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Friendship's Historic Jameson & Wotton Wharf

Text by Sally Merrick and Elizabeth Flanagan

Images from the Friendship Museum

Given its location on the rocky coast of Maine, the small fishing village of Friendship has a deep and abiding connection to the sea. For over 200 years, lobstering has been a Friendship tradition, and as long as there are lobsters in Muscongus Bay, it always will be.

In 1897 Sherman Tecumseh Jameson and Walter H. Wotton began a successful business partnership that not only carried on the tradition of commercial lobstering, but also expanded the services of the wharf.

The wharf was a significant addition to the town of Friendship. In addition to being a venue for buying and selling lobsters, it had a general store that served both the town and the islands and a steamboat landing that was accessible at all tides.

The steamboats became a vital link to Camp Durrell, a large YMCA camp on a nearby island, and to the two inns that were built within walking distance from the wharf. They were built to serve parents visiting their children at the camp and tourists seeking a vacation in a picturesque fishing village by the sea.

The wharf was first known as the Davis Wharf. When Sherman Tecumseh Jameson married Elmira Davis in 1894, he inherited the old Davis Wharf, which was very small and like other wharfs in the harbor, was only accessible at high tide.

Steamboat captain I.E. Archibald of Rockland told Jameson that if he would lengthen the wharf 100 feet so that he would have access to the wharf at all tides, he would bring his steamboats to Friendship. Jameson presented the idea to the town selectmen in 1896, and they issued him a permit two months later.

The wharf was extended, and Jameson took on his friend and neighbor, Walter H. Wotton, as a partner and treasurer of what was now called the Jameson & Wotton Wharf.

Jameson had purchased the land for his house from Wotton and built his house across the street from him. From their homes on Harbor Road, they could see the harbor and Davis Point, where the Jameson & Wotton Wharf was located.

They added a store, grain sheds, a ticket office, a freight shed, and a wide gangway that could be raised and lowered for loading and unloading freight. Jameson managed the commercial fishing business, and Wotton managed the store.

The store on the wharf was the only general merchandise store in Friendship. Invoices show that in addition to foodstuffs, such as grains, cocoa, penny candies, and cakes, it carried supplies for fishermen, such as foul weather gear, oars, rope, and wire.

Wotton was a portly, jovial man known up and down the coast along the steamboat route. He ran the cash register, ordered supplies for the store, and took care of customers.

There are many funny stories about Wotton. They sold crackers from a big case, and when they were all gone, they sold the broken pieces at a discount. Once a skinflint came in and asked if they had any broken crackers. Because they were out of broken crackers, Walter Wotton answered by taking some whole crackers, breaking them, and putting them in a bag for the customer. Stunned, the man bought the crackers for the reduced price.

Sometimes Wotton included others in his jokes. Virgil Morton and Bion Whitney, who worked for the store, told some amusing stories to William Jameson, grandson of Sherman Jameson, about a great blue heron, which had been raised by someone as a pet. It hung around the wharf and people enjoyed feeding it. Wotton got a relative to make the heron a suit of clothes: a jacket, long pants, and even a hat.

One time they snuck the bird aboard a steamboat. About the time it reached Morses's Bay, the heron started prancing around the deck. This amused the passengers, but not the captain, who put it ashore at Port Clyde. There it was fed and treated like a celebrity until someone took it back to Friendship.

When Wotton became the father of twin boys at the age of 43, he received congratulatory postcards from Boston to Portland and all the little towns along the way to Friendship.

Taking advantage of the wholesale prices, which required a minimum purchase of three items, he bought toys and wagons -- one for each of the twins and the third one for Russell Winchenpaw, who lived next door.

Jameson was more of an outdoorsman. He had a lobster smack built according to 
his own design and named it the Foster D, after his only son. One of the first power boats in Friendship, it had a small well in the middle of it with holes that the sea water circulated through. It was designed to hold 700 pounds of lobsters.

He traveled on the Foster D to many islands and shoreline communities in Musongus Bay to buy lobsters. He held them in a lobster pound on Friendship Long Island until he was ready to sell them. When he took them to his wharf, he measured and weighed them in a big wire basket on a platform scale at the end of the wharf.

