“To sail a sloop…from Kittery Point to Quoddy Head, in all kinds of weather, is not a small undertaking. To…call on families on isolated islands, visit the lightkeepers and the lifesaving stations, is a task of greater magnitude.”
– First Annual Report, Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society, 1906
The Maine Seacoast Mission took on its “task of greater magnitude” when two Mount Desert Island pastors and brothers, Alexander and Angus MacDonald, first sailed a small sloop called Hope to islands and lighthouses along the Maine coast, intent on relieving the desolate conditions they often found there. As a pastor in Bar Harbor, Angus was connected to many of the wealthy rusticators of Mount Desert Island. He successfully solicited their help in funding the Hope and its charitable endeavors, and the Maine Seacoast Mission was born in 1905.
From the start, the Mission provided access to medical and dental care, spiritual support, education, and crisis services. The first of the Mission’s ships named Sunbeam was commissioned in 1912, and it soon began bringing books, supplies, church services, and pastoral care to Maine islands, lighthouses, and the isolated coastal communities of Hancock and Washington counties. The Sunbeam transported the very ill to hospitals, and provided basic health care and vaccinations.
In 1916, the Mission hired a teacher for the children living in the many lighthouses along the coast, and the Sunbeam served as their classroom. In 1918, Sigma Kappa, a sorority founded at Colby College with long ties to the Mission, funded the first of what would come to be thousands of Mission scholarships.
A house and 60 acres of land along the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield were donated to the Mission in 1964, leading to the development of the Weald Bethel site and a permanent center for the Mission’s work in Washington County. The EdGE program, an innovative youth development program, was launched in 2002, and the EdGE building was constructed on the Downeast campus in 2006.
From the beginning, the Mission’s administrative headquarters have been in Bar Harbor. Tristram and Ruth Colket donated their beautiful Bar Harbor home to the Mission in 1972 along with an endowment for its upkeep. Known as Colket Center, this 1902 mansion housed the Mission’s central offices, and served as a venue for the Mission’s Mount Desert Island outreach and weddings, concerts, and art exhibits.
With the blessing of the Colkets, the Mission sold LaRochelle to the Bar Harbor Historical Society in 2019 in order to use funding from the sale to enhance its many programs and to relocate its office to Northeast Harbor. The Mission is a tenant in a larger building complex owned by Mount Desert 365.