So far as we can determine, this is the only town in the world with the name of Searsport. It was named from the Sears family who owned an important piece of real estate here in 1845 when the town was organized out of two adjoining towns. At that time in history sailing vessels were the chief means of transportation and commerce along the coast of Maine. Before long shipbuilding yards were springing up wherever there was an opportunity to launch a boat. The first vessel to be launched in the Penobscot Bay area was the Hannah,1771,owned by Jonathan Buck of Bucksport. It was subsequently burned by the British.
Searsport during the boat-building years had from time to time as many as thirteen shipyards. In a small town nearly everyone was somehow involved. Trees felled and hauled to a mill, lumber sawed out, plans drawn, the shipyard constructed, the ship built, rigged and manned. Men were needed to do all of these jobs. Stores were needed to sell ship chandlery. Sails and ropes were handmade. Money was needed to build the vessel and then to subscribe for the cargo. Shares were sold and the people who invested were thereafter always "looking for their ship to come in."
In 1895 one- tenth of all the master mariners in the country came from Searsport. They met each other in far away ports like Hong Kong or Singapore, spoke one another’s vessels as they passed at sea, traded mail and brought home exotic furniture for their impressive homes.
Cemeteries here are filled with evidence that a great many men did not make it back to their home port. Many houses were adorned with "widow watches"cupolas on the roof tops where the family watched for the return of their sons, fathers and husbands. Only captains were permitted to do so, but many took their wives with them to sea. Children were born aboard ship. Captains could often be seen walking about the shipyards instructing their sons in the nomenclature of the parts of the ships being built. Many of the young boys of the village were able to start their life as seamen by becoming cabin boys aboard a locally owned vessel.
In the bay area logs, granite blocks, ice, sawdust and lime were being shipped. Some vessels left loaded with goods to be sold in the Orient where they would load on tea and haul it to England returning here with yard goods, spices, etc.
Today, the life of this busy port can perhaps be appreciated best by taking a few hours to explore the various buildings of the Penobscot Marine Museum. It is free for all Searsport citizens and for others the nominal fee is well worth it. What a nice thing to do on a foggy or rainy day during summer.
Also at the museum whose buildings include several old sea captains’ homes there is a little known treasure located in a modern brick building, the museum library. Here in a quiet comfortable setting one may browse through the many books on the history of the area. Incidentally, there is an excellent genealogical department centered around the Priscilla Jones collection. Also housed at the museum is a large collection of glass photographic plates which were taken by an old Belfast company for use on post cards. These include not only Searsport but most of the towns for miles around.
Artists and art lovers will thoroughly enjoy the great many original paintings, mostly related to the sea, that are also housed at the museum.
Other places to visit while in Searsport are the historic Coleman House which belongs to the Searsport Historical Society, the Carver Memorial Library or the Antique Mall.
Speaking of antiques, Searsport is known today as a center for antique shops and flea markets and there are numerous book shops in the area.
Hamilton Marine is a modern chandlery of nautical articles and a visit there is enjoyable even if you don’t own a boat, but if you do, it is a must.
The Searsport Historical Society conducts monthly meetings that are always centered around an interesting program. These are held on the second Tuesday of each month except January and are free to the general public. Google it for the program.
Also in the area are such attractions as Fort Knox in Prospect, the historic site of Fort Point where one can also see the Fort Point Light or visit the nearby recreational park for a picnic. There is the Moose Point State Park and the Observation Tower on the new Penobscot-Narrows bridge between Prospect and Verona Island on Route One. The Islesboro Ferry which may be boarded from Lincolnville Beach is a great excursion opportunity and the towns of Belfast and Camden are special places to explore.
Last, but not least is the Lighthouse Bible Church which welcomes you to its services. Pastor Bonin is an excellent Bible teacher, one of the best I have ever heard. Services are 10:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday. For further information about The Lighthouse Bible Church, Searsport, Maine click here.
I will be there to give you a hearty Maine handshake.