History Committee

Background

Westport is a small island community that has often been isolated from its neighbors and the region.  Until the 1950’s, access to the mainland was by ferry or boat (the current bridge was built in the early 1970s).  Yet our pre-history goes back to Native Americans and to an early 1600s trip by Champlain via the Back River and Upper Hell Gate.  Westport Island used to be called Jeremysquam, an anglicized version of a Native American term. 

Westport Island was part of Edgecomb from that town’s incorporation until 1828 when Westport broke away.  Early settlement paralleled other coastal communities, with land clearing, farming, shipbuilding, fishing and millwork.  The small coves of the island were perfect sites for small boat-building.  The Hodgdon family of East Boothbay fame first settled on Westport and built vessels here.  Tide mills were the main source of power and significant ruins remain of two of these. 

At the north end of the island was an earthenworks fort, Fort McDonough, built in 1814 in support of Fort Edgecomb in protection of Wiscasset harbor during the War of 1812.  Though the fort is now gone, it remains of historical and archaeological interest to the town and to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission which has surveyed the property.

What we do

The Westport Island History Committee is a volunteer organization dedicated to advising Westport Island Selectmen on the pursuit, preservation and promotion of the Island’s proud history and rich cultural heritage.

Examples of recent activities, include:

  • Improving storage conditions and implementing cataloging and other processes for archival town records and holdings of the History Committee;
  • Transcribing, scanning, researching and building upon collections;
  • Establishing a presence on the Maine Memory Network (MMN) digital library to provide access to a selection of archival photographs, maps, letters and exhibits; and
  • Hosting a talk by author and Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. on the Lincoln County Photographs of E. Joseph Leighton.
  • Hosting an Historic Homes Tour.
  • Co-curating with the Maine Memory Network a photographic exhibit, "My Island Home," at the Maine Historical Society in Portland.

The Committee’s members are a combination of newcomers, long-time residents, and native Westporters.  It is exciting when local families offer a donation to our collections, either from long-ago generations of ship chandlers, mill owners, and fishermen, or more recent times.  The Committee’s work has inspired pride and brought awareness to the importance of preserving our heritage and keeping it locally accessible.

For a more complete picture of the work that currently engages the History Committee, see our monthly minutes for last year below.

The Friends of Westport Island History (Friends)

In 2018, the non-profit "Friends of Westport Island History" (Friends) was formed to further the collection  and preservation of Westport Island's History. The Friends will support this goal by providing educational programs, disseminating information about the History Committee's activities and conducting fundraising events to support its preservation mission.

The Friends in collaboration with community partners have been instrumental in the creation of Westport Island's History Center at the Wright Landing to increase residents and visitors' access to the collections and provide a venue for public exhibits and displays, space for research, and space for archival storage.

Soon, a Friends of Westport Island History Website will be accessible on the Town’s Home Page and this page to provide interested viewers with complete information on our collections, genealogy resources, research publications, events and news.

Please join us on our journey to build on the visual and narrative stories of those who came before us by becoming a member of the Friends.

 

 

 

History Committee Minutes

December 2019 Minutes

November 2019 Minutes

October 2019 Minutes

September 2019 Minutes

August 2019: No regular meeting

July 2019 Minutes

June 2019 Minutes

May 2019 Minutes

April 2019 Minutes

March 2019 Minutes

February 2019 Minutes

January 2019 Minutes

Informational Resources

Maine Memory Network

Mural Mystery in the Cornelius Tarbox House Exhibit

Learning to Fly and Instructing Cadets at Westpoint During WWII, Vera Cleaves, Westport Island

Maine State Archives Genealogy Resources

Members

Name Position Term Expires Phone
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Chair 2021 (207) 776-2015
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Secretary 2021 (207) 882-8477 ext. 3
Paul Bonyun Member 2021  
Dennis Dunbar Member 2022  
Jean Wilhelmsen-Exter Member 2023  
Mary Ellen Barnes Associate Member 2021  
Sandra Besecker Associate Member 2021  
Joan Mason Bradford Associate Member 2021  
Anne Cole-Fairfield Associate Member 2021  
Callie Connor Associate Member 2021  
Mary Coventry Associate Member 2021  
Dedee Greenleaf-Hodgdon Associate Member 2021  
Ruth-Laurayne Presby Associate Member 2021  
George D. Richardson, Jr. Associate Member 2021  
Deborah Williams Associate Member 2021