Sears Island, Maine, and my Mom, Marjorie Bennett
This two-mile long and one-mile wide island is close to the mainland of Searsport Maine. The Wabanaki American Indians called it Wassumkeag which means shining beach or bright sand beach. When the island was discovered by European explorers before 1775 they named it Brigadier's Island. Regardless of its moniker, this land has historically been an uninhabited or sparsely populated island.
The island, today and in the days when my mom lived in Searsport, was separated from the mainland as a barrier island due to its tidal bar. When the tide came off Penobscot Bay, it was an island; when the tide rolled out, she could walk or stroll to the island but, of course, had to be alert to the tides and the daylight so as not to get marooned overnight.
I don't believe there were any farmhouses there when my mother was, but were in generations before her time in Maine. Actually, in the first 1790 census six families lived or squatted here among the birch and maples of Maine. Now visitors can find stones marking the cellars of long gone homes. In 1917 a gas-powered piece of farm equipment created a fire that destroyed the few Sears Island farm buildings.
During prohibition, the island was a secluded way to the smuggle liquor off the waters of the Bay. Perhaps this even occurred when mom played on the island - in the daytime, thank goodness - when she was still under the age of 10.
Mom and her brothers used to love to go to Sears Island to camp, swim, gather shells, picnic, snowshoe and horseback ride. Hiking might be an adventure to people today, but in mom's day hiking was a mode of transportation - her mode, a means to an end. I believe the island is about 2 miles from her home on Turnpike Road in Searsport. Since she walked to neighboring towns often, such as Stockton Springs to roller skate, the trek to Sears Island was a fairly short half-hour walk for her. Today there is a causeway to and from Sears Island, but no further. Once on the island, people walk, bike or ride horseback to see more.
Some sounds mom would hear were the waves lapping along the shoreline, whispering and swirling winds and leaves, and the unique bantering of sea gulls...and silence, blessed silence.
The island waters in her day were known for abundances in lobsters, clams, scallops and such. No wonder I like seafood (but not fish particularly). Although I have been very near to Sears Island, I did not walk in her footprints of long ago. My grandmother and my great grandmother also walked and played on this island. I should have.