Lighthouses. Maine. Can anyone separate the two? They are synonymous. We see lighthouses on every one of our cruises. But during one of our cruises, we invite Pharologist Ted Panyatoff (has written 2 books about Maine Lighthouses and the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse) to entertain us with stories about the people that brought life to and protected life from these coastal sentinels.
The lighthouse shown here is the Eagle Island Lighthouse here in Maine. It is one of my favorites. Full disclosure: They are all my favorites. They all have stories. They all have human qualities that I admire. They were built, manned and maintained by real people. They are as authentic a piece of the history of New England as anyone can point at. Without the people behind these lighthouses, commercial sail in New England would not hold nearly the historic significance that it does. Schooners like Mary Day were the tractor-trailer trucks of the 19th century and the ocean was the highway. Imagine for a moment approaching the Maine coast from Boston at night or in a thick o’ fog. As we celebrate Maine’s bicentennial, this summer is a great time to reflect on the role that lighthouses played and continue to play in our maritime world.
Eagle Island Light was constructed of rubble stone and activated in September of 1838. Eagle I. encompasses 258 acres which means a keeper could keep livestock, a garden, go for hikes and cut firewood. Wages were $350 annually for the first keeper, John Spear who was far less than impressed by the construction of the light tower and keepers house. “Owing to the use of bad mortar, and want of care in the erection, the tower leaks in every direction – the whole inside being covered with ice during winter, and the stairs dangerous to ascend. The deck has been thrown up by the frost; and the arch supporting it has settled several inches by the yielding of the abutting walls. The whole tower is a rough and defective piece of work.” The attached keeper’s house wasn’t much better.
I can only imagine being a keeper at Eagle I. was not as bad as some stations given the “populated” nature of the island. Beginning in 1870 a one-roomed schoolhouse was established on the island where the keeper’s children could attend classes. That schoolhouse stands empty today. Supplies could be obtained at Deer Isle only a two-mile row; a weather-dependent endeavor for certain. Other populated islands, now summer residences only, were a stone’s throw away.
Then, as now, Maine’s island lighthouses remain pretty far away from the rest of the world. Their history captures my imagination. Maybe yours too? Join us this June 16th for a 4-day Lighthouse tour: https://schoonermaryday.com/lighthouse-cruises/
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.