The Foster D also served as an extension of the wharf. In the summer many lobsterman and their families lived on islands off the coast of Friendship. Jameson delivered groceries from the store, hardware, animal feed, supplies for lobstering, gas and kerosene, and even mail.

When he picked up lobsters from the islanders, they would give him shopping lists, and he delivered their orders on his return trip.

Captain Archibald kept his word and brought steamboats to Friendship on a regular basis, bringing supplies and passengers to the Jameson & Wotton Wharf.

Steamboats were a significant form of transportation. Roads on the mainland were bumpy and rough, barely fit for traveling. Communities located at the end of long peninsulas were much easier to get to by boat.

William Jameson wrote in his journal, "When the steamer came, the wharf was crowded with people and things to send to Boston or Portland markets. Eggs, poultry, berries, fruits, etc. There was a great excitement and bustle as men with hand carts rushed up and down the gangway with the freight."

He also remembered going up to the pilot house while Jameson talked to Captain Archibald. "All that shiny brass shining, the steam escaping, the wind whistling in the rigging, the flags snapping in the wind, the orange life jackets, the fire axes and extinguishers, the Captain's uniform with the gold braid on the sleeve and hat. It was very impressive to a boy of five or six years old."

The steamboats were an important link to Camp Durrell and Friendship summer
 hotels. Camp Durrell was a YMCA camp for boys, located on an island a few miles off the coast of Friendship.

Campers came via the steamboats to the Jameson & Wotton Wharf, and from there they took a launch to the camp. Their parents also took the steamboat to Friendship to visit their sons at the camp. It was a long trip, so they needed to spend the night in Friendship.

There were two major inns within walking distances of the Jameson & Wotton Wharf: the Argyle Inn and The Seaview Hotel. The latter had been purchased by Robert Armstrong in 1899 to accommodate the parents of the campers. Coastal traffic diminished after World War I, causing both hotels to close.

Jameson and Wotton sold the wharf to Charlie and Ida Stenger in 1928. This was 
a good time to sell because the steamboat trade was dwindling, as roads to Friendship had improved.

The Stengers closed the store, but kept the lobstering business running. In addition, they opened The Lobster Pot, a popular restaurant that served lobsters, clams, fish, and scallops.

During World War II the Lobster Pot was closed while Charlie Stenger worked at Bath Iron Works, and Ida worked as a registered nurse. Charlie led the town Civil Defense Corps and built an enemy plane spotter booth at the end of the dock. Men and women of the community stood duty twenty-four hours a day but never saw an enemy plane.

After the war the Lobster Pot reopened and remained open until 1956 when the Stengers sold the wharf.

Subsequent owners included Bernard Brow, Robert Wallace, and Harlan Wallace. All of them continued the tradition of commercial lobstering.

In 1997 Harlan Wallace sold the wharf to its current owner, the Friendship Lobster Co-Op, but he still maintained an active role in the wharf as a member of the Co-Op. Because he had many years of experience building and maintaining wharfs, he oversaw an almost complete rebuilding of the wharf.

In 2009 the Co-Op sold its developing rights to the state in return for a grant from the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program to improve the property. The wharf agreed to abide by a covenant that will protect the wharf as a commercial fishing facility in perpetuity, thereby protecting the tradition of a working waterfront in Friendship. A significant contributor to this tradition was the original Jameson & Wotton Wharf, founded at this site by Sherman Tecumseh Jameson and Walter H. Wotton well over 100 years ago.

Sally Merrick is a volunteer with the Friendship Museum. Elizabeth Flanagan is a student at the Friendship Village School.

Sources

Ambrose, Priscilla. Cottages of Davis Point, 2001
Friendship Museum. Friendship Homes: If These Houses Could Talk, Friendship: 2007
Gagnon, Margaret and Patricia Havener. Presentation to the sixth grade at Friendship Village School, Oct. 24, 2012
Hahn, William and Mary Carlson. History of Friendship
Jameson, William. Growing Up, an undated journal
Richardson, John M. Steamboat Lore of the Penobscot, Kennebec Journal Print Shop, Augusta, 1944