Drowning Man Saved in Dramatic Rescue
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Written by SeacoastNH Archives

383_lifesaving_00SeacoastNH.com Presents 
Historic Portsmouth #383

Sure looks real, but our ancestors were having a bit of photographic fun with this posed sea rescue. The picture comes from the family of William Convers Williams (1845-1939) of Kittery. Williams married Mary Abbie Seaward, also of Kittery, and became keeper of the isolated lighthouse at Boon Island in 1888. (Continued below)


The photo album shows the family making the best of life on the desolate and dangerous rock eight miles out to sea. Williams described it as similar to living in a jail cell. The keeper and his family were always afraid of being swept away in storms that made the 133-foot granite tower sway and shudder. The family sometimes communicated to the mainland via carrier pigeon, but in the summer hundreds of visitors stopped by to admire the life of the brave lighthouse keepers. In December 1892 the Nova Scotian schooner Gold Hunter wrecked in a gale at night three miles from the lighthouse. It was four degrees below zero when eight crewman managed to row to the steady light at Boon Island. keeper Williams, his two assistants, their wives, and the trusty island dog managed to revive the frozen sailors and return them to Portsmouth. For many more photos from the Williams family album see Jane Porter’s highly detailed book Friendly Edifices. (Courtesy Portsmouth Athenaeum)

READ MORE about Boon Island Light


Bonus Close-up