New Hamphire Tidbits: Miscellany of the Isles of Shoals

Oceanic Hotel and cottages, Star Island, Isles of Shoals, NH, c1900-1906; Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division

Oceanic Hotel and cottages, Star Island, Isles of Shoals, NH, c1900-1906; Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division

From the Isles of Shoals Correspondence of the Boston Journal; “Oceanic,” Isles of Shoals, July 26, 1876
Returning to these wild rocks for the seventeenth year, I find that they have won a new place in the public consideration, and that they may hereafter be called the Human Refrigerator. During all the heated term, already become historic, the thermometer at no time struggled above 78 degrees, and only once did it touch that reasonable figure. As a rule it ranged 20 degrees nearly below the temperature in “America,” to use the significant word which a friend applied a moment ago to the main land. And while the people have been sweltering at the Beaches, I mean those worthy to be written with a capital B, here they have been cool, breezy and comfortable. And when you think that two hours of cars from Boston and one short hour of steam brings the swelterer to this humane climate, no wonder that hotels are crowded and a buzzing hum of life makes the islands cheerful. As I look at the new “Oceanic,” I am fairly astonished at what the energy of a single stirring man can do.

Last winter, Mr. Poor, the proprietor, the well known Boston merchant of mustard fame, lost the splendid “Oceanic” by fire, one of the finest hotels on the coast; on which he had expended more than $200,000. Not daunted, in true American fashion, he began to rebuild, and lo’ a new Oceanic, not so large as the old, but accommodating three hundred guests, and as sumptuous and elegant as the first building. He has chosen a better site and will enlarge it to the dimensions of a hotel of the first class. He spares no pains to make this house perfect, and if a thoroughly appointed table, clean rooms, good beds and unexceptional service can make it perfect, he reaches the new plus ultra. It is a comfort, too, that the great public has not found out all the advantages here, and does not swarm as the “Appledore,” but a very select company is here, and there is lack neither of agreeable people, or of excellent accommodations for them. The beauties of the Isles of Shoals have been often narrated, but though they may tire in the description, they do not in the seeing, and the old fascination is renewed with each visit. The unabated roll of the sea, sometimes dying away as today into an easy play of force and of subdued thunder, and then mounting up, through all the stages, till its crashing is superb and sometimes terrific. We never know what it is to lose the swell and the role of the sea, and in the long summer nights the great sub-base of the ocean is always sounding. There is no bathing here, the water cuts like a knife, but it is the cold current, 20 degrees below that water south of Massachusetts and Connecticut which cools the air, so that although but ten miles from the mainland and westerly breeze is cooled before it spreads itself out over the islands. But Mr. Poor has introduced sea water baths into his house, and at the temperature which it reaches by standing it becomes altogether agreeable. But short letters are in order at this time and plenty of them. Thanks to Mrs. Thaxter’s charming book, the reading public of America has seen these fairy isles through a medium of extraordinary clearness and poetic hue, and the throngs which crowd the two boats, the Major and the Appledore, hear witness to their taste. I send this little note, merely to call attention to this beautiful Star Island, only seven miles long and four broad, with its sweet little coves, its great and bold headlands, its precipices, its seamed and gnarled and fantastic outline, seamed with dykes of basalt and great clusters of flint, surrounded by the crystal sea and kissed by the gentle breath of summer. Reader, if you don’t know where to go, try this, and if it does not hold you, you can quickly escape! MINGO.

boat landing at isle of shoalsThursday, August 8, 1872, New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene NH), Vol LXXIV, Issue 32, Page 1 The Isles of Shoals in the year 1653 / ALSO /  August 3, 1872, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics, Vol LXXII, Issue 31, page 1
The Isles of Shoals are so well known as a delightful watering place, that the following historical sketch of them from the pen of Charles W. Tuttle, Esq. in the New England Historical Register, will be read with interest: The Isles of Shoals have become a second time prominent in New England history. For nearly two centuries they were famous as a fishing station, and swarmed with inhabitants. After the revolutionary war the fishing interest declined, and these isles seemed likely to return to their primitive nakedness and desolation. Within the last twenty-five years they have become widely known as a summer resort; more persons now visiting them annually for pleasure or health, than in the days of their fishing glory. History has not preserved the name of the European who first discovered these isles. It seems quite certain that Thorfinn, on his celebrated voyage to Vinland, A.D. 1008, must have seen them, as he sailed along the Gulf of Maine, “to the south-west having the land always on their star-board”; but there is no record that he did. The England and French navigators of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries must likewise have seen them, while sailing along our shores. To the famous Captain John Smith we are indebted for our first knowledge of these isles. While exploring the New England coast, in 1614, he surveyed them, gave them a name, and a place on his

