Coming in April

Flax Traditions: From Seed to Linen Cloth

Photo of Jane Flanagan at her loom.

Jayne at her loom.

Wednesday, April 5th, Jayne Flanagan will present Flax Traditions: from Seed to Linen Cloth. Being more of a “plant” person than an “animal/wool” person, Scarborough resident Jayne Flanagan has worked with flax and linen all the way from seed to finished cloth. Accompanied by a slide show, flax tools and samples, she’ll share the history and techniques involved in processing and spinning flax, activities common on New England farms prior to the importation of cotton thread and cloth. Jayne has grown several small crops of flax here in Scarborough since the 1980s and has been spinning and weaving since the early 1970s.

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New Library Pages

The Scarborough Historical Museum has an incredible number of books, manuscripts, and other items available to researchers at the museum.  Over the past few weeks, I have tried several different methods to catalog the books we have in one of our bookcases. I added two pages to the website, First, Books in Bookcase 1 includes photos of the bookcase shelves along with links to a master list of books in that bookcase. Also, if a book on the shelf is available on-line, I will include a link to that page whenever possible.  That will give you the option of coming to the museum to touch and feel the actual book. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to easily access the on-line version that you can do a search for items. This is particularly useful with the books that do not have an index.

Shelves one through seven have been done and are in various states of development. I’ll be back-tracking to fill them into the new form/format. I have now begun with shelf 8

Books in Bookcase 1, Shelf 8

I have also created a new page, Books Available On-Line.  These books are not available at the museum but are known to be of genealogical interest for those researching Scarborough, Maine, ancestors.

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March 1, 2017 Program – Scarborough Woolly Mammoth

Reminder: Program is Tonight – 1 March 2017

The March program will include Wally Fengler who will be talking about the wooly mammoth found on his Scarborough property in 1959.  Initially thought to be an elephant, testing revealed it to be a 10,000 to 11,000 years old wooly mammoth.  

Photo of Gary Hoyle shows off tooth of the Scarborough wooly mammoth.

Photo Source: The Maine Geologist – Oct 1992, page 3.

Wednesday, March 1, 7 PM, Scarborough Museum, 647 US Route 1, Scarborough, ME 04074

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Black Point School – Class Photo 1934

Black Point School - Class Photo c. 1934

Black Point School – Class Photo c. 1934

Left to Right Front Row

Percy Nichols, Roger Saywood, Donald Fredericks, Edward Meserve Jr.,  Donald Richardson, Wade Harmon, Clayton Skillings.

Second Row

Isabelle Harmon, Marguerite Skillings, Betty Brimson, Shirley Libby, Beverly Meserve, Frances Burnson, Deloris Harmon, Eva Swinborn

Third Row

Miss Jane Field, Teacher, Hardley Hicks, Harold Richardson, Leon Skillings, Guy Pillsbury, Alfred Swinborn, Frederick Newcomb.

Fourth Row

Mary Chase, Edith Nichold, Ellen Chase, Loretta Arcuambault, Jane Skillings, Mary Newcomb.

Back Row

Granville Pence, Edward Meserve, Jr., Norman Harmon.


Back of photo: Black Point School - Class Photo c. 1934<br /> Newcomb Collection<br /> Accession Number 84.4.6

Back of Photo

There were two different students with the name Edward Meserve in this class. One was a Jr (son of Edward Meserve) the other was the son of George Meserve.


Scarborough Historical Society
Newcomb Collection #84.4.6
(Photo Box 3 – File: Black Point School )





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Black Point School – Class Photo 1879

Black Point School – Class Photo 1879 

Front Row left to right:

Leon Harmon, Dorothy Libby, Anna Lee, Jennie Harmon, Laura Prichard, Teacher Theresa Libby,  Lucy Lee,  Arlene Harmon, Nellie Harmon, Della Carter, Raymond Brown.

Second Row: 

Ora Bucky, Dollie Carter,  Isa Googins,  Florence Merserve, Jeddy Stuart,  Clifford Googins,  Will Gutchell,

Third Row:

Fred Oliver,  Ralph Bennett,  Frank Harmon, Arthur Libby,  Harold Newcomb,  Harry Lee.
In front of Ralph Bennett – Seavey.
   In front of Arthur Libby – Clinton Harmon.


