Deer Isle is a beautiful island community of 24,000 acres and 112 miles of shoreline, comprising the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington, and outlying islands. It is a group of small communities with 2,400 residents that make up the year round population. Lobstering is the current mainstay of the Island.
The first people to live on Deer Isle 6,100 years ago were Native Americans. Native Americans were living in various locations among the islands when the first European settlers arrived in 1755. The settlers became boat builders, seafarers and fisherman. Deer Isle was established in 1789, the fourth town in Hancock County.
The population grew, and in 1786 Nathaniel Scott started a ferry service to the mainland across the Eggemoggin Reach. This ferry ran until the opening of the present day suspension bridge on June 19, 1939.
In 1895, the strong and able reputation of Deer Isle seamen was recognized throughout the world when the American yacht “Defender”, designed by the famed Nathanael Herreshoff and manned entirely by residents of Deer Isle, won the first America’s Cup. Four years later, the yacht “Columbia” and its crew, once again entirely from the Island, defended the Cup and brought home victory.
The late 1800s also was marked by the founding of the first granite quarries. From 1869 to 1969, granite from Deer Isle and Stonington was shipped away to be put into such structures as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institute, and the Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. Today, the New England Stone Company still harvests granite blocks from Crotch Island located just off Stonington.
Though quarrying was present, it was by the 19th century the harvest of sea that would, and continues to be, the predominant provider. Island fisherman supplied a local canning industry and fish markets around the world. Their yield was mainly cod, haddock, and mackerel as well as gathered shell fish. Lobsters were not considered the luxury food item they are in today’s society, and at the time were two cents each, regardless of size.
Stonington, previously known as Green’s Landing, was incorporated in1897, and was named for its granite quarrying. Two trends now 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. Stonington Harbor – 1896-1897