We have known for a long time that the island of Georgetown and our village of Five Islands have a long and fascinating history. Georgetown has a wonderful historical society, which we joined several years ago. But it was a special pleasure to meet our neighbor, Tanya Tharp, shortly after we arrived this summer (Tanya is actually the daughter-in-law of our neighbors, Marshall and Sue Tharp). Tanya is a history buff and has a particular interest in the history of our little corner of Five Islands. She was kind enough to share some information in the Comments section of my blog. But I think that her stories deserve their own page. I will continue to post history of Lewis Road here as I learn more.
There is so much history attached to [Lewis Road], I thought I would share some! Ed’s parents do winter in Florida and we enjoy it in the winter. I love late winter storms on the coast and the very early waking of the spring on the Islands.
Here is a poem that hung on the walls of the old cottage that once stood here [36 Lewis Road]:
Down East and up along
The fringy coast of Maine
There’s rumor of the summer and the warm, soft rain.
There’s lisp of little leaves astir,
In the heart of every tree,
There’s gossip in the grasses
That run down to meet the sea.
In my heart I hear them calling
Like a siren’s song,
“Come and share the glories
Of down east and up along.”
E.O.G (I don’t know who the author is; I just have the initials.)
By Harriet E. Worrell
Visitors to Rockmere usually ask “How did you find this beautiful spot at the end of such a winding road?” The answer is, “I was invited to it.” Many years ago, when my Grandmother Ogden was a young girl she visited Thomas cousins in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, and there met Lillie T. Mendenhall, who later married King Wade (this is the Mr. Wade frequently mentioned in Helen Keller’s book “The Story of My Life”). This friendship continued and in later years we found that Mrs. Wade and Grandfather Ogden were distant cousins. Lillie Wade’s daughter Helen married John Bancroft Horton, a native of Maine. In 1901, when living in Lincoln, Nebraska, he suggested that they spend their summer vacation on the Maine coast where he felt sure he would escape hay fever. Mrs. Horton and her Aunt Lizzie (Mrs. William Wade) of Hulton, near Pittiburgh, Pennsylvania, went to Boston and there rented the former Ira Lewis Cottage in Five Islands, then owned, and previously occupied, by Louise Imogen Guiney, American poet and essayist, 1861-1920. This cottage was on the site of the present Moore cottage, immediately south of Rockmere Cottage. In 1901 Miss Guiney went to England to live and in 1902 sold her cottage to the Lothrops (parents of the late Mrs. Herbert Moore.)
The bracing air, the view of the bay, the trails through the woods, the wild flowers (to be admired and picked only when there was no danger of exterminating them) appealed to Mrs. Wade and she bought from Captain Lewis the waterfront from the Guiney cottage to the north point. In 1902 the Wades built what is now known as Rockmere Lodge. The large third floor room was reserved for the Horton’s use. Then Mrs. Wade gave her daughter a strip of land and in 1908 the Hortons built a large three story cottage where Rockmere Cottage now stands. In the spring of 1909, en route to Maine, Mrs. Horton visited us in Ogden and I eagerly, yet hesitantly, accepted her invitation to be the first guest in their new cottage. Would I be homesick? So far I hadn’t been away from home overnight without being homesick! I fell in love with Maine, stayed six weeks, and was permanently cured of homesickness. So it has been with several of my young cousins.
In those days you did not drive to the end of 127 and then wind your way to the Lodge. You went by train to Bath where you were met not by taxis, but by small boys who clamored to carry your bags to the steamer landing. There was no Carlton Bridge. The train to Rockland and traffic on US 1 crossed the Kennebec River on a ferry. I recall vividly the thrill of my first ride from Bath to Five Islands. The tide was high and from the deck of the steamer we had lovely views as we wound in and out amoung the beautiful green islands. Occasionally Mrs. Horton would have an early breakfast and ride to Bath and back with Moses Rowe, who with his horse and buggy made this trip six days a week to carry mail. In October 1950 a new bridge was opened which replaced the old wooden drawbridge between Woolwich and Arrowsic.
