SURRY — Today, Surry’s shoreline is picturesque and largely residential, but in the 1800s it bustled with activity.
Many Surry men earned a living as ship captains or crewmen, fishermen or shipbuilders. Over 70 vessels were built at Surry’s three shipyards. Local timber harvesters and farmers relied on sailing ships to deliver their goods to faraway ports and the ships carried necessities and luxuries such as molasses to town. The village once had six working wharfs on inner Patten Bay. Only the town wharf is still in use but look closely enough and you can see the remains of the others.
“Some of them are better preserved than others,” explained John Curtis, president of the Surry Historical Society and guide for the newly launched “Ghost Wharves of Surry Village” walking tour.
The historical society and Surry Celebrates Maine 200 group had a busy summer schedule planned to honor Maine’s bicentennial and Surry’s own history. Then the pandemic hit. Among the slew of cancellations, the groups managed to salvage one event: the walking tours.
The free tours (donations welcome) began this past Saturday and will be offered throughout the summer. Dates and times will vary. The tours must be held at dead low tide and can take up to two hours. Waterproof boots and a walking stick are recommended for the 1.5-mile trek over muddy, rocky terrain. Masks and social distancing are required. Participants must pre-register. Groups of 10 meet at the town landing. For information on upcoming dates, visit the Facebook or web pages of the historical society or Surry Celebrates Maine 200 or call 667-4877.
Curtis tracked down and photographed the ruins of the wharves and assembled an informational booklet about them.
“History isn’t any good it it’s in a closet or filing cabinet — you have to bring it out into the community,” he said.
Tour participants will be able to see stone and wood remains of the wharves and associated structures. They can also expect to see wildlife, especially birds including eagles, osprey, ducks, sandpipers, kingfishers and great blue heron, said Marie Merkel, chairwoman of the bicentennial committee, who is helping lead the tours.
Curtis said he hopes the tours jog area residents’ memories and prompt them to unearth more old photos and historic objects to enhance the historical record of Surry’s rich maritime history.
Another of the historical society’s successful projects this year was a bicentennial activity book for all ages.