Sept. 24, 2018: The Portland Press Herald reports that a small, private Casco Bay island once owned by Arctic explorer Robert Peary is for sale.

Crab Island, the property in question, is about a 10-minute boat ride from Freeport, just beyond the mouth of the Harraseeket River. It has two sandy beaches and a two-bedroom cottage with a large stone fireplace, two wells and a septic system.

LandVest listed the 1-acre property in August for $950,000. It had not been on the market for 65 years.

Peary (1856-1920), a Bowdoin College graduate who led an expedition to the North Pole in 1909, bought a string of small islands in the bay. He offered $800 for Crab Island – the equivalent of about $22,200 in 2019 – although it’s not clear that’s what he paid for it.

The Peary family sold the island in the 1950s.

Crab Island in Casco Bay Photo by Francois Gagne

Another spot the Pearys owned, and one of far greater significance to them, is Eagle Island, just south of Harpswell. The Pearys’ former summer home there is a national historic landmark and open for tours in the summer.

Peary was born in Pennsylvania, but his mother was from Maine. She moved back with him when he was still a young boy, after Peary’s father died.

Peary sailed on Casco Bay often when he was a teenager at Portland High School. He camped on Eagle Island then and made up his mind that it would belong to him someday.

About a decade later, long before his Arctic adventures, he bought it.

The Eagle Island home of Adm. Robert Peary sits atop a water-lapped ledge in this photo taken before some repairs were made.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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