Bucks Harbor was probably named for Captain Thomas Buck of Plymouth, Massachusetts, who carried the first settlers to Machias in 1763. The families of Colbeth, Libby, Sanborn and Woods were early settlers of Bucks Harbor. The Harbor prospered as an open-water port year round, and included a Sardine Canning Company, Smokehouse. Clamming and fishing also employed the settlers. The District included a grange hall, store, post office, schoolhouse # 4, and the Bucks Harbor Baptist Church. The footbridge from Bucks Harbor to Smalls Point was a popular shortcut to and from the harbor and Indian Cove.
For more than 70 years the building housed a country store until it was closed around 1969. The land on which it stood, 96 feet by 125 feet, was purchased by Frank S. and Alfred K. Ames from Andrew Cole on February 2, 1888. The adjacent lot was purchased from Anna M. Conners in 1895. Frank Ames sold the property to Charles H. Thompson April 27, 1907. The following year Hanna Thompson sold it to Charlie Johnson. From 1908 until it was sold to Avis and Austin Pettegrow in 1947 Charlie Johnson operated it as a general store.
In 1960 Avis Pettegrow sold the property to Doris and Julian Colbeth who continued to operate the typical country store. By 1969 the Colbeth’s wanted a change, and the property was sold to Millard Urquhart and Alfred Polk. At the time of the fire the property was owned by Warren Finn of Rhode Island and leased by the seafood processor.
In the early years the second floor of the building served as a community center for square dances. The Bucks Harbor Grange met there until their building was constructed on the adjacent lot.
According to the Tide Newsletter from the Machiasport Historical Society dated 1991, on December 26, 1990, the former Charles Johnson Store and nearby clam factory were “burned to the ground”. At theThe time of the fire, the buildings were being used by Atlantic Salmon Processor.
Some residents of Bucks Harbor still have fond memories of this typical “country store”. One could purchase most of his needs there…groceries, small tools such as saws and axes, rubber boots for the fisherman, as well as overalls, jackets, caps, gloves, and hardware. Of course it would not have been a “country store” without a candy counter with many, many kinds of “penny candy”.
A bench in front of the hardware counter, near the stove, provided a comfortable seat for those wishing to engage in friendly conversations as well as “getting local news”. Gas tanks in front to the store supplied the needs of a car and boat owners.
“Uncle Charlie’s” establishment was not the first store in Bucks Harbor. Black’s Store was there first, but we are not certain of the original location nor of the dates of operation. But we do know it was moved south of the Grange Hall and converted into a dwelling and used as such for many years.
The Ames Cottage was built by J.K. Ames in 1880’s. Today it still stands as a local landmark.
There were several factories in Bucks Harbor, including the Dodge and Bangs factories that employed about 75 people in the 1890’s. The Bucks Harbor Packing Company packed sardines, smoked and pickled fish, and pressed oil for sale while using the remnants for fertilizer Captain W.H. Dodge would report when the fish arrived by blowing a whistle.
Telephones arrived in Bucks Harbor in 1898 when the New England Telephone Company received over 300 poles by rail and N.G. Smith delivered them to Bucks Harbor. The telephone lines between Machiasport and Bucks Harbor, a distance of four miles. The telephone in Bucks Harbor was then connected to Indian Cove factories.
The Village Store was the most popular place in town as the young and old would gather to hear the latest news, watch a checker game, find out the price of clams and lobsters or when the vessels would be delivering goods. Most people lived day to day out of the store and often ran up a “tab.” When they needed something they would send their children and charge the items and at the end of the month they would pay the bill.
Blacks Store was thought to be the first store in the Bucks Harbor District. It was located between the Baptist Church and the Grange Hall. The store was located in the back of a residence.
Aubine Colbeth Store was a store housed in part of Aubine’s house.
A.J. Cole Store was the largest store. In 1888 the store was sold to Frank and Alfred Ames and continued as a variety store. The store was the “Shopping Mall” and a very popular place to go to see your neighbors and hear the news of the day. Sometime in the 1900’s a gas pump was installed at the amazement of the residents. The store changed hands many times it was owned by Charles H. Thompson in 1907, and Charlie Johnson, 1947. It was sold to Avis & Austin Pettegrow. In 1960 it was sold to Doris and Julian Colbeth. In later years it became a Clam Factory and the building burned on December 26, 1990.
In the 1900’s shooting matches were held at Larrabee between teams from Bucks Harbor and Larrabee. L.M. Cole was high man with 590 points to his credit. This shooting match was held at the Grange Hall in Bucks Harbor. After the shooting match supper was served at C.J. Johnson’s Variety Store.
Several small businesses including Cooke’s Aquaculture, BBS Lobster Trap Company, Beach Lobster Company continue the water-dependent tradition in Bucks Harbor. Over ninety licensed lobster fishermen work independently fishing as many as 800 traps in and around Machiasport. Lobster fishermen sell their lobsters to local wholesalers. Today the public can access the water at the Public Pier, Finn Beach, and the Boat Landing. The former Bucks Harbor Air Force Station is currently home to the Downeast Correctional Facility and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The following photos are by Susan Schmid, Machiasport resident.