Harpswell, Maine

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Harpswell is a town in Cumberland County, Maine which is geographically within Casco Bay in the Gulf of Maine. The population was 5,239 at the 2000 census. Harpswell is composed of land contiguous with the rest of Cumberland County, called Harpswell Neck, as well as several large and small islands: Sebascodegan Island (locally known as Great Island), Orr's Island, and Bailey Island. Harpswell is part of the PortlandSouth PortlandBiddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.



The Native Americans who originally inhabited Harpswell were part of the Abenaki. The Abenaki name for Harpswell Neck, then called West Harpswell, was Merriconeag or "quick carrying place", a reference to the narrow peninsula's easy portage. The Abenaki name for Great Island was Erascohegan or Sebascodiggin[1], which became by the late 1800s Sebascodegan Island. About 1659 Major Nicholas Shapleigh of Kittery, Maine bought Merriconeag and Sebascodegan Island from the Abenaki, but because of Indian attacks attempts to settle the area were abandoned until after Dummer's War. The Treaty of 1725 brought a truce and by 1731 many settlers had returned. [2]

In 1758 the town was incorporated by the Massachusetts General Court and named for Harpswell in Lincolnshire, England.[3] Industries included farming and some shipbuilding, but fishing brought considerable profit. Because of its scenic beauty, Harpswell is today a favorite with artists and tourists. The Bailey Island Bridge is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

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