According to Sidney Winslow’s Fish Scales and Stone Chips, Vinalhaven’s first fire company was formed in 1870, shortly after the purchase of an “old hand tub,” named the Lion. Immediately a group of forty young men stepped forward to volunteer. As many others wanted to join, a few took it upon themselves to purchase their own hand engine, the Ellsworth, and formed a second fire company. There was much rivalry between the two and musters (contests to prove each company’s strength and endurance) were common. Vinalhaven, as in many other communities nationwide, was supportive and enthusiastic about firemen’s musters, and large crowds gathered to cheer on their favorite team. The Ellsworth almost always reigned supreme. It wasn’t long, however, before citizens realized that neither the Lion nor the Ellsworth was adequate for Vinalhaven’s needs. In 1872, E. P. Walker, (one of the original founders of the Bodwell Granite Company) was able to obtain from a Brooklyn, New York Fire Company, a ten inch stroke Jeffers hand engine, the Putnam. Walker acquired the Putnam as partial payment for some granite supplied for the BrooklynBridge. He changed the name of the engine from Putnam to E. P. Walker.
The E. P. Walker was used in Vinalhaven for many years. She traveled around New England numerous times to participate in firemen’s musters, and eventually was sold. For ten years the island was left without adequate fire fighting equipment. In 1886 a huge complex, The Granite Hotel, burned to the ground and two years later the Ephraim Allenwood homestead burned during the night. The old Ellsworth failed to be of any use in either case
Two months later at the annual town meeting voters agreed to establish a committee to look in to the possibility of purchasing a new steam engine. Opposition was strong to this proposal, mainly out of fear, as many felt it would be too dangerous for the inexperienced men to operate. However, the decision was made to purchase a steam engine for $3200 from the Silsby Manufacturing Company, of Seneca, New York. Just days before her arrival an engine house was completed on Main Street, the land being donated by Vinalhaven’s oldest and most revered citizen at that time, Capt. Reuben Carver. The new engine was named in his honor, as well. The day the Reuben Carver arrived on Vinalhaven was a day unparalleled in local history. Every able man, woman and child turned out to welcome the new engine and no one was disappointed. All eyes focused on “the highly polished nickel shell which encased the boiler, the glittering machinery, the bright red wheels and their golden stripes.”
Fires from the Past
1886- Granite Hotel
1894-First High School
1899-First Union Church
1933-Forest Fire-Calderwood’s Neck
1934-Log Cabin-Round Pond
1959-Medical Center/MacIntosh Grocery
1967-Masonic Building/A&P Store
1979-The Islander Inn
Tintype images of Vinalhaven firemen.
Changes throughout recent years
have brought improved fire protection
to the island; a full time fire
chief was appointed, modern fire
equipment purchased; and more rigid
regulations and training are
necessary for volunteer members.
With advancements in technology
and communications we are now
comparable to any firefighting unit
of our size. We pay tribute with this
year’s special exhibit to all
the men and women who have
served and continue to serve us so
YEAR IN REVIEW
The 2006 special exhibit was “Island Winters of the Past” and featured an old horse-drawn snowplow, several old wooden sleds, ice skates, ice-cutting saws and a collection of winter photos. Our busy summer schedule began with the release and signing of Jeannette Lasansky’s saltwater farms book at an informal gathering at the Legion Hall where several islanders shared farm memories. Professors Emeriti Harold W. Borns and David C. Smith of the University of Maine lectured on Vinalhaven’s Dr. John De Laski and his role in the development of the ice age theory. Long time summer resident Harry Gratwick captivated his audience with his personal perspective on island baseball through the years. Our final presentation was a slide show of old Vinalhaven images from various island collections. Partnering with the Vinalhaven Historical Society and the local Land Trust Jim Boone organized and conducted a successful HurricaneIsland walking tour.
Once again a faithful group of volunteers has worked tirelessly to produce an extraordinary amount of material. The completed projects include: a HurricaneIsland recipe book, several notebooks of Vinalhaven servicemen and women, homes and weddings. Hundreds of letters from the 1800s and dozens of oral histories were transcribed. In addition, materials in the vault were reorganized and vital records were reformatted and updated. With volunteer help we were open an extra day each week during July and August. We sincerely appreciate the time and efforts allour volunteers give to the museum, especially Lauretta Chilles, Elizabeth Bickford, Tracy Rantala, Jessica Martin, EmilyDean, Lorraine Bunker and Roy Heisler.
With generous donations from several members we were able to reshingle the roof on the Boy Scout Hall, renovate the office and purchase a new computer. Our new office space is much more efficient with a bigger work area, more storage room and easier access to materials. Thanks to Martin Stein, Paul Chilles and many others for their help.
Other activities for the year include supplying clues for the annual Fourth of July treasure hunt, building and placing a plaque on the galamander, and hosting the release and signing of another book, 2006 Vinalhaven graduate Holly Walker’s Vinalhaven Places A to Z.
There were approximately 1400 visitors from 36 states and 15 countries, including Denmark, Japan, Vietnam and Israel. We had the usual amount of genealogical inquiries and research, including a Japanese group from East River Films, who was here filming a documentary about Margaret Wise Brown for Japanese television.
The museum hosted several private
parties throughout the summer.
