Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine-it is over 40 miles long, 20 miles wide in some places, has a variety of fish-but you know all that about the Lake.
Did you know that there are many, many Islands on this vast Lake? It is estimated that there are over 80 Islands! One Island, in fact the largest, is Sugar Island.
Folks have been drawn to Sugar Island since recorded time, maybe even before. The lure was and continues to be today-recreation-camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and just plain relaxing and enjoying the good fresh air.
A publication from yester-year, the “Great Northern News” gives us an insight into what Sugar Island was “back then”. It really isn’t too different from today as you’ll see as we go on.
You already know how big Moosehead Lake is. You know that Sugar Island is the largest Island on the lake so let’s put that into perspective. Sugar is about 7 miles long and 3 miles wide. It is 1046′ above sea level. The Island covers about 5,000 acres. It is about 9 miles from the town of Greenville and is mainly accessed from Lily Bay State Park. It is about a 5 minute boat ride from the Park.
In the late 1840s, M.G. Shaw bought the Island from the State of Maine. His name might sound familiar to you as he is mentioned in our last Blog about Fire Towers in Maine. He owned and operated the Shaw Lumber Company in Greenville and was the one who built the first Fire Tower in Maine. It was erected on Moose Mountain.
Although Mr. Shaw bought and sold other islands on the Lake to include Deer & Kineo, he kept Sugar for its lumbering possibilities. (He reserved the right to enter any of the Islands even after he sold them for the purpose of cutting trees he wanted.)
In 1889, his sons, Charles & William, bought the Island for $17,000 and held onto it for 20 years. They did sell some of the land on the Island to Hollingworth & Whitney and some to Elgin Greenleaf. A few years later-in the 1890s, Mr. Greenleaf built a set of Sporting Camps on the Island. He operated them for 12 years.
Camp Greenleaf, as it was called, had a Lodge, a US Post Office, a central dining room, and 10 small cabins. The food there was advertised as the “finest attainable”. As there was no Ste Park at the time, people drove from Greenville to Beaver Creek. The road was good and there was a garage there where they could keep their cars and take the Camp’s launch across the Lake to get to the Lodge. There were telephone connectors at the Lodge, a cabin cruiser, boats & motors, and canoes to be rented if one wanted.
One advertisement for Camp Greenleaf read “A Summer Vacation at Camp Greenleaf is undisturbed by dust, hay or mosquitoes.” The rates were $4.00 to $5.00 per day for the American Plan. If you brought your Guide, his board would have been an extra $1.50 per day.
Fast forward to modern day-Sugar Island is a seasonal home for many. Lily Bay State Park is used as a way to get to the Island. Prior to 2000, there were two resident camps on the South side used by three generations. But, the 2000 Census shows 0 camps being used full time for year-round living.
There are a dozen or so camps on the Island where folks continue as before to spend their time in different seasons for recreation or just to “kick back” and enjoy the Solitude and Mother Nature. Part of the Island is covered by State Conservation Land. On the Northeast shore, the state keeps three single-party rustic campsites for the public.
Island adventures continue to delight as many today as in times past. Are you one of those Adventurers or do you know someone who is?