TwHP Lessons

Life on an Island:
Early Settlers Off the Rock-Bound Coast of Maine

[Cover photo] The Blue Duck, 1916
(Islesford Historical Museum, 1969, Acadia National Park)

[Cover photo] Islesford Historical Museum, 1969
(The Blue Duck, 1916, Acadia National Park)


ff the jagged, rocky coast of Maine lie approximately 5,000 islands ranging in size from ledge outcroppings to the 80,000 acre Mount Desert Island. During the mid 18th century many of these islands began to be inhabited by settlers eager to take advantage of this interface between land and sea.

Living on an island was not easy, however. The granite islands have a very thin layer of topsoil that is usually highly acidic due to the spruce forests dominating the coastal vegetation. Weather conditions are harsh. Summers are often cool with periods of fog and rain, and winters--although milder along the coast than inland--bring pounding storms with 60-mile-per-hour winds and waves 20 to 25 feet high. Since all trading, freight- shipping, and transportation was by water, such conditions could isolate islanders for long periods of time.

On a calm day, the two-and-one-half-mile boat trip from Mount Desert Island to Little Cranberry Island takes approximately 20 minutes. As the boat winds through the fishing boats in the protected harbor and approaches the dock, two buildings command the eye's attention. The Blue Duck Ships' Store is a one-and-one-half story, gabled, wooden structure standing where the island meets the harbor. Directly behind the Blue Duck is the Islesford Historical Museum, a one-and-one-half story brick Georgian Revival building. These two buildings, part of Acadia National Park, preserve the memory of those who lived on the Cranberry Isles. Within the museum are family memorabilia, tools, and the tales of everyday life that speak of independence and self-reliance.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Maine
 2. Mount Desert and neighboring islands

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Hadlocks, A Seafaring
 Family of Maine

 2. Samuel Hadlock VI's Ledger
 (with transcript)

 3. Edwin Hadlock's Journal
 (with transcript)

 4. The Gilleys of Baker Island
 5. The Lighthouse Letter

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Little Cranberry Island, 1870
 2. Little Cranberry Island, 1880s

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Living on an Island
 2. Local History

Supplementary Resources

How to Use a TwHP Lesson

Lessons on Related Topics

TwHP Home

National Register Home

About the National Register

How the National Register
Helps Teachers

Contact TwHP

Acadia National Park

This lesson is based on the Islesford Historical Museum and the Blue Duck Ships' Store, two of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



Comments or Questions
Privacy & Disclaimer
Site optimized for V4.0
& above browsers

National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.