History of Goose Rocks

Thanks to Carol Latta

By Jeremy D'Entremont
Goose Rocks Light was established in 1890 at the eastern entrance to the Fox Island Thorofare, a busy waterway between Vinalhaven and North Haven islands. The Fox Islands, over 50 in all, were named by explorer Martin Pring after the silver foxes that were common there.

Goose Rocks Light is a typical "sparkplug" style cast-iron lighthouse of the era, built on a round cast-iron caisson filled with concrete. The tower, which has three stories inside, originally had a fourth-order Fresnel lens. The tower was painted red until 1903; today the caisson is painted black and the tower is white.

Myrick Morrison was principal keeper from 1920 to 1938, between stints at Great Duck Island and Curtis Island lights. Morrison and his wife, Eva, had a daughter and four sons. Eva Morrison died in 1928, and the daughter, Frieda, took over housekeeping duties at the family's home at West Kent Cove in North Haven. Morrison's youngest son, Harold, was lost during World War II in the sinking of a Japanese prison ship, and another son, Norman, was drowned in a fishing accident off North Haven.

When he retired from lighthouse keeping in 1950, Morrison returned to live at North Haven, and he was welcomed as a "grand old gentleman" in a local newspaper article. Many of Morrison's descendants still live in North Haven.

Charles L. Knight became an assistant keeper at Goose Rocks in 1926. He told Robert Thayer Sterling, author of Lighthouses of the Maine Coast and the Men Who Keep Them, about his years there:

My stay at Goose Rocks was pleasant even though it was an isolated station where no one could get out and walk around on dry land. You have to get some kind of exercise and inasmuch as you have no place to run about you have to plan to go through some kind of calasthenics.

I enjoyed being on this character of light station for it gave me no worry about my family, as they were nicely located in a fine home on shore and well cared for. My eight day visit ashore with them was looked forward to every month of the year with much pleasure.

Jim Woods was part of the Coast Guard crew, circa 1959-60. He later wrote the following:

My first experience with lighthouses was on Goose Rocks Light. It sits on a rockpile -- no way to get aboard but via small boat. Personel and supplies came from Rockland on a 40-foot patrol boat. The lighthouse had a12-foot skiff and small outboard which we used to go to North Haven to get mail and food supplies. We had to lift the skiff and outboard engine after each use to the main deck of the lighthouse and secure it, as the tides were about 9-10 feet.

It was a three man crew, with one on liberty at all times. We had a wringer-type washing machine which was run by a lawn mower gasoline engine, Water was rainwater collected, or if the water got low we would be replenished via a buoy tender. Hot water had to be heated on the gas stove for bathing, etc.

The main light was run via battery and TV and radio by the same. We had to make radio checks on weather and other information with the Rockland Station on a regular basis. The fog signal was a large brass bell with a mechanism that worked on the same idea as a wind up watch. It had to be wound up every 4-6 hours during periods of fog. One man had to be up at all times to make weather entries in the log and log hours of light and fog bell operation. The toilet facilities where a one-hole affair which was discharged overboard. A normal tour of duty was two years or so. Local lobstermen kept us in lobster to eat. All in all it wasn't bad duty, as no one was after your job.

The light was automated in 1963. After automation, for a time there were local people, called "lamplighters," employed to control the fog signal at the lighthouse.

According to Samuel Beverage of the North Haven Historical Society, "Alton Calderwood and his wife, Annie, also Elmer Carver and daughter Marion (Carver) Hopkins served as lamplighters. They lived at Little Thoroughfare not far from the light and were aware of the fog conditions."

The Fresnel lens was removed; there is currently a modern 250 mm optic. The light is now solar powered.

The lighthouse was expected to be turned over to the town of North Haven or a local organization under the Maine Lights Program in the 1990s, but there were no applicants.

In June 2004, it was announced that the lighthouse would be transferred to a suitable new owner under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.

The only application was rejected, so the lighthouse was sold by the General Services Administration by sealed bid. The high bidder was Beacon Preservation, Inc. of Ansonia, Connecticut. Ownership was officially transferred in November 2006.

Goose Rocks Light remains an active aid to navigation and can be seen distantly from Vinalhaven and North Haven. You can also see it on cruises offered by Old Quarry Ocean Adventures of Stonington.

Keepers: Ira D. Trundy (1890-?); Leo Gillis (assistant, 1890-?); Angier W. Tapley (1896-1899); Charles A. Doliver (1899); Albert Reed Mills (c. 1910 Arthur R. Miller (1899-1912, intermittent); Henry Wilson, assistant (1904); Charles E. Barber, assistant (1904); Alonzo Morong (assistant, 1905-1906); Marmal Newman (assistant, 1906-1907); Clarence D. Wallace (assistant, 1907); Clarence W. Guptill (assistant, 1907); Nelson L. Kelley (assistant, 1908-1909); George P. Merritt, assistant (1909-1911); Myrick Morrison (1920-1938); Asa Smith (assistant?, c. 1922-1926); Charles L. Knight, assistant (1926-?); Raymond Morrison (assistant, ?-c. 1936); Harold Kilton (assistant 1936-?, later principal keeper); Arthur Hill (assistant, later principal keeper, c. 1930s); Roy Manchester (substitute Coast Guard keeper, died in service 1940); Shannon Balke (Coast Guard officer in charge, 1954); Jim Woods (Coast Guard c. 1959-1960); Kirt Calvert (Coast Guard c. 1959-1960); Alton "Tonny" Calderwood (civilian "lamplighter" after automation, 1963-?); Elmer Carver (civilian "lamplighter" after automation, 1963-?)

If you have any further information about the keepers of Goose Rocks Light or their dates of service please contact us at info@beaconpreservation.org

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