A Brief History of Tremont


An Exerpt from The DesBarres Map of 1776


1761 – One of the two earliest settlements on Mount Desert Island (MDI) was around the shores of Bass Harbor in Tremont. The first settlers were Stephen and Thomas Richardson and the Daniel Gott family. The Richardson brothers married Elizabeth & Margaret Gott, daughters of Daniel Gott.

1776 – March 30, The first meeting of Mount Desert Plantation was held at the home of Stephen Richardson on Crocket Point on the west side of Bass Harbor.

1789 - The town of Mount Desert, which included all of Mount Desert Island, was incorporated. The area now Tremont composed its western half.

1848 – Town of Tremont was incorporated; it included Southwest Harbor. The only two other towns on Mount Desert Island were Mount Desert and Eden (later Bar Harbor).

Set off initially on June 3, 1848 as the town of Mansell (named for Robert Manselle, one of the patentees of Mount Desert in the 1620 grant from James 1st to the Council of New England), the town was renamed Tremont at the request of the townspeople by a legislative act on August 8, 1848. The name Tremont it thought to derive from the three mountain peaks in the Western Mountain chain – Bernard, Mansel, Western. Original boundaries enclosed about 42 square miles, nearly one third of MDI.

1858 – Bass Harbor Head Light was established and built.
A boathouse and boat slip were added in 1894.

1885 – Steamboat wharf was built at Bernard. Service was discontinued in the early 1900s.

1905 – Town of Southwest Harbor was separated from Tremont.

Tremont has 5 villages – Bass Harbor (named McKinley in 1901 for President McKinley and renamed Bass Harbor, 1966), Bernard, West Tremont, Seal Cove and Center.

1920 to mid 1900s – There was the Neptune movie theater over H.G. Reed’s store in McKinley.



- early to mid 1800s: mostly fishing, trying out oil from menhaden or porgies on Tryhouse Point in Bernard

- late 1800s fishing, sardine and clam canneries, including the Underwood sardine factory in McKinley built in 1915, boat building, some “deep water” men

- Business activity gradually moved from Center to Seal Cove to Bernard to Bass Harbor.


      late 19th century early 20th: Boarding houses – Davis House, McKinley; Gott’s, Bernard, Moore’s, Gotts Island. Hotels – Tremont House, Bernard; Mariner, McKinley.


1849 – Dr. William Spear had been practicing for 9 years; he was the first doctor in Tremont.


1895 – there were 21 separate schools in Tremont and Southwest Harbor; they included high school students.



The first church on MDI was Mt Desert Congregational in Southwest Harbor area of Tremont, with 14 founders and Ebenezer Eaton as minister.

The first church building was the Baptist church in Center (1799-1800).



1875 – there were two free high schools with 100 students (Ellsworth American).

1894 - 16 school districts, 3 terms each and 3 terms of free high school.

1900 – 13 schools, 3 terms each, plus single terms at 3 island locations and a free high school

1951 – Tremont consolidated school was built.

1905 – 16 schools at the secession of Southwest Harbor, leaving 9 schools in Tremont

Post Offices


Post offices after mail began to come to individual villages included Southwest Harbor, Seawall, McKinley (Bass Harbor), Bernard, W. Tremont, Seal Cove, Center



      Bernard: Bass Harbor Memorial Library, established in late 1800s, still exists

      West Tremont: date established unknown; discontinued in mid 1900s


19th Century Professionals

-       Doctors

o   ~1841 – late 1800s – Dr. William A. Spear – Bass Harbor –

o   1880 – R.J. Lemont – Southwest Harbor

o   ~1886 – Dr. H.E. Abbott (briefly)

o   ~1886 – Dr. J. D. Phillips  - practiced long time – Claremont

o   1888 – Dr. Elias C. Neal – practiced 10 years until death

o   1905 – 1937 & cont. – George A. Neal (E.C.’s son)

o   ~1900 – Dr. Eugene Tapley (short time)

o   ~1901 – Dr. Thomas Tapley (brother) – long time (1941 at least)

-       Lawyers

o   ~1883 – E. Webster French – Bass Harbor, later Southwest Harbor for 15 years

o   1893 - George Fuller – Center, later Southwest Harbor

o   1906 - Seth W. Norwood – Southwest Harbor (a few years)