Two buildings are among the significant items of Ellsworth Historical Society’s holdings: the largely unchanged 1886 Old Hancock County Sheriff’s House and Jail, between the Ellsworth Library and Hancock County Courthouse, and the early 19th-century Chamberlain-Hopkins House in Ellsworth Falls. While the Old Jail is under renovation, many of the our collections have been relocated to the Chamberlain-Hopkins House. When the jail re-opens we will emphasize the lives and stories of many of the inmates who were incarcerated in 16 windowless granite cells as well as the sheriffs who raised their families in the connected home.

Chamberlain House when used as a rooming house.
Old Jail when donated to Ellsworth Historical Society.

Local family papers and photographs as well as correspondence are significant among our collections. Some include diaries, daybooks, and artifacts. Many items in these collections document life on the Union River and in its associated industries of lumbering, shipbuilding, and working in the many mills along the river, which ceased with building of the 1907 hydro dam. We have extensive items related to Ellsworth merchants who rapidly built stores, lodging houses, churches, and schools to serve the needs of the large workforce and their families.

Two especially significant collections of glass plate negatives document the interests of Rev. David Yale, Congregational minister in Ellsworth just before the turn of the twentieth century, and William Henry Titus, editor of the Ellsworth American in the early part of the twentieth century.

Union River mills (1890s), David Yale glass plates.
Circus parade, W. H. Titus glass plate negatives.

Floods, freshets, and fires are well represented, as they deeply changed the lives of people who lived and worked here, culminating in the devastating fire of 1933 which leveled most of the town. Afterwards, most owners rebuilt with brick.

Other industries and pursuits, well represented by tools and artifacts, include the pharmaceutical and medical collection of the Parcher family, which had three generations of physicians and pharmacists (see header image); an extensive collection of blacksmith tools from a local practitioner; and items associated with florist and painter M. A. Clark. The Worcester family donated an extensive collection of 19th-century women’s clothing.

Many items in our collections have roots and associations well beyond Ellsworth to Mount Desert Island and to the rural towns of Hancock County. We look forward to making connections with other cultural institutions throughout the region to deepen and enrich our shared stories!

Holly is a retired National Park Service archivist and local historian with a strong interest in digital humanities. She is Ellsworth Historical Society's Recording Secretary and Archives and Collections Committee Chair.