October 9, 2022
Maine’s Wood Island, about 35 acres in size, is about two miles east of the entrance to the Saco River and less than a mile from the village known as Biddeford Pool. Congress appropriated $5,000 for a lighthouse on Wood Island in March 1806 and the light began service in 1808. The 1808 tower lasted until 1839, when a new 44-foot conical rubblestone tower was built. Keeper Thomas Orcutt’s dog, Sailor, achieved widespread fame in the late 1800s and early 1900s because of his habit of pulling a rope with his teeth to sound the station’s fog bell for every passing vessel.
In 2003, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation called Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse was formed to care for the light station. The group has been working for a full restoration of the lighthouse tower, keeper’s house, and other buildings. In the summer season, boat tours are offered to the island and light station from Biddeford Pool.
Three people are interviewed in this episode. Brad Coupe is one of the founders of Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse and served as its longtime chairperson, and George Bruns is the current chairperson. Richard Parsons serves as the group’s historian and his new book, Wood Island Lighthouse: Stories from the Edge of the Sea, was published this year by the History Press.
This episode is also available in a video version on the USLHS YouTube channel, with added video clips featuring co-host Sarah MacHugh at Wood Island. This is part one of two parts; part two will be posted on October 16.
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Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org