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Summer 2008 Newsletter

In This Issue:

A Brief History of the Association

Excerpt From "Chisholm"s Mount Desert Guide" c. 1888

Pretty Marsh Churches

Editorial: "A State of Mind"

A Brief History of the Association

The Pretty Marsh Community Association began as one of many similar village associations around Mount Desert Island and around Maine in the years before television, modern transportation, and the Internet. Life in small villages generally was centered around those who lived in each village. Residents knew their neighbors, they saw each other on an almost daily basis, and they gathered together regularly for recreation and social activities.

Community House During the 1930's, 40's and 50's the Pretty Marsh Community Association was rather loosely organized, and held its meetings in the old one-room schoolhouse that was no longer used as a school and had been deeded to the residents of the village. In the 1960's a need arose for more formal organization, and the officers at that time took the necessary steps to have the Pretty Marsh Community Association incorporated in the State of Maine as a non-profit corporation, and also completed the necessary filings to qualify Pretty Marsh Community Corporation under the Internal Revenue Code as a Section 501 (C) (3) organization, thereby making all donations received deductible as a charitable contribution on the donor’s income tax return.

Regardless of its type of organization, PMCC has always served to facilitate and promote regular social interaction among residents of the village of Pretty Marsh, both year-round and seasonal. On occasion there has been a need for the organization to represent the interests of Pretty Marsh residents before town and state boards, but political activity has never been one of its primary functions.

In addition to hosting regular social activities at the schoolhouse, PMCC has produced and mailed newsletters to village residents two or three times a year. The purpose of these newsletters has been to inform residents of association activities; to provide a touchstone for seasonal residents who are away from the village for much of the year; and importantly, to impart an understanding of the village’s rich history to all residents - especially to those who have only recently acquired property in the community. In short, the primary objective of PMCC has been to create and maintain a sense of community in Pretty Marsh.

In recent years as more new year-round and seasonal residents have moved into the island villages, as a number of community elders who provided a human link to village history have passed away, and as people in general have become more mobile and traveled more readily and easily in pursuit of recreation, small village associations have increasingly had to cease activity due to lack of participation. Today, PMCC is the last remaining such organization that still survives on Mount Desert Island.

While continuing to conduct its regular schedule of programs, PMCC has not been totally immune to the trends affecting society as a whole, and has been seeing declining participation. Some of this decline also may be due to confusion over who, exactly, is a member of the association. The Bylaws state that all property owners in Pretty Marsh are automatically members of PMCC by virtue of their property ownership. Pretty Marsh is defined as the area bounded by Round Pond on the Pretty Marsh Road toward Somesville, the Mount Desert/Tremont town line toward Seal Cove, the Mount Desert/Bar Harbor town line on Indian Point Road, and the ocean to the west (including Bartlett’s Island).

A modest dues structure has been in place for many years, but payment of dues has never been a prerequisite to membership in the association. Residents are encouraged to pay dues to help defray the costs of maintaining the schoolhouse and other property and the costs of publishing the newsletters and directories, but payment of dues has never been mandatory. Other sources of revenue for the association include an annual summer yard sale of items donated by community residents, and special monetary donations from anyone wishing to help further the goals of the organization. Once in awhile, PMCC will be the recipient of a bequest or of a donation of property for the benefit of the village. At the present time PMCC owns approximately 1 ˝ acres of land including and immediately surrounding the schoolhouse, as well as approximately 2 acres of land fronting on the Pretty Marsh inner harbor that is now under a conservation easement and is available to all village residents for quiet recreation.

PMCC today is a unique village organization on Mount Desert Island, and has always been very much a part of what it means to live in Pretty Marsh - both year-round and during all or part of the summer. Hopefully, with the continued careful stewardship and participation of all village residents, PMCC can remain an active and unifying force within this community for many years to come.

Excerpt From "Chisholm"s Mount Desert Guide" c. 1888

The following is an excerpt from "Chisholm's Mount Desert Guide", Portland: Chisholm Brothers, Publishers; 1888. It was included in the Pretty Marsh Community Association Newsletter of April, 2000.