Captain John Smith, from History of New Hampshire by Everett S. Stackpole

Captain John Smith, from History of New Hampshire by Everett S. Stackpole

map of New England with a good degree of accuracy. Unfortunately his description of them is remarkably brief. He says, “Smyth’s Iles are a heape together, none neere them, against Accominticus.” In 1623 Christopher Leavett visited them, and calls them “Isle of Shoulds, being Islands in the sea about two leagues from the main.” Leavett adds: “Upon these Islands, I neither could see one good timber tree, nor so much good ground as to make a garden. The place is found to be a good fishing place for six ships, but more there cannot well be there, for want of convenient stage room, as this year’s experience hath proved. Upon these Islands are no savages at all.” The name by which this group of isles is now known and has been from early times, is one obviously suggested by their plurality. On Capt. Smith’s map, eighteen distinct islands are laid down, a number that suggests the idea of a “Shoal of Isles,” shoal being a word current in those days, to signify a multitude, a throng, a crowd. In this sense, which is its primitive one, Bacon, Waller, and other writers of that period, always used this word. In our days, its use is limited, almost entirely, to its secondary meaning, to signify a place where the water is shallow. Writers have chosen to write “Isles of Shoals,” in place of “Shoals of Isles,” thereby concealing, to some extend, the origin of the name. This name, descriptive of their numerical characteristic, a most striking feature, was, undoubtedly, applied to these islands by fishermen and others, long before Capt. Smith game them a name. The name, “Smith Isles,” given them by Capt. Smith, and adopted by Prince Charles, did not prevail, although it was the first name designedly applied to them, and the first engraved on any chart. It seems to have been used only in reprints of his map of New England. The descriptive name, mentioned by Leavett, has attached to them ever since. Although he is the first to use it, so far as we know, it does not seem to be an invention of his. On the map in Wood’s New England Prospect, printed in 1634, they are designated, “Ilands of Shoulds.” The Indians do not appear to have had a name for them. England first extended dominion over them, and was first in actual possession of them. They were included in the great patent of Virginia in 1606; and in the greater charter to the Council established in Plymouth, in 1620; not, however, by any other name than the general one, islands. They were embraced, in the same way, in the grant of the Province of Maine, to Gorges and Mason, in 1622, being of the description of “Islands within five leagues” of the shore. In the second grant of the Province of New Hampshire to Mason in 1635, the “South half of the Isles of Shoals” was specifically included therein. The north half was included in the grant to Gorges in 1639. Prior to 1652, these isles were substantially under the jurisdiction of the province of Maine. At this epoch Massachusetts put a new construction on its character limits, and by this “all those eastern plantations are comprehended within our northly line;” and so suiting their action to their word, they sent commissioners in October, 1652, to “settle the civil government amongst the inhabitants of Kittery, the Isle of Shoals, Accomenticus, and so to the most northerly extent of our Patent.” They continued under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts until 1679, when New Hampshire resumed jurisdiction of her half of them, the Massachusetts having a few years before bought the north half of the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges.


