Digest>Archives> November 2008

Lighthouse Heritage Comes Full Circle


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The Cross Island Life Boat Station as it appeared ...

Reading the weekly newspapers in the small communities along the New Brunswick and Maine border is something most of the locals look forward to. Unlike the big city newspapers, the small community newspapers are the lifelines to the goings on in the many small towns and villages along the U.S. and Canadian border. That’s how George and Wendy Morrison noticed the story about the restored Little River Lighthouse Station in Cutler, Maine that was being made available for overnight stays and they knew at once this was something they wanted to do.

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Dinnertime at the Cross Island Life Boat Station ...

“George and Wendy were the first people to call after the news story appeared,” said Kathleen Finnegan, who handles the reservations for the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. “In fact they booked the first available date,’ said Finnegan.

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Breeches Buoy rescue training at Cross Island ...

Lighthouses were not something totally unfamiliar with Morrison, his father, George Sullivan Morrison, had been in the Coast Guard and the Morrison family was that last to be stationed at St. Croix River Lighthouse before the government abandoned the station in the late 1940s. His father had also been stationed at Quoddy Head Coast Guard Station, Moose Peak Lighthouse, and Cross Island Moorings Life Boat Station, all of which are a short distance, by Maine standards, from Little River Lighthouse.

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George and Wendy Morrison during their stay at ...
Photo by: Lee Leighton

Morrison followed in his father’s footsteps and also joined the U.S. Coast Guard and among his numerous assignments he was also stationed at Cross Island, as had his father before him. After Cross Island, he also became a lighthouse keeper and served in the 1960s at Libby Island Lighthouse. During his 20-year stint in the Coast Guard he became familiar with Little River Lighthouse, and he wanted his wife to experience, first hand, what it was like growing up at lighthouse and then, later in life, becoming a lighthouse keeper.

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The rare brass Seth Thomas clock that once hung ...
Photo by: Kathleen Finnegan

While spending their first night at Little River Lighthouse they read the notebook filled with information about the history and restoration of the lighthouse materials about the history of the lighthouse. When Tim Harrison, co chair of the Friends group, mentioned they were looking for some volunteer caretakers the Morrisons’ jumped at the opportunity. On a couple of occasions when Wendy’s job prevented her from being on the island, he went on his own. He also volunteered to pilot one of the boats for the first ever International Lighthouse Challenge, ‘Lights Across the Border.’

However, what really impressed him the most was the dedication that Harrison and other volunteers such as Kathleen Finnegan and Hal Biering had done with the restoration and saving of the lighthouse that had been declared by Maine Preservation as one of Maine’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties. He was so impressed that he donated an old Light List book from 1911 and a rare brass Seth Thomas clock that was once used at the Cross Island Moorings Life Boat Station. His father had secured the old clock many years previously when the original Cross Island Station had been abandoned. When he presented the clock to Harrison, he also presented a framed photograph of his father George Sullivan Morrison to be displayed with the clock in the lighthouse artifacts exhibit that will be created next year at Little River Lighthouse.

When asked later about his first overnight stay at the lighthouse, Morrison said, “It was the best money I ever spent.”

This story appeared in the November 2008 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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