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 Whitlocks Mill, ME    
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Description: Whitlocks Mill Lighthouse has the distinction of being both the last built and northernmost of all lighthouses in Maine. It was constructed to serve traffic bound to and from the port at Calais (local pronunciation rhymes with malice), which was formerly surrounded by thick pine forests. When Napoleon barred the British from the Baltics, they turned to Calais for their ships’ timbers. In 1860, Calais’ sawmills could process fifty-five million feet of timber per year. The town’s port was navigable nine months per year and brought the area’s bricks, bedsteads, brooms, carriages, timber, plaster, and ships to consumers.

Whitlocks Mill Lighthouse with fourth-order lens in place
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
In 1853, Theodore Cary, Master of the Eastport steamer Pequasset, was asked if any lighthouse, buoy, beacon, or monument was required for navigating the St. Croix River. Cary replied that a beacon was needed on the “ledge,” four miles below Calais, along with two or three buoys above that location. Just upstream from the ledge, the river curves and is quite narrow, rendering navigation extremely difficult and dangerous especially during the spring and fall freshets. Cary also recommended a lighthouse for the “Big Island,” located ten miles below Calais and known now as St. Croix Island. At that time, over 1,500 vessels, exclusive of steamboats, were reported as having arrived at Calais by its deputy collector.

St. Croix Island received its lighthouse in 1857, but the river’s dogleg curve was not marked by the Americans until a red lantern light was displayed from a tree a few hundred yards above Whitlocks Mill on July 15, 1892, “to enable the steamers, plying between Eastport and Calais, and especially towboats, to make the difficult turn at the Narrows.” The lantern was intended as a temporary aid, and each year from 1894 to 1899 the Lighthouse Board requested $250 to purchase land at the site for a proper light.

The lantern was tended by Colin C. Whitlock, and, if local rumors are true, frequently by his wife after he’d consumed too much alcohol. As Whitlock owned a lathe mill at nearby Bog Brook, the light bears the name—Whitlock’s Mill Light.

Finally in 1902, “a piece of land, containing 100 square feet, was purchased, surveyed, and its boundaries marked with copper bolts.” At some point between 1898 and 1902, the light was moved from a tree to a post, because in 1902 that post was strengthened. In 1906, two new lantern posts were supplied.

On March 4, 1907 and May 27, 1908, Congress appropriated funds that were used, starting in 1909, to construct a keeper’s dwelling and brick tower at the station. The cylindrical brick tower, which stands twenty-five feet tall and has a diameter of twelve feet, was erected on a granite foundation. Originally painted red, the tower was painted white in 1914. It is lined inside with white enamel brick, which is rather uncommon. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was originally used in the new tower to exhibit a fixed green light.

About 100 feet from the tower sits the seven-room, one-and-a-half story Dutch Colonial keeper’s house. It is L-shaped and faces the river. On the east end it has a two-bay gambrel-roof. The recessed portion of the ell has an enclosed porch. There is a pair of six-over-six windows on each story; and there are three pedimented dormers.

Although its bell has been removed for display at the St. Croix Historical Society, a wooden, pyramid-shaped bell house still remains at the station. A hip-roofed shed, and a small stone oil house, located about 300 feet from the tower, were added in 1909.

Frank N. Jellison, the first keeper of the new lighthouse, served until 1920. In 1949, Jasper Cheney transferred from Libby Island to Whitlocks Mill and reunited his family. “It was the first land station he had been assigned to where we could all live together all year long,” said his daughter Ella. Her parents “both just worked nonstop inside and out to make our house and the lighthouse a place of beauty, and it sure was! Many, many tourists visited in the summer and all agreed that it was just breathtaking with all the flowers in bloom and the scenery.” Ella and her brother were both married at Whitlocks Mill Light. Ill health forced Cheney’s retirement in 1957.

One of the last Coast Guard keepers was Boatswains’ Mate Chief Russell Reilly. Kelly, his daughter, would dog his footsteps around the lighthouse as he performed his duties. She loved the wintertime trips to the mailbox, pulled uphill on a sled by her father. After which they would ride home downhill on the sled together.

Following the light’s automation and the removal of its Fresnel lens to the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland in 1969, the station was leased to the Washington County Vocational Technical Institute in the 1970s.

The St. Croix Historical Society applied for and was awarded ownership of Whitlocks Mill Lighthouse in 1997, when the U.S. Coast Guard established a competition for non-profit institutions in Maine to takeover certain light stations. However, the Coast Guard still maintains the flashing green light. The three-bedroom, 2,428-square-foot keeper’s house and other outbuildings are privately owned (sold in 2004, with an asking price of $350,000) and closed to the public. The light was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Whitlocks Mill Light Station on January 21, 1988.

Photo Gallery: 1 2

References

  1. The Lighthouses of Massachusetts, Jeremy D'Entremont, 2007.
  2. Annual Report of the Light House Board, various years.
  3. “The Best Years of Their Lives. A Keeper’s Daughter Remembers Libby Island,” Lighthouse Digest, Jeremy D'Entremont, April 2003.
  4. “Whitlock’s Mill,” St. Croix Historical Society website, undated.
  5. “History of Calais, Maine,” A Gazetteer of the State of Maine, Geo. J. Varney, 1886.

Location: Located on the banks of the St. Croix River roughly 2.5 miles south of Calais.
Latitude: 45.162603
Longitude: -67.227379

For a larger map of Whitlocks Mill Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: As the keeper's dwelling is a private residence, the best vantage point for viewing the lighthouse is from a roadside picnic area alongside Route 1, roughly 2.5 miles south of Calais. The fourth-order Fresnel lens formerly used in the tower is on display at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland.

The tower is owned by the St. Croix Historical Society, while the dwelling is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.

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