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Stonington, Maine
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Early History
As with many stories of discovery and establishment of civilization, the true first inhabitants of any particular American region are generally overlooked. The probable cause for this is a lack of written history establishing who married whom and when, and how they subsisted. The history of European civilization may be more well documented but the establishment of Native American cultures on Deer Isle is not to be forgotten.
The first people to live on Deer Isle were Native Americans. They are believed to have been here as early as 6,100 years ago. Their descendents are known to early French explorers as Etchemins; some continued to live on the island even after Anglo-Americas established their settlements.
The first European to venture into the region was Estevan Gomez. Gomez, a Portuguese sailor who at the time was working for the Spanish Crown sailed up Eggemoggin Reach between Deer Isle and the mainland in his ship La Anunciada. It was the French who were the most active in the region though, establishing a fort in Castine and intermarrying with the natives. To further illustrate French activity, a body found buried in full armor (believed to be French) was dug up on Campbell Island off Oak Point, Deer Isle.
Deer Isle was settled by English-speaking colonists from New England near the end of the French and Indian war around 1760 (among them were descendants of Scots Covenantor George Gray, who was a Battle of Dunbar (September 3rd, 1650) prisoner of war and Durham Cathedral survivor. Gray's descendents relocated to Sedgewick and Deer Isle, Me). Men from the island eventually became known for their maritime skills, which is reflected in the selection of Deer Isle crews for defenders in the America's Cup of 1895 and 1899. Their ancestors, ironically, didn't come looking for a life on the sea, they were searching for the opposite; a life on the land. The first settlers were interested in establishing farms and their first cabins were built on the northern part of the island following the southerly path of migration from the mainland. The part of the island that would be called Green's Landing and eventually Stonington was the southern most part of the island and therefore the last to be settled after 1800. Green's Landing didn't change much until the granite boom of the late 19th century.
Like many other newly discovered lands, it was only a matter of time before the soil became exhausted from over farming and forest destruction. With an economy based on a dwindling resource, the settlers of Deer Isle and Green's Landing took to the sea. Luckily, this switch coincided with the maritime boom all along the East coast and Deer Isle men became active in shipbuilding, seafaring, and fishing.
That which had been a sparsely populated fishing village underwent a boom in the late 19th century when granite quarrying became a major occupation. Many Europeans, mainly from Italy, were employed and imported from Italy as stone cutters. Some were housed on barracks on Crotch Island while others lived in hotels and large boarding houses built for that purpose. Many of the original buildings can still be seen today although many have been transformed into restaurants, galleries, libraries and shops. All hallmarks of an economy reorienting toward service. Family homes were also built in the same area.

After incorporation
The town of Stonington was incorporated by the Maine Legislature on February 18, 1897. The town was then called Green's Landing which was just a small remote fishing village on the larger island of Deer Isle (Inc. 1789.)
To the west of the main harbor lies what was once called the Steamboat Wharf but is now home to the Isle au Haut boat company. Prior to that it was a sardine factory. Before 1939 when a bridge connected Deer Isle to the mainland, the steamboat wharf was vitally important to the inflow and outflow flow of both goods and people into Deer Isle in general and Stonington in particular. The steamboats would arrive daily from ports such as Rockland which would be transporting goods and passengers from as far away as Boston. This time was the golden age of water based transportation in Stonington. At no other time in its history, or in its future, will the harbor experience marine traffic as it once did.

Economic activity
The harbor has, since her beginning, been filled with Friendship Sloops, operating under sail only. The sloops were used by early lobstermen to haul their traps. The majority of trips focused on the outer islands near Isle au Haut (York Island) to fish during the week, coming into the harbor on the weekends. This all changed with the invention and adoption of the gasoline engine along with new hull designs enabled fishermen formerly gone for many days to now make day trips to the fishing grounds out in Penobscot Bay.
Current Affairs
As of 2006, two trends dominate life in Stonington. First, a fifteen year boom in the quantity and price of lobsters has enriched the local fishermen and increased the size of the lobster fleet. Second, a continuing influx of prosperous newcomers has driven up real estate values and led to new cultural and artistic attractions. The long term question is whether the town will be able to remain the political and social home for the local independent way of life, or whether it will succumb to the homogenization found in most upscale coastal communities.

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Additional Photos by Tom O'Donnell (gunbud) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 5926 W: 8 N: 8034] (34066)
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