Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving at the Lighthouse

Boon Island Lighthouse, ME, photo courtesy lighthousefriends.com
By Marilyn Turk

Thanksgiving is here, and cooks are preparing and planning their family feasts. Most of us gorge ourselves on a variety of favorite dishes served for that special meal. Advertisements featuring platters of golden turkeys surrounded by festive fall decorations have challenged many of us to recreate such delightful settings on our own tables as family and friends gather around in appreciation. But sometimes, Thanksgiving meals are hard to come by. Here’s a story about one such time.

On Thanksgiving Eve, 1888, three lighthouse keepers were marooned at the Boon Island Lighthouse six miles off the coast of Maine. A winter storm raged for three days while Head Keeper William C. Williams and his two assistants stayed in the tower, forced to stay in the top part of the structure while the gale assaulted the remote island.

The135-foot lighthouse shook each time it was pummeled by wind gusts and crashing waves. Meanwhile, the keepers wondered if the storm would ever end, if the tower would stand firm, and if they would survive.
Boon Island Lighthouse, ME, photo National Archives

Thanksgiving looked bleak and lonely. With their families back on the mainland, there would be no annual celebration or bountiful Thanksgiving feast. Stranded on the island, the keepers watched their provisions diminish, unable to leave to go buy more. There’d be no turkey, just boiled potatoes and bread . . . again.

A sudden, thunderous noise resounded throughout the tower as an object crashed into the lighthouse. Was it another boulder, loosened by the raging storm? Hoping the lantern windows had not been broken, Keeper Williams went up to check.

There, lying on the galley surrounding the lantern room, were eight black ducks, dead from striking the glass.

The next day, as calm returned to the sea, the three lighthouse keepers sat down for Thanksgiving dinner and gave thanks for keeping them safe through the storm and for the duck dinner God had supplied.

As you look forward to your own Thanksgiving meal this year, remember those who are not as blessed, and perhaps even invite someone who doesn’t have such bounty to share your meal.

May God richly bless you this Thanksgiving.

Marilyn Turk loves to study history, especially that of lighthouses and the coast of the United States. She is the author of  Rebel Light, a Civil War love story, A Gilded Curse, a historical suspense novel set in 1942, and Lighthouse Devotions - 52 Inspiring Lighthouse Stories, based on her popular lighthouse blog. (@ http://pathwayheart.com)

To find out more about Marilyn’s new releases, sign up for her newsletter at marilynturk@pathwayheart.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Painting by Norman Rockwell


  1. What a great story. Thanks for sharing.
    On a side note, are those cell phones in that painting?

    1. Haha, Debbie. I didn't even see that! Obviously, someone has modified the original photo for an advertisement. I should have caught that.

    2. Thanks for pointing out the flaw in the picture. I found the right one and replaced it.

  2. As soon as I saw the lighthouse I knew this was your post, Marilyn. What a great story! But Chappy Deb beat me to it: that painting has been touched up! Definitely aren't cellphones in Rockwell's original work. Great illustration otherwise!

  3. This was especially interesting to me as I now live in Maine. What a great story!!!

    1. Hi Connie, Maine is a great location for lighthouse stories, being the state with the second most lighthouses. We visited last summer. Love your state, but this southerner can only be there in the summer!

  4. An interesting post and great reminded God provides His children. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

  5. Thank you for sharing your interesting post. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.