One cruising guide calls Frenchman (not Frenchman’s) “Maine’s most dramatic bay.” It apparently was named by an English sea captain in 1674, and known before that by an Indian name that has been spelled a variety of different ways, one of which was Douaquët. (Another, just to give you an idea, was Adowaukeag.)
The linguist Fannie Eckstorm translated this word as “ground rising from the water,” which most people assume means the mountains of Mount Desert Island. Eckstorm herself, however, thought this referred to the tidal falls south of the Hancock/Sullivan bridge on U.S. Route 1.
Many people also assume that the ‘Frenchman’ of Frenchman Bay is the explorer Samuel de Champlain. (Another candidate is a man named Nicholas d’Aubri who went for a walk along the shore in the early 1600s and got lost for eighteen days.) It seems more likely that the term took hold at the end of the 17th century, during the English/ French conflict known as King Willam’s War, because French warships often assembled in the bay.
During the first half of the 19th century Frenchman Bay was home to fishing boats as well as ships carrying timber and granite for export. Starting in the 1870s, ferry traffic increased as summer visitors came Down East ‘from away,’ and today — in addition to all the lobster boats — this trend continues as many tour boats cross, and cruise ships anchor in, the bay.
Fun Fact: At the time of the Revolutionary War, the population living around Frenchman Bay has been estimated at 650 people.