History Videos · Keepers

USLHS Historian Video #7: Keeper William C. Williams at Boon Island, Maine

William C. Williams

Boon Island is a desolate pile of granite several miles off the southern Maine towns of Kittery and York. The present lighthouse, the third built on the island, went into service on New Year’s Day in 1855. It’s the tallest lighthouse in New England at 133 feet tall. Captain William Converse Williams, a native of Kittery, went to Boon Island as second assistant keeper in 1885. He advanced to first assistant in late 1886, and then became principal keeper in 1888. He went on to serve 23 years in the position. He was described as “a refined gentleman of the old school.” Years after his retirement, Williams said that being able to walk about his front yard without fear of being washed into the sea brought him great contentment.

Boon Island Lighthouse, photo by Jeremy D’Entremont

6 thoughts on “USLHS Historian Video #7: Keeper William C. Williams at Boon Island, Maine

  1. I do scenic boat tours out of Perkins Cove in Ogunquit ME, and have been out to Boon Island many, many times to show folks the 100’s of seals that live there. I always tell them about the shipwrecks there and Capt William Williams, but am not clear on his time there. I’ve read that he was there for 27 years, but is that the real number or not? Also, this video hints that he was not there alone for all those years, but actually had a wife and children, so I’d love to have the facts/details on that, if anyone has it to share! Thanks, Capt Bob, Cove Runner

    1. Hi Capt. Bob – I’m very familiar with your boat. I’ve written a lot about William C. “Willie” Williams. He never lived alone at Boon Island; there were always assistant keepers and sometimes their families. In later years, the families were there only in summer. WIlliams became an assistant keeper in 1885 and became principal keeper in 1888. He was there until 1911. I wrote about him in these two columns:

      https://news.uslhs.org/2018/03/17/the-kaptains-kolumn-3/
      https://news.uslhs.org/2018/03/30/the-kaptains-kolumn-4/

      There’s a history of Boon Island Light Station on my website at http://www.newenglandlighthouses.net/boon-island-light-history.html. You’ll see that there was another keeper there for 23 years (1816-1839), Eliphalet Grover. Unlike Williams, Grover was there by himself a lot of the time. Watch for a column about Grover on this site later this week.

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