Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Islands of Casco Bay: Little & Great Chebeague - "Innovative Caretaker"

Today we offer some history on the Islands of Great and Little Chebeague. These stories are more fun then listennening to someone not from Chebeague try to pronounce "Chebeague!"

Chebeague is derived from the Indian word "Chibidisco" meaning "Island of Many Springs." An odd choice for an island located in a state with only two seasons: winter and visitors. They must have been referring to springs of the liquid sort.

The first owner of Great Chebeague was Sir Fernando Gorges, known as the "Father of Maine," or more commonly in his time "Senor Gorges."

The isolation of Great Chebeague has been threatened from time to time by plans for a bridge from Little John Island connected to the mainland via Cousins Island, but, so far, the idea has never come to fruition.

On Little Chebeague there used to be a fair sized colony but during World War II the government took over the island as a recreation center and evacuated all the inhabitants. After the war it was abandoned and left to a caretaker, his family and a flock of sheep, no joke.

Under normal circumstances in order to hail a ferry the caretaker would do what any other islander would do, no, not buy a ticket at Casco Bay Lines, but rather, hang a red lantern. However, in some seasons the island was so shrouded in fog that the ferry helmsman could not see the lantern and the caretaker had to be creative.

Under these circumstances the caretaker would catch one of his flock and tie it to the end of the wharf. Naturally the isolated sheep didn't like this very much so it plunged around, "baa-ing" at the top of its lungs. Upon hearing this the ferry helmsman, who couldn't miss the lamb made siren, would obediently stop.

CHART metalwork's exhibit the "Islands of Casco Bay" is on display through the end of January at Hilltop Coffee Shop, 90 Congress St., Portland, ME. The "Innovative Caretaker" features a belt buckle of Great Chebeague and a key ring of Little Chebeague. The jewelry can be purchased separately or as a collection with frame and story...

...or, you can always customize your own special piece.

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