In the 1830s, dozens of vessels were built and launched in the towns of Columbia, Columbia Falls, and Addison, all on the Pleasant River. The area was busy with coastal trade and the export of lumber, granite, and fish.
The dwelling was leaky and the walls were cracked on three sides. The colored glass placed in front of each reflector to create a red light absorbed more than half the light, according to Lewis. He recognized the light’s importance in his report but found much lacking:
Nash Island light is at the mouth of Pleasant River bay, and serves as a mark to find that and other harbors of the vicinity, as also the western entrance to Moose-a-bec reach, the common thoroughfare of the coasting trade. This light is too low by 50 feet, as Wass’s island hides it from the northeast quarter completely, where its effect would otherwise be very useful. The navigation here is exceedingly hazardous in thick weather, owing to the numerous sunken ledges. Twelve lamps are required here
An inspection report in 1850 sang the praises of the keeper,
John Wass: “The keeper has been a sea captain, and knows how to keep
his ship in order, and likewise how to sail her. I regard him as one of
the best of light-keepers, in the care of the establishment of which he
has charge.” According to the report, the buildings had been newly,
whitewashed, repointed, and repainted.
The lighthouse's original lamps and reflectors were replaced by a Fresnel lens in 1856. Major repairs were made to the original lighthouse, but the tower was rebuilt in 1874. The 51-foot square brick lighthouse still stands. In 1888, a bell tower with a 1,000 pound fog bell was added. Reportedly, before the bell, a Chinese-type gong was used as a signal.
Osmond Cummings, a native of Jonesport, was keeper from 1902
to 1910. In April 1904, Cummings phoned word to the authorities that a
fleet of torpedo boats was making its way through Pleasant Bay. A while
later, after the fog lifted, Cummings called again and said that the
supposed fleet was actually a pod of humpback whales. As word spread, a
frenzy of whale hunting ensued and two of the whales were killed by
For a while, there were enough children living on the island for a small school to be put in operation withestablished and taught by a teacher from the mainland. When they reached high school age, the children boarded and attended school in Jonesport. Purington’s daughter Genevieve, better known as Jenny, was not quite four when she arrived at Nash Island.
At 13, Jenny briefly went to school on the mainland, but the other children taunted her. She later said that the children thought the Puringtons were millionaires, which was far from the truth. Purington made $35 a month, later raised to $50. After she quit school, Jenny started lobster fishing full- time. In 1928, she saved $49 in a cigar box and used it to buy a car—a 1918 Hutmobile.
One year, when she was a teenager, Jenny painted the lighthouse tower by herself. There was “always something to do,” Jenny later recalled. Polishing brass was not her favorite chore. “Didn’t I hate that!” she said later. “You had to do it every other day.”
The family never lacked for food, with; their own animals, includeding turkeys, pigs, cattle, chickens, and geese, and there was were plentiful fish and game were plentiful around the island. According to Jenny, her father shot 42 birds on his forty-second birthday. Ducks would be frozen in a galvanized tub in the winter, and the meat was canned in summer. Jenny and others in her family also hauled lobster traps around the island. One thing they didn’t eat was mussels, which they believed were poisonous. The children would try to find pearls in the mussels, and one of the Purington boys fashioned a mussel pearl ring for an aunt.
A tender periodically delivered coal, oil, and other supplies, and twice yearly the district superintendent came for an inspection of the station. Purington was once awarded a star for being the “best-dressed” keeper in the district.
Jenny Cirone (1912-2004) was a very popular local resident, and it was largely her inspiration that has led to strong interest in the preservation of Nash Island Lighthouse. A video documentary about Jenny has been produced, called "Jenny's Island Life." You can purchase the documentary (specify VHS or DVD) by sending $25 to:
Keepers: (This list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)
John Wass (1847-1853); Daniel Curtis (1853-?); Enos D. Wass (1865-1872); Edwin K. Heath (1872-1876); Nehemiah Guptill (1876-1881); Roscoe G. Lophaus (1881-1883); Charles S. Holt (1883-1902); Osmond Cummings (1902-1910); Allen Carter Holt (1910-1916); John Purington (1916-1935); Edwin Pettegrow (Pettegrew) (c. 1935); Larson Alley (?-1947); Edward Wallace (1947-1958).