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Mount Desert

MOUNT DESERT, an island in Hancock county, Maine, U.S.A. It is about 16 m. long and 10 m. wide in its widest part, with an approximate area of 100 sq. m. and a population (1910) of 8014. The Maine Central railroad runs a ferry from its nearest station on the mainland (Mount Desert Ferry), and the island is also accessible during the warmer months by steamship lines from New York, Boston, Portland, and several other ports. On the north across Mount Desert Narrows, a bridge connects the island with the mainland. Eagle Lake, at the north-east base of Green Mountain, is a beautiful sheet of water about 25 m. long, and 5 m. wide, and Great Pond, 4m. long, lies near Somesville between Beech Hill and Western Mountain. There are numerous outlying rocky islets. The surface of Mount Desert is generally so rocky that the greater part of it has never been inhabited or cultivated, but wherever there is a thin soil the hills are wooded with spruce, alder, birch, maple and mountain ash. The hilly scenery, the cool summer climate, and the facilities for boating and fishing attract many thousands of visitors each summer, and the maintenance of the permanent population is derived very largely from the summer residents. The Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians come here in the season to sell their basket-work, toy canoes, moccasins, bows and arrows, etc. The villages most frequented by summer visitors are Bar Harbor (q.v.) on the north-east coast; Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Seal Harbor on the south coast; and Somesville, at the head of Somes Sound. Along the western shore are several quaint old hamlets.

Mount Desert Island was discovered and named by Samuel de Champlain on the 5th of September 1604. French Jesuits established a settlement, St Sauveur, at the entrance to Somes Sound in 1609, but this was destroyed four years later by Samuel Argall. In 1688 the island was granted by Louis XIV. to Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac, but no permanent settlement was established until 1762, when the general court of Massachusetts granted one-half of the island to Governor Francis Bernard and under his encouragement a settlement was begun at Southwest Harbor. During the War of Independence all the American estates of Bernard were confiscated, but in 1785 his former interest in Mount Desert was conveyed to his son, John, and two years later heirs of Cadillac, among them his granddaughter, Mme de Gregoire, who had come to Maine in 1786, received from the general court a grant for the remaining portion. Until the summer visitors came, the settlers gained only a scanty livelihood, chiefly by fishing, lumbering, boat building and farming. Practically all of them lived along the shore; they had boats, but few horses, and the roads were only rough trails. There is no record of any mail service until 1820, and as late as 1870 the only means of reaching the island was by stage from Bangor or by steamboat twice a week from Portland.

See George E. Street, Mount Desert, a History (Boston, 1905).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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