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Fire of 1934fire of 1934

Burned cellar hole is William and Edith Marr House


It was noon on Monday, June 4, 1934, and the men working at the base of the National Geodetic Survey Tower on Chase’s Hill stopped for their mid-day meal. They started a small fire to warm their dinner. After the “nooning”, apparently the embers were not properly extinguished and the fire smoldered undetected after they left.

Late in the afternoon it broke out and burned for several hours until dark. All that night and Tuesday it was patrolled with no evidence of smoke or flame, the patrol was withdrawn.

During that time, the death of Stearns Scott occurred. His service was held Wednesday afternoon was attended by most of the people around the Cove. When the mourners came out of the church about three o'clock, they had little time to gather and talk to friends for smoke was again billowing up from the fire. That afternoon and night the fire burned toward the Morrell place, now owned by Harold Peters, but with a southwest wind, its main headway was northeasterly. 

The fire burned on, devouring woods and brush, and at bedtime showed a bright glare from the Chase shore to the east of the old Hagan farm. On Thursday in mid-morning it flared again and continued northward until it reached the Little Sheepscot and passed within 100 ft. of Naomi Laskey’s house and surrounding cottages. Smoke was in the air, fear in the hearts of householders who wondered if a shift in the wind would bring the ever-encroaching flames close enough to devour their homes. Volunteer firefighters arrived, the CCC, VCC, the National Guard, numbering 330, plus the firefighters from Bath, Brunswick and Wiscasset, comprising more than 500 men not counting the volunteers from Georgetown itself.

In late afternoon the wind suddenly shifted to the northeast. Walter Powers, who had been out all the previous night, had slept until 6:00 P.M. He called out, as he left for another night's vigil that the fires had reached the north of the village and people were moving out of their homes and needed trucks to move furniture to safety. Thirteen or fourteen houses were burned. These were for the most part on a point where one would not have thought they would burn. No one was there when they caught. Hundreds were gathered in Five Islands at the edge of the main fire. Fire companies worked to save houses and townspeople fought madly for their homes as bucket brigades were formed. Clarence Mac's, Vernie Gray's, Charles Pinkham's and others were saved by a narrow margin. Two of Tom Scott’ a houses were burned and cottages on the point could have been saved had fire fighters been placed there to watch for embers. Thursday night the biggest flare lasted for hours, deep red and soaring to heaven. The woods along the Little Sheepscot and the Narrows were engulfed in flames, but the wind was not right to take it to MacMahan Island.

The other brilliant glare to the south was Five Islands village. All day a steady fire had burned shoreward along the Chase place on the east bank of Robinhood Cove, and threatened the Morrell house. The previous night, Wednesday, a fire engine and crew had saved the Jim MacMahan place. The entire line smoldered constantly and at intervals broke into violent flame. Five Islanders stood on the wharf near what was then Savage’s Store and saw the wall of fire advance to within 500 yards of them. Miraculously the wind changed, and the village was saved.

Friday morning was quiet, no wind, and no clouds of smoke. A few smoldering smudges sent up occasional puffs of smoke. Hundreds of men patrolled the entire front of nearly two miles with a mile in depth. In late morning the wind began to breeze up and the fire, which had had a long nap, turned in its bed. It drew in deep breaths of southwest wind. It yawned, stretched and sat up.

It rose in all its power and might, belched forth its hot breath upon the puny men at its feet, thrust them aside and launched itself once more on the path of destruction. By 2:00 P.M. the entire Chase front from the Morrell place down was almost solid with smoke, while the hill at the MacMahan place was shrouded in a dense black pall that billowed skyward. Lowe’s Point seemed doomed, but the wind was too far to the southeast and the fire passed on, taking out its malice on Soldier's Point.

On Friday morning, a crew had been placed on MacMahan Island but with no signs of fire, they were withdrawn. On Friday afternoon a sightseeing party happened to go down by MacMahan Island and saw that sparks had kindled a fire. They went ashore and extinguished the blaze.

Soon Sheriff Henderson arrived with George Laskey, George Powers others. The Island caught five times, but each time the flames were put out before they spread.

Westport Island, across the narrow Goose Rock Passage, would have caught too, but there was a force of men down at the lower end to nip it in the bud.

During Friday night the fire was subdued. On Saturday it was reduced to one little roll of smoke east of the Josephine Lewis barns.

For some time the entire area was patrolled by State militia, the CCC and townspeople. A number of houses had been destroyed. Some were saved by a caprice of the wind and some by the heroic and concerted effort of firefighters.

Among the homes and camps destroyed were those of the following: William W. Marr; Heirs: Manfred S. Newdick; Ellsworth Pinkham, Schoolhouse Road cottages; “Oakwood” Thomas Buckley; Capt. William H. Davis; “Mervick” Mrs. John B.Horton; Thomas W. Scott; Charles Moore; Mrs. Paul Mason; Mrs. Avis Luce; Charles H. Jordan; “Camp Bide-A-Wee”; Edward M Lewis; Jacob P. Lewis; and Walter Thurlow.

The material for the above account was taken from a letter written by Agnes Powers to her sister, shortly after the fires.


Beatrice B. Barrett

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