only one-half of one percent of adult Americans has served on active duty (“War and Sacrifice in the Post-911 Era”). The number of military veterans is closer to 10 percent.

ken shepherd woodcrafted flagMaine exceeds national averages when it comes to military service. According to the National Priorities Project Database, Maine ranked #1 in FY2010 for the number of recruits entering the military — 3.6 percent of youth aged 18-24. …And, according to census data, veterans account for a little over 12 percent of Maine’s population.

As distinctive, Maine must rank near the top in thanking those who serve. The Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington started “Wreaths Across America” which places wreaths each Christmas on gravestones at Arlington National Cemetary and other veteran’s cemetaries — last year laying 100,000 wreaths. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of the Freeport Flag Ladies who travel to Bangor and Pease International Airports to greet troops returning home; mail packages, cards, and letters to troops; and have stood along Main Street in Freeport holding flags to honor our troops each Tuesday since 911. …And, then there are the Maine Troop Greeters who day or night, rain or shine, greet troops returning from active duty through the Bangor International Airport. Since May of 2003, they have greeted over 6,400 flights, 1,300,000 service members, and 300 military dogs.

Westport Islanders have served our nation from the Revolutionary War through modern wars and into post-911 conflicts. And, on this Memorial weekend, the Island is dotted with its thank yous…

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“Your silent tents of green we deck
with fragrant flowers;
yours has the suffering been,
the memory shall be ours.”

from Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This Day in Westport Island History

On this day in 1861…151 years ago today

Westport Island’s 70 plus cemeteries provide a mini history and window into the lives of its people and their times.

According to a headstone in the Dunton family cemetery near Squam Creek, Martha A. Dunton, daughter of Captain Stephen and Elizabeth Dunton, died on April 24 in 1861.  She was 21 years, 1 month, and 15 days.  Her death came 12 days after the start of the Civil War.

Martha’s father, Stephen Dunton, was a sea captain:  he was a troop at the Island’s Fort McDonough during the War of 1812, signed the petition that separated Westport from Edgecomb in 1828, and mastered a ship named the Martha Jane until 1840. The grief that he and his wife felt at the death of their daughter, Martha, is evident in the carved rose and accompanying inscription etched on her tombstone. The inscribed verses come from a poem by Charles Doyne Sillery (1807-1836), a Scottish/Irish poet and essayist.

She died in beauty, like a rose from its parent’s stem.
She died in beauty, like a pearl dropped from some diadem.
She died in beauty, like a star lost on the brow of day.
She lives in glory, like night’s gems set ’round the silver moon.
She lives in glory, like the sun amid the blue of June.

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The Westport Island Quilt: A Piecework Story

Quilt presentation at the Old Town Hall (04/11)

Quilt presentation to the community (04/11)

Stories are told in many ways – ballads, books, ballets…blogs. Westport stories have been told in song, poetry, and prose: on canvas and through the lens. The most recent notable story of the Island took the form of a community quilt completed last year.

Eighteen women: twenty pieces of a story. The artists were women with generational roots on the Island as well as women originally “from away”. All came together and shared their personal pieces of Island inspiration, sewing tips, and mutual encouragement. Although they didn’t start with an overall design, there were no duplicate images crafted. A 19th woman donated muslin to the project. With the deft skills of Jill Cooney and Sandra Besecker, the various pieces were sewn into a whole that provides an inspired narrative of “Island soul”.

The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Colorado had donated fabrics to the Island’s History Committee which were incorporated into traditional blocks on the reverse side of the quilt. The donated fabrics were reproduced from vintage fabrics on an historic Westport quilt in their collection — adding to the new quilt’s historic significance.

Thank you to those women who shared their time, their artistry, and their inspirations for the benefit of neighbors and the generations to come…

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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.