Reverend William Ellis Foy(e) was one of the least known yet most significant figures in American religious history to live in Hancock County.
William E. Foy was born a free Black in Belgrade, Maine to Joseph and Elizabeth Foy around 1819. Although Maine was a “free” state and there were few Blacks and enslaved people, Maine still had connections to the slave-trade and existent racism.
Foy married about 1835 and may have had two children with his wife, Ann. The couple moved to Boston. An important figure in the Millerite Movement in the 1830s and 1840s, Foy experienced several visions concerning the second coming of Christ. He recounted his visions and preached the Millerite gospel throughout New England. One audience member, who went on to receive and recount similar visions to those Foy described, was Ellen Hammond—later, Ellen White—a founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
After the predicted second coming of Christ did not occur, Foy stayed in the ministry and became a Free Will Baptist Clergyman in New Bedford, MA. Sometime prior to 1850, his wife, Ann, died.
Foy married Caroline T. Griffin of Gardiner in 1851, and they had two children, Orrin in 1852 and Laura in 1856. Caroline died, leaving Foy with three young children. Foy moved to Burnham, a town in Waldo County. In the 1860 Federal Census, William E. Foy (age 37) was living in Burnham with three children and his mother, Betsy.
Not long after, according to the Island of Mount Desert Register, “Rev. William E. Fay (spelling!), a colored evangelist, organized a Christian Church of 25 members at Otter Creek, Mount Desert. A few years later, Rev. Andrew Gray came to Otter Creek and wrought a great deal of good.”
Rev. William E. Foy moved to Plantation #7, which is just east of the Town of Sullivan and north of Gouldsboro. (Plantation #7 was later annexed to Sullivan in 1895.) He purchased property from William Johnson on the north side of the Public Road and another small plot of land from Isaac Bunker on the south side of the Public Road.
While residing in Plantation #7, William E. Foy built a house for himself and his new wife, Percentia W. Rose, a cook and housekeeper from Portland. Lelia Johnson, a local historian and author of Sullivan and Sorrento Since 1760 (1953) describes “Elder William E. Foy” as an “esteemed and beloved” preacher who held meetings in the local hall and schoolhouses.
Foy is buried in Birch Tree Cemetery on Tunk Lake Road in East Sullivan, just down the road from his home. He is buried next to his daughter Laura (d. 1863) and Percentia (d. December 24, 1908). His son Orrin (d. 1920), a fisherman, lived on an island off Schoodic Point before moving to Milbridge and marrying Bessie Roberts. Orrin and Bessie had many children.
William Foy’s tombstone is inscribed with:
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up
For me a crown of righteousness.
This summary draws upon genealogy work by Jeanne Edwards and Robert Potter at the Sullivan–Sorrento Historical Society.
For additional reading, see:
“The William Foy Story” by Mark Silk, published in Chebacco: The Magazine of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, 2019.
The Unknown Prophet, Revised and Updated by Delbert W. Baker.
This portrait is believed to be of Orrin Foy, William Foy’s son.
William E. Foy’s gravestone and Birch Tree Cemetery in East Sullivan.
In 1886, Clyde Hunt and some associates formed the Sullivan Harbor Land Company. They purchased 500 acres of land in Sullivan Harbor, hoping to sell property and make a good profit. In 1887-1888, they had built the Swiss Chalet Restaurant to attract summer people from Bar Harbor to Sullivan. Advertizing brochures contained information on the “Swiss waitresses in costume” and “the flotilla of Venetian sail boats always in readiness for guests.”
Realizing that there also needed to be a lodge for overnight stays, the Land Company built the Manor Inn in 1889, “in the style of an old English Inn.” Some guests were enticed by the promise of excellent hunting and fishing in nearby lakes. In 1894, Gov. H.A. Stearns of Rhode Island, who was staying at the Manor Inn, experienced “unparalled success fishing at Tunk Pond, 95 black bass was the result of his toil” as reported in the Bar Harbor Record of July 18, 1894.
In 1895, the Sullivan Harbor Land Company was in financial trouble. Dwight Braman took over the mortgage for the buildings and acquired the property by foreclosure. He did have trees cut on his woodlots. Even after his death in 1929, Mrs. Braman continued to summer at the Inn.
