Juniper & McKown Point, some of the history leading up to the formation of JPVIS in 1913…
Landing Road off McKown Point Road had long been used as a portage point for rowboats, and earlier by Indian canoes, to avoid the narrows in the Gut against the tide. There were at some periods of time oxen teams there to drag heavy dories across on wooden rollers. Water transportation throughout the area was far quicker than by land. Rowboats in the 1800’s charged 25 cents to make the trip to Bath.
Until the 1850’s, the Point was isolated from the town by land; you had to travel north up Lakeside Drive, and then back south on Middle Road adding 3+ miles and 1.5 hours each way. Most of the town roads in the 1730-1850 period were very primitive, just bridle paths cut off by gates and bars and impassable to carriages; most people walked, or occasionally rode a horse. Lakeside Drive north of Samoset Road probably was a usable carriage road, as that was the main road down to the Southport ferry at Oak Point. But in 1830, only four town residents had “riding carriages”. From 1860 to 1871, there was a toll bridge from Oak Point to Southport, but it collapsed due to winter ice. Ferry service to Southport resumed.
By 1858 a wooden bridge had been built over Campbell Cove (later to become West Harbor Pond) providing a much more direct land connection from the Point into town. In 1879, the current stone causeway was built across Campbell Cove, to make the cove into an ice pond. The town leased the causeway from the Ice Company for $200/yr to provide for a more substantial road. Southport ferry service had moved down to Landing Road off McKown Point Road and ran to a pier near Robinson’s, so the Point was becoming a more active place. That ferry ran until 1896, when a first wooden toll bridge to Southport was built in its’ current location. But that bridge was soon to be followed by two replacements, as the deep water in the center was more than driven wooden pilings could handle. In 1939, the current State steel bridge was built.
The earliest existing building on the Point is the Thorpe’s old cape at Harborfields, built in 1780 and owned by the family since 1832. On the 1813 & 1857 maps, there were four homesteads on the Point: Thorpes at Harborfields, Reed (now O’Connell) on Cedar Lane, a Crosby family about where the Kites house is today, and the namesake McKowns probably just east of today’s Coast Guard Station. The McKowns had been resident there since the 1730’s. They all worked at various fishing & maritime activities, grazing a few cattle or sheep, and farming. The one big crop for the entire peninsula was potatoes; that Scotch-Irish heritage of virtually all early settlers of the peninsula. In the 1840 assessment most families harvested between 25 and 100 bushels, but Joshua McKown raised 400 bushels. By the 1891 US Survey map, the Thorpes had built a second house and there were then 6 others shown on the Point; small seasonal cottages might not have been shown on the survey.
There are also several other houses shown in 1857 and 1891 clustered in the vicinity of what we today call Four Corners; the residents probably were employed by businesses across the bridge. West Boothbay Harbor (then called Haley) had a series of big businesses; a shipyard at the Oak Grove, a fish packing plant at the foot of Orne’s Hill, in the 1880’s and 1890’s several huge ice houses and a ship pier to load ice at today’s Post Office, “Oake Grove” was first a rooming house and then a large hotel from the late 1890’s, and the last was a feldspar quarry.
The real estate boom that peaked in 1890-1910 of groups like the Boothbay Land Company (a Boston company) buying large tracts of land and selling small lots for summer cottages mostly bypassed the Point. The land companies bought areas that had been of little interest to the resident population; mostly very rocky areas which had no usable farm land. They concentrated on areas like Spruce Point, Capital Island, Ocean Point (east of Little River), etc, which were completely vacant land. In contrast, the Point had at least five active farms in that period, with only smaller areas of un-farmable rocky ledges; such as along Rock Road, and Juniper Point Road. The land sales for cottages on the Point were primarily local residents selling just small numbers of lots from their own holdings, but following the lead of the big land companies.
Summer cottages started to appear on the Point; one early photo taken before 1890 from Mouse Island shows just two, the predecessor of todays’ Clock House on Cedar Lane and what is probably the Bass cottage on Pooler Road, plus the Reed home and the old Homestead in Whitten’s field. But the rest of the picture is empty tree-less land. Numerous cottages date to the early 1900’s. Land agents were active in selling available lots and summer cottage rentals were a big business; an existing 1910 brochure offers cottages for $200.
Twenty six owners signed on to the form Juniper Point Associates in Aug 1910, agreeing to pay $2 in annual assessments and charge $15 for a new member to join and use the existing Juniper Point float, and they included many familiar names. They started working together, establishing foot-paths, building common sewer lines, hoping to negotiate for electrical service, and selecting which place was better to arrange for local mail delivery; Mouse Island or Southport! Members had to be property owners, and this group must have included virtually every existing cottage on Pooler Road, Juniper Point Road, and Massachusetts Road at that time. The list included: Mr. Pooler, Joseph W. Welch, Lewis A. Moore, Ernest M. Hodgdon, Allen Hodgdon, Oscar B. Rand, Willis A. Moore, Mabel E. Houghton, Robert T. Hathaway, Manley E. Reed, Phoebe G. Peterson, August F.S. Scherer, Arthur Birch, James E. Scanlan, Fred B. Rand, Clinton P. Duryea, David B. Scherer, Ernest B. Brown, Dr. Elihu L. Sawyer, Herbert A. Jump, G. Harold Gilpatrick, Reuben L. Breed, Herbert S. Kimball, Mrs F.A. Dix, G.E. Tomkinson, and Edward B. Dik.
Tennis started out as the Juniper Point Tennis Associates in 1911, building the first court “in the baseball field” on land then owned by Dr Sawyer. Like most of the rest of the Point, that entire area was probably tree-less at that time. The court was built by subscription at $5/share, total cost $150. In 1913, JPVIS bought the land and tennis court from Dr. Sawyer for a $100 partial payment in 1913, and paid it off in 1915. The lot was also described as the “old ice house”, and included the land where the Community House is. In 1914 the Tennis Associates had become the Tennis Committee of JPVIS, and they reported on “changing the location of the old court, and straightening the road” to allow building the second court “east of the first one”
The Juniper Point dock was built before 1910; and in 1911 the Associates decided to “move the stairs” (from where is unknown) to their current location upon the gift of the right of way, and a small piece of land where the kayak rack is today, from Florinda Welch. They agreed to take over ownership and maintenance of L.A. Moore’s dock at the foot of Massachusetts Road in 1918. The beach was in use from the earliest days. In 1916 Manley Reed offered that if JPVIS would share with him the cost of building the concrete retaining wall and steps, he would donate a permanent right-of-way connecting to the concrete steps from the right-of-way already granted coming down the hill from Juniper Point Road.
By the formation of JPVIS in 1913, there were at least 40 summer cottages on the Point. Today there are 105 houses, but only 15 of those were added within the past 50 years.