Celia Thaxter from Library of the world's best literature, 1904

Celia Thaxter from Library of the world’s best literature, 1904; Internet Archive

Wednesday, September 5, 1894, Northern Christian Advocate (Syracuse NY) VOL LIV, Issue 36, Page 8 — THE POET OF THE ISLES OF SHOALS
Mrs. Celia Thaxter, whose death we announced last week, though not a great poet, was a genuine one, and was fortunate in having a lifelong environment perfectly congenial to her; with sufficient genius to give its manifold suggestiveness poetical utterance in prose as well as verse. She was only five years old when her father became light keeper on White island of the Isles of Shoals and removed his family thither. These isles were thenceforward her home. As maiden, wife and widow, she spent her life there, save that for some winters during her husband’s lifetime she spent her winters in Boston. For many years we have constantly read and re-read her little book, “Among the Isles of Shoals,” finding in its pages when away from the ocean a necromancy that has never failed to bring it near. To open it anywhere has been like putting a shell to one’s ear; it has never failed to make us hear the music of the sea. Of her poetry Mr. Stedman says, “The zest, the enchanting glamor of northern coast life are known to Celia Thaxter, our daughter of the isles. Her sprayey stanzas give us the dip of the sea bird’s wing, the foam and tangle of ocean, varied interpretations of clambering sunrise mists and evening’s fiery cloud above the main.” Her religious faith will be most fitly illustrated by the closing stanzas of one of her most characteristic poems, “Rock Weeds”:

The barren island dreams in flowers, while blow
The south winds drawing haze o’er sea and land;
Yet the great heart of ocean, throbbing slow,
Makes the frail blossoms vibrate where they stand;

And hints of heavier pulses soon to shake
Its mighty breasts when summer is no more,
And devastating waves sweep on and break,
And clasp with girdle white the iron shore.

Close folded, safe within the sheltering seed,
Blossom and bell and leafy beauty hide;
Nor icy blast, nor bitter spray they heed,
But patiently their wondrous change abide.

The heart of God through his creation stirs,
We thrill to feel it, trembling as the flowers
That die to live again–his messengers–
To keep faith firm in these sad souls of ours.

The waves of Time may devastate our lives,
The frosts of age may check our failing breath,
They shall not touch the spirit that survives
Triumphant over doubt and pain and death.

Sunday, January 16, 1948 Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette (Hallowell ME) page 1ISLES OF SHOALS
These islands bore some of the first-foot prints of New England Christianity and Civilization. They were for a long time the abode of intelligence, refinement and virtue, but were afterward abandoned to a sort of semi barbarian. They seem now to be returning to their former state. In the third member of the Historical and Genealogical Register, their ecclesiastical history is furnished by Rev. Jonathan French of Northampton, N.H.
Gosport, or Star Island, is one of a cluster of eight small islands usually called the isles of Shoals, composed of beds of rocks, partly covered with soil. They are about nine miles from Portsmouth Light house, and twenty-one from Newburyport Lights. Five of these islands are within the limits of Maine. Of these Hog Island is the largest of the whole group, and contains about 350 acres. Of the three in New Hampshire, Gosport or Star Island formerly called Appledore, is the largest, and contains 150 acres. White Island, on which the Light House is located is only one acre. These islands were visited, as early as 1614, by the celebrated navigator, John Smith, who gave them his own name; but they have long been called “The Isles of Shoals.” They invited settlement, merely by advantages they furnished for fishery. This business was prosperous, for about a century, previous to the American revolution. The population varied from 300 to 600, employing a number of schooners and other craft. A meeting-house, previous to 1641, was erected on Hog Island, where the people from the several Islands used to assemble. There was, also, a court house on the same Island. At a subsequent period, a meeting house was built on Star Island, where the greater part of the inhabitants have resided. Rev. Joseph Hull came from England, and settled in Weymouth, in 1635. He resigned in 1639, and afterwards preached at the Isle of Shoals. Rev. John Brock came to New England in 1636. He commenced preaching in Rowley, and afterwards labored, a number of years, at the Shoals. He was esteemed eminently pious. The celebrated Mr. Mitchell of Cambridge, said of him, He dwells as near heaven as any man upon earth.” There were several remarkable coincidences between Mr. Brock’s prayers and providential occurrences afterwards. A man, whose principal property was his fishing-boat, and who had been very serviceable in conveying to the place of meeting the inhabitants of other islands, lost his boat in a storm. He lamented his loss to Mr. Brock who said to him, Go home, honest man, I’ll mention the matter to the Lord, you’ll have your boat to-morrow. Mr. Brock made the matter a subject of prayer. The next day the anchor of a vessel fastened upon the boat and drew it up. The people were persuaded by Mr. Brock to observe one day in each month, as an extra season of religious exercises. On one occasion, the roughness of the weather had for several days prevented fishing; on the day of the meeting the weather was fine, and the men wished the meeting put by. Mr. Brock, perceiving that they were determined not to attend said to them, “if you will go away, I say unto you, catch fish if you can. But as for you that will tarry, and worship the Lord Jesus Christ this day, I will pray unto him for you, that you may take fish till you are weary.” Thirty men went away, and five tarried; the 30 caught but 4 fish, the 5 afterward went out and caught 500 fish. Mr. Brock continued at the Shoals till 1662, when he removed to Reading, Mass., and continued till his death, in his 68th year. Rev. Samuel Belcher, who graduated at Harvard College in 1659, was preacher at the Shoals in 1672. From 1698 to 1711, he was pastor of the 2nd Church in Newbury, which became the 1st in West Newbury.–He died in Ipswich, his native place, Aug 13, 1714, aged 74. He was a good scholar, judicious divine, and a holy, humble man. Rev. John Tucke is understood to have been the only pastor ever ordained at the shoals. The writer of this article has not been able to ascertain how the people were supplied, during the forty years immediately preceding the settlement of Mr. Tucke. Mr. T’s ordination sermon was preached by Rev. Jabez Fitch, of Portsmouth, from Matt., iv., 19. His remains rest in Gosport. Not long after the death of Mr. Tucke, the war of the Revolution commenced. The inhabitants were exceedingly exposed; business was arrested, and many left the islands not to return. The population for the last half century, varied from 66 to 103. Rev. Samuel Sewall, who labored for several years as pastor in Edgecomb, Me. removed in 1824 to the Isles of Shoals, “being employed by a benevolent society in Newburyport and vicinity, as a missionary.” Rev. Origen Smith, of the Freewill Baptist denomination, preached there in 1837. Recently, the Society for Propagating the Gospel, have employed Rev. A. Plummer as preacher, and Mrs. P., as teacher.

