Little boys on Centennial Beach, circa 1979         (Courtesy of Peaks Island Children’s Workshop)          It’s a cliche to describe Maine island childhoods as “magical,” but for many who grew up on Peaks Island, it’s also the truth. Children run free on the island, and always have. …

Sewing Circle quilt

Harriet Trefethen Skillings (1821-1903) was a remarkable and energetic woman.  She managed a large family, kept boarders year-round, and developed a summer colony on her shorefront island property — all while taking an active interest in her neighbors and community affairs on Peaks Island.        Harriet Trefethen Skillings was president of the …

The relationship between Casco Bay Lines (CBL) and islanders from the late 1950s through the 1970s was often turbulent. Stories about these disputes made newspaper headlines regularly. Then, as now, ferries served as lifelines for islanders and island businesses. People commuted to jobs, schools, medical appointments, and recreation on the mainland. The ferries transported …

By Jo Israelson, with Holly Hurd-Forsyth, Curator You’ve probably heard of Helen Keller (1880-1968), famous American author, educator, and disability rights activist, but did you know she spent time on Peaks Island? As a young child in Alabama, Keller was afflicted with an illness (possibly scarlet fever or meningitis) that left her blind and …

View of the Fifth Maine Regiment building shortly after its construction in 1888

A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days. –Ralph Waldo Emerson The Fifth Maine Museum recently embarked on the exciting new project of creating a Historic Structure Report …

“A Scene of Perfect Desolation” By 1700, Portland and the islands in the harbor were largely deserted. The Ango-Abenaki Wars raged on and off and any English settlers who straggled back to the area were driven off again. Fort Loyal, at the foot of what is now India Street, built to defend the area, …

The New World Wasn’t New “Between 1500 and 1800, roughly two and a half million Europeans moved to the Americas… and as many as 50 million Native Americans died, chiefly of disease…” Jill Lepore Peaks Island was inhabited when Italian explorer Verrazzano sailed up what is now the Maine coast in 1524.  The islands …

Interesting things pop up in the Fifth Maine Museum collections weekly. The most recent was a handwritten “yarn” about a fisherman’s close call with a big fish in Casco Bay. Some context about details that appear in the story to follow: In the 1800s and early 1900s, “horse mackerel” was a vernacular term for …

What is the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery? Read on to find out! For a relatively small place (one square mile, approximately), Peaks Island has a lot of cemeteries, a testament to our long history of settlement. The earliest is the somewhat awkwardly named Ye Olde Trott Burying Ground off Upper A …

“The scene of indescribable confusion among the prisoners presents them in every imaginable position, standing, walking, running, arguing, gambling, going to or coming from the Branch with cups, dippers, canteens, or rude pails with water, lying down, dying, praying, giving water or food to the sick, crawling on hands and knees, or hunkers, making …