A new visitor trail to commemorate the first French settlement in North America is now open in Calais, Maine.
The new trail will take visitors to a viewing site where they can see St. Croix Island across the St. Croix River. The new trail is part of the St. Croix Island International Historic Site Mainland Visitor Trail located just off U.S. Route 1 and is under the auspices of the United States National Park Service.
As well as interpretive panels along the trail there are six bronze statues, some weighing as much as 1,500 pounds that commemorate the French explorers led by Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain who built a settlement on the island in 1604. The display also recognizes the role of the Passamaquoddy who were living there at the time.
The area was once the site of the first lighthouse of the First Lighthouse District of the United States of America. The 1857 lighthouse was home to Elson and Connie Small. Connie, now 102 years old, is known for her many lighthouse lectures and the book The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife. The lighthouse was discontinued in 1957. Ken Black, Director of Maine’s Lighthouse Museum, recalled visiting the lighthouse in 1958 when the area was under his command in the Coast Guard. He recalled that he felt shame then at seeing the historic structure abandoned and was worried for its future safety. How right he was.
The lighthouse fell victim to vandalism. In 1976, a group of juveniles hiding on the island from the police started a fire to keep warm. The fire got out of control and burned the historic lighthouse to the ground, thus destroying a vital part of our nation’s maritime history.
This is quite a distance for most touristdestinations, but if you are a real lighthouse buff, a trip to the Historic Site trails would be worth it. Here you can see where one of our nation’s most historic lighthouses once stood and where Connie Small wrote many of her memories about.
What does Ken Black think about the island today? He says he would like to see an American flag flown from the island to remind people that this island is part of the United States of America, and was once the site of the first lighthouse of the First Lighthouse District. Hopefully, his dream will come true.
This story appeared in the
December 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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