The West End, Where Chebeague Began
The West End means many things to many people. To some folks it means Deer Point or Chandlers Cove, while others think of the Cricks and Colemans Cove as the West End. Rocky shores, mud flats and sandy beaches provide geographical diversity, which creates a metaphor for the human diversity that makes the West End what it really has been and continues to be.
In the exhibit you will see an island community that grew so rapidly during its first century of settlement that two school districts were created. They in turn created two communities with a common heritage, but each had its own identity. As Great Chebeague’s population increased and the East End was settled, it became impractical for all island students to attend the same school. Schools are centers of community and create their own culture, and their neighborhoods create their own distinctiveness. Simply put, this is what happened on Chebeague. However, religion remained a unifying factor. Even though the island supported three churches in the mid-1800s, people from each end of Chebeague attended each of the churches, all of which were located in the middle of the island.
Family was also a common thread. The first generation of Chebeaguers planted the seeds of settlement and as the community grew their roots intertwined. Despite the evolution of two neighborhoods on Chebeague the people shared a common heritage, and it was this past that provided a solid foundation for the eventual coalescence of the Chebeague community.
The exhibit shows how the creation, and then the gradual strengthening of Chebeague Island High School, combined with the automobile brought the island together once again. Stanley Libby’s two stints as high school principal encouraged community cooperation and pride as he promoted Boy Scouts and an island band. The community came together slowly but surely.
The exhibit tells many stories, but there are many more to be told. The historical importance of fishing on the West End cannot be under estimated. It formed the culture of the community. Like the rock sloops, fishing vessels were family affairs and it was a big business. Ray Hamilton observes that the Westenders had the biggest boats and the biggest nets allowing them to catch more fish than the Eastenders. The families portrayed represent what life was like for people on the West End as well as those folks who came to the island for the summer. The West End had stores, wharves, and the island’s first hotel. Today the school, the Recreation Center, the church, and the Casco Bay Lines wharf are all on the West End. The story of the West End is the story of a community where people lived together, looked after one another and took pride in what they did and how they did it. The roots remain strong after more than two hundred and fifty years.