Digest>Archives> April 2005

One woman’s memories of twenty-five years on isolated Maine stations


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Vintage photo of Maine’s Manana Island Fog Signal ...

The following story is taken from a 1938 interview by Esther Averill with the wife of Eugene W. Osgood. Since it gives an interesting description of life at isolated stations, we thought this small part of history should be shared with you, our readers.

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A Maine lighthouse-keeper and his family have a pretty comfortable life, according to Mrs. Eugene W. Osgood.

The Osgood’s have lived in various Maine lighthouses for the past twenty-five and more years. They have raised a family of five healthy children; and have taken a hand in bringing up nine grandchildren. They are both hale and hearty, and would not give up their life for any other kind. They began living in lighthouses at Halfway Rock. The station is about halfway between Portland Head Light and Seguin Island Light Stations. It is called one of the most isolated of our lighthouses and one that is most severely hit by storms. From this location they were first sent by the Federal government to Isles of Shoals Lighthouse in New Hampshire, off Portsmouth, equally isolated.

For fifteen years they were stationed at the Manana Fog Signal Station, a small rock islet just off the coast of Monhegan, Maine. Once more we find the Osgood’s on a lonely spot. From here they went to Perkins Island Lighthouse on the Kennebec River near Bath and are now living beside the lighthouse tower at Fort Popham, Maine, also on the Kennebec River.

Because of the closing of many lighthouses the exciting rescues made by lighthouse keepers are mostly a thing of the past. During the years the Osgood’s have been in the service they have had only occasional opportunities for performing outstanding deeds. Most of their work has been to keep the lights and signals in order so as to prevent accidents from occurring. They have also kept their home open as a refuge for those in need of help.

They have acted in various emergencies, which have arisen in the isolated communities in which they have dwelt. While at Manana Fog Signal Station, Mr. Osgood acted as sort of combined doctor and nurse for the people of Monhegan Island when the regular doctor from the community of Bristol, on the mainland, was not to be had. Mrs. Osgood likes to tell of the broken arm her husband set and the infected with gangrene which he cared for until the regular doctor could be reached. According to her, a man must be a sort of jack of all trades if he is to be a successful lighthouse keeper. Her husband is such a man.

Some thrilling experiences

The few thrilling adventures that the Osgood’s experienced are spoken of in such a matter-of-fact way that one hardly realizes how exciting they really must have been. It was all in a days work for them. While at Manana, off the coast of Monhegan Island, they saw barge founder and sink with all hands lost. They could do nothing to help as the barge was to far away from them to reach it in time and it was also inaccessible because of the rocks.

While at this same station Mr. Osgood risked his life to go into the water after a girl who had fallen overboard from a boat. When he brought her ashore she did not respond to first aid treatment and was pronounced dead.

At Parker Head Dam Mr. Osgood again risked his life, this time successfully. He rescued an aged sailor from drowning. Mr. Osgood spied an oar bouncing about in the water in a strange manner. He got his glass and looked more carefully. Then he saw a bald-head bobbing beside the oar. He hastened to the rescue of the drowning man and saved him. This was quite a feat as Mr. Osgood is slight and the man weighed nearly 300 pounds.

At Perkins Island Mr. Osgood took a party of 19 when their boat grounded during a terrific storm. The people heard the signal bell and cried out for help. Mr. Osgood, ignoring the storm, went to their rescue. He got them to the lighthouse where Mrs. Osgood dried them out and fed them. Although a sick boy was among the passengers nobody suffered from the experience, thanks to Mr. Osgood.

Harrowing Ordeals.

The Osgood family have had some exciting times of their own. While on the Isle of Shoals Lighthouse in New Hampshire they had a storm that was so severe that the ocean spray got into their water supply and ruined it. Fortunately the storm died down before they began to suffer from lack of fresh water.

Twice, cases of appendicitis have stricken members of the family and the sufferers had to be taken to the mainland for treatment. Once this happened when they were stationed at Manana Fog Station. It is a 12-mile trip to the nearest port from the island.

There was a severe storm when a daughter of the house fell ill. The father gave her bromides to quiet her during the night. The next morning he braved the storm and took the sick child in his boat to the mainland. It was a harrowing experience and one the family would not care to live over again.

This story appeared in the April 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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