The Bear on Appledore Island

Did you know that there was once a bear that lived on Appledore Island?

Our intern, Garrett Hastings, tells the story:

This is my fourth time out to the Shoals, and along the way I have read many a detail about the history and culture of these beautiful isles. I came across one story that stood out in particular in Celia Thaxter’s Stories and Poems for Children from 1895: the brown bear. I don’t know what it is exactly that’s so striking; perhaps it’s the fact that having a bear at a supposedly relaxing resort, one which is aimed at making the guests feel at peace with nature, is out of character. So I dove further into the subject to learn more about it, and the video before you is what I learned.

As a short synopsis of the video: in 1873, a relative of Celia Thaxter gifted her a brown bear cub from Georgia. It then lived on the island for a summer before breaking free during a storm in September. After Celia came across it briefly, it disappeared for about seven months before getting caught disappearing over the wall to the Appledore House. They managed to catch it, and it had some peace before the summer months, but it disappeared before the season started. It hid away during the summer, and they caught it again when it emerged the following spring. Celia then sold the bear to a man on Londoner’s Island and forgot about it for the summer. She found it again when she was out wandering on Londoner’s. It was a wild and crazed beast that the family was paying five cents to see. In September of 1875, they took it back, but it escaped again. After it scared two women and ate a stockpile of food, they decided it was too dangerous and killed the bear. I hope you enjoy the video!

Here’s the script —

TRIP: Good morrow, and welcome to Trip Tips! (Trip Tips intro plays.) Hey, guess what? We’re back to the Shoals, and you know what that means. Lots of… (VALENTINE flies and hits Trip.) Ah! (Trip falls, sits up, and sees Valentine landing on the couch.) Please don’t hurt me, Mr. Gull.

VALENTINE: Get up Trip. And, it’s Valentine to you. (Valentine flies back to sit higher on the couch, and Trip sits back up.)

TRIP: What do you want?

VALENTINE: I see what you’re doing here: capturing these poor souls and forcing them to learn. Well, I say I’m in charge now, and you will do exactly as I say. The Shoals are my territory.

TRIP: Then, what do you want me to talk about?

VALENTINE: (Evil laugh.) Yes, it shall be truly terrifying. (Bigger laugh.) Yes! Right from 1873!

TRIP: Wait. I already covered the axe murders.

VALENTINE: No, you fool! (Valentine slaps Trip.) The bear!

TRIP: The bear! Oh, that’s not scary. (A beat.)


TRIP: So, today’s topic is: There was a bear on Appledore Island?

VALENTINE: Stop wasting time, puppet.

TRIP: Before the summer season on Appledore Island, and after the tragedy on Smuttynose in 1873, the Appledore House on, well, Appledore Island received a gift from one of Celia Thaxter’s relatives. Now, this wasn’t a puppy, or a kitten, or a lifetime supply of chocolate. It was a brown bear cub all the way from the wilds of Georgia. Because that’s what every child-friendly, relaxing resort needs. However, life was surely less relaxing for the bear then the guests, as it spent its existence tethered to a pole on the front lawn. On top of that, the children would harass it and poke it with sticks, only some showing it kindness. The bear was tormented until September 8, 1873 when a storm hit that shattered windows and ripped shingles off of roofs. The next morning, the bear was gone. In fear, it had found the strength to break its bonds and run to freedom. Celia Thaxter managed to find it by accidentally kicking rocks on its head from a cliff above. By the time she returned with sweets for the bear, it was gone once more. The bear then disappeared for nearly seven months, and everyone, except for Celia, thought it was dead. But, one evening in April 1874, the bear was spotted escaping over the wall. The men gave chase to find its lair littered with bird bones and feathers. After dragging the bear back the next morning, the bear had some peace before the summer season. Celia took it on walks to make it feel better, but it had tasted real freedom and despised captivity once more. Just before the summer, he broke free again and disappeared into the night. By day, he hid. By night, he gorged. This terrified the mothers, and they kept their children under close watch. The bear managed to evade the people of the Appledore House until 1875 when it emerged in the spring. With some difficulty, they dragged it out and struck a deal with the man living on Londoner’s Island (now Lunging) to care for it since the people of Appledore believed it had gotten too wild for them. By August, Celia and the others somehow forgot about their gracious gift, and Celia found the bear chained on Londoner’s, a wild and crazed beast, that the family was charging five cents to see. In September, for whatever reason, Celia took the bear back. Maybe the bear was too much or gave the man on Londoner’s nightmares. Either way, the bear was back on Appledore, and you’ll never guess what. Yeah, it broke free and ran away. Again, it looked for food at night, climaxing one evening in the store room below two terrified women. While the women were trying not to have a heart attack, the bear might have had one with the fat it was swimming in. It devoured beef, pork, lard, and molasses, half eating it, half bathing in it. It then carried off a barrel of pork to continue dining. By morning, it was decided that the bear was too dangerous. It was hunted and shot, unaware of its hunter’s malicious intents. That was the first and only time a poor bear was brought to the Shoals.

VALENTINE: Haha! Good. Good.

TRIP: You know, I recognize you somehow.

