CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Moose Peak Lighthoouse

     The body of water known as Moosabec Reach, off the northern Maine coast about halfway between Bar Harbor and Eastport, separates Jonesport from Beals Island and several smaller islands. The name “Moosabec” is believed to have had its origins in an Abenaki Indian word, possibly meaning “moose head.”

     Why the name was applied to the reach isn’t clear, but a number of spelling variations have appeared through the years: Mispecky Reach, Moose a Becky’s Reach, Muspecka Rache, Moose Peak Reach, and others. The name of approximately 30-acre Mistake Island, about four miles south of Moosabec Reach at the southwest side of the entrance to the shipping channel known as Main Channel Way, appears to be another corruption of “Mooseabec.” Mistake and several nearby islands were sometimes collectively referred to as the Moose Peak Islands. 

     Congress and President John Quincy Adams authorized the building of a lighthouse on the east point of Mistake Island, about five miles from Jonesport, in March 1825. Three acres of land were purchased for the station at a cost of $150.
The light served to guide mariners to Moosabec Reach and Beal’s Harbor to the north, and to guide direct coastal traffic heading east to the Bay of Fundy. The station was established for $3,955.60 in

     A 24-foot-tall round rubblestone tower was constructed by Jeremiah Berry, and a rubblestone dwelling was built 297 feet from the tower. The lighthouse was topped by a wrought-iron lantern, seven feet high, with a copper dome. A wooden footbridge made it possible to walk across a chasm between the house and the tower.

     The first keeper, Alexander Milliken, purchased the remaining 17 acres of Mistake Island for $75. He asked for, and received, a pay raise in 1829 because of the station’s isolation.

     Milliken was still in charge at $400 yearly when I. W. P. Lewis examined the station for his report to Congress in 1843. Milliken complained that the house was out of repair; the kitchen wall had cracked away from the main building, the house walls were cracked in several places, and the pointing between the stones had fallen away. Rain and snow entered through the walls of the house in storms.

     During a storm in February 1842, the lantern deck of the lighthouse was thrown out of level and the mechanism that turned the lighting apparatus was stopped. In a storm three years earlier, the high seas had washed away the footbridge and nearly destroyed the lighthouse.

     Joshua Walker was appointed keeper, succeeding Milliken, in October 1849. The condition of the station hadn’t improved by the following year, when an inspection report recommended the rebuilding of the tower and dwelling. In 1851, Luther Jewett, superintendent of Maine’s lighthouses, reported that a fissure in the tower had left it leaning to the west. The keeper had spent ten nights in a row, with another person, turning the lighting apparatus by hand.

     The records are vague, and some sources claim that the tower was repaired and not rebuilt in 1851. A letter from a contractor named S. Emeson, dated September 20, 1851, seems to confirm that the tower was rebuilt that year. Emeson’s letter was addressed to “Mssrs. Grose & McLaughlin, Moose Peak, Light Builders.” Emeson wrote (original spelling retained):

     I send all the lantern & all the belongs to it when you are ready to put it up. . . . Mr. Jewett sais it must be ready to light on the 1 of next month. I am to have the old Lightning Rod for the new tower. . . . I have got now the Best lantern for Moose Peak there is or ever was in this State.
The lighthouse was fitted with a second-order Fresnel lens in 1856. The tower developed cracks in the years that followed, apparently because inferior mortar was used in the 1851 construction.

     Some sources claim the tower was rebuilt in 1886, but the 1888 report of the Lighthouse Board is ambiguous:

     As a special appropriation for building this tower was made by the act approved August 4, 1886, an iron watch-room, a modern second-order lantern, and a flight of iron stairs were made and erected upon the tower in August and September.

     It appears that the tower may simply have been repaired and raised in height with the addition of, and a taller lantern and watch room added.

