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Indian Island Light
Rockport, Maine
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History
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any images or text from this website without permission of the author.

Rockport was once part of the town of Camden, which previously encompassed a much larger area than it does now. A community called Goose River Village grew up on the shores of what is now known as Rockport Harbor. A saltworks was established at the entrance to the harbor in the early 1800s, and shipbuilding, ice export, and lime kiln businesses soon developed.

Goose River Village’s name was changed to Rockport in 1852, in recognition of the town’s development into one of the nation’s great lime producing centers. Limestone quarried nearby was processed in kilns that operated around the clock, and the lime that was produced was an important ingredient in building construction far and wide. A disastrous fire in 1907 crippled the town’s lime and ice industries.

Seven-acre Indian Island, off Beauchamp Point at the east side of the entrance to the harbor, was named because local Native Americans took refuge there during the French and Indian War. The island was sold to the U.S. government for a light station by Silas Piper for $25 in 1849, and Congress appropriated $3,500 for a lighthouse. Although it was never located at Beauchamp Point, the station was often identified as the Beauchamp Point Lighthouse in early documents.

old photo of lighthouse
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Established in 1850, the first lighthouse consisted of a lantern mounted on the roof of the keeper's house. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1856. The light was discontinued in 1859, but it was reactivated and a new lighthouse tower was built in 1875 for $9,000. The station consists of a square brick tower attached to the original 1 1/2-story T-shaped keeper's house.

The first keeper, David Sargent (or Sargeant) served for only about a month. The second keeper, Silas Piper, had sold the property to the government for a sum of $25 just a few months earlier. The station always had one keeper who lived on the island with his family. William McLaughlin succeeded Piper in 1853, and Richard Grinnell served as keeper from 1857 to 1859.

A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1856, replacing the original multiple lamps and reflectors. In 1857, the Lighthouse Board issued this statement:

Beauchamp Point light-house is situated two miles south of Negro Island light-house, in Penobscot Bay. On account of its nearness to Negro Island light-house, it is of no use to the general navigation of the bay, and it is of but little use to the village near which it is situated, the commerce of which is small. Its discontinuance is respectfully recommended.

The discontinuance went into effect in 1859. With the flourishing lime industry in succeeding years causing an increase in the local traffic, the Lighthouse Board reconsidered the decision. Congress appropriated $9,000 for the re-establishment of the light in 1874, and the Lighthouse Board announced that the light would go back into service as soon as the building could be put in order.

The 1875 annual report announced:

Upon an examination of the premises it was decided to renew the wood-work of the old one-and-a-half-story brick dwelling, repair the walls and foundation, increase the accommodations by a frame addition 16 feet square, and erect a brick light-house tower.

Work progressed quickly after the appropriation, and the light was re-established on January 15, 1875, by Keeper Joseph Small. The keeper who followed Small in 1881 was Knot Crockett Perry, was the son-in-law of John Grant, keeper at Matinicus Rock. Perry served at Indian Island until his death in 1894.

Foster Reed, previously stationed at the Maine lighthouses at Halfway Rock Light and the Cuckolds, was the keeper from 1925 to 1933. His granddaughter Barbara frequently spent weekends and vacations on the island, according to an article by Diane Roesing O'Brien in Lighthouse Digest. "Just the minute school was out, I was down there," she said later.

According to Roesing, "Barbara never remembers being lonely on the island. There wasn't a tree on the island in her childhood, and she wandered the beach, looking for things or digging clams. She played with [her] grandparents' dogs, especially a brown spaniel named Pal." Barbara also enjoyed sounding the station’s bell to greet the large steamship that passed by each day on its way between Boston and Bangor.

Indian Island Light was discontinued in 1934 and replaced by an automatic light on nearby Lowell Rock. The lighthouse property has been privately owned ever since.

Right: Joseph Small, years after his stay as keeper of Indian Island Light, with his wife, Annie Wentworth Small, and twin grandchildren. Courtesy of Ellen Guest.

Jospeh Small with wife and grandchildren

old photo of lighthouse

The beautifully maintained lighthouse can be seen from Rockport Marine Park and other spots on shore, but it is best viewed from schooners and other excusion boats out of Rockport and Camden.


Keepers (Thanks to Ted Panayotoff for his help with this list): David Sargeant (August-September 1850); Silas Piper (September 1850-April 1853); William McLaughlin (April 1853- May 1857); Richard Grinnell (May 1857- August 1859); Joseph Small (January 1875- June 1881); Knot C. Perry (June 1881- May 1894, died in service); David S. Arey (June 1894- December 1902); Edmund Coffin (December 1902-1914); Charles E. B. Stanley (1914-1921); Leroy S. Elwell (1921-1925); William Foster Reed (1925-1933).

Last updated 1/17/12
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any images or text from this website without permission of the author.

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