CIHS Exhibit 2006
Creating Community: The Hamilton Connection
This exhibit traced the impact of the Hamilton Family on history and evolution of Chebeague. 2006 marked the 250 years since Ambrose Hamilton bought 100 acres on the island. His marriage to Deborah Soule followed, and together they had fourteen children and seventy-two grandchildren, the majority of whom settled on Chebeague. As new families arrived, the Hamilton sons and daughters married the new settlers’ children; the families shared grandchildren and great grandchildren. Each succeeding generation did their part to strengthen the community. Their story survived through the logbooks they kept, the houses they built, and the tales they told.
This Hamilton family history focused on a time of great change. The island experienced an out-migration that began after the Civil War and continued until after World War I. The year-round population was about 700 in the 1890s, but by 1920 fewer than 400 people lived on Chebeague. Because of the community’s entrepreneurial spirit, islanders adapted to changing conditions. As the marine contracting business or “rock slooping” declined, Chebeaguers reinvested their capital and created a desirable resort community. Homes were transformed into boarding houses. Several stores flourished, sending several horse drawn teams from one end of the island to another to take grocery orders. Year after year more than a dozen new cottages were built annually, as multi-generational farms were subdivided into cottage lots, and their owners looked for opportunities ashore.