The culvert where Breakneck Brook crosses under Route 3 in Hulls Cove includes old stonework. A sawmill built by Edward Brewer in the early nineteenth century used to be here, and before that it was an important source of fresh water for European ships and native communities, according to H.G. "Skip" Brack. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

New marker celebrates historic ‘Breakneck’

BAR HARBOR — H.G. “Skip” Brack, proprietor of Liberty Tool Co. and the Davistown Museum, installed a new historical marker this year in the near Breakneck Stream in Hulls Cove.

“It’s been on my mind for awhile,” Brack said. “I call it a word sculpture.”

Adding to the sights to see in a stroll around the sculpture garden and the Tool Barn near the intersection of Breakneck Road and Route 3, the marker includes a nautical chart of Frenchman Bay and historical information about the long human history of the “Breakneck Hollow Historical Site.”

Projects of the Davistown Museum, he said, are funded from Liberty Tool’s sales of used and historic tools. The tool company includes the Tool Barn in Hulls Cove, Liberty Tool in Liberty, Captain Tinkham’s in Searsport and an online store.

The spot was a gathering and trading hub for Native Americans and French traders, Brack said, both because of access to fresh water in the stream and because of a footpath leading to Northeast Harbor that later became Breakneck Road.



Native Americans came here in the summer to harvest shellfish, he said. “This was the landing point, partly because the creek has the only fresh water easily accessible in the summer when it’s dry.”

The trail that became Breakneck Road, Brack believes, led to sites where today there are large shell heaps, left by Native Americans who harvested and consumed oysters and clams. “There were two big shell heaps, one at Manchester Point in Northeast Harbor and the other at Fernald Point in Southwest Harbor. They were used for three or four thousand years.”

The trail that follows Breakneck Creek became the main overland route to Northeast Harbor in the 1820s, Brack said. Folks dubbed it Breakneck some time later, he said, because of one very steep rise near where the road crosses the stream. Many serious accidents were reported there in the nineteenth century, apparently, when carriages were trying to navigate that hill.

While the town owns the right of way under the dirt path, which is popular with mountain bikers, most of the land around Breakneck Road between Hulls Cove and the Eagle Lake Road is now part of Acadia National Park.

More recent history of the property that now includes the Tool Barn and sculpture garden, included a shipyard and sawmill.

The red Edward Brewer House, next to the Tool Barn, was built in 1817, Brack said.

“He started building ships here that year,” he said. “He was one of the largest shipbuilders in Eastern Maine at the time.”

The culvert where the stream passes under Route 3 is visible from a lookout point near the new marker. Some of the stonework there dates to a sawmill also built by Mr. Brewer, Brack said.

“The sawmill covered up the watering hole down in the woods here for about 50 years,” he said. It was likely dismantled around the time of the Civil War. There may also have been a cement-making or other industrial facility a short distance upstream.

Brack and the Davistown Museum have released a new book on Native American history, including some of the information posted on the Hull’s Cove marker. “Norumbega Reconsidered: Mawooshen and the Wawenoc Diaspora, the Indigenous Communities of the Central Maine Coast in Protohistory, 1535-1620” is available at the Tool Barn and at Sherman’s in Bar Harbor.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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