The light burns bright. All well at the Head.
-- Log entry by Keeper Jaruel Marr.
Hendricks Head Light was
established at the mouth of the Sheepscot River in 1829, near the part
of Southport Island now known as Cozy Harbor and six miles from
The first lighthouse was a granite keeper's dwelling with the tower on
its roof. It exhibited a fixed white light 39 feet above the water. The
original fixed white light was changed to a revolving light in July
Jaruel Marr, who was born the same year the lighthouse
was built, became keeper in 1866, after returning from the Civil
The first Hendricks Head
Lighthouse (Boothbay Region Historical Society)
Ephraim Pinkham was keeper 1859-61. His son, Merritt Parker Pinkham,
married Mary Catherine Marr, daughter of Keeper Jaruel Marr. Courtesy
of Glenda Mitchell.
Marr's great-grandson Merle Bogues describes Marr's
Civil War service in his self-published Flivers and Long Dorys:
He and several other young
Southport men walked the 60 miles to Portland and enlisted in the 7th
Maine, Company D of the Union Army, leaving my great grandmother and
three small children behind Some months later, while lying wounded and
incarcerated in the Confederate Army's Liberty Prison at Richmond,
Virginia, he was nursed back to health by a Union Army Doctor, also a
prisoner, named Wolcott. My grandfather was named in Dr. Wolcott's
Robert L. Marr of Kittery,
Maine, is seen here holding a rifle that it is believed to have been
issued to his great grandfather, Jaruel Marr, on his release from a
Confederate prison during the Civil War. Released prisoners were
routinely issued rifles to enable them to hunt for food during the long
According to Bogues, Jaruel Marr was appointed keeper at
Hendrick's Head as "token compensation" for the wounds he suffered in
the war. Jaruel Marr served as keeper until 1895, when he retired.
The logs he kept reflect Marr 's devotion to the
lighthouse. He often made several trips to the lantern room during the
night to check the light. For instance:
Trimmed the wick at half past 12, at half past 4
the light was dim so I raised the wick a sixteenth of an inch to make
all right again. The oil carbonizes the wick and causes it to become
crusty in about 8 hours.
Jaruel Marr's logs also convey the power of storms at
Hendrick's Head. He recorded that one gale moved a huge boulder, 8 by
12 feet, 21 feet from its original resting place.
| Historian Edward Rowe Snow, in his
book Famous Lighthouses of New England, related a well-known
story of Hendrick's Head Light. The tale concerned a vessel
wrecked near Hendrick's Head in a March gale sometime around 1870
(1875, according to a 1955 newspaper story).
According to Snow, the keeper and his wife could see
those on board the wrecked ship hanging to the rigging, practically
frozen to death. The high wind and rough seas made it impossible for
the keeper to launch a dory. As evening arrived the helpless keeper saw
a strange bundle floating toward the shore.
The keeper snatched the bundle from the waves with a
boat hook and discovered that it was actually two featherbeds tied
together. He cut apart the ropes and discovered a box between the beds.
Opening the box, the keeper discovered a tiny baby girl, crying and
very much alive. The box also contained a note from the baby's mother,
commending the girl's soul to God.
The keeper and his wife immediately took the baby to the
warmth of their kitchen. After seeing that the baby was in good health,
the keeper went outside and saw that the vessel had vanished beneath
the waves. Wreckage was soon washing ashore. The keeper and his wife
adopted the baby girl and raised her at the lighthouse, according to
the story as it usually told.
Jaruel Marr, courtesy of Elisa
Some local historians question whether the events ever took
place, and no such incident was ever reported by the local newspaper.
Barbara Rumsey of the Boothbay Region Historical Society believes the
story may have originated with a 1900 novel called Uncle Terry, which
told a very similar story.
But according to some of the descendants of Jaruel and Wolcott
Marr, the story is true. Elisa Trepanier, Jaruel Marr's great-great
granddaughter, says, "I know the story of the baby girl in the mattress
to be true as told to us by Jaruel's children and grandchildren. The
baby girl was adopted by a doctor and his wife who were summer
residents, as Jaruel and Catherine had too many children of their own
to care for. I remember the baby girl was named Seaborn."
The debate over the veracity of the "Hendrick's Head Baby"
story may never be settled, but it is one of New England's most
enduring lighthouse stories. It also inspired a children's book, Toni
Buzzeo's The Sea Chest, and a novel, Waterbaby by Cris
Wolcott Marr in his keeper's
Courtesy of Robert Marr
The present 39-foot square brick tower replaced the
first lighthouse in 1875. On September 23, 1875, the fourth-order lens
was transferred from the old tower to the new one.Jaruel Marr recorded
that the family moved into their new home on September 30 of that year,
extremely happy with their new cook stove. A covered walkway connected
the lighthouse to the keeper's house. A pyramidal skeleton-type bell
tower was added in 1891 and an oil house was built in 1895. For several
years before the bell tower was built, a small hand-operated bell was
Jaruel Marr and wife Catherine had five children, and
all three of their sons became Maine lighthouse keepers. Two sons,
Clarence and Preston, became keepers at Pemaquid Point Light and
Portland Breakwater Light respectively. Their son Wolcott Marr entered
the Lighthouse Service in 1890 and first served as an assistant at the
Cape Elizabeth Two Lights, then at the Cuckolds Fog Signal Station. His
next station was his childhood home.
