Population and its Ties to Industry

In 1789 St. George and Cushing were incorporated as the Town of Cushing. Even at that time, St. George's population exceeded that of Cushing. In 1790, St. George's population was 578. In 1800 it was 886; in 1810, 1127, in 1820, 1325; and then it generally increased until the 1880s.

Fluctuations in population reflect the economic activities in the various decades. The earliest settlers derived most of their cash income from cutting cordwood and shipping it to Boston, where there was a constant demand for firewood. At least four tidal mills were operating around 1800 for sawing lumber and grinding grain. From the beginning many men were engaged as sailors and captains. It appears that almost every family was engaged in some small-scale farming.

Granite quarrying began in the 1830s and soon several large operations in Town provided employment for hundreds of men. Over sixty vessels were built in Town during the 1800's, and when both quarries and shipyards were operating, population peaked at near 3,000 in 1880.

The granite industry brought in immigrants who have given St. George a population mix quite different from that of neighboring towns. By the time of the Civil War, there were numerous Irish workers in the quarries. In the 1870's, skilled stonecutters and paving cutters came from Great Britain; the English settling mainly at Long Cove and the Scots at Clark's Island. Finnish quarry workers began arriving in the 1890's. They seem to have replaced the Irish, who, with few exceptions, moved elsewhere, probably during the labor troubles of the early 1890's. Large numbers of young Swedish paving cutters arrived between 1910 and 1930. Most of the Swedes moved away as the granite industry declined in the 1930's and 1940's. The last quarry to operate in town, Hocking Granite, at Clark's Island, ceased operations in the early 1960's.

The fishing industry predates the settlement of the town. Probably some of the first settlers from the westward had been here earlier to catch and dry fish. Fish were a staple in the local diet, and fish were exported along with cordwood. According to the late Albert Smalley, a cannery was operating as early as 1859 at Port Clyde. Lobsters were canned, giving impetus to the lobstering industry which still survives. Clams were canned well into this century, and a sardine factory operated until it burned September 24, 1970. A facility for cleaning, grading and shipping mussels opened at Long Cove in 1982 and employed 70 people until going out of business in 2008.

As early as the 1880's, summer visitors, or "Rusticators" were coming to avoid the city heat, and their grand summer "cottages" began sprouting on some of the choice shorefront by 1900. Until about the 1960's there were but few people "from away" who lived in town year round. Since then, prosperity throughout the nation has enabled retirees to move here to enjoy the relative tranquility the town affords. Newly arrived younger people with families, often professionals or skilled workers, reside in St. George and find employment in Rockland. This influx of well educated, politically active and (compared with older residents) more economically aggressive individuals, has brought marked change to the town.