In the United States Civil War between the North and the South, the people of the State of Maine were so eager for fight against slavery that Maine contributed a larger number of combatants, in proportion to its population, than any other Union state. And, it was second only to Massachusetts in the number of its sailors who served in the Union Navy. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain (later a major general) and the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment played a key role at the Battle of Gettysburg, and the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment lost more men in a single charge (during the Siege of Petersburg) than any Union regiment in the war.
One of those courageous men was Edward Noyes, who served in Co. C, 11th Regiment of the Maine Volunteers. In the Second Battle of Deep Run, Virginia, Edward Noyes was shot and severely wounded. Those injuries soon caused the surgeons to amputate his right arm at the shoulder. On his return to Maine, as a reward for service to his country, he was offered the job of lighthouse keeper at Little River Lighthouse to replace lighthouse keeper Oliver Ackley who had resigned after only one year on the job. Little River Lighthouse is located on a 15-acre island off the coast of Cutler, Maine.
Considering that Edward Noyes only had one arm, just why he was offered the job at a single family island light station, where there were no assistant keepers and where he would have to row back and forth to the mainland for supplies, may never be known. And why he accepted such a difficult job will never be known, but he did, and in 1866, he and his wife, Mary Wood Noyes, settled in at Little River Lighthouse.
Edward Noyes must have become quite masterful at rowing a boat with one arm, because two years after he became the keeper, their daughter Adelaide was born, and Mrs. Noyes decided to move to the mainland. The decision for Mary Noyes to move to the mainland was two-fold: for safety purposes, and because the granite keeper’s house was always too damp, cold, and drafty to raise a very young child.
As well as tending to the various duties of being a lighthouse keeper at a remote light station, Edward Noyes raised chickens and pigs to supplement his food supply, and he had a cow for milk. But, after spending two years, for the most part, by himself on the island, in 1870 he decided it was time to resign from the Lighthouse Establishment and rejoin his wife on the mainland and seek other forms of employment.
He then operated a brickyard on Flanders Bay in Sullivan, Maine and old stories reported that he found some gold on an island off the coast, but there was not enough gold to cover the cost of operating a mine. Eventually, Edward Noyes, along with his brother Francis “Frank,” purchased a general store together. While his brother managed the store, Edward Noyes, with a horse drawn wagon, traveled the surrounding towns selling dry goods from the wagon. Apparently, his years of rowing a boat with one arm enabled him to easily master the reins of a horse-drawn wagon.
On August 25, 1899, Edward Noyes went to visit his good friend Ambrose Wasgatt, the lighthouse keeper at Prospect Harbor Lighthouse in Prospect Harbor, Maine, where he had planned to have dinner and spend the night. Shortly after his arrival, Edward Noyes became ill, and a few hours later, at the age of 56, he passed away.
Interestingly, Edward Noyes, the former lighthouse keeper of Little River Lighthouse, died at Prospect Harbor Point Lighthouse where his father, Nathaniel Noyes, in 1849, had served as the first lighthouse keeper.
Lighthouse keeper Edward Noyes was buried in the Simpson Cemetery in Sullivan, Maine. A few months later, on November 4, 1899, his father, Nathaniel Noyes, died and he was also buried in the Simpson Cemetery.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2017 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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