  • Bennett,
  • Brown,
  • Bucky,
  • Carter,
  • Googins,
  • Gutchell,
  • Harmon,
  • Lee,
  • Libby,
  • Merserve,
  • Newcomb,
  • Oliver,
  • Seavey,
  • Stuart,

Accession: 63.31.13
Original location: Cabinet K1,  Photo Box 3: Schools, Folder: Black Point


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Prout’s Neck: From Farm to Resort


Black Point, Scarborough, ca. 1741

Black Point, Scarborough, ca. 1741

By John J. Cromie
Ballston Spa, NY

This work examines the gradual, early development of a summer place most noted as the home of Winslow Homer.  Yet, how does a resident of an upstate New York village become interested in a small piece of Maine coast?

It began at a local New Years Day auction during which my wife, Vicky, and I were attracted to a watercolor portrait of a young lady, which was very well done. It had some obvious Homeresque characteristics. Being an attorney and local history buff, finding answers to arcane questions is a fun pastime. Who was this young lady, and could she have been painted by Homer? I was off on the search.

Due to the abundance of secondary sources dealing with Winslow Homer, it was easy to find facts about the artist, his work, and his surroundings. Vicky’s art history background has been a fine complement to my sleuthing. As the books and notes piled up, we became more and more focused on the summer of 1887 and needed to determine who may have been summer visitors at Prout’s Neck at that time. At the suggestion of State Historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. that many visitors would become summer residents, the search turned to identifying early members of the summer colony.

It wasn’t that difficult to find source material. The global reach of Internet research allows one to delve into and re-check facts that once took months, if not years to accumulate. But once done, it seemed a shame to keep the information to ourselves. Thus began this project to illuminate the early land transfers within the Libby subdivision of Prout’s Neck, mapped by S. L. Stephenson in 1879. The scope of this work does not include the area off the “Neck” proper, leading up Black Point Road to Routes 207 and 77, around the “Settlement,” or Scarborough Beach.

Vicky and I went to Scarborough and Portland for a couple of days. We drove down Black Point Road, reached an access to the gated-summer community, and dutifully turned around and left Prout’s for the Town Beach and Ferry Rock. During this research jaunt, we were treated very well by everyone we encountered at the Portland Public Library, Maine Historical Society, Cumberland County Registrar’s Office, and by Mary Pickard and Bruce Thurlow of the Scarborough Historical Society.

It is the latter we wish to benefit from this work. Whenever you read it, even ten years hence, do not assume it is a free experience. Rather, consider it worth a donation to the Scarborough Historical Society. Checks may be sent to Scarborough Historical Society, P.O. Box Scarborough, ME 04070, or poke around this website, find the membership form, and join.

A special acknowledgment must be given to Nicholas Westbrook, a long-time friend and Director Emeritus of Fort Ticonderoga, for reviewing this piece and offering his wisdom to make it better.


Part I – Context” and “Libby Family


Part II – “Selling Begins” andAsa M. Sylvester


Part III – “Homer Compound and “Mary E. Libby and Edward Proctor





Part IV – “Artist and Landscape” and “Conclusion




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Knitting Needle

Equipment we used

Knitting Needle

The knitting needle was an important tool in every lobsterman’s household. The
needle was about a foot long, made of wood or metal (my father’s was brass) and used to knit heads, or nets for lobster traps. One end was pointed and the other had arm-like extensions on each side. The top third of the needle had an opening and a tongue, which faced the top. Twine would be put on the needle by wrapping it around the tongue and arms. Twine was either purchased or made by separating or “stripping” three-strand rope into three separate twines. A hook, usually on a door casing, held the twine while knitting the heads. It took about half an hour to make one head. Three heads were needed for each trap—two smaller ones at the front side and a larger one from the middle of the trap into the back area or “parlor.” I remember many winter nights when everyone in the family either stripped rope or knitted heads. Rope would be hanging all over the living room. As young children, my brothers and I stripped rope. As we grew older, we became involved in the knitting process. The door casing leading from our kitchen area to the living room still has the marks of where we used to knit! The newly knitted heads would either replace those on older traps or be used in new ones. Once nylon twine was available, heads seldom needed replacing. Nylon didn’t rot, was much stronger and was seldom broken by crabs, fish, or small lobsters. If broken, the heads were easily mended with nylon twine.


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Lobster Gauge (Measure):

Equipment we used:

Lobster Gauge (Measure):

Lobster Measure, ca. 1920

This lobster measuring tool was used to measure the length of a lobster. The hook is put in the eye socket and run along the back of the lobster to see if it’s long enough to keep. In Maine, if the size is too small or too large then the lobster must be thrown back into the water. The average size of the lobster is between one and five pounds.

