Maine: An Encyclopedia

Damariscove Island

Map Showing the location of Damariscove Island. Green areas are unorganized territories.

Map Showing the location of Damariscove Island. Green areas are unorganized territories.

Chart Showing Damariscove Island (NOAA 13293)

Chart Showing Damariscove Island (NOAA 13293)

Just south of Booth Bay, the island was one of the earliest places along the Maine coast inhabited by Europeans. Even before the Pilgrim’s Mayflower arrived, fishermen from England, France, Spain and Holland caught and dried cod, which was shipped to Europe.

By 1605 the English were fishing near the island. In 1622 when the Pilgrims were near starvation in the Plymouth Colony, supplies from Damariscove Island prevented complete disaster.

Based on Dorothy Simpson’s account, the group of islands (now known as Fisherman’s, Outer and Inner Heron, Big and LittleWhite) that included Damariscove were known in the 17th century as Damarill’s Isles, since Humphrey Damarill owned them.  Considering  the extensive, narrow inlet at its southern end, it is a short leap to assume that it may have been called “Damerill’s Cove,” and later the island, Damariscove.

In 1675, a year of many Indian raids, people from nearby coastal settlements attempted to flee to Monhegan, but diverted to Damariscove because of unfriendly winds.  There the 300 or so homeless folks watched the smoke from their burning villages.  Luckily for them, the Indians did not attack the island.

On September 5, 1812, residents watched the British frigate Boxer and the American ship Enterprise engage in a fierce battle that left both captains dead and the British vessel in American hands.

At one time or another home to a trading post, dairy farms, an ice business, a population supporting a small school, and a Coast Guard Station, the Island is currently uninhabited and owned by the Nature Conservancy.

A quarter of a mile wide and 1.7 miles long, Damariscove’s 209 acres are connected by a narrow low neck giving the appearance of being two islands. It is part of the Town of Boothbay.

Entrance to Damariscove Harbor (2000)

Entrance to Damariscove Harbor (2000)

This National Historic Landmark and nature preserve, Maine’s earliest permanent settlement, is 209 acres of treeless, coastal tundra vegetation. Home to large populations of nesting seabirds and muskrats, it is accessible by a Nature Conservancy dock.

Nearby Great Salt Bay is protected by Maine legislation and is the state’s first marine shellfish protected area.

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Additional resources

Bill Caldwell, Islands of Maine. (pp. 143-149)

Griffin, Carl Russell and Alaric Faulkner. Coming of Age on Damariscove Island, Maine. Orono, Maine. Northeast Folklore Society. 1981.

Simpson, Dorothy. The Maine Islands in Story and Legend. (pp. 126-129)

Whitby, Michael D. Population trends and spatial relations of American eiders … and Great Black-backed Gulls … on Damariscove Island, Maine, USA. Thesis (B.S.) in Wildlife Ecology–University of Maine. 2009.

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