History

 

Hendricks Head Light Station

        The Hendricks Head Light Station was commissioned in 1829 on a wind-swept point on Southport Island near Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  The rocky promontory overlooks the mouth of the Sheepscot River and the Atlantic Ocean near the Cuckolds Light and affords a view of the Sequin Island Lighthouse.  The site was perfectly located to allow the meager power of the first whale oil-fired light to define a safe course through the many treacherous sunken ledges that had taken the lives of so many bold mariners as they attempted to enter the broad mouth of the Sheepscot River from the open Atlantic.

         In 1875, the present 40-foot-high brick lighthouse tower and a separate wooden keeper's house were constructed to replace the original structure.  In 1890, a fog bell tower was erected and the Station was eventually comprised of the light tower, keeper's quarters, the bell tower, a boathouse, a whale oil storage house and a barn, which supported the spar for the Station's Stars and Stripes. 

        From 1829 to 1933, twelve different keepers of the light and their families lived at the Station.  Each individual had a unique story but none more touching than one that occurred shortly after the Civil War.  During a blinding afternoon snow squall in March, a schooner "fetched up all standing" upon a rock ledge one-half mile seaward from the Hendricks Head Light Station.  The frantic keeper and his family were unable to launch the Station's dory due to the fury of the crashing surf and were forced to watch helplessly as the doomed sailors frantically climbed the rigging of their sinking ship.  Fleeting glimpses through the increasing fury of the snow squall revealed a macabre scene:  the showering spray and howling, sub zero winds had frozen each human "hard to the ratlines" in a clear coat of solid ice.  Moments later, a thundering upheaval swept away all traces of humanity. 

        As darkness fell, the grief-stricken keeper, in an irrational attempt to "save something", waded into the cruel sea to fetch a "curious bundle tossing lightly in the tumultuous sea".  Alas, he had rescued a bundle of feather mattresses.  To his utter amazement, however, the muffled cries of an infant emanated from the ice-incrusted package.  Inside was a sea chest containing a carefully wrapped baby and a poignant note revealing that the captain and his wife had "committed their daughter into God's hands."  The keeper and his wife, who had recently buried their only child, rushed the infant into the house, warmed her by the open fire, nursed her back to health, and adopted her as their own. 

        Due to the great depression, the Coast Guard was forced to decommission the light in 1933, and in 1935, the Station and the entire peninsula were sold to a Dr. William P. Browne of Connecticut.  Gradually, however, local coastal commerce gradually increased, prompting the need to reactivate the light and in 1951, Dr. Browne allowed the Coast Guard to automate and recommission the light.  The automated electric light required no supervision, and Dr. Browne continued to use the keeper's house as a summer cottage.  Hendricks Head Light thus has the distinction of being the only Coast Guard operated lighthouse in Maine that is privately owned in its entirety. 

        In 1976, Dr. Browne's daughter, Mary Charbonneau, and her husband, Gill, winterized the house and occupied it year round until they sold it in February of 1991, to Ben and Luanne Russell from Alexander City, Alabama. 

        The Russellís completely renovated each of the structures and by 1993, all were in near perfect condition.  The fog bell tower has been restored to its original configuration, but remains inactive.  Each structure is white except the 1895 red brick whale oil house and all buildings now have the typical bright red roofs.  Today, the entire point reflects a rare picture postcard scene, reminiscent of a turn- of- the- century U.S. Light Station.