A lobster a gauge is a small brass device used to measure the length of the lobster’s carapace—from the eye socket to the beginning of the tail. The device resembles measuring calipers, except that the jaws are not moveable. There is both a minimum and maximum size. The minimum size is to make sure that lobsters have a chance to breed at least once before harvested. The maximum size limit is designed to protect breeding stock.

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Lobster Boats

Equipment we used:

Lobster Boats:

Donald Thurlow's lobster boat, Scarborough, 1943

Donald Thurlow’s lobster boat was built in 1943 at the Pillsbury Building in Pine Point by Ward Bickford. It was a pine strip and oak framed wooden boat with a gasoline engine. From the engine pulley a drive belt ran a winch to mechanically lift (haul) the traps. These boats turned sharply and to reset a trap, the boat made a circle and “dumped” it so that the rope would go over the lower rail and not snag the lobsterman. He would throw the glass bopper and wooden buoy overboard as the rope went out during the circle rotation.

Growing up, I remember Mr. Ward Bickford building lobster boats in a large, garage-like building between his home and The Pillsbury Inn where the Hurd Annex parking lot is now. The boats were 26-feet long and powered by gasoline automobile engines. There was a reverse gear, but the boat went very slowly in that gear. Boats were made to turn sharply, for everyone fished traps alone. When hauling traps, one turned the boat each time to set the trap and let the rope go out. Dories and outboards were still used also. In those cases the traps were pulled by hand. I recall how some men were still rowing their dories as far away as the Old Proprietor Ledge, some 3 miles from the anchorage!

Mr. Bickford made most wooden boats from pine strips nailed to oak ribs. Other boats were pine planked and then nailed to oak ribs. Wooden lobster boats were very moveable, yet quite slow when compared to today’s fiberglass diesel rigs. In many ways they were like logs and could withstand choppy seas quite well and they were safe! Mr. Bickford also made many punts and larger skiffs (16- footers with higher sides). Many young men, including me, had their start in one of the larger skiffs.

Wooden boats required a lot of maintenance. By spring boats had dried out and needed to be recaulked. Once in the water for a few days, the wood swelled and the boat became watertight. Most wooden boats leaked from some source, so many fishermen carried long, galvanized hand pumps. In later years electric pumps were used. Boat were scrubbed, brushed and then painted. The upper hull and cabin were usually white, red or black, but the lower hull and keel were always “coppered.” This part of the job was awful, because the painter had to lie on his back on cold ground and paint above his head. Naturally, much of the copper-based paint fell on him. Because of the growth of barnacles, mussels, and such on the hull, especially if the boat was on the mooring a long time, the hull had to be scraped before a new coat of copper paint was applied. Typically a boat would be beached for two days and one side of the hull would be painted at a time. Inspection of coolant pipes would also be done at this time. Without proper maintenance, a slow boat would be even slower!

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Wooden Cradles

Equipment we used:

Wooden Cradles:

Donald Thurlow's lobster boat, Scarborough, 1943

The boat rests on a wooden cradle and has been hauled up to the summer parking lot for the winter.

In the off-season, boats were hauled from the water and stored on wooden cradles. Come spring, boats in their cradles were hauled onto the shore, usually by Jack Conroy’s tow truck, and floated out of their cradles at high tide. The cradles were weighted down with sandbags before the tide came in. To release a boat from its cradle men would push from the boat with oars or poles. It was much harder to put a boat into a cradle in the fall. During the summer cradles were anchored on the marsh behind Bayley’s Lobster Pound and, although somewhat waterlogged, sandbags were needed to help sink the cradles when boats were hauled. For many years, there were wooden pilings up river from the pier near the channel where some men used the pilings to hold cradles in place while running boats onto them. Often it took more than one attempt! At low tide, Jack Conroy would use his wrecker to winch the boat and cradle up to the Co-Op gravel parking lot. Because of the weight difference in the fall, Conroy often had to attach an oil truck to the front of his wrecker to keep it from dipping back. There was a tremendous strain on the two steel cables of the wrecker’s winch. Each year, everyone was afraid they would snap! Yet, each boat was brought to the parking lot for the winter. It was common for powerboats to be hauled in their cradles to the fisherman’s house, where he would have easy access to repair and paint his boat the next spring.

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