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 (FOWIH)
In 2019, the non-profit "Friends of Westport Island History" (FOWIH) was formed to further the collection and preservation of Westport Island's History. The FOWIH 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 upcoming Friends of Westport Island History Website, which will be accessible on the Town’s Home Page and this page, will provide interested viewers with complete information on our collections, genealogy resources, research publications, events and news.
History Committee Minutes
August 2019: No regular meeting
|Mary Ellen Barnes||Member||2022|
|Sandra Besecker||Associate Member||2020|
|Callie Connor||Associate Member||2020|
|Mary Coventry||Associate Member||2020|
|Judith Hughes||Associate Member||2020|
|Ruth-Laurayne Presby||Associate Member||2020|
|George D. Richardson, Jr.||Associate Member||2020|
|Jean Wilhelmsen-Exter||Associate Member||2020|
|Deborah Williams||Associate Member||2020|