In addition to farming, there has been a robust history of small industry and commerce in South Blue Hill. Probably the largest and best known industry was the canning business operated by the Farnsworth Co, and later, the Sylvester Co.– at the South Blue Hill Wharf. In 1914, Farnsworth bought into the clam packing company owned at the time by the Eastern Steamship Co. It was enlarged to include sardine packing facilities and to care for the increased business. According to a 1920 newspaper article, there were 70 people employed in this facility where mackerel, sardines, shell fish and crustacean were processed. Between April and November, sardines were brought in from weirs in the bay and over on Long Island. To be added: detail on the process of canning in Chris Robertson’s report. The cans of sardines were stored on the wharf until steamships (and “tramp steamers”) came in to pick them up. To be added: pictures of both canning factories and engineering layouts of the buildings. These canned products were shipped from the South Blue Hill dock to customers all over New England. The canning factory also processed clams. Men would dig up the clams and then the men, and sometimes children, would shuck the clams. Women in the community would cut off their “heads” and put them in cans that would then be picked up by the truck from the canning factory. Men were paid 20¢ an hour, 10 hours a day. Women received 30¢ a crate. The factory burned down in November 1920 and was never rebuilt. To be added: Names and positions of many of those who worked at the factory.
Smelt fishing, notably by Charles Eaton who fished in South Blue Hill (Salt Pond) and in Surry (Patten Stream), began in the winter. Folks from South Blue Hill ould take their tents up to Surry and drag them out on sleds near the mouth of the stream. It was not unusual to see 40 brightly colored tents close together when the smelt were running. The smelt were brought back home, packed in wooden boxes and then tacked shut and shipped out of the state to the rest of New England.
The core fishermen in the 1940’s & 50’s were Hobart Duffy, George Duffy, Charles Eaton, Ronald Gray and Walt “Doc” Woods who fished from the South Blue Hill wharf. Seth Hodgdon and his son fished from the Sand Point.
Lobstering was and still is a major source of income for the fishermen of South Blue Hill. In the old days, you wouldn’t see a blue boat because that was considered “bad luck”. The South Blue Hill Fishermen sold lobster to small boats from Stonington. Gus Heanseler, and later Walter “Doc” Woods bought local fishermen’s lobster and opened The Barnacle (lobster shack) in partnership with Fred Astbury.
The Town of Blue Hill took control of the South Blue Hill Wharf when the Eastern Steamboat Co. went bankrupt.