It is hard for people living on the mainland to
understand the contentment found on an island. . . . I couldn't put
into words . . . how terribly important it was to sleep on the island
with sea sounds encircling me. I couldn't explain how I looked forward
each morning to that first rush of salty air through my kitchen door,
to the early tour I take over the vein-like paths to the gardens . . .
-- Bernice Richmond, Our Island Lighthouse
Harbor, on the west side of the Schoodic Peninsula, near the entrance
to Frenchman Bay, was long a favorite safe harbor for mariners seeking
shelter from storms.
After a congressional appropriation of $4,500 in
August 1854, a lighthouse was built on the southern point of little
(about four acres, depending on the tide) Mark Island to guide vessels
into the harbor and to warn of dangerous ledges nearby.
Board announced in June 1856 that a fixed white light would be shown
from a fifth-order Fresnel lens, atop a white cylindrical brick tower,
37 feet above high water.
U.S. Coast Guard photo
Benjamin Maddox was keeper of Winter Harbor
Light from 1888 to 1896.
Photo courtesy of Merridee Marcus.
lighthouse went into service on January 1, 1857. Attached to the tower
was a wood-frame, one-and-one-half-story keeper’s dwelling, painted
brown. For many years, the station also had a fog bell with automatic
The first keeper was Frederick Gerrish, whose
father, Andrew Gerrish, was one of the early settlers of the community
of Winter Harbor. Frederick Gerrish lived at the lighthouse with his
wife, Susan (Hammond), and their eight children. Nathan Wasgatt
succeeded Gerrish as keeper in 1861.
it was located almost a mile offshore, the island was considered a
pleasant family light station. In its 76 years of active service, only
nine keepers and their families lived on Mark Island. The longest
tenure was that of Adelbert C. Leighton of Steuben, Maine, who served
from 1896 to about 1927.
Lighthouse Board reported that the station was “in good repair” in
1869, but just seven years later it was announced that the dwelling was
“decayed past repair.”
A new wood-frame, one-and-one-half-story house
was constructed in 1876, just north of the original dwelling. A
boathouse, 12 by 20 feet, was added built in 1878, and an oil house was
added to the station in 1905.
In August 1933, the light was
discontinued and replaced by a lighted buoy to the southeast. The last
keeper was Lester Leighton. In 1934, George Harmon of Bar Harbor bought
the property at auction for $552. Three years later, Bernice Richmond,
a writer and musician, and her husband, sociologist Reginald Robinson,
a sociologist, bought the island from Harmon for $2,000.
originally from Livermore Falls, Maine, had sailed many times as a girl
to Halfway Rock in Casco Bay. She had visited the keepers there and
witnessed raging seas break around the tower. “That is why I wanted a
lighthouse of my own,” she wroteexplained. Richmond wrote two books
about the years she and her husband spent on Mark Island: Winter Harbor and Our Island Lighthouse. In Winter
Harbor, Richmond described her first glimpse of the lighthouse:
each life there are but a handful of great moments and I knew this was
one of mine. I could not look hard enough or deep enough. I was
dreaming of something I had lived, or living something I had dreamed. .
No matter how
often I looked at the rugged shore line and the green of the island
where the oil house, the shop, and the boathouse stood, my eyes always
came back to trace the outline of the tower and the house. It was the
tower I loved most. It stood with its one small window gleaming faintly
and its black lantern silhouetted against the green of thickly wooded
Turtle Island half a mile beyond. It seemed to me to be standing like a
sentinel before our home, watching everything at sea.
joy of living in a harsh yet beautiful environment, close to nature,
consistently shines through in Richmond’s books.
In Our Island
Lighthouse, she wrote:
is hard for people living on the mainland to understand the contentment
found on an island. . . . I couldn’t put into words . . . how terribly
important it was to sleep on the island with sea sounds encircling me.
I couldn’t explain how I looked forward each morning to that first rush
of salty air through my kitchen door, to the early tour I take over the
vein-like paths to the gardens . . .
In the 1950s, the island was bought by Rene René
Prud’hommeaux, an author of children’s novels, including The Sunken Forest and The Port of Missing Men.
Prud’hommeaux’s wife, Patricia, wrote a children’s book about Mark
Island called The Light in the Tower,
published in 1957 under the name Joan Howard. The book tells the story
of a lighthouse much like the Winter Harbor Light, but in the book the
lighthouse is relighted as an aid to navigation thanks to a caring
After the Prud’hommeauxs, the island was owned for a time
by the playwright Gerald Kean. William C. Holden III, a financial
consultant, writer, and artist, bought the property in 1995, after it
had been unused for about a decade. “Panes were out in the tower,” he
said later, “there were birds living inside, and the roof leaked.”
who wrote several novels while he lived there, renovated the property
so that the lighthouse was in its best shape in years. “It was a labor
of love, an incredible life experience,” he said. Holden wrote several
novels while he lived on Mark Island. He renovated the property so that
the lighthouse was in its best shape in years.
He told a writer for the
Bangor Daily News,
“I don’t feel like I own it. I feel like a caretaker, like I am
entrusted with it. It’s a very special place.”
Holden sold the property in late 2004. The lighthouse can be
seen distantly from the loop road on Acadia National Park's Schoodic
Penninsula. It can also be seen from some of the tour boats leaving Bar
(This list is a work in
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.)
Frederick P. Gerrish (1856-1861); Nathan Wasgatt (1861-1866);
? Higgins (1866-1868); Amaziah Southard (1868-1870); Allen H. Cole
(1870-1876); James B. Wright (1876-1888); Benjamin Maddox (1888-1896);
Adelbert C. Leighton (1896-c.1927); Lester Leighton (1927-1933).