|Maine House||Dists 89,90|
|Maine Senate||District 13|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 23.6|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 13.2|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
[BRIS-tul] is town in Lincoln County, incorporated on March 26, 1915 from the western portion of the town of Bristol.
The Sproul Homestead on Route 129 is an early Colonial cape style house of 1749, which serves as an ell to a handsome hip roofed Federal home built in 1815 and moved from across the road in 1833.
The homestead’s interesting, well-preserved combination of mid-eighteenth century and Federal architecture is enhanced by its connection with one of the earliest and largest families in the region.
The first of this clan was James Sproul. Born in Ireland he came to Boston in 1727. In 1729 he arrived at Pemaquid with Col. David Dunbar who built Fort Frederick, the last of a series of fortifications built on that site.
James oldest son, Robert built the small cape which now forms the ell. The Federal portion was built by his grandson, also Robert, who moved it to the higher ground across the road.
Christmas Cove, on the Island, is a small but well-protected harbor said to have been named by Captain John Smith during a visit on Christmas Day in 1614.
Unfortunately, Smith left Maine in August of that year. But Smith was a devout Christian and a keen mapmaker of this coast. He is quoted as saying, ” I have drawn a Map from point to point, from Ile to Ile, and Harbour to Harbour with the Soundings, Sands, Rocks, and Land-markes, as I peer close to shore in a little Boat.” [Bradford Smith, p. 192] He could have named the Cove, but not on Christmas 1614.
In 1871 Albion and Menzies (A & M) Gamage, builders of large wooden sailing vessels since the 1850s, bought land for what is now the Gamage Ship Yard. In addition to Pete Seeger’s Clearwater, schooners of note that were built here include the Mary Day, Shenandoah, Harvey F. Gamage, Bill of Rights, and Appledore II.
The Darling Marine Center of the University of Maine is located in the village of Walpole. The 45 faculty attached to the University’s School of Marine Sciences represent the largest group of marine scientists in Maine. They conduct state and federally funded research on the oceans, train graduate students, and offer intensive summer internships to select undergraduates.
The population centers in the town’s southern most reaches are on Rutherford Island, perched at the end of a peninsular bounded by the Damariscotta River on the west and Johns River (actually a small bay) on the east.
The community is home to three nature preserves. Plummer Point is a 74 acre wooded peninsula with over a mile of shoreline on the Damariscotta river. The Tracy Property is a town park with public access to 800 feet on Damariscotta River. Partially forested, it features 33 acres of rocky ledges, cliffs, a tidal basin and a small marsh. The wooded 18-acre Witch Island Sanctuary, provides views of Johns Bay. Two beaches offer picnicking, swimming and boat access.
“A Brief History of Gamage Shipyard and the Area.” Gamage Shipyard, South Bristol Maine. http://www.gamageshipyard.com/history/ (accessed January 30, 2014)
Christmas Cove, Maine. New York. Press of Thomson & Son. 1907.
Emerson, Everett H. Captain John Smith. New York. Twayne Publishers. 1993.
Gamage, Nelson W. A Short History of South Bristol, Maine.
*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
Means, Emily, House: 85000242.PDF
Sproul Homestead: 78000188.PDF
Thompson Ice House: 74000179.PDF
Walpole Meetinghouse: 76000104.PDF
Smith, Bradford. Captain John Smith, His Life & Legend. Philadelphia. Lippincott. 1953.
Vincent, Ellen (Ed.). Down on the Island, Up on the Main: a Recollected History of South Bristol, Maine. Gardiner. Tilbury House, Publishers. and South Bristol. South Bristol Historical Society. 2003.
Warner, Hoyt Landon. A History of the Families and Their Houses: South Bristol, Maine. South Bristol, Me. South Bristol Historical Society. 2006.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
Means, Emily, House
[Birch Island]This is a rare example in Maine of a summer cottage in the Mediterranean style using stucco covered terra cotta tile. It was the home of Emily Means a nationally known authority in horticulture who maintained extensive rock gardens containing rare species of plants. Miss Means purchased the island in 1900 but did not build her summer home there until 1914, although she began developing her gardens some years before.* [Frank A. Beard photo]
[Route 129] Although the principal significance of the Sproul Homestead is its interesting and well preserved combination of mid-18th century and Federal architecture, it is also noteworthy in its connection with one of the earliest and most numerous families in the region. [Frank A. Beard photo]
James Sproul, born in Ireland near Belfast, arrived at Pemaquid in 1729 with Col. David Dunbar who built Fort Frederick. James’ eldest son built the 1749 Colonial cape. The impressive Federal house was built in 1815 and moved in 1833 to be attached to the older Colonial cape.*
Old Walpole Meeting House
[Route 129] Built by the Town of Bristol in 1772, the Meetinghouse, in South Bristol’s small Walpole village, remains in a virtually unaltered condition. The paneled balcony was set aside for the Negro slaves and servants. The panels contain boards thirty inches wide.
Originally the home of a Presbyterian Church, in 1796 it became Congregational. A place of worship in the summer, it is one of the oldest churches in Maine still holding services and other community events.*
Thompson Ice House
[Route 129] The Thompson Ice House is Maine’s last commercial ice house. Located on a pond, is stands on a site occupied by ice houses since 1826. The building apparently was built in the 19th century. The site was of the earliest to produce ice for shipment outside the state, the first ice being cut in 1826 and “sold south” for $700.
In 1974 the Thompson Ice House was still operated by Herbert Thompson, a direct descendent of Melvin Thomson, the original owner. Mr. Thompson remembers as a boy that all the cutting and storage was done by hand. Later machines were used for both operations. The ice was usually harvested in January when it is twelve inches thick. In 2015 an ice harvesting event was scheduled for February.
Special thanks to Ellen and Stan Wells for advice on John Smith and the Sproul Homestead.