CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

July 17, 2009

The Isles of Shoals: Beauty, Mystery, Intrigue


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THE ISLES OF SHOALS: BEAUTY, MYSTERY, INTRIGUE

I had just learned of the death of my aunt and uncle, Marion and Gene Stegner. Marion died at March 28, 2007. Gene died June 2, 2007. I’m posting this New England article in their memory.

      Last year my aunt, Marion Stegner of North Tonawanda, N. Y., put me in touch with one of her friends, Roy Webber because we had something in common: an interest in the Isles of Shoals.
     I wanted to take a boat excursion to the islands, something I’d seen only in the distance during childhood and adult visits to Wallis Sands Beach. From the beach they appear to be one rock stretching out along the horizon, barely visible.
     I called Roy. He’d spent two years stationed there with the Coast Guard during World War II.
     He located his 1730 map that was republished in 1927. He’d purchased a take-all box (at an auction?) that included two of these maps; he gave one to a museum in Wells, Maine. “I hope the museum hung the map,” he said, asking me to call him if I saw it (I didn’t—we didn’t get to stop at that museum).
     It was a short boat ride (8-10 miles) to the Isles of Shoals. The weather was perfect, considering we were taking the last excursion of the season.
     Excursions go only to one island, Star Island. I was surprised at the number of buildings there, and struck by the beauty of the place. We enjoyed looking toward the distant mainland, trying to decipher where familiar landmarks were. Equally intriguing were the stories Roy and the tour guide told.
     The Isles were formerly known as Smith Islands. John Smith discovered them in 1614 and named them after himself. The numerous islands are named Appledore, Malaga, Star, Smutty Nose, Cedar, White, Seaveys and Lunging.
     Roy was stationed at Seaveys Island during the war. Coastguards-men operated a light there. “Three persons were stationed there when I was there,” Roy said, “a keeper, assistant keeper and a third. One of us was on leave all the time.”
      “During bad weather they’d come and take us to shore, until they built the breakwaters (that form Gosport Bay). During storms I’ve seen surf crash through the kitchen window and knock the coal stove out. I’ve seen water splash over the top of the lighthouse.” 
     The biggest island, Appledore, was an Army base during World War II and has a big square military-built tower for sub-watching. He noted that the Navy used to bomb on Duck Island.
     There’s supposed to be a lot of pirate gold hidden on the islands, especially on Smutty Nose Island. “I was told it was silver bars but everyone says it was gold,” Roy noted. Years ago someone actually dug up (four) silver bars. But Smutty Nose’s history has an even more sinister event than gold-digging and pirate antics. It’s a story of murder and intrigue.

     On March 6, 1873, two Norwegian women were brutally murdered with an axe. A third woman escaped, hiding on the rocks at the end of the island with a dog that kept her warm. Who did it? An iterant fisherman, Louis Wagner, was convicted for the slaughter. His motive: money he knew was in the house. However, only $15 was missing and it was not on him. He was convicted on circumstantial evidence, according to the tour guide.

     “I have my own theory as to who committed the murder,” the tourguide said. A poet named Celia Thaxter lived on the island. “Celia’s son did it. He was old enough, he was wacko, his sister was fired from a job that afternoon and he was around two days before the murder.”

     The highest population count on the Isles of Shoals, most living on Star Island, was 600, occurring just before the Revolutionary War, according to the tour guide. “When N. H. became a Royal Province, people came to Star Island from the other islands to avoid the taxes of the puritans and to have a liquor store,” he said.

     While we were there we explored the chapel and walked the paths around the island. Monte decided to traverse along the rocky shore near the waterline where he could. At one point we sat on the ocean rocks listening to the surf and reading some of Celia Thaxton’s poetry to each other. The return boat ride offered the cherry on the sundae: a whale crossed in front of the boat. We watched it surface twice.

ADDITIONAL READING: Posts on New England

Moose, Goose, Deer

BLACK FLIES AND OTHER INSECTS: Then and Now

BLANCHARD: THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL AERONAUT

CHILDISH CHARACTERISTICS

IN NEW ENGLAND, HISTORY CONFLICTS WITH PROGRESS

IN SEARCH OF THE ARABELLA: A Story of Two Boats

IS THIS “CHEERS?”

IT WAS MEANT TO BE: A Meeting with Travelers from the Netherlands

KILLED STRANGELY: A NEW ENGLAND MURDER STORY

LEAF-PEEPING: Autumn Leaves

LIZZIE BORDEN—A REENACTMENT

LOBSTER-TALES

LOGGING IN MAINE AND ON THE PERU-BRAZILLIAN BORDER

NORTHERN BAYBERRY YIELDS READY-MADE CANDLES

PENNSYLVANIA WEDDING, (LAMOINE) MAINE ROOTS

THE PENOBSCOT NARROWS BRIDGE AND OBSERVATORY

THE SPECTACULAR PENOBSCOT RIVER A Natural Wonder in Maine: Part 1

THE SPECTACULAR PENOBSCOT RIVER A Natural Wonder in Maine: Part 2

SNAPSHOT ENCOUNTERS: Brief Meetings with People #4

VOICES OF WILDERNESS: PEACE MEETING

SITE LINKS:

www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com/

www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com

www.LVWonline.org

www.barbarapurbaugh.com

www.pennwriters.com

www.ellenspain.com

www.westmorelandphotographers.ning.com

www.ligonierliving.blogspot.com

http://www.methodists-care.org/

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8 Comments »

  1. Ok, that was interesting. Looks like somethings will always remain mystery.

    I myself have been trying to solve the mystery of this legend for a while now. Could not understand much though.

    Let me know in case you get to understand the mystery of the Old Hound and the Legend

    By the way, good writing style. I’d love to read more on similar topics

    Comment by Tina — July 17, 2009 @ 6:23 am | Reply

  2. My daughter is a Star Island “Pelican”. The pels are FULL of shoals legend and lore. She told me that the 1902 wait-staff went out on a pleasure cruise, the boat capsized in a squall, and everyone on it drowned. I searched online for the story, found pictures of two of the dead – and now that I want to return to that web-page (one day later) I CANNOT recall it.

    Comment by JJ — August 7, 2010 @ 2:35 am | Reply

  3. Thanks for finally writing about >The Isles of Shoals: Beauty, Mystery, Intrigue CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS <Loved it!

    Comment by Dolores — November 8, 2012 @ 12:22 am | Reply

  4. I seldom comment, however i did some searching and wound up here The Isles of Shoals: Beauty,
    Mystery, Intrigue | CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS. And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you tend not to mind. Is it only me or does it look like a few of the responses come across like they are left by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on other sites, I would like to follow anything new you have to post. Could you list of the complete urls of your shared sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    Comment by tegangriffin1978.xanga.com — November 9, 2012 @ 9:51 am | Reply

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    Comment by Kaylene — November 9, 2012 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your generous comments. Feel free to spread the word and to return to visit this site.
      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — November 9, 2012 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

  6. […] The Isles of Shoals: Beauty, Mystery, Intrigue […]

    Pingback by Winter Destination: Portsmouth, New Hampshire | Carolyn's Online Magazine — January 20, 2015 @ 1:30 am | Reply


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