The History of Ogunquit


The now picturesque village of Ogunquit was not always as hospitable to its settlers and visitors as it is today. The area near the ocean was rough, hilly and rocky; not the kind of land on which to erect houses and the like.

Hence, settlers mostly congregated near the Josias River a bit further inland. The Josias emptied into the ocean through a rocky, non-navigable channel, forcing fisherman to moor their boats in a cove that was open to the ocean. This unsheltered anchorage forced them to pull their boats up onto the beach at night to protect them from the high seas.

The fisherman figured that if the Josias River simply emptied into the cove, their lives would be made a lot simpler. Banding together under the name "Fish Cove Harbor Association", the fisherman obtained the land between the river and the cove. They waited until an especially high tide, and went to work digging a ditch clear across the land.

This sent a torrent of water "with a roar that could be heard up to Pine Hill" shooting through their ditch, and nature's indomitable forces quickly eroded it away to form a channel, which they dubbed the Ogunquit River.

Man and nature worked together to create more favorable living conditions for these first fisherman, and the economy began to pick up speed as a result of it. In the 1880s, a bridge was built across the channel, allowing summer visitors access to the beach.

The first Post Office in Ogunquit was established in 1879, the first library in 1897, and around the turn of the century street cars came to the little hamlet. Ogunquit as a tourist attraction was born.

After a developer begain selling lots on the Wells and Ogunquit beach in the early 1900s, Ogunquit residents feared their beach, which was considered something of a public park, would soon become a playground for the rich only. The town government, by act of the Legislature, in 1923 was given the right of eminent domain to acquire the beach, and it has been operated as a public park ever since. As of 1938, it was one of only two public beaches in the state of Maine.

Josiah Chase gave the gift of the marginal way to the town in 1923. It is a mile long walk along the rocky shore, complete with benches, with breathtaking views of the ocean and the sky, two of nature's most fantastic creations.

Ogunquit, which had been part of Wells, became a town by way of an act of the State of Maine Legislature in 1979. Today, this artistic, tranquil New England town welcomes thousands of tourists each year.