An illuminating event at Hendricks Head Lighthouse
The Aug. 15 “Keep the Light Burning” fundraiser toward restoring the Burnt Island Light was a huge success. Ben and Luanne Russell graciously opened their Hendricks Head Light Station for 150 people to tour. Attendees came from near and far for the unique opportunity to visit a privately owned lighthouse — one that continues to serve as an active aid to navigation under the U.S. Coast Guard.
The non-profit organization Keepers of Burnt Island Light and its dedicated crew of volunteers offered an exceptional learning experience for the evening. Posted around the grounds and throughout the buildings, interpreters shared historical facts and photos from 1829 to the present, adding a unique touch to the social event.
In the keeper’s dwelling, Penny Pollard, Peggy Racicot and Diane Randlett welcomed visitors to the beautifully decorated residence. They provided tales of the former lighthouse keepers who served from 1829 to 1933. Visitors who scanned a commemorative wall-plaque of the 12 keepers discovered a strong local presence in the names Pierce, Orne, Pinkham and Marr. Of these, father and son Jareul and Wolcott Marr are well-known in the book of lighthouse history. They not only kept the light burning at this station for 64 consecutive years, but the latter holds the distinction of being born, married, and dying in that house.
Upon exiting the dwelling, Southport resident Jack Bauman was eager to teach people about the history of Hendricks Head. Posted along the white picket-fence, a timeline of photographs helped him tell the story of its origin and changes over time. Visitors were surprised to learn Nathaniel Hendricks sold the property to the government in 1829 because it was perfectly aligned with Seguin Light. If mariners maintained a straight path between the two, they would safely enter the Sheepscot River and avoid several dangerous ledges.
At the base of the 39-foot, square, brick tower, Howard Wright spoke about the duties of former keepers. Positioned in the storage area near the top of the tower, Dave Racicot informed visitors about the keeper’s brass tools and the woes of keeping them polished. The final climb into the lantern room found Ken Fitch on duty where he explained about the early lamps and Fresnel lenses used over time. Those who made it to the top were also rewarded with spectacular views up, down and across the Sheepscot River.
After visitors left the lighthouse, they found the adjacent bell tower was manned by Hal Marden, a knowledgeable gent who had once researched and constructed a scaled-model of Burnt Island’s bell tower. He shared information about the structure, as well as the bell-striking mechanism that once made the fog-signal operational. He also shared childhood memories of the sounds of fog bells that once helped guide passing vessels.
Legendary stories about the baby in the mattress and the flat-iron ghost were offered by Desiree Genthner, while Jeffrey Browne shared his own family’s connection to Hendricks Head Lighthouse as it was his grandfather who purchased the property from the government in 1935.
In addition to knowledge gained, attendees enjoyed the beautiful setting, one another’s company, great food prepared by Mine Oyster, 10 Lewis Ale (Burnt Island’s signature beer) donated by Boothbay Craft Brewery, and the lively tones of Ben Betts on the steel drums.
The Keepers of Burnt Island Light are truly appreciative to all who made the event possible, including local businesses for their donations of hors d’oeuvres and desserts, tables, tents, facilities, and door prizes. Special thanks also go to parking attendants Eric Marden, Bruce White and Bob McKay, and to the numerous volunteers who offered their services before, during and after the event.
As the sun set over the Sheepscot River, local residents and friends from away joined the Russells in sending a strong signal of support to the Burnt Island Lighthouse – one that will help restore it in time for its bicentennial in 2021.