In 1937, it was announced that the Inn would no longer be open. Mrs. Braman sold the property in 1951. She died at her home in Newburgh, New York in 1955.
A video of the demolition in 2020 can be seen at https://youtu.be/5SnaTg2Nap4?t=194.
Sunrise on New Year’s Day from Pigeon Hill in Steuben. Did you know there was a silver mine on Pigeon Hill in the 1800s?
Happy new year!
At the Society, we are very excited to be planning some new programs in the coming months. These will be held virtually for the time being and in-person as soon as we are able to do so safely. As we plan and prepare our upcoming schedule, we would very much like your input!
You can complete our short survey here. Thank you for your time and for your support of SSHS. We hope to see you soon!
If you have any questions or comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Gary Edwards, SSHS President at 207-422-0995.
Seamus Schunk, 10, first spotted something unusual and distinctly metallic protruding from the ground in his backyard in April. He returned with a spade and started to dig, finding an old metal arrowhead. He quickly realized that there was an outline in stones on the ground and explored the whole area.
Over the following weeks, Seamus uncovered an assortment of artifacts, including parts to a cast-iron stove, an oil lamp, ball hitch, and various tools. One day, he used a metal detector, noted where it signaled, and unearthed more treasures! Upon making the discovery, Seamus recalls rushing into the house with excitement; his parents, who had been making dinner, went outside expecting just a couple pieces of rusted metal—but they were quite surprised at the things he had found!
For Seamus, who homeschools, the archaeology project became a big unit study. He and his parents, Tim and Brandi, worked to identify the artifacts through communication with the historical society and their own research. When Seamus unearthed a nearly intact glass bead necklace, they concentrated on learning more about glass bead necklaces, looking for the time period that they were made and most fashionable. On some items, they found names and inscriptions that led them to businesses to investigate for further context.
Seamus uncovered the vast majority of the artifacts within one area roughly 6 feet by 8 feet wide, and when he discovered a complete glass inkwell, he had to wonder: why would someone throw that out? If there had been a structure there, the wide selection of tools and various pieces of melted metal and charred wood suggest the possibility of a shed that burned down.
As Seamus and his parents dove deeper into the history of the place, they added the information that they could find about the property and its prior owners to the puzzle. Documents show that their house was either built in 1830 or 1880, depending on which digit is an error. From their neighbors, they learned that their house may have once been combined with a second house on the foundation of what is now a third house—and an early owner of the parcel may have run the quarry—before the houses split, moved, and settled where they are now.
For Seamus, the best part of the project is the joy of discovering new pieces. He spent all of his free time digging until fire ants took over the area in full force, and he says that he plans to start again as long as the ants aren’t there come spring. Further research about the property may be able to uncover a more complete picture of the people who lived there centuries before. In the meantime, the story behind the artifacts remains a mystery—and a reminder to keep our eyes open to other stories that may be lurking right under our noses just waiting to be uncovered.
If you are looking to uncover your own pieces of local history, the Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society is here to help. We are currently open by appointment only, and you can reach us at (207) 422-0995 or email@example.com.
September 2020–Raina Sciocchetti began working with the Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society Aug. 31 as the society’s Island Institute fellow.
Raina is a recent graduate of Unity College, where she majored in environmental writing and media studies with an emphasis in sustainability societies. She hails from a small coastal community in Northern California, where she “became more aware of its story of depleted natural resources, rapid changes and growing challenges.”
Raina’s work plan encompasses engagement within the region, including partnering organizations, local schools and citizens and Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society volunteers and members. The Historical Society has a wealth of artifact, archival and family history to share. Its goal is to use its resources to connect the community to the local, natural and human history. Raina also will be working to better organize and further develop the Urann Historic Home project collection.
Since 1999, the Island Fellows Program has placed college and master’s degree graduates in Maine’s coastal and year-round island communities for one to two years.
Fellowships provide an opportunity for recent graduates to apply their skills and gain experience helping to build sustainability within communities whose way of life and identity face many challenges.
Anyone wishing to participate in or support these efforts in any way is welcome to contact the Historical Society at P.O. Box 44 Sullivan, ME 04664, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 207-422-0995.