Captain Alexander Milliken, the first and longest-serving keeper of Maine’s Moose Peak Lighthouse, was a 5th generation descendant of Scottish immigrants Hugh and Eleanor Milliken. He was born in 1771 in Scarborough, Maine, a son of John A. and Abigail Milliken. Married in 1795, he had seven children with first wife Sarah Munson Milliken who died in 1834. By 1838 he had married much younger Michal Robbins, born in 1811. There were three more children with Michal.
Little information has been found on Alexander’s first approximately thirty-four years, but they prepared him well for responsible roles in marine affairs and public service over the next fifty. By 1808 he had relocated from Scarborough to Frankfort, Maine, on the Penobscot River, probably arriving by November 1805 when his name appeared on a list of licensed Hancock County “innholders and retailers of spiritous liquors.” The 106 ton schooner Martha, of which he was the recorded owner, was built there the following year.
Obviously energetic, ambitious and drawn to politics, Alexander Milliken seems to have been well educated and probably possessed of a persuasive, maybe forceful, personality. The record shows a full resume of farming, postmaster, political and legislative duties, but marine commerce probably remained his primary focus until at least 1827. In that year he was appointed keeper of the new Moose Peak Lighthouse, Mistake Island, Jonesport, Maine, foggiest location on the east coast.
Political meetings convened at the Frankfort “house of Alexander Milliken, Esq.” were reported in 1809, 1812, 1818 and 1821. The 1812 meeting was held July 4th by a group of Frankfort Republicans of which Alexander was a member. The United States had declared war on Great Britain on June 18th. The product of the meeting was an address with three resolutions. It was directed to President James Madison and the Congress and carried a strong, patriotic message of support. Copies of the resolution were sent to the Boston Patriot and Eastern Argus (Portland), and were published.
A privateer captain during the War of 1812, Alexander Milliken was prizemaster of the British letter-of-marque brig Kutussof, captured April 24, 1814 off the Azores by the Baltimore privateer schooner Surprise. After a chase of several hours, the two vessels had fought a close engagement before the British captain surrendered. Alexander brought the valuable prize in to Frankfort where vessel and cargo were condemned as lawful prizes of war and sold.
Late in 1814, Alexander commanded the armed schooner Fame whose manned tender took the British schooner Industry from a Castine-bound convoy in a cutting-out operation off Mt. Desert Island during a heavy November snow storm. He brought the prize in to Thomaston where she was condemned; then to Boston where the cargo was sold at auction; and finally to New York for sale of the vessel itself.
In an earlier incident of the war, he was the unidentified but probable owner and captain of the merchant schooner Alexander of Frankfort, captured June 11, 1813 by the British privateer Retrieve. Before reaching Halifax under a British prize crew, the Alexander was recaptured by the now legendary New York privateer Young Teazer, and taken in to Portland.
To mock the British and in parody of a proclamation by General Sir John Sherbrooke, Lt. Governor and later Governor of Nova Scotia, Alexander Milliken issued his own proclamation November 17, 1814. This announced his personal recapture of the eastern Maine seaboard from the Penobscot to Passamaquoddy Bay, the same area proclaimed captured and blockaded by Sherbrooke. He went ashore at Machias and nailed his proclamation to the flagpole at the fort then in putative possession of the British.
Alexander represented Frankfort at the General Court in Boston, House of Representatives, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for at least the political years 1808 through 1812 and in 1815. He also served in 1812 as one of four justices of the Hancock County Court of Sessions, and as Frankfort postmaster in 1808 and 1811, and again in 1819.
Alexander was a delegate and signer at Maine’s 1819 constitutional convention. After statehood in 1820, he served as an elected member of Maine’s House of Representatives for at least the political year 1822. In July, 1821, “Alexander Milliken, Esq. of Frankfort” presided as President over a Castine convention of Hancock County Republicans, held to ballot for and recommend to the voters the candidates for Governor and other elective state offices.
By an 1822 act of the Maine legislature, Alexander Milliken and two named others, with their “associates and successors,” were incorporated “into a body politic” to be known as the “Frankfort Meeting-House Corporation,” for the purpose of “erecting and keeping in repair a meeting house in the Town of Frankfort.”
Sons Alexander, Jr. (1799-1873); Samuel (1802-1830); and William (1810-1830) also became mariners. Captain Samuel and his brother William were lost at sea together in 1830. Captain Alexander Jr. lived until 1873.
Two vessels named Alexander Milliken were built at Jonesport while Alexander was at Moose Peak Light, a 144 ton schooner in 1846 and a 176 ton brig in 1848. A second brig Alexander Milliken, 186 tons, was built at St. Andrews, NB, in 1863. These three vessels continued to carry Alexander's name into many Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies ports long after his death. The Jonesport brig was lost in 1869, found abandoned at sea, and in 1872 the schooner went ashore at Nauset with two lives lost. How or when the St. Andrews-built brig ended her days has not been learned. Between the two brigs, reported arrivals in 23 east coast and Carribean ports under 12 different masters have been found, many of them multiple visits.
A 37 ton schooner George, built at Eden (Bar Harbor) in 1831, was temporarily registered at Machias in 1838 with Alexander Milliken as Master. Considering Alexander Sr.’s lightkeeper status, the captain might have been Alexander Jr. The possibility also suggests itself that this small schooner may have been employed as a lighthouse tender under Alexander Sr.
During Alexander’s 1827-1849 Moose Peak tenure, two petitions were presented and read by Maine representatives in his behalf (partially quoted in italics below) in sessions of the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives:
January 5, 1829. “... the petition of Alexander Millikin [sic], of the State of Maine, keeper of the light-house on Moose Island Peak [sic], praying for an increase of compensation.” This was referred from the Committee on Commerce to the Secretary of the Treasury, eventual resolution not found.
January 10, 1831. “... a petition of Alexander Milliken, keeper of the light-house on Moose Peak Island, praying that an out-house may be erected for his accommodation.” It is hoped that the urgency was recognized and a timely resolve passed and acted upon.
Alexander Milliken left lighthouse service in 1849 at about age 78 after 22 years as keeper of the Moose Peak Light. By 1850 he was a mariner again, living with wife Michal and four young children in Falmouth, near his Scarborough birthplace. Apparently a farmer and mariner there for the next five years, he died in Falmouth, Maine in 1855 at age 84. Still in Falmouth in 1870, Michal was sharing her home with a nine-year-old boy, perhaps a grandson. She died in Portland in 1876 at about age 65.
This story appeared in the
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