MacMahan Island was originally settled in the early 1700s (after the Native Americans who were here long before) by Scots-Irish farmer-fishermen who subsisted on what they could harvest from the sea and the thin rocky soil. Reminding us of their lives, there are four graveyards with tombstones (some of which are still legible), a few foundation holes with wells nearby, and the remnants of two apple orchards. Of course, one of these original families was named MacMahan. In 1896 a group of businessmen, including the Mayors of Bangor and Bath, purchased the island from the four original families still living on the island, and set up a corporation for the purpose of establishing a summer community. They soon built a steamboat wharf and a hotel, the Seal and Porpoise Club, a water works, tennis courts, and a “Playhouse” for dances and evening entertainment. Building lots were sold off, and over the next one hundred years close to forty houses would be built.
MacMahan Island is the nearest point to Bath (9 miles away) from which a view of the open ocean can be enjoyed. It is surrounded by the Little Sheepscot River to the West and by The Sheepscot River to the East. To the south is the Atlantic Ocean. The island is about 1 mile in length and a half a mile wide, containing 250 acres. The shores are rocky except in the few coves that have small beaches. The island is largely covered with dense evergreen forests intersected by winding paths and splendid groves of old growth pines and oaks. The island rises to a height of 100 feet above sea level toward which it gradually slopes.
There are now a total of forty-two cottages; an Episcopal chapel; the “Lodge” where the superintendent and his family live and where there is a seasonal post office and store; the “Yacht Club” which is the site of Saturday evening BYOB cocktail parties; and a recreation hall called the “Playhouse” where table tennis, Bingo, pot luck suppers, square dances, musical performances, and community meetings take place. The Seal and Porpoise Club was torn down shortly after World War II. The Sheepscot Island Company, the original corporation set up in 1896, is now owned primarily by the cottagers. It provides fresh water, boat maintenance, road upkeep and various other services. The summer community is thriving and close-knit, and the island is cherished by all who return to it year after year.
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