Monday, February 19, 2018

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Remembering Historian and Lighthouse Author, Jim Gibbs

Jim Gibbs books were and continue to be a mainstay in my lighthouse library--a personal collection of mine that boasts about 200 books. About six of those times were authored by Jim.

I turned to Jim's work early on in my career for information on West Coast lighthouses. I also loved his memories of lighthouse keeping in the 1950s at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse off the Oregon coast. 

I began visiting Jim regularly after moving to Washington in 2002. In all, I probably visited his home in Yachats, Oregon about a half-dozen times. He met my husband and my daughter on separate visits, and I met his daughter, Debbie. I also paid my respects to his late wife, Cherie, whose ashes were in a small flowerbed in Jim's yard. I feel fortunate to have spent time with Jim. He shared so much with me, including several boxes of his lighthouse research.

Jim passed away quietly on April 10, 2010 at the age of 88 in his home, Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse. He wrote more than a dozen books about lighthouses and maritime history of the West Coast. For many years, he was editor of Marine Digest, based in Seattle. He was among five men who founded the Puget Sound Maritime Society. His old vacation cottage in Hansville, Washington, was the Skunk Bay Lighthouse. Both Skunk Bay Lighthouse and Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse were amalgamated sentinels Jim had built using parts and pieces of other lighthouses that had been decommissioned.

Below is an article I wrote for Lighthouse Digest in 2006 about one of my visits with Jim. The photos were taken by my daughter, Jessica. Click on the images to enlarge them for easier reading.



Friday, January 19, 2018

The Lighthouse that Started it All


It was January 1973, and I had been married only a few weeks. My new husband, who I had met fifteen months earlier on a blind date when I was at college, was stationed at the Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine. We lived in a small apartment in a large, rambling house in the town of Bath. Our place was on the bottom floor. It was so cold that I wore two pairs of socks inside my slippers and spent much of the day on the sofa swathed in a blanket. We dared not turn up the heat, as paychecks were slim and stretched to their limit.

The weather that January seemed unbelievably cold for a girl from Maryland. Snow was heaped into huge pyramids in parking lots. None of the streets in town were clear. Rooftops were festooned with snow, with long icicles dripping from their eaves. Thankfully, I had a maxi coat that wrapped me in warmth from my shoulders to my ankles and a pair of warm knee-hi boots. My mom had insured that I would stay warm with gloves and a crocheted hat with a pompom.

For entertainment, Jon and I would drive our '67 Volkswagen to the coast to look at the ocean. Sometimes we took sandwiches and listened to the radio. The winter sea was awe-inspiring!

On a trip to Reid State Park in early February, we were amazed to see big waves pummeling the shoreline. I got out of the VW, buttoned up my coat, and climbed onto the rocks for a better view. Suddenly, the waves seemed unimportant. Beyond them was an island with a white spike on it, a white spike with a light on top. After a few seconds I realized it was a lighthouse. 



I was mesmerized: Someone lives out there, I thought. The lightkeeper. His job is to take care of the place. Is he alone, or is there a wife and family? Maybe a dog or a cat? How does he get back and forth to shore? This was not like the Little Red Lighthouse in a children's book my mom had read to me when I was small.

I must have stared at the island and its sentinel a long time, long enough to fall into a reverie of sorts. Hypnotized by the light. I awoke hearing Jon yelling to me: "Watch out!" 

Just then, a cold, slate-gray wave arched over me and threw itself on my back as I ran from it. I was wet and cold and shivering when Jon scooped me up and ran with me to the car. Nobly, he removed my coat and gave me his.

"That's a lighthouse on that island!" I protested, as he tucked me in the car and turned on the heat. "A lighthouse—very cool!"

Seguin Island Lighthouse in the Gulf of Maine at the mouth of the Kennebec River, was established in 1795 and is the second oldest lighthouse in the Pine Tree State. Its first-order Fresnel lens shines from 180 feet above sea. The brick building in the foreground was the fog signal house. The small building to the left of the tower was the oil house.In the distance is the shoreline where I first stood to look at the lighthouse that would inspire my career.

I was hooked. That week, Jon stopped by the base library and picked up some books for me. One of them was Edward Rowe Snow's Lighthouses of New England.  On the cover was Minots Light being pounded by a big wave, I devoured the book. The second time through, I took notes. Weeks later they went into a scrapbook. (Today, my notes occupy several file cabinets and dozens of CDs and DVDs.)

Sequin Island from the air, as seen on YouTube.

Snow's stories about Seguin Island Lighthouse were amazing, especially the one about the ghost of the lighthouse, a nineteenth century keeper's wife who went mad from the isolation of the place and played her piano so incessantly her husband murdered her with an ax. On misty evenings, a tinkle of phantom piano keys supposedly wafts over the waters of the Kennebec Estuary—the poltergeist of Seguin Island Lighthouse. True tale? Probably not, but it got my attention and has fascinated my readers and listeners for decades.

