The first white settler of East Blue Hill was a trapper named James McHard in the 1790s. He built a cabin on the cove that bears his name and subsisted on hunting and fishing. There is no record of when he died and no deed that showed that he owned property here. We do know that that part of town was simply called McHard’s by the early settlers of Blue Hill and it remained McHard’s until 1871 when a semi-weekly mail was established and the village officially became known as East Blue Hill.
The next to come on the scene, around 1810, were two Blue Hill men: Franklin Spofford and Nathan Ellis. Both were from milling families. Franklin was the son of Daniel Spofford who was part owner of the two tide mills at Blue Hill Falls. Nathan Ellis married Sally Osgood whose uncle ran the legendary Osgood Grist Mill in downtown Blue Hill to which farmers near and far carried their corn and grain to be ground into flour or waited in line.
“Blue Hill is a pretty town; it’s built quite near the hill,
And through it runs a rapid stream that runs the Osgood Mill.”
Spofford and Ellis never made their homes here. They were interested in McHard’s Stream as a power source for a business venture. In those days water power ran all the saw and grist mills in New England. They built a dam at the northeast corner of the cove where the stream runs in and constructed a sawmill there. They ran it for two or three years and then looked around for someone to run it for them.
While we don’t know much about James McHard, we do know quite a lot about Joel Long, the second settler to build a home at the head of the cove. He was living in Sedgwick with his wife Elizabeth and three children. He had built and was running the two tide mills on the Benjamin River. He was a capable and industrious young man, thirty years old. He came to McHard’s and according to Gerald E. Long’s “The Early History of East Blue Hill:”
—Joel came over here and took a look around. He saw a nice quiet sheltered cove, he saw virgin forest coming down to its shores, probably a lot of game and wildlife, and possibly the cove was teaming with with fish.—
Apparently he liked what he saw because he came back and built a house and moved his family up a year later. He lived at McHard’s for the next fifty-nine years. Joel Long was an energetic pioneer, a go-getter, an entrepreneur, a man who rose before daylight and went to work carrying a lantern. In those fifty-nine years he built dams and mills, a shipyard, a brick yard and kiln, as well as his home on Jay Carter Road which is still standing. (Kate McGraw lives in that house at this writing.)
The Long family was soon followed by three other families, those of Asa Conary, Leonard Carlton, and Stephen Conary. The four families worked closely together for the next dozen years, clearing land and making their livings from the land and sea. There were no roads into East Blue Hill at that time and the only access was by water or a trek through the woods. By 1825 Joel had acquired ownership of the sawmill and 480 acres of the surrounding land. He established a shipyard at the head of the cove and went into the schooner-building business. We have records of the names and the tonnage of the five schooners he built on the cove. He died in 1871 at the age of 89.
According to Rufus G.F.Candage’s description of East Blue Hill in “Historical Sketches of Bluehill, Maine” 1907:
—Wood and lumber were shipped, and the place was active and a busy one. Then came the time when granite was gotten out and shipped from here; the Collins Granite Co. was formed, and the place took on new activities, grew in houses and population and prospered, perhaps more than any other section of the town. To the four original houses and families a hundred or so have been added, with post office, stores, schools, a church, halls and other signs of progress.—
More on James McHard
James McHard was the first white settler of East Blue Hill. He was born in 1746 and hailed from Haverhill, Massachusetts. He, along with seven other men, drew up a petition seeking unappropriated land in the Province of Maine for themselves and for 352 others. The petition was presented to the Massachusetts General Court in 1762. The petition, in part, read as follows:
“That your Petitioners and Associates who by far are the greatest part of them Persons Brought up to Husbandry and not having lands sufficient for themselves and sons—who are also Husbandmen—have been put upon the Enquiry for wilderness lands to Exercise their calling upon, and that in the course of their Enquiry they have been lately informed that there is a considerable Tract of Unappropriated Wilderness Lands and Islands lying between the Province of Nova Scotia and that part of this Province of Main of which this Government have the Inspection with the Power of granting the same—sending home such grants for his Majesty’s approbation.”
(Signed) David Marsh, Enoch Bartlett, James McHard, James Duncan, Edmond Moores, Dudley Carleton, Peter Parker, Benjamin Harrod.
Their petition was looked on favorably and later that year they and their associates were granted six townships between the Penobscot and St. Croix Rivers. The first settlers in Blue Hill, John Roundy and Joseph Wood, arrived at Blue Hill Falls in 1762 and soon after were joined by many others. Peter Parker moved here in ’65 and settled on Parker Point. Dudley Carleton, along with his three brothers, settled at the head of the Salt Pond in ’68 and established a sawmill and a shipyard at Carleton Stream.
But the life and history of James McHard are shrouded in mystery. He built a cabin on the shore of a cove in the eastern part of the town and subsisted by fishing and trapping. That much is known. The cove came to be known as McHard’s Cove and that part of town was simply called McHard’s. There is no record of any deed saying that he owned the land he was on, or that he ever married, or had children, and he may have been a hermit. It is written that he died of a broken leg but, strangely, there is no record of when he died in the “The Vital Records of the Town of Blue Hill.”
That part of town continued to be known as McHard’s long after James McHard was dead and gone. Someone might say “I’m rowing over to McHard’s for a load of bricks.” Somehow, around 1860, the name was misspelled and the village there began to be written as McHeard’s. It was called McHeard’s until 1871 when a semi-weekly mail was established and the village officially became known as East Blue Hill. The cove is still listed on all maps and charts as McHeard Cove and its tributary as McHeard Stream. But the old-timers in East Blue Hill still say McHard’s.