- The city of Calais (the local pronunciation rhymes
situated midway between the equator and the North Pole, was an
important lumber port in the nineteenth century. Maine’s first
railroad, the Calais Railroad, chartered in 1832, carried lumber from a
mill on the St. Croix River two miles to Calais. Today, although its
population is less thanunder 4,000, Calais remains the center of
Beginning on July 15, 1892, a fixed red
light was displayed from a lantern hung from a tree on the American
side of the St. Croix River, near Calais, to serve local navigation.
The 1894 annual report of the Lighthouse Board explained the rationale
for the light:
- A light was needed
at this place to enable the
steamers, plying between Eastport and Calais, and especially towboats,
to make the difficult turn at the Narrows, a few hundred yards above
Whitlock’s Mill. The Canadian Government maintains two lights on the
left or Canadian bank of the river, and another light was needed on the
right or American bank to make the navigation safe at this difficult
U.S. Coast Guard
1902, the light was displayed from a post. A proper lighthouse and
keeper’s dwelling were finally constructed in 1909–10. The lighthouse
is named for a local man, Colin C. Whitlock, who tended the lantern
that preceded it. Whitlock also owned a mill nearby, hence the name
“Whitlock’s Mill.” Local legend has it that his wife often had to tend
the light, as Whitlock was said to drink to excess on many an evening.
U.S. Coast Guard
- The new round brick tower had a fourth-order Fresnel
exhibiting a green light. The interior of the 25-foot-tall lighthouse
is lined with white ceramic-faced brick, a distinction shared with very
few lighthouses. The tower was painted red until 1914, when it was
changed to white. The L-shaped, one-and-one-half story, wood-frame
dwelling, about 100 feet from the tower, has seven rooms. A small oil
house was built about 300 feet from the lighthouse.
first keeper, Frank N. Jellison, stayed until 1920. Jasper Cheney,
keeper at remote Libby Island for 16 years, came to Whitlocks Mill as
keeper in 1949. “It was the first land station he had been assigned to
where we could all live together all year long,” his
daughter, Ella Cheney Robinson, later wrote. Ella’s wedding, as
well as the wedding of her brother, Roland, took place at the light
to Ella Robinson, her parents worked hard to make the light station a
place of beauty. Despite the lighthouse’s isolated location, according
to Ella, “Many, many tourists visited in the summer and all agreed that
it was just breathtaking with all the flowers in bloom and the
Jasper Cheney retired from the Lighthouse Service in 1957 because of
the last Coast Guard keepers was Boatswain’s Mate Chief Russell Reilly.
His young daughter, Kelly, always enjoyed following her father around
the station as he performed his duties.
She later recalled
fond memories of riding through the snow in a sled pulled by her father
up the hill to the road to pick up the mail. They would both ride the
sled downhill back to the lighthouse.
Right: Jasper Cheney, keeper at Whitlocks Mill Light 1949-57. Courtesy
of Ella Cheney Robinson.
The keeper's house
light was automated in 1969 and the Fresnel lens was removed. In the
1970s, the station was leased to the Washington County Vocational
Technical Institute. Under the Maine Lights Program, ownership of the
lighthouse was transferred to the St. Croix Historical Society in 1998.
keeper’s house and other buildings are privately owned. The property
was last sold in the fall of 2004. A 1931 pyramidal wooden fog bell
tower also survives at the site; the bell from the station is now on
display at the St. Croix Historical Society.
The fourth-order Fresnel lens is now on display at the Maine Lighthouse
Museum in Rockland.
lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation. At present, the grounds
are not open to the public. The lighthouse can be viewed from the St.
Croix River View Rest Area on Route 1 in Calais. The rest area is
announced by a "Rest Area 1,500 ft" sign from the south. The view may
be largely obscured by trees in summer.
In the spring of 2009, a new VLB-44 LED optic was installed. It runs on
The oil house, once used to
store kerosene for the light
A 1931 fog bell tower also
survives at the site
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does
so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and
Frank N. Jellison (1909-1920),
Aaron Tucker (?), Frank B. Ingalls (1923 to at least 1935), Alvah
Robinson (1945-1947), Jasper L. Cheney (1949-1957), Russell Reilly
(Coast Guard, c. 1960s)