Using my notes and a paper map of the Maine coast, we began lighthouse hunting in earnest in the spring of 1973. Pemaquid Point, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Hendricks Head, Cuckolds, Tenants Harbor, the Nubble. None of the lighthouses were open to the public. This was before lighthouses became popular tourist sites. There were no printed directions, so finding the lights was often a challenge.

By the end of our first year of marriage another lighthouse hunter had joined us, baby Jessica. Little did we know she'd grow up loving lighthouses like her mom. Today, she's a docent at a lighthouse and has designed and fabricated an exhibit about them. Our son, Scott, loves lighthouses too and always brings home pictures for me when he travels near one. I'm grateful, as well, that my granddaughters—his daughters—are interested. They have a stash of kids' books about lighthouses, do lighthouse jigsaw puzzles, paint lighthouses on everything, and they absolutely loved this past year's lighthouse Christmas tree I put up in our sitting room. Lighthouse appreciation and preservation DNA has been passed on!

The tower's opulent Fresnel lens and auxiliary light. Photo from the Friends of Seguin Island Lighthouse Blog.

It's been 45 years since that first glimpse of Seguin Island Lighthouse in 1973. Whenever anyone asks why I love lighthouses, I point to my husband. After all, he took me to the Maine coast and brought me that first lighthouse book. I was ripe for a hobby...a hobby that evolved into a career. He never imagined what an obsession it would be and how it would shape our lives and influence our children and grandchildren. And, he has rescued me from more than one wave since 1973!

Can you believe I have yet to get out to Seguin Island to visit the site and climb the light tower that first inspired me? That will change soon! I've made a pact with myself that I will visit lighthouses that have special meaning for me or that I've written about for magazines and newspapers. 

And, I'm on the hunt for one of these. Come on eBay!!!

Harbour Lights

It ought to be in my collection, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

An Amazing Big Lamp in the Heavens


            Once in a blue moon, I get a chance to talk about something uncommon in our earthly realm, something non-lighthouse. If you're only interested in lighthouses, stop reading this post now, though you'll miss some amazing lighthouse photos later in the blog. This entry is about the moon, which I think of as a huge natural lighthouse. Sailors of old used it for navigation. If you've ever tried to calculate a lunar position, you know about this.


            I’ve always regarded the moon as a giant lamp in the heavens, a lunar lighthouse of sorts. And being an avid amateur astronomer, I spend a good deal of my time watching the sky, day and night. It's a wonderful, free playground up there. Go check it out.

Hormbersund Lighthouse, Norway

In this blog, I’d like to encourage you to enjoy a free celestial show coming up January 31st. An eclipse and a blue moon. Yes, there really is such a thing as a blue moon. It doesn’t just apply to lovesick rock and roll singers and a colorful mixed drink of curacao and gin. And it rarely occurs alongside a total lunar eclipse. But in two weeks it will put on an extraordinary show. (More about the eclipse later.)
            A blue moon is an authentic astronomical event, Can the moon be blue? Yes, in several ways. Certain atmospheric conditions, such as smoky air from forest fires, can make the moon appear blue. So can dust from a big volcanic eruption.
            In 1883, when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa blew its top in a blast equaling the force of 100-megaton nuclear bomb, dust circulated in the atmosphere for several years, causing glorious blue moons. The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the 1991 blast from Mt. Pinatubo caused a similar spate of blue-tinted moons.
            Why? Well…the particles of dirt from such catastrophic events are just the right size, each about 1 micron wide (one millionth of a meter), to scatter all the colors of light except the blue wavelengths. This gives the lunar face a bluish cast.

Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey

            But smoke and volcanic ash won’t be the cause of the January 31 blue moon, at least we hope it won’t. Instead, the traditional and more predictable definition of blue moon will apply. January 1st was the first full moon of the month, the Wolf Moon, and January 30 will bring another full moon, the Snow Moon. Two full moons in one calendar month mean the second one is called a blue moon.
            Why? Not because of color. The moon won’t have a blue hue on January 31. Instead, this moon is “blue” because it’s a rare occurrence. It only happens “in a blue moon.”
            Usually, only one full moon occurs in a month, since about 29.5 days are required for the moon to show all of its phases. Months with 30 days are less likely to experience blue moons than those with 31 days. February never has a blue moon, even in a leap year, because it is always shorter than the moon’s phase period. March 31, 2018 also will have a blue moon, so if you miss the January blue moon, you can see the phenomenon again in March.
            Calendrical blue moons occur roughly every 2.7 years or once in 33 full moons. This adds up to about seven blue moons during the Metonic Cycle, a predictable period of 235 lunations (moon cycles). At the beginning of this cycle, the full moon is at a set point in its orbit around Earth. It then orbits 235 times before it arrives back at that exact same point 18.6 years later.  
            The cycle was named for Meton of Athens who discovered it in the fifth century B.C.E. The ancient Greeks were attuned to anything cyclical, which they felt had significance in political and social affairs. The Greek calendar was different than the one we use today, but it had blue moon months. Public monuments in Athens were inscribed with the Metonic dates, and important events, such as the Senate convening, were scheduled according to the full moon schedule.

