Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Serpents by the Maine Sea Shore

Main St looking down Mt Desert St towards Acadia National Park

This story begins in another time and perhaps another place. An oceanside village with picturesque beauty. A hardworking community populated with people who make their living from what the sea provides. All of them built and shaped this country for the good... and the bad. Some of them Apples in the Garden, and others the Serpents.

  Out the backdoor of the cozy village was Green Mountain (as it was called at the time). Through the front door was the calm Frenchman Bay, named for the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the 1600s. In between is the village of Eden. The sea offered bountiful fishing, and lumber from neighboring forests supplied the shipbuilding industry. 

    Walking through the streets, one could see businesses lining the streets. The residents, as tough as the mountains, making their way through harsh winters and the long days of work in the summer. Much like the biblical Garden of Eden, the local Adam and Eve were providing for their families and there were the Serpents among them. It was common to see out-of-place family members of America's royalty who would be better suited for the streets of New York City or Boston. 

    Looking down the street towards the "summer cottages," an area would become known as Millionaire's Row. A young woman strides down the cobblestone walkway. A morning New England spring rain has muddied the streets. The maiden is dressed in the finest attire for the era. Was she going to the market to see what these recent ships have brought in? Was she meeting friends? Nonetheless, bouncing without a care in the world. Her path crosses villagers struggling to make ends meet. A young child running and playing in front of her falls on the uneven street and bloodied her lip. Does she bother to offer a handkerchief? She has many. Nope. A moment later, she comes upon an old lady hobbling in the opposite direction. Does she offer the elder dry passage around a muddy puddle? Nope. Instead, she motions to the lady to step her worn-out shoes into the muddy water. Serpent.

    Passing by one "summer cottage," a young girl playing in the yard with her nanny. She was running around laughing playing a lively game of tag. Stopping for a moment to watch the child's excitement, she noticed my observance and spun her pigtails around. She gave an ugly face and then stuck her tongue out. Serpent.

     A lovely cafe sits on the corner of Main Street. The meals are hearty for the hard-working men of the area. The special on the menu is the catch of the day. Most likely sourced from a short walk to the harbor. The cafe probably smells great and is perfect for an empty stomach. It is too bad that the overwhelming smell of cigars fills the entire area. The portly fellow at the corner table is on his second cigar since entering the establishment. The waitress says he has 20-30 cigars every day. Serpent.

    In possibly one of the earliest forms of social media or tabloids, these accounts are based on an Ellsworth American article titled Serpents in Eden was published in 1857. During our visit to the area, we talked with a shop owner and a waitress. Both were eager for the tourism season to begin. However, the eagerness for tourism wasn't always the case. During the "Gilded Age," many of America's richest and most powerful families vacationed in their "summer cottages" in Eden, or you might recognize it as Bar Harbor, Maine. The popularity rivaled Newport, Rhode Island, as a destination for the rich and famous. Eden was renamed to Bar Harbor in 1918 and credit the bar in the harbor that can be seen at low tide. 

    So, who were the Serpents in the article? The truth is likely lost like a rock tossed into the sea. The John D. Rockefeller family, J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the Astor family were all known to vacation there in their "summer cottages." Carnegie had a daughter. Rockefeller had four daughters. Or were these other elite families? These men were part of building America including many of the antitrust, labor, and antislavery laws we have in place today. Rockefeller ran Standard Oil and colluded with railroads. He was known for unfair labor practices and the Ludlow Massacre happened under his watch. Carnegie paid his workers poorly, hated unions, and once fired all workers at his Homestead steel plant in Pennsylvania. The result was twenty workers and four policemen were killed. Morgan, who was known for his love of cigars; in fact known to enjoy 20-30 per day, accepted 13,000 slaves as collateral and owning over 1200 slaves.

    Modern day, Bar Harbor is still an incredible East Coast village and continues with a celebrity-filled history. More recently, celebrities such as Martha Stewart, who owns a house in neighboring Seal Harbor, can be seen at the market. Several US Presidents have played golf in the area, Barack Obama being the last. Today tourism makes up most of the economy in Bar Harbor. The picturesque downtown streets are lined with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. Lodging and dining options in this small village are perfect for a relaxing getaway. For those seeking the outdoors, Acadia National Park contains miles and miles of hiking located just outside of the city limits. The town's laid-back feel is infectious for travelers and makes it a great vacation destination. 

    It's all there in black and white and a little bit of gray. Every Mile Tells a Story. Hit the Road, Warriors, and Re-Discover.

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Serpents by the Maine Sea Shore

T his story begins in another time and perhaps another place. An oceanside village with picturesque beauty. A hardworking community populate...