23. Gosport Remembered: The Last Village at the Isles of Shoals

Edited by Peter E. Randall and Maryellen Burke, Ph.D.

Gosport Remembered 2017


During the nineteenth century, the Isles of Shoals became one of New England’s most popular summer resorts. Many of America’s leading authors, artists, musicians, and politicians flocked to the islands both to enjoy the scenery and to associate with famous poet Celia Thaxter whose family owned the large Appledore House. This era has been well documented in numerous books, exhibits, and film.

Lost in the history of this unique artist’s colony are the local residents, the fishermen and their families who lived year around on the wind swept islands scraping out a living from the sea. Few photographs show the homes and fish houses of these people, fewer still show the residents themselves. The village of Gosport as it was known came to end in the early 1870s when hotel interests bought the property of the remaining Shoalers. The people moved to the mainland, ending more than 200 years as a permanent community. Most of the houses were torn down or incorporated into various hotel buildings. The people have been forgotten.

In 1995, Peter Randall happened upon a collection of previously unpublished photographs of the Isles of Shoals. These unique images of primarily Star Island in the mid-nineteenth century show some of the residents together with their homes, fish houses, and boats. Here are views of a little village of fishing families documenting a way of life once common along the coast, now vanished. Many of the building owner’s are identified, providing valuable research data for historians and others interested in the Isles of Shoals.

Few of these fishing families left any written description of their life on the islands. Fortunately many visitors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Henry Dana, John Jenness, Samuel Adams Drake, and Dr. Henry Bowditch, wrote about and published commentary on the islanders. Celia Thaxter, her brothers Cedric and Oscar Laighton, missionaries, and others also wrote extensively about the people and their way of life. The text for the book has been taken from these writings, which, together with the photographs, tell for the first time the story of the rugged men, women, and children who were the last residents of the islands.

7×10 Softcover, 160 pages, illustrated, ISBN 0915819-30-9 $20