On July 1, 1895 Wolcott Marr wrote in the log at
Hendrick's Head, "Arrived at this station at 2 PM to relieve Mr. Jaruel
Marr, who has been keeper here for the past 29 years." Wolcott Marr and
his wife Hattie (Hatch) had three children when they moved to
Hendrick's Head, and six more would be born during their stay at the
Merle Bogues provides more details of the life of Keeper
Wolcott Marr and his family at the lighthouse:
Through the years Grampa Marr had hauled enough dirt to
plant a lawn and flower garden around the main buildings. A few hundred
feet back from the shore was a large garden and a small pasture where
he farmed on a small scale and kept a cow to augment the diets of a
The Lighthouse Keeper was responsible for all maintenance
of buildings, grounds and equipment, as well as very frequent
inspections of the lamp during the night and times of foul weather. My
grandfather also found time to fish, lobster, dig for clams, garden and
take summer visitors for boat rides around the nearby islands. In
addition, in winter months he fashioned fine pieces of furniture,
utensils, and tools This was permissible as long as someone was on duty
at the light. If needed, he could be summoned by my grandmother or
uncles by ringing the bell, which could be heard for miles.
But lighthouse life was not always routine and tedious.
Despite the light and bell, one stormy night in the winter of 1914 a
140-foot three-masted schooner went aground at the end of Hendrick's
Head Point with a cargo of lumber and a crew of 15 aboard. Grampa Marr
was astonished that night to see the masts of the ship through the
blowing snow almost right before his eyes as he stood in the lighthouse
tower during one of his inspection tours. He could see most of the
sailors hanging from the rigging where they had climbed to escape the
20-foot breakers crashing over the deck. Grampa ran down the circular
stairway, grabbing a coil of rope on the way, and continued to the end
of the point, shouting to his older sons to come and help as he went
through the house. He heaved the coil aboard the schooner and the crew
rigged a bosun's chair and were hauled ashore by Grampa and my uncles.
My grandmother made sandwiches and hot coffee for the cold, wet and
miserable crew who sat up the rest of the night in the downstairs rooms
of the lighthouse.
Grampa Marr was tall, slender and wore a small blonde
mustache He looked very impressive to me in his navy blue lighthouse
keeper uniform with its brass buttons and uniform type cap, but he
seldom wore it. He disliked the uniform and only wore it when he
expected the lighthouse tender. When the tender whistle would blow,
Grampa would run for the house, don his uniform and look like a million
when the inspectors arrived. Otherwise he dressed in normal civilian
Wolcott Marr remained keeper at Hendrick's Head until
his death in 1930. Bogues wrote that his grandfather had "invested in
the stock market but lost most of it in the crash of 1929. He died from
a case of acute bleeding stomach ulcers at the age of 61."
According to some sources, Wolcott Marr had an unusual
distinction: he was born, married, and died in the same room at
Hendrick's Head Light.
light was converted to automatic operation utilizing acetylene gas in
1933, and the fog bell was discontinued. The light was soon replaced by
an offshore buoy. According to Sidney Baldwin's Casting Off from
The men who depended on these waters for their
livelihood complained loudly. No flashing light buoy could take the
place of their land light! But they lost their case, and the light was
Wolcott Marr, keeper from 1895-1930, with one of his 10 children.
Courtesy of Elisa Trepanier.
U.S. Coast Guard photo
The light station and the entire peninsula were sold to
Dr. William P. Browne of Connecticut. Until then, the house had no
electricity or plumbing.
After electricity came to the house in 1951 the Coast Guard decided to
reactivate the light, since boating traffic in the area had increased.
A ferocious storm on January 9, 1978, demolished the
boathouse and also destroyed the walkway that had connected the
lighthouse to the fog bell tower. In 1979, the fifth-order Fresnel lens
was replaced by a modern 250 mm optic.
Dr. Browne's daughter Mary Charbonneau and her husband
Gil owned the lighthouse for many years. Mr. Charbonneau has received
national attention for the miniature ships-in-bottles he constructs.
In 1991, Benjamin and Luanne
Russell of Alabama bought the 4 1/2-acre lighthouse property,
and they subsequently restored all of the structures. The buildings
survive in beautiful condition and the fixed white light with red
sectors continues as an active aid to navigation.
Hendricks Head Light can be seen from a small beach in
West Southport. Closer views are available from excursion boats leaving
Boothbay Harbor and Bath.
Russell at the top of the lighthouse
On the back porch of the keeper's house
list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers
of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com.
Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own
risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)
John Upham (1829-1837), Stephen Smith (1837-1841), Thomas
Pierce (1841-1845), Joshua Berry (1845-1849), Thomas Pierce
(1849-1853), Simeon Cromwell (1853-1857), William Orne (1857-1859),
Ephraim Pinkham (1859-1861), John Stevens (1861-1866), Jaruel Marr
(1866-1895), Wolcott Marr (1895-1930), Charles Knight (1930-1933).