Life on Baker Island
In 1960 Wendell Hadlock taped an interview with Leona
Gilley Sawyer. Leona grew up on Baker Island (not Baker's
she says) at the turn of the century. She was the daughter
of Samuel B. and Harriet Gilley. Harriet came from Tremont.
Leona was born on October 30, 1891. Leona's great grand
parents were William and Hannah Lurvey Gilley whom, she says,
built and lived in a log cabin when they first came to Baker
some time between 1807 and 1812.
Notes from an Interview with Leona Gilley Sawyer
by Hugh L. Dwelley
Leona names the owners of each of the houses on Baker
when she was growing up. At that point, more were Stanleys
than Gilleys. The Stanleys having come there to marry Gilley
girls. Several of the Gilley men also married Stanleys on
Islesford, Great Cranberry Island, or elsewhere.
Edna Campbell of Islesford taught on Great Cranberry and
on Baker. From what Leona says, she may have been the last
teacher at the Baker school. There were only three students
when Leona attended the Baker Island school.
Each of the families on Baker had a good market garden
and animals. Leona's father had an ox and sometimes two.
There were pigs, sheep, cows and ducks. They ate a lot of
wild birds and sold their feathers. Every house had a cool
dirt-floored cellar hole where large quantities of
vegetables were stored for the winter. (In a separate
interview, Bert Spurling said that his family on Great
Cranberry stored 15 bu. of potatoes for each winter.) In
summer, lots of tourists came to the island to picnic and
they were often given wild birds.
The primary economic activity was lobstering. Lobster
smacks served as supply boats to the island. Also, in
summer, the Gilleys and Stanleys bought small quantities of
groceries at stores on Islesford. Each fall, however, the
smacks brought barrels of flour and large boxes of crackers,
bolts of cloth, and other provisions. They also ordered
clothing and toys, etc. from catalogs and they were delivered
by the smacks. The lobster smacks were their life line.
Leona had skates and a manufactured sled. In summer,
she played in the woods and on the rocks around the island.
She rowed and spent lots of time in boats. Leona did not
learn to swim.
For more history of Baker Island and genealogy of the
Gilleys and Stanleys who lived there, order Pioneer Settlers
of the Cranberry Islands - The Gilleys of Baker Island and Islesford,
published by the Islesford Historical Society. Price $6.00. Order form.
Wendall Hadlock's tape with Leona Gilley Sawyer is in the archives of the Islesford Historical Society.
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