Sketch of a shipwreck from "The tragedy of the seas"; internet archive

Sketch of a shipwreck from “The tragedy of the seas”; internet archive

St. Albans Daily Messenger (St. Albans VT) Friday, July 18, 1902, Page 1: 14 PERSONS DROWNED YESTERDAY
Nine Bodies Recovered Last Night–Searching for the Other Five Victims–Pathetic Scene. Portsmouth, N.H., July 18.–A few fishermen manipulating long poled grappling hooks from boats were an early reminder, if any were needed, to the summer visitors at the Isles of Shoals of last night’s disaster in which fourteen lives were lost by the upsetting of a whale boat in a squall. The men were working in the hope that they might find some of the five bodies still missing, nine having been recovered last night. It is almost a forlorn hope, however, though there may be one chance that some bodies have become entangled in the boat, and by locating the craft and raising it they would be found. The greatest change possible to-day has come over the people on Appledore and Star islands, since yesterday, and pleasure seems farthest from their minds. Many say the season is spoiled, and they will take their departure at once. A few persons got ready to take the early boat for Portsmouth, among them, Fred Miles, the boatman who took out the ill fated party, Miss Alice Haggerty of Exeter, N.H. who with Miles and one other, was rescued. Addie Gilmore, sister of Laura Gilmore, one of the drowned, and Oliver Adams, brother of two other victims. The arrival of the boat at the wharf here was witnessed by a crowd. The family of skipper Miles and that of Miss Gilmore met them. Mrs. Miles and four children gave a greeting extremely pathetic. There were few words, but embraces. Mr. Miles would not talk about the accident, and Miss Haggerty, the other survivors, could not. She is in a pitiable nervous condition. During the forenoon word was received from Shoals fishermen who had located the boat and pulled up the sail and part of the rigging but they found no bodies. It was said a diver would be needed before the boat could be raised. After skipper Miles reached home and was given a chance to rest, he was prevailed upon to talk a little about the accident. The man is in a state bordering upon complete prostration, his eyes are red, and his face swollen with much weeping. “I have not eaten nor slept,” he said “since the accident. I do not know when I shall be able to do so again. I have never known a catastrophe so terrible. I almost wish I had been drowned myself so I could not remember it.” Miles said the boat was not overloaded as a whale boat of that size could carry forty persons. “When we went out from the wharf the weather was thick and threatening, but I did not think there was any danger. A squall brought wind and rain and took me entirely by surprise. I tried to reef the sails but did not have time. The boat turned bottom up like a flash. No man ever lived who could have prevented the accident.”

