During a road excavation in the 1920s, Chebeague Islanders found a highly polished pipe fashioned by Native Americans. Courtesy Chebeague Island Historical Society

Chebeague became a tourist destination during the latter years of the 19th century. The Casco Bay Breeze, a tourist newspaper published between 1901-1917, describes numerous Passamaquoddy and Penobscot families spending the summer on the island. Family names include Nichols, Francis, Dana and Attean, among others. Babies were born on Chebeague and several young men played on the island baseball team. The souvenirs they sold such as baskets, war clubs, toy canoes and items made from local seal skins are treasured by many island families.

Island family albums include photographs of island children playing with the Attean children. Leonard Attean continued to come to Chebeague until the early 1950s. Island contemporaries spoke of the Atteans with great affection and were proud when the health center at Indian Island was named after their friend, Ruth Attean Davis.

During a road excavation in the 1920s, islanders found a highly polished pipe. A clearly defined pictograph is etched in its bottom. A University of Southern Maine archaeologist, Dr. Nathan Hamilton, identified Ohio as the source of the stone and commented that he had only seen the pictograph once before and that was on a Cape Cod artifact. While we don’t know when the pipe was made, we do know that its existence on Chebeague shows that Chebeague’s earliest inhabitants were not isolated, but were part of a larger network that we can only imagine. The pipe was donated to the Chebeague Island Historical Society by Waneta Hamilton Cleaves, whose father, Addison Hamilton, was one of the road workers who came upon the pipe.

Chebeaguers want to know more about the people who came before them. They want to better understand how the people lived and how they used the land and adjacent waters. The middens and campsites contain clues, but these historic and sometime sacred sites should be left as they are until they are studied by professional archaeologists.

Donna Miller Damon is Collections Manager at the Chebeague Island Historical Society. For more information about the Society and its resources email [email protected] or check out the WEB site at chebeaguehistory.com.

In commemoration of Maine’s bicentennial this year, The Forecaster is featuring historical highlights from our communities’ past 200 years. This feature can be found in print and online every other week. 

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