Story of the Westport Ferry from Ed Cromwell - (taken from LCNews)

Westport ferry is memory of century

Libby Lorusso

The Westport Ferry

Ed Cromwell of Westport will be 92 in March and has many memories of this century to relate. A lot of those memories are of the ferry that used to connect Westport Island to Wiscasset.

"A scow was the first ferry boat," he said. "It would take two model Ts across. Charles Colby built it. It came across on a wire that you pulled on. All my growing up we had the old scow. Passengers used a horn to signal that they wanted to go across.

Ed Cromwell

"I lost a car overboard once with my sister Nellie and my brother-in-law in it. I got my sister out before the car sank but my brother-in-law went down in 40 feet of water. He was drowning and there was nothing we could do because none of us could swim.

"He finally kicked himself out and came to the surface. I reached out with a pole and brought him onto the scow. They said later he was down 3 1/2 minutes. He was a minister but that experience ruined him for preaching.

"Another time a car pushed me overboard. I was cranking up an old Ford. We were about halfway across but it was cold so we wanted to be sure it would start. I cranked it and the man hit the clutch instead of the brake and it jumped ahead and knocked me into the water.

"I never could swim but I could float and I got to shore. Father laughed a lot after he got me ashore. He said, 'You didn't even get your hat wet.' He was some tickled because he was getting ready to jump in after me and he couldn't swim either.

"I lost a horse and lost a man,too - Maurice Lewis."

Cromwell remembered some of the ferry men: Grant Whitten, Fred White, Horace Lewis, John Cromwell and Charlie Eugene Cromwell. "Charlie Eugene was a distant, distant relative who was ferry man a good many years," Cromwell said. "He was a poor old, hard-working fellow."

Cromwell said the ferry operated until the causeway was dedicated in 1950. "There was a $350,000 bond issue. The state, county and town all put money in on it.

"Change started in the minute we heard we were going to be able to build the bridge," he said. "People stopped moving off and started coming back. They kept coming until now there's too many of them."

Before the bridge, Westport Island had a winter population of 45 to 50 people, Cromwell said. "There are 800 year-round now," he said.

But the causeway "plugged up the river and made the water warmer so they made them take out the fill and put in the new bridge, 20, 25 years ago." Other memories

Cromwell also remembers before the Carlton Bridge between Bath and Woolwich was built. "They had a real nice ferry boat with side paddle wheels and heated state rooms." Cromwell used to take a horse and wagon from Westport to Bath to peddle vegetables and apples. He walked across the Carlton Bridge when it was first built.

Westport used to have four schools for first through eighth grades, he said. He went to the one on the North End. Students went to Wiscasset or Bath for high school. "Teachers were paid $7 or $8 a week and had to pay board out of that," he said. "Most of them were about 18 years old. My friend Sam Soule's sister was my first teacher. She lived to 103."

Cromwell also attended school in Woolwich. "I was working on a farm there. I done the chores in the morning, then went to school. One day I saw this pretty little girl standing by the teacher's desk. I can see her now, dark hair, blue eyes. I asked a girl where the teacher was and she said that girl was the teacher. My heart went fluttery-flutter. I liked her and she liked me too. We were good friends. Her name was Mildred Brawn."

Cromwell remembers the first airplane he ever saw. "It flew right over my house and there was a man sitting out on the struts. I remember when Lindbergh flew over, too. When we heard about it, we thought we all would hear his plane. And we thought we did too."

Cromwell has been married to his wife, Jennie, for 71 years. The couple operated a snack bar near their home, Bayside Oaks, from 1958 to 1978.

Cromwell was interviewed at MidCoast Hospital, Brunswick, where he is currently a patient.