Brooksville Legacy: “One Morning in Maine”

The Bucks Harbor Market is Brooksville’s only store. Butch and Janice Czerwinski have owned it since 1989.

The legacy of “One Morning in Maine,” the children’s book about an island family’s trip to the nearest town, has lived on for many years in Brooksville.

Brooksville wasn’t specifically named in the book by Robert McCloskey, but people and places mentioned were identifiable. Fifty years after the book was first published (1952), the people of the peninsula town are still answering questions about it.

Today, the 87-year-old McCloskey is a resident in the Parker Ridge retirement community in nearby Blue Hill. He stopped meeting the public a few years ago after too many people asked for autographs for their grandchildren. As for the young Sal who lost her tooth in the book, she lives locally, as Sally McCloskey, in Deer Isle. She is active in bay preservation issues.

As for Brooksville, the town hasn’t changed much from the picture painted in “One Morning”: It is still idyllic and sleepy.

It’s an isolated place, surrounded on three sides by water. One main road loops around, a combination of Route 175 and Route 176.

There are five distinct villages, and Cape Rosier, highlighted by Cape Rosier Road, is the one set apart from the main portion of Brooksville. The other villages that give Brooksville its rural character around the loop are North Brooksville, West Brooksville, South Brooksville and Brooksville.

Bucks Harbor, in South Brooksville, draws the tourists in search of the Condon’s Garage that is so prominent in “One Morning.” It’s also where they find the town’s single store, the Bucks Harbor Market.

But the town’s other drawing card – and the main reason for all the traffic in summer — is the state-owned Holbrook Sanctuary. Park Manager Phil Farr says as many as 18,000 visitors a year enjoy its old roads and paths along shoreline, marshes, ponds and forests. It was created after Anita Harris, a long-time area resident, donated the acreage in 1971 to the state. She wanted “to preserve for the future a piece of the unspoiled Maine that I used to know.”

That’s not too hard a task in the town, because Brooksville exudes an old-time feeling. There are 911 residents living here, many in farmhouses on land that generations before them owned.

One of them, Clifford Leach, has served as a selectman for 42 years.

The town’s second selectman, Richard Bakeman, belongs to a family with lineage in Brooksville going back to the Revolutionary War era.

Once, Bakeman says, the town had as many as 500 children in its schools. But that was in Civil War times, when the population was 1,500 and the town sent 129 men to the Civil War.

Now, Bakeman says, “We don’t have more than 125 or 130 kids in the grammar schools or of high school age combined.”

A dozen years ago, there were just 760 people living in Brooksville. That is nominally up from a population of 753 in 1980, according to the census.

But these newcomers in the last decade blend in with the locals just fine.

“The town really hasn’t changed much, because everyone still knows one another,” Bakeman said. “Even the ones who move in get acquainted—they have someone to be a caretaker when they’re not here. It’s still a close-knit community.”