Smuttynose archaeology Hampton harried Park-and-pay at beach Blue Star Mothers RCD groundbreaking M/V Laighton returns Beach store opening Grote elected Malpass appointed Record honored

Digging up bones on Smuttynose

Jim Cerny, story and photos

Dr. Nathan Hamilton spoke in South Berwick recently on the results of his archaeological excavations on Smuttynose Island at the Isles of Shoals.

Smuttynose was joined to Malaga by a short breakwater in 1820 and is essentially one island of 30 acres, located in Maine. Smuttynose is privately owned and in the summer stewards stay at the Haley House. Smuttynose is best known for the famous murders in 1873.

The first archaeological excavations were done by Faith Harrington in the early 1990s and now in recent years by Nathan Hamilton, involving students from the Shoals Marine Lab. As Hamilton noted, "Many people who live at the edge of the sea, deposit their refuse at the edge of the sea." And what makes this site, the western end of Smuttynose, so useful for archaeologists is that it is undisturbed.

Western shoreline of Smuttynose as it looks today. Cottage on the right is the restored Haley house, used by stewards. To the left is Rozzie's cottage, built by Celia Thaxter's granddaughter, Rosamund Thaxter.

Hamilton pointed out the fine location of the Shoals for a fishing station good water depths for the long-line fishing and lots of space to set up fish flakes for drying with minimum salt. This resulted in a very high quality fish product that commanded a premium price in the European markets. There were as many as 300 fishermen on Smuttynose in the 1600s.

Nathan Hamilton.

Codfish bones.

Hamilton breaks Smuttynose history into four periods: 1620-1760: Fishing station; 1770-1850: Samuel Haley's many business operations; 1840-1920: Hotel era with the Mid-Ocean Hotel; 1980-present: Stewardship of Island and Haley House.

Hamilton's slide for the fishing phase, showing fish flakes (drying) and the Hontvet House (scene of the infamous Smuttynose murders).

Among the facts that struck me were:

(The following items are by members of the "Rye Reflections" staff.)

Hassles in Hampton

The rain and high wind storms of March wreaked havoc everywhere. Their force was especially evident at the main beach in Hampton where sand was washed onto the street, sidewalk and parking lot. Later, as depicted in Judy Palm photos below, the sand was plowed into high mounds along the fence going to the beach where a backhoe loaded it into a truck and dumped it back where it belonged,

In the early morning of April 8 a fire broke out in a multi-rental residence on M Street in Hampton. Firefighters knocked it down, only to be called back a short time later when it flamed up a second time. Tenants all got out safely without injury. The cause and reason for the fire re-igniting is under investigation.

(Judy Palm photo)


Developments on developments

The status of three proposals, two before the Planning Board, one before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA):

SAUNDERS Having been passed by the ZBA, 5-0, the plan to build four homes on the site of Saunders Restaurant at Rye Harbor is now before the Planning Board which held a site walk with the development team and abuters on April 17. The restaurant plans to remain open until the end of the summer.

SANCTUARY CARE An assisted-living facility for memory impaired is being proposed at a location on the west side of Route 1 (see map at right) between Washington Road and Dow Lane (previously part of the area occupied by Hector's Restaurant and the Sleepy Hollow motel). The single-story building would have 56 rooms and 64 beds. At an April 13 meeting it was disclosed by Priscilla Jenness of the Board of Selectmen that the Army Corps of Engineers has expressed interest in the six acres to the south, between Sanctuary Care and the North Hampton line for the location of a center.

SWIM & BEACH CLUB The Wentworth by the Sea Country Club proposal to build a Swim & Beach Club on the southwest corner of Route 1-A and Wallis Road is on the ropes. After receiving an OK for a Special Exemption for a membership club in March, the ZBA on April 20 voted down, 3-2, all of what Chairman Frank Drake described as "the more critical and substantive variances" after two lengthy deliberations. However, Wentworth by the Sea averted a rehearing of its Special Exemption to be a membership club on May 5, when the ZBA voted 3-2 to let that status stand. JoAnn Price, who is leading opposition the project, filed the motion for a rehearing.


Wildcat Mountain publishes an image-of-the-day which on Easter turned out to depict Pat Phelan of the Hungry Horse and his brother, Mike, on the mountainside.

Quick index to last two years of Rye Crisp


May, 2010