Jupiter Lighthouse, Florida

            Also important in Greek affairs was the time known as a “lunar standstill” when the moon experiences a slight and very slow wobble in its motion and allows observers to view a bit of its dark side. (We see only one side of the moon throughout its phases. Standstills reveal small slices of the unseen side. The moon really does not stand still at this time; rather it reaches a high or low point in its orbit for a brief time and appears to be stationary.)
            If all this lunar language sounds complicated and brain boggling….well, it is. Lunar motions are among the most challenging celestial gyrations to understand. Even scientists admit the moon can be mysterious. Isaac Newton once commented that calculating lunar positions made his head ache. Thankfully, computers now do the number crunching.
            A better appreciation of moon melodramatics might be achieved by simply recognizing the duality and beauty of our moon. Its face and positions in the heavens are ever-changing and sometimes surprising, as when a blue moon occurs, or we get a peek at the edge of the dark side, or we get a lunar eclipse. Yet the moon is still a predictable friend in the night sky and a timepiece of sorts.

Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota

            Finding the blue moon on January 31 will be easy. Head for some open space with a clear eastern horizon (the ocean would be perfect), and take some time to observe the moon’s rise over the horizon. Moonrise will occur in the northeast a few minutes after sunset. (A good rule to remember is that full moons rise along the eastern horizon at approximately the same time the sun sets in the opposite direction.) The moon’s bright light will wash out the dim surrounding stars of its host constellation, Virgo, the maiden.
            As if a blue moon isn’t enough, we’ll also be treated to a total lunar eclipse on January 31. In 2017, we were treated to a solar eclipse, when the moon moved in front of the sun. A lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the earth passes over the moon. Not everyone will see the January 31 lunar eclipse. Here in Connecticut, where I live, only the earliest part of the eclipse will be seen. My daughter, in Seattle, will see much more. Check this website to learn more about what you’ll see at your location and when. https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2018-january-31

            And while you’re watching this rare celestial show, consider the regularity and reliability of the gears that keep our universe ticking. The moon is only one cog in the grand cosmic wheel, but it’s an astonishingly predictable one. 

Point Wilson Lighthouse, Washington


Many lighthouses that are open to the public offer full moon climbs. Check for one in your area.


Have fun with your camera! Above is Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse in Florida and below is Marblehead Lighthouse in Massachusetts.


Nubble Lighthouse, Maine

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Heroism of Minnie Patterson

Minnie Patterson and her dog, from Alberni Valley Museum


Winter storms in the Pacific Northwest seldom get the same media attention Atlantic hurricanes do, but they can be equally cruel and destructive. The most vulnerable sites are those exposed to the full force of the open sea. The southwest shore of Vancouver Island, British Columbia is such a place, a defenseless margin of water, saw-toothed rocks, and stands of ancient trees. Great Pacific low pressure systems march northward one upon another from November through March and smash into Vancouver Island as if hitting a wall. The result is hurricane-force winds and enormous waves. Firs and cedars topple, rocks are thrown about like dice, and ships are cast ashore as if they are mere toy boats in a bathtub.

December 6, 1906 dawned at Cape Beale Lighthouse with ominous signs of an approaching storm. Lightkeeper Tom Patterson (also spelled Paterson), cleaning the lamps and lens in the lantern room of the 1872 lighthouse, scanned the ocean horizon off Barkley Sound. There were light winds from the southeast and the slate-colored sky was punctuated only by a feeble spot of white—the winter sun struggling to define its position behind the clouds. The tide was running higher than usual and waves were picking up. All of this augured trouble.

Cape Beale Lighthouse as it looked when Minnie Patterson lived there. Jim Gibbs Collection


The topside of a spinning low was beginning to bear down on Vancouver Island with Cape Beale in its path. Patterson knew the night ahead would challenge his nerves and require the help of his wife, Minnie. He had no doubt she would rise to the situation. She had mothered five children, several of them born at the lighthouse with no midwife in attendance. She could handle a boat as well as any seaman, chop wood like a lumberman, hunt deer and elk and turn them into delicious stew, and she knew the operation of every aspect of the light station. Minnie was, in a word, indomitable.
By late afternoon, daylight was rapidly waning and the temperature hovered near freezing. Patterson returned to the tower to light up for the long night ahead. He cranked up the weights of the clockworks that turned the lens, filled the kerosene reservoirs of the lamps, and lit the mantles. A soft glow infused the lantern with light as the flame ramped up with an asthmatic hiss. Patterson let it burn loudly for a few seconds to work out any air bubbles, then lowered the flame to a quiet purr. With a flick, he removed the stopgap from the clockworks and set the opulent prism lens in motion. Its beams shot into the darkness likes spokes on a great wheel of light. Satisfied that all was set, he climbed down to the watch room where he settled into a chair, filled his pipe, and began the long watch.

