We got on a tour boat in Bar Harbor and cruised along the same coast we drove along yesterday. A park ranger was on board to teach us about the area and Baker Island in particular. In the early 1800's, fishermen had to row or sail to their fishing grounds and back to shore. In 1812, William and Hannah Gilley moved with their three children to Baker Island, shortening his commute. With a rocky coastline that often made landings impossible, Baker Island was unclaimed and unoccupied. His family grew to twelve children and the family prospered living all alone and being totally self sufficient. When a light house was built on the island, he was paid $1/day to be the keeper and his fortunes improved dramatically. On the island’s ten acres of arable land, they grew fruits, vegetables, and lots of potatoes, which they stored in a root cellar under the house. They planted flax for linen and spun wool from their sheep for clothing and blankets. The children went barefoot much of the year, and an older son learned the shoemaker’s trade to keep them in winter boots. On the mainland, the Gilleys would sell their butter, smoked herring, and other products so they could purchase needed supplies. Hannah Gilley loved to read and made sure her children could read and write. As the children grew to adulthood, some built additional homes for themselves on the island. Over the years Giley's independent Maine ways annoyed area politicians and they lost they acreage around the light house. After telling us this story the ranger confessed that he was a distance relative of the original Giley family.
After we landed on the island we investigated the light house which was just donated to the park service by the coast guard and the school house. Volunteers live on the island in the summer and work to improve the facilities for visitors like us. We hiked across the island to the dance floor, a series of huge flat slabs of granite where area-islanders would hold dances on warm summer evenings.
As we sailed back to Bar Harbor the fog thickened and only gave peeks at the gorgeous coast. Although most of Mt. Desert island now belongs to the national park, there are some enormous "cottages" right out of Architectural Digest that still remain on privately owned ocean front real estate.