Wednesday, September 12, 1900; Kansas City Star (Kansas, City, MO) Vol 20, Issue 361, Page 7; Golf on the Isles of Shoals, From the New York Evening Post;
Probably the most expensive golf anywhere in the country is that indulged in by the summer denizens of the Isles of Shoals. It is a touching tribute to the golf frenzy and its power to overcome even pocket considerations. Upon each of the small and stony areas making up the Shoals group of islands a links has been laid out and the indefatigable golfists daily consign balls by the hundred to the ocean, there being no alternative under such contracted space conditions. It is, verily, golf limited. It needs, also verily, a purse unlimited to play it. But the Shoals golfists don’t seem to mind that. Better an sacrifice, say they, rather than not to golf. Golf in the mountains, especially in the Adirondacks, is scarcely a satisfying process–upon the Isles of Shoals it amounts to hardly more than playing at the game–and at an extravagant price. A thrifty and necessarily non-golfing soul visiting the Shoals this summer was dreadfully distressed at this waste of balls. She suggested that instead of a links to each island that there should be an extended single course, taking in all the islands. “The water channels between would make such splendid hazards,” she said.” But Shoals golfists have another trait besides enthusiasm, in common with their kind–they don’t like to be made fun of.

Fourteen Persons Drowned; Portsmouth, N.H. July 18, 1902 [Morning Herald, Lexington KY] –A nineteen-foot whaleboat containing sixteen waiters and waitresses employed at the Oceanic house, Star Island, Isle of Shoals, who had gone out in the bay this afternoon on a pleasure trip in the charge of skipper Fred Miles, was capsized during a sudden squall and fourteen of the occupants were drowned. The other three were rescued by fisherman who put out from the shore in their dories.
The names of the drowned are:
– Henry Farrington, head waiter, of Cambridge, Mass.
– W.A. Alward, assistant head waiter, of Frederickton, N.B.
– Bertha Graham, Danvers, Mass.
– Minnie McDonald, Cambridgeport, Mass.
– Eva Adams, Portsmouth, N.H.
– May Adams, sister of Eva, Portsmouth, N.H.
– Catherine Bowes, Saxonville, Mass.
– Elizabeth Bowes, sister of Catherine, Saxonville, Mass.
– Anna Sheehan, West Medford, Mass.
– Eva Marshall, Haverhill, Mass.
– May Marshall, sister of Eva, of Haverhill, Mass.
– Isabel Kaouska, Cambridge, Mass.
– Laura Gilmore, Exeter, N.H.

Springfield Republican (Springfield MA) Issues 101, page 3; Tuesday, July 22, 1902; THE ISLES OF SHOALS VICTIMS; Last of Bodies Sent to Relations–How the Dive Found the Boat
The last sad act in the Isles of Shoals disaster, which occurred last Thursday, when 14 persons lost their lives by the capsizing of a whaleboat, was enacted yesterday, and the noon train from Portsmouth for Boston carried the bodies of Miss Bertha A. Chase to her former home in Malden and Miss Isabella Ziolkowska to Cambridge. The body of H. Coleman Farrington was forwarded to his home in Cambridgeport and the body of Winfield A. Alward was sent to Fredericton, N.B. Diver Hurley came in from the Isles of Shoals yesterday morning, having enjoyed a good night’s rest after his trying experience of the past two days. He states that while the sunken boat was considerable broken up, in his judgment the sheets were not made fast, which would seem to substantiate Skipper Miles in his statement that he let go his sheets when he saw the squall coming, and did all in his power to avert the accident. Since coming to the mainland, Skipper Miles tells another story in connection with last Thursday’s disaster.

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