The keepers at Whitehead Island noted that during the spring of 1892, 6,853 vessels had passed through Muscle Ridge Channel, marked by lights and fog signals, versus 3,931 for Two Bush Channel, which lacked any navigational aids. As numerous vessels were using the wider Two Bush Channel, which required two changes of course, the Lighthouse Board recommended that Congress provide $19,000 for a light and fog signal on Two Bush Island to mark one of the turning points.
Congress appropriated the requested amount on August 18, 1894, but as it proved “impracticable to buy the island,” measures were taken to obtain title through condemnation proceedings. Under a $12,250 contract awarded to W.H. Glover Co. of Rockport, a square, brick tower was constructed atop a stone foundation near the southwest end of the island, while a double frame dwelling was built forty feet northeast of the tower, and a boathouse was placed on the northwest end of the island. The revolving fifth-order Fresnel lens installed in the tower’s lantern room first sent out its signature of a white flash every five seconds on November 10, 1897. Attached to the base of the tower was a brick fog signal building, which housed a clockwork mechanism and 1,400-pound weights that once wound up, could toll a fog bell for three-and-a-half hours. The station’s 4,188-pound fog bell was mounted on one face of the fog signal building and was struck two blows every twenty seconds when needed.
A winter gale in 1902 drove the fishing schooner Clara Bella onto the rocks near Two Bush Lighthouse. Captain Pulk and his crewman George Samuels cried for help, but the pounding surf made it impossible for Keeper Aldiverd A. Norton, the first keeper of Two Bush, to hear them. Keeper Norton’s dog Smut, however, picked something up with his sensitive ears. After discovering the source of the sounds, Smut raced back to the lighthouse and, with his barking, alerted his master that something was amiss outside. The two sailors had climbed into the ship’s dory and were trying to make their way to the lee side of Two Bush Island when Norton spotted them. Keeper Norton waded out into the frigid water, threw a coil of rope to the men, and, after the sailors had securely tied the rope about themselves, pulled the men to shore with the help of his assistant. When the two sailors learned that they owed their lives to Smut, they fell to the ground and hugged the dog. Later, they offered to buy their rescuer, but Keeper Norton wouldn’t sell his beloved companion and bird dog at any price.
Keeper Leland Mann, who came to the island as an assistant in 1919, always kept an eye on the vessels passing the station, and in 1922, he rescued a man in a stalled motor boat that was drifting out to sea before a strong wind. The following year, the Lighthouse Service Bulletin noted five acts of assistance rendered by Keeper Mann, each being just a little bit different. One involved a sick captain, another an exhausted man in a rowboat, the third, a rowboat that had gone adrift, the fourth, a yacht short of fuel, and the final one a disabled launch.
Keeper Mann’s wife died in 1926, and the same year he fell on the boat slip, breaking his hip. Leland was made head keeper in 1927 and held this title until his retirement from the island in 1933.
On Thanksgiving Day 1910, Fred Batty married Florence Cavanor, daughter of Samuel Cavanor, keeper of Ram Island Lighthouse. The festivities were celebrated on Ram Island, where besides turkey, the Thanksgiving feast featured an amazing sixty-five lobsters. Fred eventually followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps and was appointed second assistant keeper at remote Saddleback Island Lighthouse in 1918. He was promoted to first assistant keeper the following year but resigned not long after that and returned to the grocery business in Portland. Thirteen years after leaving Saddleback Ledge, Fred decided to give lightkeeping another try during the depression and was sent to Boon Island Lighthouse in 1930. Two years later, Fred and his family moved to Two Bush Island, where Fred was the assistant keeper for a decade, before spending two years as the station’s head keeper.
Fred and Florence had six children, who ranged in age from twenty to just three when the family moved to Two Bush Island. Thorton, who was ten at the time of the move, had fond memories of island life.
We had all kinds of games we made up. And I had my pal, my Collie dog, and the cat named Mittens, because she had white front paws. And there was a flock of about twenty-five chickens. But the best thing was Cecil, my pet seal. I spent most of my time along the shore or in my fourteen-foot skiff. I was out hauling lobster traps when this young seal, grayish and about thirty inches long, came alongside. I held him under until he was winded and then took him in. He ate just about anything. He ate more doughnuts than I did.
Two Bush Lighthouse was automated in 1964, and its keepers removed – no longer could mariners rely on a keeper or his dog to come to their rescue. The Coast Guard allowed the U.S. Army’s Green Berets to blow up the keepers’ duplex as a demolition exercise in 1970, after bids for removing the structure exceeded the budgeted amount. The force of the explosion not only brought the dwelling down but also broke panes of glass in the lighthouse’s lantern room and cracked its brick walls. One piece of Two Bush Lighthouse survives on the mainland – its fog bell hangs in the belfry of the Spruce Head Community Church in Spruce Head, Maine.
Ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998, and Two Bush Island is now part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. As such, the island is closed to the public during the seabird-nesting season, which runs from April through August. The light was converted to solar power in 2000.