You can't always trust local legends, but when you get a touch of local legend that embellishes good, solid history, it's not always wise to cast aspersions and doubts. Take, for instance, our No. 3 granddaughter, Andrea, who is now an honorary member of the Mount Desert Society for the Apprehension and Eradication of Hay Thieves. Wouldn't you, now, like to know what that'sm all about?
When our daughter named her third child, and her third girl, Andrea, the only other Andrea I knew about was Andrea del Sarto, the faultless painter, so injudiciously I said, ''That's a boy's name.'' I was mistaken. At going-on nine, Andrea is already a young lady of charm, and promises adequate femininity when the time comes. Last fall, relative to nothing in particular, she said that her older sisters had experienced privileges to her exclusion, and among other things she had never passed a night in a hotel. It crossed my mind at the time that I, too, have been variously deprived. I've never gone up in a balloon, have never eaten a papaya, never ridden an elephant, never figure-skated, and had I never stopped in a hotel I would be able to keep going right along without a whimper. But Grandmother saw this deficiency otherwise, and made arrangements for Andrea to pass Boxing Day in a hotel, with supper and breakfast, and a bedstand bouquet managed by an understanding management. Now, there's something! The usual excitements of Christmas, with the family tree and a plum pudding and all else, were incidental. Andrea, her mother, and her grandmother set off for Northeast Harbor to rectify this oversight at the Kimball Terrace Inn - a worthy establishment of fine reputation, elegance, and sustained charm. It also stays open all year.
This left Daddy, Grumpa, and the two older sisters to shift for ourselves, which we did. For Boxing Day eve, we went to The Spinnaker over at Rockport, where Bill, the prop, told us he was mighty uncomfortable to say so, but the menu was minimal over the holidays and he had no haddock. Donna, our usual waitress, asked for the missing three, which forced us to admit that they were slumming at the Kimball Terrace Inn, at which Donna opined that they probably had haddock therem. So we made out, and now we come to the history.
Mount Desert is the name of the town, and Northeast Harbor is one of the villages. It's a summer resort, a summercater favorite, and a yachtsman's haven. It is adjacent to Bar Harbor, which everybody knows about, and which has two pronunciations - Baw Hawbor and Bah Hab-b'h. Desert derives from the French and is pronounced like pies and puddings. When Samuel Champlain first viewed the hills of this island jewel in blue Frenchman's Bay, he noted that the mountains were uninhabited, deserted. But this was soon changed when settlers from France came to Acadia in 1602.
In a short time a significant fisheries had been established at Saint Saviour , on Mount Desert Island. But as English ambitions for empire developed, the French activity in New France called for action, and in 1613 Captain Samuel Argal (usually considered a rascal) came up from Jamestown with warships and rousted the Acadians from Maine. His rude and completely unlawful sack of Saint Saviour has never had approval from any historian, and in addition it was no more than open piracy against some quiet and industrious people who, in truth, were in possession of Mount Desert Island. It was to be quite a time before English settlers came up from Massachusetts - people with names like Richardson, Standwood, Eaton, Freeman. And it wasn't until 1768 that the community of Mount Desert attained anything like official recognition.
In that year the residents of the town petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts for assistance in the apprehension of hay thieves. In Maine, about everywhere else, it's hard to find somebody to cart your hay off even if you pay to have it done, so this petition merits attention. The hay in question was marsh hay, used commercially other than as cattle feed. And the legend goes that among the signers of this petition were Daniel Gott and his sons Daniel and Stephen. These three were not residents of Mount Desert, but lived on Gott's Island, belonging to the adjacent town of Tremont. It seems they were the hay thieves, and signed to divert attention from themselves.
How could any nine-year-old girl have a better Boxing Day present than a certificate of membership in the Mount Desert Society for Hay Thieves - signed, of course, by Stephen, Daniel, and Daniel Gott Jr.? With hotel thrown in.