     Charles R. Dobbins was the keeper from 1887 to 1905. In 1898, after Dobbins and his son rendered “gallant assistance” to the crew of the Nova Scotian schooner Ashton, the keeper was awarded a gold watch by the Canadian government. Dobbins couldn’t accept the gift until he was authorized to do so by an act of Congress.

     By 1901, the keeper's house was in disrepair. Two years later, a new two-family house was completed and linked to the lighthouse tower by a walkway. For most of its history, the station had a keeper and one assistant, both of whom lived on the island with their families.  Life was usually harmonious, but there were times when the island seemed too small.

     In 1887, the local inspector wrote to the chairman of the Lighthouse Board that the “wife of the Principal Keeper and his grown up daughters” used “the vilest possible language” toward the assistant keeper and his family, visitors, and even toward the principal keeper himself. The principal keeper, Thomas Dodge, was soon removed and the assistant, Charles E. Dobbins, was promoted.

     Mistake Island is one of the foggiest locations on the Maine coast. In 1912, a fog signal house was erected with a powerful diaphragm fog horn. The signal had to be sounded for 181 consecutive hours in 1916.

     During the period from 1918 to 1934, the keepers at Moose Peak Light logged more hours of dense fog than any other Maine light station. The island averaged 1,607 hours per year, meaning it was foggy about 20% of the time.

     Tragedy struck the station in May 1920. The principal keeper, Henry C. Ray, and the first assistant, Maurice R. Beal, were attempting to land their dory on the island when the two men were tossed from the boat by the heavy seas. Ray scrambled back into the boat but was thrown into the water again when the boat capsized. Meanwhile, the second assistant, Harry E. Freeman, pulled Beal to safety. The tide quickly pulled Ray away from the island, and he disappeared in the waves within view of his wife and the other keepers.

     Albion Faulkingham was keeper for several years in the 1920s. He and his wife, Lucy, had three daughters. Their daughter Florence gave birth to a child, Albion "Tuddy" Kenney, on March 17, 1924, while on a boat headed for the mainland from Mistake Island.

     Moose Peak Light was automated in 1972 and the last Coast Guard keepers were removed. The Fresnel lens was replaced by a plastic optic. The dwelling was almost sold to a private party, but the high cost of a sewage system that would meet Environmental Protection Agency standards caused the sale to fall through.

     In 1982 a military team blew up the keeper's house as a training exercise. The Maine State Historic Preservation Officer had given his OK, saying that the 1903 house didn't have any particular historic value and it was in poor condition. The demolition didn't go exactly as planned. Stephen Perrin wrote in the Island Journal: About midnight a Coast Guard cutter carried 21 men . . . out to the vicinity of Mistake Island off Jonesport. Towing 500 pounds of TNT and some composition explosive in a rubber raft, an assault team swam to the landing site around 0500 and 'infiltrated' the vandalized dwelling. The exercise then went into an 'administrative mode' and classes were held in the art of demolition. The charges had been placed so that the walls would implode into the building, but as it turned out the timbers flew outward, breaking panes in the lighthouse lantern and damaging the helicopter pad.

     In recent years, a nonprofit group called Keepers of Moose Peak Light worked to gain ownership with the goal of restoring the lighthouse. The lighthouse was offered to a suitable steward in 2010-11 under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and an application was submitted by Keepers of Moose Peak Light. The application was not approved, so the lighthouse was auctioned to the general public along with the boathouse and  5.89 acres of land. (The fog signal building remains under Coast Guard ownership.)

     The auction ended on October 31, 2012, with a high bid of $93,500. The high bidder was Donald J. Vaccaro of South Glastonbury, Connecticut.

     The remaining 23 acres of Mistake Island, apart from the lighthouse property, is managed by the Nature Conservancy. Moose Peak Light, still an active aid to navigation, can be seen distantly from Great Wass Island. It is best seen by private boat or from the air.

     CreditsI would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont, webmaster of,, for sharing the above history.  Jeremy is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England.  To view a story on him, go to, (Jeremy D'Entremont).  

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