The world-famous poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, grew up in Camden and wrote the poem Renascence. As she looked from the top of Mt. Battie, she wrote:

“All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked another way

And saw three island in the bay.

So with my eyes I traced a line

On the horizon thin and fine,

Straight around till I was come

Back to where I started from.

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.”

Each island in the bay is unique, with its own characteristics and its self-sufficient people. They have to be special people to always plan ahead, and there are so many things that they have to do for themselves when the occasion arises. I have never lived on an island, but my people of generations before me did, with an uncle and cousins more recently. So it is time to write about some of the islands in the bay.

My great-great grandfather, Joshua Dyer, rowed his wife and three children from Cape Cod to settle on Vinalhaven in 1914. He landed first on the White Islands, but soon moved the what is now called “Dyer's Island,” a causeway that is on Vinalhaven.

He told the story to The Vinalhaven Wind. “The winter was a cold one and their food was mostly clams. I had some powder and an old Queen Ann's flintlock. I managed one day to bring down 46 birds in two shots. They were trying to light in a hole that had not been frozen over, so it was full of birds reluctant to leave. I salted the birds (dippers and whistlers) and got through the winter.”

If you don't believe that story, read this one about his son, Timothy. He was 92 years of age and was fishing alone in a small boat, when he caught a 332-pound halibut. He managed to get a gaff in the monster and somehow towed it to shore.

Now a little bit about Vinalhaven, which is the largest of the group in the bay. As it first included North Haven and other islands nearby, it is difficult to separate the information, from early history. However, it is 15 miles from Rockland, and registered as being 7 ½ miles long, five miles wide, where no point from land to water is more than one mile. Once granite was quarried there, but the last time was in 1825. Martin Pring probably was the first to land there, and because he saw so many silver fox, he named the group Fox Islands. Sometime around 1786 the Carver family came. In 1806 there was a bounty of 10 cents for crows and blue jays but 20 cents for eagles. In the 1800s the inhabitants began to budget to support schools, ministry, roads, etc. They also had government representatives and the names usually included Beverage, Vinal, Calderwood, Dyer and Hopkins. Dr. Theophalus Hopkins started the Hopkins name. The industries were mills, fishing, canning, ship building, net making and drying cod fish.

Islesboro has a long history, dating back to the 17th century. It was in August 1692 that an English captain named Benjamin Church arrived in Penobscot Bay and landed on 700 Acre Island. He met up with French traders and Native Americans, and drove them away. He and his men got some beaver and moose pelts and sailed away. He recorded it as Longue Island, and it was quiet for the next 72 years.

Islesboro is where my paternal relatives moved from Vinalhaven. It has many “suburbs,” such as Turtle Head, North Islesboro, Pripet, West Side, Spruce, The Bluffs, Ryder's Cove and Sabbathday Harbor. Mid Island has Guinea, Hawes Point and Mill Creek. Down Island includes Dark Harbor. The bedrock geology consists mostly of slate, quartzite, limestone and greenstone. It is unlike any other rocks in Maine. The whole island is located on what is called Turtle Head Fault. The fault runs along both sides of the island, causing its shape.

Several smaller islands surround Islesboro such as Hutchins and Little to the east; Warren, Spruce, 700 Acre Island, Lime, Minot, Job, Lasell and Ensign to the south; Ram and Seal to the west. The Precambrian rocks off 700 Acre, Lime and Lasell islands are some of the oldest in Maine, dating back over 600 million years. My great-grandfather, Elijah, and my grandfather, Charles Dyer, worked for the once very famous illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson, who owned a summer cottage on 700 Acre Island. He was known for his creation of the “Gibson Girls,” of his beautiful wife and her sister. A boatyard is now located on that island and Warren Island is now a Maine State Park.

Matinicus Island was once part of Vinalhaven. Its name was a gift from the Native Americans, as the original form was Menasqueicook, which means "grassy isle." It is about 20 miles south of Rockland and is the largest of a small group that includes Criehaven, Wooden Ball, Matinicus Rock, Ten Pound and No Man's Land. Only Matinicus and Criehaven are inhabited, but Matinicus has some year-round residents. From the highest peak, at one time, one could see the whole circumference of the island. Its shores are rocky, except for two sand beaches. The island is two miles long and one mile wide, containing several hundred acres. There are two small ponds: Ice Pond, which was dug by hand and Black Duck Pond. It has graveled roads running north and south and in the center running east and west. Now the trees are mostly spruce, but as they deteriorate they are replaced by birch and poplar. There is not much wildlife, but much sea and bird life. Spring comes late with grass and flowers such as lupine, daisies, buttercups and wild roses. To live there, you must enjoy quiet, be strong-willed and independent with lots of patience. The first permanent settler, Ebenezer Hall, arrived in 1750. Later, Isaiah Tolman, who previously owned land from Chickawaukie Lake to Warren but moved to Matinicus. About 20 years ago, its population numbered 60.

Matinicus Rock is another story. It is a 32-acre ledge and the farthest place out to sea from here. It was first established as a lighthouse, with two towers. In 1827, the U.S. Coast Guard became stationed there. I remember the Coast Guard servicemen who were stationed on Curtis Island during World War II. All six of them came from a city, so their biggest fear was that they might be transferred to Matinicus Rock. In the earlier years, whole families stayed on The Rock when tending the lighthouse.

There are more “islands in the bay” and probably will be another article.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.