Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Monhegan Island

Location of Manana and Monhegan

Location of Manana and Monhegan

Monhegan and Manana Islands (NOAA 13301)

Monhegan and Manana Islands (NOAA 13301)

Year Population
1970 473
1980 598
1990 645
2000 684
2010 606
Monhegan Population Chart 1830-2010

Population Trend 1830-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 43:49:23
W. Latitude 69:40:02
Maine House District 90
Maine Senate District 13
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 13.9
Area sq. mi. (land) 5.4
Population/sq.mi. (land) 127.0
County: Lincoln

Total=land+water; Land=land only
Monhegan Light (2007)

Monhegan Light (2007)

The Island School (2007)

The Island School (2007)

Arriving From the Ferry (2007)

[mon-HE-guhn] is an island plantation in Lincoln County, incorporated on September 4, 1839 deriving its name from the Maliseet: “the island” or “the out-to-sea island.” George Weymouth in 1605 claimed the island for King James I of England and named it St. George. Manana Island is adjacent and forms Monhegan Harbor between the two islands.

Attractive to artists since the late 19th century, its first draw was fish. After early European explorers passed by (Cabot in 1497, Weymouth and Champlain in 1605), the abundance of fish soon became apparent.

A Shop and Post Office (2007)

A Shop and Post Office (2007)

A Seaside Cottage (2007)

A Seaside Cottage (2007)

Plaque Noting John Smith's Visit (2007)

Plaque Noting John Smith’s Visit (2007)

John Smith’s crew in 1614 traded with the Indians on the island, cultivated the land, and enjoyed the fruits of the sea. Soon it became the focal point for European fishing fleets, then a trading and shipbuilding center.

To this day, fishing (especially for lobster) remains a rewarding occupation for the island’s residents. This, mixed with tourism and semi-resident artists, keeps the hearty population going.

Cottages in the Center of the Island (2007)

Cottages in the Center of the Island (2007)

The first good day after December 1st, when every local fisherman is ready, Trap Day marks the beginning of the six-month lobster season around the island. The motto: “No one goes until everyone goes.” Neighbors help neighbors with repairs, gear and loading. Even an illness for one means respectful waiting for all.

Monhegan Light was commissioned on July 2, 1824. The light keeper also alerted the Fog Signal keeper on Manana Island when a fog bank was spotted rolling in. Henry David Thoreau passed by in 1853 on his way to the Maine woods.

A Lovely View (2007)

A Lovely View (2007)

Botanists have identified over six hundred varieties of wildflowers on the island. In summer, hundreds of butterflies visit many of these colorful blooms. The Cathedral Woods, in the northeastern section, is a peaceful refuge of tall spruce and mossy boulders. Hiking trails to the woods and along the rugged shore offer great rewards to those who choose to follow them.


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Form of Government: Assessors-Annual Meeting.

Additional resources

Ashley, Alta. Hark to the Bell Buoys’ Song: Letters from Monhegan Island 1976 to 1985. Damariscotta, Me. Grey Gull Publications. c1990.

Bill Caldwell, Islands of Maine.

Curtis, Jane. Monhegan, The Artists’ Island. Camden, Me. Down East Books. 1995.

Faller, Ruth Grant. Monhegan: Her Houses and Her People 1780-1970. Melrose, MA. Mainstay Publications. c1995 (Damariscotta, Maine : Lincoln County Publishing Co.).

Island Voices: Poetry of Monhegan: Selected Poems from the Island Visions/Island Voices Shows, Monhegan Island, Maine. Monhegan Island, Maine. Stone Island Press. 2001.

Jenney, Charles Francis. The Fortunate Island of Monhegan: A Historical Monograph. New Bedford, Mass. Reynolds Printing. 1927.

*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.   Text and photos from National Register of Historic Places: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/xxxxxxxx.PDF and http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/photos/xxxxxxxx.PDF

Manana Island Fog Signal Station: 02001412.PDF
Monhegan Island Lighthouse and Quarters: 80000239.PDF

Mersfelder, Ade. Monhegan Island, Maine: Yesterday and Today. 19??

Proper, Ida Sedgwick. Monhegan, The Cradle of New England. Portland Me. The Southworth Press. 1930.

Simpson, Dorothy. The Maine Islands in Story and Legend.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Influence, The

[Monhegan Island]

Manana Island Fog Signal Station

[Manana Island] The Fog Signal Station was established in 1855 opposite Monhegan Island harbor. The only access is by boat or helicopter. The fog signal building was built in 1889 and continues as an active aid to navigation. The keeper’s dwelling, while altered and enlarged, dates from 1855. The 1895 fuel house (former fog signal house) now converted to the sound house and the 1905 trolley and hoist house survive and are in good condition. The station was automated about 1986 and fitted with solar power in 1997.

Fog Station and The Monhegan House (2007)

Manana Island Fog Station (2007)

Manana Island Fog Station (2007)

Manana Island Fog Station (2007)

The Station is significant for its association with federal governmental efforts to provide an integrated system of navigational aids and safe maritime transportation along the coast. The northeast coast was a major transportation corridor for commercial fisheries from the early 19th through 20th centuries. It is one of the few operational fog signal stations in the United States that is not part of a light station.

Joseph Farwell, master of the steamer Daniel Webster, wrote to the lighthouse inspector Lieutenant W.B. Franklin in Portland on September 12, 1853:

…One of the most important aids to navigation on the coast of Maine is a fog bell in Manana. The island of Monhegan is the island that all of our vessels on the coast take their departure from on leaving the coast, and is the most desirable headland to make on coming in from sea; and it is the only land that steamboats wish to make between Portland light and Whitehead light, and it is indispensably necessary to make Monhegan before you change your course either from Portland or Whitehead. The Manana is a small island, raken, as you may say, out of Monhegan island on the westerly side, and makes the harbor of Monhegan.*

Monhegan Island Lighthouse and Quarters

[Monhegan Island] By act of Congress in 1822, $3,000 was appropriated to establish a lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling on Monhegan Island. The first keeper, Thomas B. Seavey, and his family occupied the quarters and lit the light on July 2, 1824. The light was supervised by the Lighthouse Service until it was consolidated with the Coast Guard beginning in July, 1939.

Former Lighthouse Quarters now Monhegan Museum (2007)

Former Lighthouse Quarters now Monhegan Museum (2007)

Monhegan Museum with dory on exhibit and attached Monhegan Light (2007)

Monhegan Museum with dory on exhibit and attached Monhegan Light (2007)

In 1959 the kerosene fired Welsbach mantle and its weight-powered rotary mechanism were replaced by a generator operated and regulated by remote control from the fog signal station on nearby Manana Island. The keeper’s house and outbuildings were then declared surplus property. By sealed-bid public auction held on June 1, 1962, these buildings were acquired by Monhegan Associates, Inc., an organization formed in 1954 “to preserve for posterity the natural wild beauty, biotic communities, and desirable natural, artificial, and historic features of the so-called ‘wild-lands’ portions of Monhegan Island, Maine, and its environs, as well as the simple, friendly way of life that has existed on Monhegan as a whole”.*

Kent, Rockwell, Cottage and Studio

[off north side of Horn Hill Road, Monhegan Island]

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