This island is the second largest non bridged island with 522 acres, behind Bear Island which has 780 acres. And yes the island did have cows.
Shortly after the War of 1812 the owners of Cow Island, who resided at the time in Dover NH, sent Paul Pillsbury to the island. He erected several buildings on the island including a grist mill on the highest peak of the island, as it was wind powered. The mill itself was 40’ high and three stories tall. The timbers to build the mill were hewn on the mainland and brought across the ice. The mill was very popular for grinding flour and feed for cattle as it was the only mill in the near vicinity. The mill stood for 90 years and was destroyed in a bad storm about 1902. In 1935 the New Hampshire Guernsey Breeders Association built a replica of the mill and there are some pieces of the original mill within the replica.
Guernsey cows were brought to the island in 1831 by Captain Prince. He had seen the cows at the Isle of Guernsey and brought over two heifers and one bull. These were the first recorded Guernseys in the United States and even though initially there were only the three, the herd eventually grew to 40 and this farm became known as a very productive dairy farm.
The island was home to a boys camp, Camp Idlewild, from 1920-1975. At the time of its closure in 1975, it was the longest continuous running private boys camp in the US. The camp had 200 acres and horse trails all over the interior of the island. It was a daily stop for the mailboat, Sophie C, delivering mail to the campers. There were many activities for the campers and as a kid, I remember seeing the horses being brought out on the barge from Harilla Landing. The parents also had the opportunity to rent a cabin on nearby Little Bear Island for an overnight stay, this area on Little Bear still looks relatively the same as it did in the 1970’s. The main camp, however, became an association and many fine summer homes are now built here.
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