VALENTINE: I’m a gull, you fool. Now, I think I’ll give you a more controversial character next time.

TRIP: Oh great. (Valentine throws his head back and laughs heartily.) Thanks for joining me on Trip Tips. Good e’en. (Roll Credits.)


Putting the Isles of Shoals on the Map

Maps have long played interesting and important roles in the history of the Isles of Shoals. John Smith published a map with his book A Description of New England in 1616 that helped introduce the Isles to Europe and named the region “New England” for the first time. Fishers, traders, and military navigators have relied on nautical charts to get in and out of Portsmouth Harbor or stop at the Isles of Shoals safely up to the present day. Authors and tour guides have also used maps for their artistic and illustrative purposes, helping secure a sense of place in texts about the Isles of Shoals. Finally, descriptive maps provide instructions for harbor and walking tours of the Isles, helping visitors to make the most of their trips.

Below are sample of the many maps housed in the Vaughn Cottage Museum collection. Perspective, detail, and scope vary on maps of the Isles of Shoals and Star Island according to the cartographer’s purpose. Bird’s-eye views with north at the top of the map are typical for illustrating landmasses, but many variations are seen in the examples here. Some maps are oriented with the South at the top, the direction one would face approaching Gosport Harbor to land on Star-Island. Profile or pop-out views of landmarks provide references to help tourists identify landmarks and also serve as decorative illustrations. Contour lines and careful numeric labeling show elevation and sea level to aid with navigation.

Maps can help us understand where we are or where we are going, but they can also inspire imagination. Perhaps the nature of being on an island prompts people to draw and read maps to feel connected to the rest of the world. Enjoy the selection of visual representations below and think about what the cartographer wants you to see.

For Detailed Image Descriptions, Click Here

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Star Island Recently Celebrated its Centennial

By Helen Ball
This year Star Island is celebrating its centennial, with 2015 serving as 100 years since the non-profit Star Island Corporation first purchased the 43-acre island in 1915. In honour of this incredible event, 27th June 2015 saw officials, dignitaries and members of the public invited to visit Star Island aboard the specially chartered boat provided by the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company. [1] As well as having the opportunity to explore Star Island and really appreciate the beauty of this wonderful and unique place, invited guests also joined in with festivities such as the cutting of the island’s birthday cake, and a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new solar panel array [2] that was built and opened in honor of, and as part of, the centennial celebrations. This solar display has the honour of being the largest off grid solar display in the state of New Hampshire. [3] Star Island is very proud of its sustainable programmes, so the centennial celebrations on the island also included a tour that focused on highlighting both the island’s sustainable efforts as well as its history.
The Ideal Opportunity to Visit Star Island
Whilst the official centennial celebrations in the island have now been completed, the centennial provides a wonderful opportunity for visitors to Star Island, both new and old, to appreciate and experience everything that Star Island has to offer. The past, present, and future of the island will be on display for visitors to appreciate this summer in honour of the centennial, and the incredible picturesque views that the island affords means that this is a wonderful place to spend a beautiful summer’s afternoon. There is no better time to visit Star Island than in 2015. Star Island is one of a small group of islands that forms the island group The Isles of Shoals: these islands are situated approximately 6 miles off the coast of America.  However Star Island is the only one of these islands that is served by a regular boat service from the mainland, which is why it is the most well-known of the islands and also the island that receives the most visitors on both a daily basis and overnight, as it is the only one of the island that is officially open and welcoming to visitors.
Overnight visitors on the island are welcome as part of one of the many conferences and events programmes that are hosted in the Oceanic Hotel on the island throughout the year. However if you prefer not to sign up for a programme then you are welcome to sign up for a personal retreat [4] : a wonderful way to test the waters, to enjoy island life, and to appreciate the true beauty that Star Island has to offer without having to commit to a longer programme. The island is relatively small, so visitors are advised to arrange many of their traditional tourist requirements, such as organising their banking, protecting their belongings with travel insurance [5] or purchasing vital supplies such as sun lotion, before they arrive on the island. However that doesn’t mean that you won’t find plenty to see and do: visitors can swim, hire row boats, and try their hands at a wide range of different sporting activities.
The Changes of a Century
It is interesting to note that the Oceanic hotel, much like the rest of Star Island, doesn’t look too much different to the way that it did a century ago. [6] The old burial ground sits to the right of the hotel, just as it always has, and when you approach the hotel you will immediately notice the distinctive shapes of dozens of old rocking chairs lined up on the porch. It is a wonderful place to celebrate America’s rich history, and a wonderful place to visit in honour of the Star Island centennial.                                      
Additional Reading
[1] “Star Island to unveil solar array to celebrate centennial”,  My San Antonio
[2] “Sustainable Star Island”, Vaughn Cottage,
[3] “Star Island to unveil solar array to celebrate centennial”, The Washington Times
[4] “Personal Retreats”, Star Island
[5] “Compare Travel Insurance,”  Quote Zone
 [6] “Visit Star Island and the Oceanic Hotel”, Yankee Magazine

