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Monhegan Island

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Title: Monhegan Island  
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Subject: Edward Hopper, List of lighthouses in the United States, Rockwell Kent, Brendan, Samoset, List of car-free places, Brian Carney (editorialist), Shem Drowne, Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Sonya Sklaroff
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Monhegan Island

Plantation of Monhegan Island

Monhegan Harbor in 1909
Location within the state of Maine

Coordinates: 43°45′59″N 69°19′5″W / 43.76639°N 69.31806°W / 43.76639; -69.31806

Country  United States
State  Maine
County Lincoln
Incorporated 1839
 • Total 4.5 sq mi (11.7 km2)
 • Land 0.9 sq mi (2.2 km2)
 • Water 3.7 sq mi (9.5 km2)
Elevation 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 75
 • Density 87.5/sq mi (33.8/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 04852
Area code(s) 207
FIPS code 23-46335
GNIS feature ID 0582600
U.S. NNL Designated: 1966

Monhegan is an island in Lincoln County, Maine, United States, about 12 nautical miles (22 km) off the coast. The population was 75 at the 2000 census. Together with its uninhabited neighbor Manana, Monhegan is governed as a Maine plantation. The island is accessible by mailboat ferry (no automobiles) from Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor and Port Clyde. It was designated a National Natural Landmark for its coastal and island flora in 1966.[1]


The name Monhegan derives from Monchiggon, Algonquian for "out-to-sea island." European explorers Martin Pring visited in 1603, Samuel de Champlain in 1604, George Weymouth in 1605 and Captain John Smith in 1614. The island got its start as a British fishing camp prior to settlement of the Plymouth Colony. Cod was harvested from the rich fishing grounds of the Gulf of Maine, then dried on fish flakes before shipment to Europe. A trading post was built to conduct business with the Indians, particularly in the lucrative fur trade.[2] It was Monhegan traders who taught English to Samoset, the sagamore who in 1621 startled the Pilgrims by boldly walking into their new village at Plymouth and saying: "Welcome, Englishmen." [3]

On April 29, 1717, Monhegan was visited by the Anne, a pirate ship of the snow type. The Anne had originally been captured off the Virginia Capes in April by the pirate Samuel Bellamy in the Whydah, which wrecked in a storm on the night of April 26, 1717, off of Cape Cod. The Anne made it through the storm with another captured vessel, the Fisher (which was soon abandoned and the pirates aboard her transferred to the Anne). The pirates arrived at Monhegan on April 29, and waited for the Whydah, for the pirates had not seen or heard about the Whydah wrecking in the storm of the night of April 26. The pirates eventually realized the Whydah was lost, and proceeded to attack vessels at Matinicus Island and Pemaquid (now Bristol). The pirates outfitted for their own uses a small 25-ton sloop that the pirates had captured off Matinicus, one that formerly belonged to Colonel Stephen Minot. They abandoned all the other vessels (including the Anne) they had captured and most of their prisoners at Matinicus on or about May 9, 1717, on Minot's sloop.[4]

Despite success as a fishing and trade center, Monhegan would be caught in the conflict between New England and New France for control of the region. During King Philip's War, dispossessed English settlers from the mainland sought refuge on the island before being relocated elsewhere along the coast. During King William's War, the island was captured for the French in 1689 by Baron de Saint-Castin. He destroyed the fishing fleet and burned the buildings, with many inhabitants escaping to Massachusetts. But even during periods when Monhegan was abandoned, its convenient offshore harbor remained a stopover destination for ships. The end of the French and Indian War in 1763 brought peace to the area, and on September 4, 1839, Monhegan was incorporated as an island plantation.[2]

In 1824, a conical stone lighthouse was built on the island by order of Congress and President James Monroe. Damaged by storms, it was replaced in 1850 by the present 48 foot (14.6 m) granite tower, with a fog bell station built in 1855 on nearby Manana Island. The island's 1,000 acres (400 ha) of good land encouraged agriculture, with potatoes the chief crop. But fishing was always the most important industry, whether locally or at the Grand Banks. Today, it still dominates Monhegan’s economy.[5] From October 1 through June, fishermen harvest lobsters from the only lobster conservation area in the state of Maine.[6]

Artist colony

The beginnings of the art colony on Monhegan date to the mid-19th century; by 1890, it was firmly established. Two of the early artists in residence from the 1890s, William Henry Singer (1868–1943) and Martin Borgord (1869–1935), left Monhegan to study at the Académie Julian in 1901. Among many early members who found inspiration on the island were summer visitors from the New York School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, such as Robert Henri, George Bellows, Edward Hopper and Rockwell Kent.

Later members of the artist colony include Reuben Tam, Abraham Bogdanove[7], Frances Kornbluth, Elena Jahn and Jamie Wyeth.

The 150-foot (50 m) northside cliffs at Blackhead are a popular image among Monhegan artists; they have been depicted by Kent, Hopper and Kornbluth:

  • , 1916-1919, by Edward Hopper
  • , 1950, by Rockwell Kent
  • , 1985, by Frances Kornbluth

Today the


According to the United States Census Bureau, the plantation has a total area of 4.5 square miles (12 km2), of which 0.9 square miles (2.3 km2) of it is land and 3.7 square miles (9.6 km2) of it (80.97%) is water. Monhegan is an island 1.75 miles (2.82 km) long and .75 of a mile (1.2 kilometers) wide, located in the Gulf of Maine, part of the Atlantic Ocean. Adjacent Manana Island helps form Monhegan Harbor.


As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 75 people, 46 households, and 21 families residing in the plantation. The population density was 87.5 people per square mile (33.7/km²). There were 177 housing units at an average density of 206.4 per square mile (79.5/km²). The racial makeup of the plantation was 97.33% White and 2.67% Asian.

There were 46 households out of which 13.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.6% were married couples] living together, 4.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.3% were non-families. 47.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.63 and the average family size was 2.24.

In the plantation the age distribution of the population shows 10.7% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 37.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 127.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 116.1 males.

The median income for a household in the plantation was $26,250, and the median income for a family was $53,125. Males had a median income of $36,563 versus $13,333 for females. The per capita income for the plantation was $20,568. There were 10.5% of families and 3.8% of the population living below the poverty line, including 10.0% of under eighteens and none of those over 64.

Outdoor activities

Summer months bring artists and tourists on several daily ferries to see ocean views. In the fall, it is a good place to observe migrating bird species. Much of Monhegan is uninhabited and free to explore on 17 miles (27 km) of dirt hiking trails.[10]

Sites of interest


Notable residents and recurring visitors

The following are people who have either resided on Monhegan or regularly visited the island:

See also


Further reading

  • Trotter, Bill Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 2010

External links

  • Monhegan Memorial Library
  • Monhegan Commons
  • Monhegan Info
  • Monhegan Lobsters
  • Visitors' Guide
  • Monhegan Associates
  • The Island Inn
  • US Census 2000 Monhegan Plantation
  • Maine Genealogy: Monhegan Plantation, Lincoln County, Maine
  • Monhegan Island overview

Coordinates: 43°45′44″N 69°19′13″W / 43.76222°N 69.32028°W / 43.76222; -69.32028

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