A common question historians get regards the origin of a place name. In many situations in St. George the name relates to the owner(s) of the property in the area in question, such as Martinsville, Wiley’s Corner, Smalleytown, Harts Neck, Wheeler’s Bay, Clark’s Island, Willardham, Wallston, etc. Other place names have some interesting—and often not agreed upon—histories.
There are several beliefs concerning the origin of this name. Trying to stick with the theory that the name is associated with a resident, a common story is that the town was named after Joshua Tennant. I find this difficult to believe because I find no evidence that Joshua Tennant lived in the Tenants Harbor area. In fact, his family is associated with the South Thomaston area. Plus, he was living in Harpswell in 1773 when his daughter was born. To support this further, Tenants Harbor is identified on several maps prior to the Revolutionary War era with the names Tarance Harbor, Terrence Harbor, Tarrent’s Harbor and Talant’s Harbor. One of these maps was done as early as 1754. I’m sure some of the misspelling could be attributed to a scrivener’s error, but it seems safe to say that the area was not named after Joshua Tennant.
This is the area also known as Harts Neck. As you can guess, there was a large family by the name of Hart back in the day. In 1901, this section of town was eligible for a post office. It was a short-lived post office, closing in 1923. George Carey, who I always considered as the historian of Elmore, said that the name Elmore came from the U.S. Postal Service, and that of the three possible names that the community was given to choose from, Elmore was the least offensive.
Port Clyde / Herring Gut
This will probably require some more research, but at this time the usual sources don’t provide a solid story as to the origin of these names.
Albert J. Smalley, in his History of St. George, Maine published in 1976, says that this area was once known as Lobsterfare, plus it was also known as Herring Gut, “supposedly so called because of the great shoals of herring passing through the narrows into the river.” The 1932 “Chronicles–Town of St. George” tells us that the village was once known as Herring Gut but that postal authorities decided that Port Clyde “was a more euphonious name.” The 1857 Lincoln County map gives us no mention of Port Clyde, but rather has the name “Herring Gut” placed in the harbor area. Smalley also cites several mentions in the 1830s that the post office in Port Clyde was known as South St George, with its first postmaster being appointed in 1829.
Here is another place name without solid background on its origin. Smalley mentions the names, but offers nothing as to how the area it got its name. Smalley does mention the acceptance of a road from Turkey Cove to Mosquito Harbor in 1818. As to when the name seems to have changed from Turkey to Glenmere, the 1932 “Chronicles” says, “to the old timer the name ‘Glenmere’ would mean nothing as he knew of the village as ‘Turkey.’”
This is obviously a descriptive name and can be traced back to an Atlantic Neptune map from the 1770s when it was called Long Creek (see the accompanying picture).
A 1785 deed from Vickery to Martin mentions the name “Moscheto.” Smalley seems to offer the best explanation for this place name–a phonetic spelling for the Indian word for muskrat. Then again, it could have been named for that pesky insect. What do you think?
Post Offices, year opened and year closed
Clark Island, 1884-1961
Long Cove, 1901-1940
Port Clyde, 1880-current
St. George (at Wiley’s Corner), 1828-1993
South St. George, 1829-1880
Spruce Head, 1880-current
Tenants Harbor, 1853-current
—John M. Falla