Country Store Museum display sparks memories of another time

The Tremont Historical Society’s secretary and former president Muriel Davisson shows security window, metal post office boxes and other features of the former Tremont Post Office that opened in 1849 and was located in West Tremont village. PHOTO BY ALLEN FENNEWALD

Everything has a story behind it at the barn-red “Country Store,” now home to the Tremont Historical Society.

Located on the Shore Road, Perry W. Richardson operated the general store — in the heart of Bass Harbor village — selling staples such as sugar and molasses as well as marine supplies — from 1878 into the 1920s.

Since 1964, the white-trimmed, clapboard building has served as a repository for more than 1,000 historic pieces, documents and photographs reflecting the rich history of the Mount Desert Island town of Tremont’s five villages that include Bass Harbor, Bernard, West Tremont, Seal Cove and Gotts Island.

Most of the museum’s collection was contributed by local residents seeking to share and protect their heritage.

“I think [locals] really feel connected with [the museum],” volunteer docent Kathie Pratt said. “It makes them feel rooted and gives them a sense of home.”

Admiral Richard E. Byrd was said to have favored extra-strong Bokar coffee to take on his Arctic expeditions.

A one-horse sleigh is displayed in front of a wooden dollhouse, featuring miniature upholstered furnishings, was built by hand. An old hutch contains a built-in flour sifter while flapper dresses adorn the walls.

“There’s always something in here that strikes a chord with someone,” Pratt said.

Opened in 1849, the Tremont post office, formerly located in West Tremont, is on display. Visitors can see the old metal post office boxes and peek through the barred security window at the scales, wood-handled ink stamps and other hardware used to process and delivery the mail.

For 27 years, Eleanor Murphy stood behind that security window working as the last West Tremont postmaster. Murphy, who has three daughters, was appointed to the position at age 45 because she was a hard worker and lived nearby.

“I got that postal manual, and I read it day and night, just like you would the Bible,” the 91-year-old former postmaster related.

Mail and money were sorted by hand, leading to a bookkeeping debacle two weeks into the job.

“It came to closing out the quarter, and of course you weren’t supposed to be one penny off. Well, I was 5 cents off,” she said, recalling her dismay. “I wracked my brain and wracked my brain. Finally, after probably two nights of not sleeping, I found where the 5 cents were. I had a money order that was supposed to have 45 cents and I [recorded] 40 cents.”

Murphy said her small, far-flung post office differed starkly from the all-business post offices of today. Hers was a gathering place where locals socialized and tourists asked about good restaurants. Rising at 5 a.m., she added freshly made coffee and scratch blueberry muffins to her customer services.

If someone couldn’t pick up Christmas packages, she delivered them after work.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “[The post office] was the heart of the community, years ago.”


The Country Store Museum is open by appointment year-round and 1-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, July 1 through Columbus Day. The museum is located on the Shore Road in Bass Harbor. For more info, call 244-9753 and visit www.tremontmainehistory.us/

Allen is an intern for Out & About Magazine and a University of Missouri graduate student, studying investigative and convergence journalism. He was formerly a long-form community beat writer and sports editor/page designer for the Columbia Missourian.