Among those who visited were the
staff and crew of the FoxIsland’s
Electric Co-op, Paul Chilles and
friends, two groups of local women
and The Red Hat Society (pictured
at right with visitors from the
GIFTS TO THE MUSEUM
We are fortunate each year to add to our collection many donations including photos, artifacts and documents. We appreciate the many donors who entrust us with so many Vinalhaven related items. Following is a partial list of our 2006 donated gifts.
From Elva Hunt and Ginny Fitts, Vinalhaven post card collections; Priscilla Rosen, Bert Dyer, Linda Philbrook, Larry Hopkins, Vera Stone and others, photos; Chandler Blackington, Lane-Libby poster; Charlotte Goodhue, Arts and Crafts Society records, programs, clippings, etc; Buddy Skoog, Odd Fellows-Star of Hope Lodge notebooks, letters, applications; the late Susan Stump Sulzer (via Grace Hinrichs) dishes from Rockaway Inn; Clare Winslow Gosselin, doll and wardrobe won by Sidney Winslow during the 1939 Sesqui- centennial; Dr. John Root, 1904 map of Vinalhaven; Peter Bodnar and Lida Gordon, clothing from Mel Smith’s house; Dot Tolman, Allston Roberts WWI uniform; Elin Elisofon, prints from her father’s collection; and Lawrence Philbrook, framed maps and old ledgers.
Last year the museum was fortunate to offer two publications, Island Saltwater Farms Farming onVinalhaven 1820-1960 by Jeannette Lasansky and Vinalhaven A to Z An Alphabet Book of Places by Holly Walker. This year, thanks to the work of many volunteers, a unique HurricaneIsland recipe book will be sold. This book contains recipes found in an old granite ledger from the Hurricane Island Granite Company, as well as a history of the island from the earliest known deeds to the present. Ansel and Nellie Philbrook and their ten children lived on Hurricane as caretakers for several years after the demise of the granite boom. The recipes in this book were recorded by Nellie and we include some of their story, as well.
It has been our hope for the past few years to upgrade and landscape the museum’s property. This fall, Dan Bickford, a local contractor, designed a plan and presented it to the Board for approval. Part of the plan will be to up-right the existing granite pieces and create a walkway between the museum and the town office. Dan hopes to start as soon as weather permits and have the project completed prior to our summer season.
Society member Cynthia Martin, a business professor at New EnglandCollege in Henniker, New Hampshire, has been granted a sabbatical for the 2007 fall semester. The focus of her project will be the economic history of Vinalhaven’s Bodwell Granite Company Store. Upon completion there will public access of her findings to interested parties, including descendents of company employees as well as scholars interested in business and labor history. The museum will provide research materials and assistance. However, we are looking for housing for the days she will be working on Vinalhaven. Any suggestions would be welcomed.
As we prepare for another busy season, we find ourselves immersed in an ever on-going attempt to organize, file and record Vinalhaven’s history. In the process of compiling information, we are learning how rich our past truly is and how important it is to preserve it for future generations. In order to do this we realize the need for more professional preservation materials, including a media storage unit, large acid-free pages for our collection of old newspapers, and archival boxes and folders for our updated genealogy files. However, as with all museums, these are not easy times. Our remote location and limited operational days restrict our ability to increase income and meet ever rising operational costs. We depend solely on annual renewals, new memberships, contributing visitors and special gifts to meet these expenses as well as to fund the costs of preservation materials. If you are able help us acquire any of these items please contact us.
Your annual membership/appeal form is enclosed. We are trying to update our address files, so please include your current address as well as your email address. We look forward to your response in support of our volunteer efforts and programs. As always, your membership dues and donations are greatly appreciated.
2007 SUMMER SCHEDULE
June 12-September 15
Tuesday- Saturday June and September
July and August Daily
Other times by appointment
EXHIBIT:History of the Vinalhaven Fire Company
Display of old fire fighting equipment, including a hand-pulled
hose cart, turn-out gear, fire extinguishers, fire company records
Saturday, June 9HurricaneIsland Recipe Book Release
Bake sale and samples of recipes from the book.
American Legion Hall
Wednesday, July 18Fire Department Recollections
Informal gathering of local firemen, past and present, who will
share their experiences and answer questions pertaining
to local fire history. Smith Hokanson Memorial Auditorium
Wednesday, August 8Deep Waters-Celebrating 60 years
Showing of the movie Deep Waters, an adaptation of Ruth Moore’s Spoonhandle, starring Cesar Romero, Dean Stockwell, Jean Peters and Dana Andrews.
Filmed on Vinalhaven in 1947. Smith Hokanson Memorial Hall
Wednesday, August 15Hollywood and Vinalhaven-The Making of Deep Waters
Film documentary, by seasonal resident Army Armstrong, chronicling Deep Waters from novel to script, through location shooting and studio post-production, to its final public release. Included will be behind-the-scenes anecdotes and reminiscences by several islanders old enough to have experienced the production and young enough to remember. Smith Hokanson Memorial Hall
TBA Wharff’s Quarry Walk-Then and Now
Co-sponsored with the VinalhavenLand Trust. A walk and talk with Jim Boone who will discuss the history of Wharff’s Quarry’s through the use of photos and stories. Time and arrangements will be posted at a later date.