"It is about four miles from Seal Cove to the harbor and hamlet of PRETTY MARSH, which still bears its quaint and interesting colonial name, and is hardly yet arrived at a score of houses, although the United States has given it a post office. The bordering shores are cut into peninsulas by deep coves, affording interesting marine scenery. The name Pretty Marsh was given by the earliest settlers, who built their houses on high ground overlooking a small salt-water pond between two pleasant expanses of marsh. Pretty Marsh was first settled about the year 1762 by Israel Bartlett, whose brother acquired Bartlett's Island. In 1887, Nathaniel B. Maddocks, of South Thomaston (then 84 years old), told how he lived here in the year 1817, and knew Deacon Milliken, then 90 years old, and claiming to be the first settler on Mt. Desert. He told Mr. Maddocks this story:

'The first year we spent on the island came very near to being our last. Potatoes were the only food I had in my house when the winter set in. The season proved exceptionally cold and severe. It froze my potatoes; and it froze the clam flats, so it cut off my supply of food in that direction. The coaster, to which we looked for relief, was frozen up in Harpswell Harbor. To live on frozen potatoes was a condition of things not long to be endured. Having no money, I shouldered a steel bear-trap, hoping to exchange it for some kind of food, and started from Pretty Marsh, to go easterly to Prospect Harbor, where, during the summer two white men had been engaged in trade with the Passamaquoddy Indians. After taking a sad farewell of my wife, I started on the desperate venture. When about three miles from home, in the thick woods, I came suddenly upon a large male moose. The infuriated animal charged at once, with his fore feet and branching antlers, at his feeble foe. Fortunately, a large tree was near, to which I fled for shelter. The snow was quite deep, and the animal slumped through it; his broad horns and large body also required a broad circuit, while I was on snow-shoes and could keep nearer the tree and so avoid the savage brute. After a brief race around the tree I brought the steel bear-trap in play, smiting the moose with it across the hind legs. The sharp edges of the heavy trap proved a powerful weapon of offense, and a few well-directed blows severed the animal's hamstrings, so he fell a prey to his intended victim. The beast was in fine condition, and I cut off as much as I could haul on a hand-sled, and hastened back home. After cooking and eating a hearty meal, my wife and I went back to where the moose was killed, and by hand tugging and weary work succeeded in securing the valuable prize. The spectre of starvation fled, no more to appear, as there soon came a thaw, and the vessel, with provisions on board, arrived in safety.'

The steamer, Henry Morrison calls at Pretty Marsh two or three times each week, connecting with other lines in Rockland and Sedgwick. Capt. W. H. Freeman's Bay-View House is near the beach and wharf, and commands a fine outlook over the bay, with its islands and mountains. The West-Point Cottage is another public house near the water. The Boston and Maine Land Company has bought large tracts of land near the village, in expectation of the advent of cottages and summer-boarders to this pleasant haven.

It is but little over a mile from Pretty Marsh to the saw-mill on the great western bay of Long Pond, whence one (if he carries his boat with him) can explore this beautiful and sequestered lake, at its southern end entering the noble scenery between the cliffs of Western Mountain and Beech Mountain. Pretty Marsh is 9 miles from Bass Harbor, 9 from Southwest Harbor, 4 from Somesville, 7 from Mount-Desert Bridge, and 12 from Bar Harbor.

Bartlett's Narrows, two miles long, and from a quarter to half a mile wide, separate Pretty Marsh from BARTLETT'S ISLAND, which fronts on Blue-Hill Bay, with eight fathoms of water. The island covers an area of 1,800 acres, and includes one school district, and a sewing-circle, with a country store and a dressmaker. Bartlett & Co. are the commercial persons of the locality, with several sloops, and weirs for herring and mackerel, and other connected industries. The town-landing on Bartlett's is three-quarters of a mile from the steamboat-wharf at Pretty Marsh. There are several cottages on the island, occupied during the season by families from the cities. A beautiful view is afforded from the LOOK-OUT, where the United States Coast Guard Survey station was established, including a vast expanse of Blue-Hill Bay and Union-River Bay. The island is four miles long, and a mile and a half wide, with a rural road running down its centre, through the woods and over the hills; and the shores are indented by half-a-dozen picturesque coves.