Sustainable Star Island

 Getting Back To Basics By Moving Forward

Solar Panels, 2015

Solar Panels, 2015

Written by Helen Ball

Star Island has long been a place where people can escape from the pressure and grind of everyday life. The Star Island Corporation holds the potential of their island for spiritual renewal very dear [1], and do their utmost to ensure that visitors have an island experience which enables them to connect or reconnect with what’s basically important. It may seem that the recent addition of the largest off-grid bank of solar panels in New England [2] disrupts the peace, serenity, and sense of history inherent in the look and ‘feel’ of the island. Certainly the panels look prohibitively modern and industrial. However, the ethos behind this progressive move towards sustainable energy does in fact spring from commendably old roots. Self-sufficiency, as well as respect for the environment, is at the heart of the move – and these are values which island peoples the world over will recognize as of the greatest historical import for the insular way of life.
The Solar Panels
The new solar array is expected to provide around 130,000 KWH of power to Star Island – hopefully 60% or more of the island’s total power usage during the summer time [3]. It covers half an acre of the 44 acre island, and does, admittedly, look rather too modern to be in keeping with the island’s pristine aesthetic. In all fairness, the corporation have done their absolute utmost to position the array in such a way that it will cause minimal aesthetic disruption to people’s enjoyment of the island, but there are always some who look askance at banks of solar panels in beautiful areas. Such things have caused a deal of controversy in other areas before now [4], and continue to do so. However, such doubts can perhaps be allayed by looking at what is hoped to be achieved through the erection of the solar array. Ultimately, it’s all about self-sufficiency and preserving environmental integrity. 
Modern Malaise
We live in an increasingly high-octane society, which consumes at a rate far above that which is really sustainable. We are becoming so accustomed to thoughtlessly consuming without replacing, and doing little to either produce or sustain that which we consume that we are arguable losing touch with our roots in a manner which is having some alarming consequences. Quite apart from the undeniable environmental damage caused by reckless consumption, and the impact upon poorer global communities who suffer in order to feed our relentless appetites, the demands of the modern world and our growing disconnection from the world around us is having a terrible effect upon ourselves. Consumerism [5] and a sense of subsequent alienation from ‘real’ things has been linked to depression, particularly among women [6]. While the way our forbears lived may not have been perfect, it is notable that their lifestyles were a lot more sustainable – which in turn gave them a far greater sense of connection to the places in which they lived, of control over their resources, and acceptance of the natural way of things. Their lives may have been simple, but they were sustainable, and that sustainability brought with it a degree of happiness.
The Star Island Corporation has been perfectly clear all along in stating that the aim of the solar array is to render the island a more sustainable, self-sufficient location [7]. It’s about putting the resources used by Star Island back within island hands, and about being responsible for our own actions without compromising on comfort. This is simultaneously a step forward and an acceptance of the wisdom of our self-sufficient ancestors. While retaining the comforts of modern society, we are discarding the disconnection and unsustainable methodology which has characterised modern life thus far. Instead, we are returning to an era of sustainable self-sufficiency which will harm neither the environment nor our own health – although we are using some very modern technology to do so!
[1] Star Island Corporation, “About”
[3] Deborah McDermott, “Solar array ‘a big deal’ for Star Island”, Seacoast online, Jun 2015
[5] Jill Krasny, “STUDY: Consumerism Is Making Us Depressed And Anti-Social”, Business Insider, Apr 2012
[6] PsychGuides, “Depression in Women”
Image retrieved from

The Portable Vaughn Cottage

Have you heard the buzz? The Vaughn Cottage Museum artifacts are the subject of a brand new book!

Vaughn Book Cover

The pages are curated by Tara Kelly in collaboration with Melissa Saggerer, and the photographs were taken by Mikael Kennedy, all of whom are former Pelicans!

To preview and purchase your copy of the Vaughn book, click here. Books may also be purchased here on Star Island in the lobby book store.

*All of the proceeds benefit Vaughn Cottage and the Thaxter Museum. Thank you for your support!

This book is amazingly well-done and the photos are simply classic—a beautiful display of the Isles of Shoals history.


Interactive History Days!

This summer here on Star Island, is quite an exciting one indeed. We are celebrating 400 years of the mapping of the Isles of Shoals!

John Smith Map

To celebrate this anniversary, we are venturing back in time as interpreters to see what life was like in the fishing village days of Gosport. We will host these 3 Interactive History Days on June 25th, July 23rd, and August 27th.  We would love it if you could join us! Click here for more information.

Don your nicest breeches and petticoats and make your way to Star Island!

A little more history…

John Smith came here in 1614 and Continue reading

Back on Star!

Vaughn Blog pic 2

Hello Shoalers!
Around here, Shoalers is the name we use for people who love to hang out at the Isles of Shoals. I can now say that I am one of them. I am so excited to return for the summer of 2014! It is going to be one full of history, community, old friends, chirping birds, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and oh yeah, maybe a bit of rain to help our veggies and flowers grow. The Vaughn Cottage Museum also has some exciting exhibits that I honestly cannot wait to share with you. Keep checking our blog for the riveting history news.

We have an exciting summer planned for this year, and I hope you can come join us! We’ll save you a seat on the porch.

Vaughn Blog pic 1