Until the Horton Cottage (and many others) was burned in 1932, I spent many happy vacations at Five Islands. There were long walks, and drives too as the Wades had a horse and carriage. The horse was kept in the barn of Almon L. Merr (father of our neighbor William Marr) and the carriage was kept in the building we now use as a dormitory. In those days were steamer rides to Boothbay Harbor and beyond. One memorable two-day excursion was by steamer to Bath, train to Newcastle, an overnight stop at the Fiske Hotel in Damariscotta, steamer down the Damriscotta to Christmas Cove, where Will Rowe met us in his motor boat and returned us to Five Islands in time for the evening meal. Now we make this trip by land in a few hours time; but is so much speed a real improvement!
I am deeply indebted to the Hortons for introducing me to the Stevens family. My first trip to Bath via the highway was May 8, 1920, when Carolyn Isabel Stevens and Paul A. Thompson were married in the parlor of the Stevens farmhouse and the wedding party and guests were taken to the train by Mr. Boyd (the minister) and Will Rowe in their Fords, the only cars in the neighborhood. Words cannot fully express my appreciation of the friendship with Carolyn and her family over the years. All Rockmere guests soon know Carolyn and such members of her family as can drop in. From Michigan and points east a magnet draws them to Five Islands.
In 1936, while vacationing at New Harbor, Uncle Ralph and I drove to Five Islands and as we stood on the site of the Horton Cottage fond memories came to me and as the Hortons decided not to rebuild, I wrote them that night asking if they would sell their land to me. After the death of Captain Lewis they had bought what he had left of his original tract. Within a few weeks time the property was mine and in 1937 Clinton McFadden of Bath had the cottage built and ready for us in early July. We entertained many friends there and I felt I was, in a small way, passing on the kindness extended to me by the Hortons.
Then in 1945 I found I could get the Wade property (more recently used by the Macrums, especially by Mrs. Sallie Macrum Cubbage, of Oakmont, near Pittsburgh). This gives me the opportunity to entertain paying guests and it is a pleasure to me, as it was to the Wades and Hortons, to cook and bake and plan outings for the many guests who have come to enjoy the view, the walks, and the invigorating air; to study birds, flowers, ferns, mosses, and marine life; to paint; to swim in the lagoon at nearby Reid Park; to row and to fish; or simply to partake of good food and the quiet, restful life at Rockmere.
Mrs. Horton held classes for the children in sewing, basketry, cooking, and painting. One summer they presented a children’s play, “The Open Door.” In 1950 Mrs. Mary Moon, of Westtown , Pennsylvania, had a class in leather craft and we hope to continue this work and add, as time permits, classes in cooking, nature study, and other hobbies for the children of the community. Adults in the community and our guests are encouraged to cooperate in these activities.
-Harriet E. Worrell
Today at the house I did a little more digging. Captain Lewis owned the whole area and from what I can find, it was purchased from the Indians. The house that we are in is the former piece of property given to the Wade’s daughter, Helen Horton. There was a very large cottage built on the site that burned in the fire of 1932. They called it Merwick Cottage. This was the place Harriet first stayed in 1909. Harriet later purchased and rebuilt, calling it Rockmere Cottage. The lodge that was built by Helen’s parents (Mr. and Mrs. Wade) is still there. It is two houses to the left of the Tharps. It was built in 1902 and is currently owned by the Sonnenscheins. The house in the middle was not there at the time. The Coles own that house. Harriet did later own the lodge as well but after she died another part of the family inherited it. This is what she calls Rockmere Lodge. It was a very popular B&B in the day. It would be so fun to find out more about it. We have an old recipe book from the lodge. Sue told me today Harriet wrote a monthly newsletter of the goings on there in the summer. Maybe the historical society has those?! I still need to get over there. If you find anything, let us know! Sue would ride the train from Philadelphia with Harriet and spend the summer here. She would stay out in the pump house that is still on our property. It is interesting to ponder the fact that if the fire did not happen way back then, we would never have known this property. It was only because of that tragedy that Harriett had the opportunity to purchase the land and pass it down to this family and has blessed us all. It truly is a place that draws the family back. There is something mysterious about this place. It stays with you when you leave and keeps drawing . . . calling you back . . . just like that poem . . . like the siren’s song . . . Come and share the glories of down east and up along!