A few miles out in the bay lies Tinker's Island, with its great birch trees over-arching quiet country roads; and the hospitality of Captain Tinker is of wide fame.

HIGH HEAD is a bold and picturesque promontory north of Bartlett Narrows and Squid Cove, with fine views over Union-River Bay and Western Bay, and across to Bule Hill. It has recently been acquired by an Ellsworth company, and laid out for a summer-resort, with fine roads and commanding view points.

Between Pretty Marsh and the bridge to the mainland the road passes along the deep inlet of Squid Cove, and near High Head. Then it crosses the head of Clark's Cove, and approachs Town Hill (or West Eden), whence one may choose between the roads to the Trenton Bridge, or Salibury Cove, or Somesville.

A road leads direct across the island from Pretty Marsh to Somesville, and thence to Bar Harbor, crossing the foot of Long Pond."

Pretty Marsh Churches

The following was written by Alice Smith and was compiled from notes and papers of the late Edna Hysom. It was included in the Pretty Marsh Community Association Newsletter of December, 1978.

"The first church that was built in Pretty Marsh, on Meetinghouse Hill, was the second church built on Mount Desert Island. According to George E. Street's 'Mount Desert, A History' the two churches, known as the 'Northen' and 'Sutheren" meetinghouses, are first mentioned in the records of the Mt. Desert Congregational Church in 1802. The 'Sutheren' meetinghouse, organized in 1792 and built in 1799, is located in what is now Manset. The 'Northen' meetinghouse was on the south side of the present Pretty Marsh - Somesville Road at the top of the rise across from what is known as the 'frog pond', and was evidently constructed at about the same time as the church in Manset.

This meetinghouse, whatever its original denomination, was reorganized as the 'Mt. Desert Baptist Church' on September 11, 1816, with fourteen original members. From 'The Island of Mount Desert Register' of 1909-10 we are able to ascertain that 'Elder Lemuel Norton, a native of Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, became pastor of the church in 1820 and continued as such until 1828, when he left to preach the doctrines of the Free Will Baptists.

'In 1832, Elder Elisha Bedell visited the church and so stirred the people that a new interest was at once manifest, an interest which added ninety-two members within less than two years. It was in that year that Rev. Calvin L. Cary began his pastorate of eleven years, during which time he served the church faithfully and well. During his pastorate the church membership increased to one hundred and thirty one.'

Whereas Street says this 'Northen' meetinghouse burned 'some time not earlier than 1816' in a forest fire, it is obvious form the register that it was a thriving organization well into the 1840s. And while Street also says the church was never finished inside, Edna had a deed to a pew, and her mother told her of going to church with her mother (Edna's grandmother) and of Grandmother's singing in the choir, so it couldn't have been totally unfinished. Edna believed that the pews had doors, which was common in churches of that era, and that the choir loft was in the rear, similar to the balcony of the present Somesville Union Meetinghouse. The members of this first Pretty Marsh church came not only from the village, but from Seal Cove, Somesville, and all the northwestern area of the Island, and from Bartlett's Island.

This meetinghouse did burn in a forest fire, but it has not been determined just when. Mathematically speaking, perhaps it was in the early 1870s. Edna could remember playing as a child on the charred foundation sills and the large bolts with which they were fastened. There is a slight depression back in the woods on the south side of the road across from the 'frog pond', which is probably the foundation hole of the building.

