Orr’s Island Village
(Harpswell Town), a settlement of attractive summer homes, lies along a low
ridge sloping to the shore. Deep-sea fishing is among the popular summer sports
here. The transition from the mainland to the islands, lying in the northeastern
part of Casco Bay, is hardly noticeable because of the narrowness of the
channels; the road runs through a growth of pines that spread a carpet of tawny
needles to the edge of the road. South of the village the highway crosses Will
Straits on Bailey Island Bridge, which spans the narrowest part of the channel,
then curves to follow the line of a thin spit to solid ground. The rocky ridges
along the highway terminate in ledges at the southern tip of Bailey Island. –Maine: A Guide Down East (WPA, 1937)
WILL’S GUT – Harpswell, Maine
There is something in you
that tells you where you belong… it’s your gut. My wife and I returned to
our native state of Maine recently to escape an emotional roller coaster, which
is trying to sell a 2-bedroom house in a Connecticut community that will only
tolerate a 3-bedroom home. Replacing a septic tank and a rotted,
termite-infested beam has to date not been enough to extract ourselves from
Without a lot of planning
we ended up on Orr’s Island, which is connected to Bailey Island by their
historic Cribstone Bridge, the only one of it’s kind in the world. For a long
time the residents of Bailey Island pleaded with their town of Harpswell to
build a bridge connecting their island to Orr’s. Since 1892 the town
continually turned down their request until a bridge was finally built in 1928.
Design of the bridge was
complicated because of the powerful tides surging back and forth between what’s
known as Will’s Gut. They decided to build their unique crib-stone bridge with 10,000
tons of giant granite slabs quarried between Yarmouth and Pownal. The stone slabs
were considered heavy enough to withstand wind and wave while the open cribbing
allowed the ebb and flow of water without increasing tidal pressure.
Besides that, there is not
a lot of robust island history to mention, outside of change of title. And
maybe that’s its charm… its simplicity – its lack of human imprint. I imagine the
locals have plenty of lore to share, but for a community this small there was
little I could dig up while I was there besides a simple listing of families
and relatives that had originally settled there.
After the earliest
European settlers in the 1600s, the first settler was William Black aka Black
Will, a freed slave from Kittery, Maine who moved across Will’s Gut to what was
then known as Newaggin Island (named by the Abenaki Indians), in 1727. It then
became Will’s Island and the most colorful part of the island’s history is perhaps
that Will purportedly sold his island to Reverend Timothy Bailey in 1742 for
one pound of tobacco and a gallon of rum. Will moved back to Orr’s and from
then on Will’s Island became Bailey Island to this day.
I spent intermittent time
on these islands as a young kid sightseeing with my family and later as a
restless teen escaping my nearby hometown of Brunswick, and ultimately getting
arrested with a friend by the lone sheriff policing Harpswell. My post-prom
party took place in an old buddy’s house here, and prior to that we’d often
drive the roughly 10 mile stretch from Brunswick down to these islands to park
the car and inconspicuously walk through the sloped, pine-laden woods to the
shoreline, where we’d sit on rock ledges and sip beer while we watched the
fishermen come back to port with occasional seals trailing them. The thick pinewoods
were like a dark loden blanket shielding our backs.
Back then we were escaping
the pressures of high school and teen-life. This past weekend I was attempting
escape of real life, so I dragged my wife down through the same pine-thick
woods to the same rocky ledges and we watched nothing but the bluest sea rise
up while the sun fell down. These brine-weathered islands were an escape back
then and a Godsend now. I could use a gallon of rum while I await our return to
Maine, but I’d never trade a single acre of this state for anything.
Bigotry is learned, love is innate. It is really as simple as that.
An elementary school in Kittery, Maine, was attempting to be all-inclusive, as they should be, but parents got their Underoos in a bunch when they found out their kindergartners were being read a book about a transgender child. Children that do, in fact, exist.
Parents however, wanted to be informed if such a book were to be read…