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Maine's Monhegan Island celebrates quadricentennial

The island's name is derived from the original Algonquian name Monchiggon, meaning "out-to-sea island."
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 6, 2014 at 12:36 PM
MONHEGAN ISLAND, Maine, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- European settlers and their descendants have occupied Maine's Monhegan Island for 400 years. The small, isolated outpost, some ten miles off the mainland, is celebrating its quadricentennial today with a parade and visit from Senators Susan Collins and Angus King.

Several others, both European settlers and Native Americans, had visited Monhegan Island prior to Captain John Smith's arrival in 1614, but Smith and his companions were the first to establish a permanent settlement.

The island's name is derived from the original Algonquian name Monchiggon, meaning "out-to-sea island."

The Wabanaki Indians regularly came to the island to camp and fish for swordfish, but their occupancy was seasonal. After Smith's arrival, European descendants farmed the land and fished the seas year-round -- carving out a stable existence in a beautiful but harsh landscape.

Though early inhabitants came and went, by the 1700s the population stabilized. Cod and whaling sustained families for generations, and some of today's inhabitants can trace their roots back more than two centuries. In the 20th century, artists discovered the island's dramatic beauty and painters such as George Bellows, Rockwell Kent and Edward Hopper, as well as three generations of Wyeths, all traveled there to capture the landscape on canvas.

Today's quadricentennial festivities celebrate that early perseverance and more recent artistic tradition, as well as the history that came before.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to recognize the role that Monhegan has played in American history and really look at all the things that have happened here over the years," Jenn Pye, a member of the general committee for the quadricentennial celebration, recently told the Bangor Daily News. "We're using John Smith's arrival to mark this event, but also trying to look at what happened here before."

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