Back in the early 1930s, one Edward Langley came to 'rusticate' at the Pretty Marsh House and visited Edna's home one day, during which visit he reminisced. Edward was a grandson of Ephriam Pray,III (great-great-grandson of the first Ephriam, one of the original settlers of Pretty Marsh) and lived in the house slightly across the road from the Community House (the old schoolhouse). When Edward's mother, because of age, had to leave her home, Enda's mother promised her - Mary Langley - to keep her organ, the first one in Pretty Marsh. In 1978 Edna still had it. Mary was a pauper (Eddie never attended to her, never wrote, and never supported her in any way) and lived out her life as a town ward in the house close to the road at what is now known as 'Greater Downtown Pretty Marsh', when Dexter Smith lived there, along with other wards of the town. That house became the Pretty Marsh House (a boarding house) in the 1920s.

Probably in the late 1870s or early 1880s, the Pretty Marsh area wanted another church. It was decided to build it as a community effort on a site west of the Pretty Marsh - Seal Cove Road a few rods south of the junction. Some folks would cut trees and mill lumber, some would donate nails and shingles, others would give whatever they could. At the time there was a quarrying operation in Pretty Marsh in Pray's pasture just southwest of the 'triangle' or junction, which also extended across the road to the northeast. Mr. Pray said that he would donate cut stone for the church foundations.

Thus a new building was erected. Folks were eager to hold services; Edna's Aunt, Lin Foote, remembered as a child seeing the villagers walking to church, each carrying their own chair; the women in their Sunday-best white aprons. That this church was in existence in 1885 can be verified by its location being marked on a map in the lobby of the Bar Harbor Banking and Trust building in Bar Harbor. However,after an undetermined length of time the congregation gathered for a meeting to decide on the denomination of the church and the minister. Some wanted a Methodist, some a Congregational, some a Baptist: a verbal free-for-all ensued with hot tempers and no agreement reached, except for 'We'll take the Church down!' So everyone removed what they had put into it. (Street says that it was 'tumbled down by a gale of wind sometime after 1866').

It so happened that at this time Mr. Pray's son, Ephriam IV, was about to be married and was planning to build a house in Pretty Marsh - the one on the hill at 'Greater Downtown Pretty Marsh' which was owned and occupied by Edna Hysom until her death - so Mr. Pray took back the granite foundation stones, and they are now the foundation for that house. The house was to have been built much closer to the road, but because there was a potatoe patch near the road and the potatoes weren't ready to be dug, the house was built on the hill.

The tale of Pretty Marsh churches: one destroyed by an Act of God; the other by its makers."

Editorial: "A State of Mind"

From the many gratifying comments we have received after the introduction of our new Pretty Marsh website, it is apparent that both year-round and seasonal residents of our community have been longing for something that communicates to them and resonates with them about this special place in which we all are so fortunate to live.

Pretty Marsh always has been a unique part of a very unique and beautiful island.. It is a little out of the way, yet it is close to lots of activity. We can participate in the hustle and bustle as much as we wish, then we can retreat to our own private, quiet place to recover. We all know each other, but we tend to give each other space. Yet if a need arises, everyone stands ready to help in any way they can.

We are probably the least developed village on Mount Desert Island. From time to time we hear people laughingly say that Pretty Marsh has more horses than people (not a bad thing from our perspective)! We live by some of the most beautiful coves and hills and forests anywhere on Mount Desert; and we are completely surrounded by Acadia, one of America's most beautiful national parks.

We have an active sense of our rich village history and a desire to preserve it. We hang on to our old community association when all of the others have fallen by the wayside. Children who grew up here years ago come back and want their children to experience the good times they enjoyed. We are old-fashioned in many ways, but we still want access to broadband Internet!

We have lots of wildlife, sometimes to the chagrin of gardeners and pet owners. However, few can complain about the haunting serenade of the evening thrush during July, or the chorus of spring peepers in April, or the howl of coyotes on a full moon during our cold winter nights.

If, as they say, Maine is “the way life should be”; then Pretty Marsh is the way Maine should be.
It truly is a “state of mind” that should be both cherished and nourished.


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