By midnight, the storm descended with extraordinary fury. Winds pummeled the tower at a steady 50-mph and stronger gusts bowed the lantern panes and drove spray over the cupola. A thick coating of salt encrusted itself on the windows, requiring the keeper to go out on the gallery every hour or so and scrape them clean. Now and then, an errant rock would fly up from the sea and hit the tower, or a shower of pebbles would clatter upon the roof and catwalk. Unflinching, Patterson stayed by the light and fed its lamps in hopes the beams might aid any vessels caught in the storm. But when first light came, Patterson’s fears were realized. Several miles offshore was the faint outline of a ship, its masts snapped like matchsticks and desperate survivors clinging to what remained of the tangled rigging.

From www.tofinotime.com. Original owner of photo is BC Archives.

Patterson rushed for the house to tell his wife he had sighted a wreck and to telegraph the town of Bamfield for help. She met him halfway, wearing a grave expression. She had seen the ship too and had already tried the telegraph. It was dead, its lines broken by fallen trees. Without a thought for their own safety, Tom and Minnie Patterson resolved to get help. He would stay at the lighthouse and try to devise some way to reach the castaways; she would run six miles through rain and hail to Bamfield Inlet where the lighthouse tender Quadra had anchored to ride out the storm. Getting there would require all her strength and determination. She knew lives depended on her.
This is the lighthouse tender Quadra, about 1920, after it had been placed in service as a rumrunner vessel.
QUADRA on Rum Row
from the photo archives of S.P.H.S©

Bundled in a wool Jersey coat and hat, and wearing her husband’s slippers rather than the ponderous high-button shoes of the day, she picked her way down the rock-rimmed border of the light station to the treacherous sand spit connecting the cape to the mainland. Parts of the spit were bare at low tide, but about 150-feet of it was awash now. Minnie Patterson sprinted over the spit, waded through the low water, and leaped up the steep bank to the mainland trail.
Her lungs felt as if they might burst, but she pushed on. Rain and hail pelted her. The trail was indistinct from the debris cast down by the storm. At times, she was able to follow it only by locating the telegraph line, strung tree to tree, and threading it through her fingers as she ran. A rowboat lay tethered at Bamfield Creek, and she buoyed her flagging spirits with visions of it. Rowing to the Quadra would be much easier than bushwhacking. When she reached the creek, however, the boat was gone.

Undaunted, Mrs. Patterson made her way along the tortured shore of the creek, over two and a half miles of wrack and slippery moss, to the home of her friend Annie McKay, wife of the former Cape Beale lightkeeper. The two women hauled out a skiff, dragged it down to the creek, and paddled for the Quadra. The tender’s captain was incredulous when he saw the bedraggled pair. They wasted no time with explanations and urged the captain to set sail at once. With the Quadra headed for the wreck, the women rowed to shore and climbed the hill to the telegraph station to summon additional help from Nanaimo.

"The Ways" at Cape Beale Lighthouse in Minnie Patterson's time went down to the isthmus behind the island. This was the tidal area where the Pattersons crossed to get to the mainland. At low tide it was a sandy, cobbly access to shore. Photo from the BC Archives.

By now Minnie Patterson looked a shambles. She was wet to the skin and wheezing loudly. The telegraph operators implored her to lie down and rest, but she only accepted a quick cup of tea before declaring, “I must get back to my baby!” She made a joke about her husband being unable to tend the lighthouse, along with caring for a nursing infant and four other children. She sprinted off on a return trek to the lighthouse, but the telegraph operators insisted they accompany her.

The three rowed out the inlet and south to Bamfield Creek and the head of the telegraph trail. While in the boat Mrs. Patterson suffered dreadful cramps in her legs and began to show symptoms of hypothermia. She said nothing, however, and eagerly leaped from the skiff when it reached the creek and hit the train running. Hours later the group arrived at the lighthouse.

Minnie Patterson, her baby suckling at her breast, watched through her telescope as the Quadra took off the stranded crew of the bark Coloma. Not a single crewman perished. A short time later the ship hit a reef and broke into pieces, disgorging the cargo in its hold. The rescue had been launched just in time. Minnie Patterson spent a woeful night with chilblains and a nasty cough that would remain with her the rest of her life.

Word of the lighthouse wife’s bravery soon reached the press. Reporters flocked to the tiny hamlet of Bamfield only to be captivated by the remote and dangerously beautiful isle where Minnie Patterson lived. They were dumbfounded, too, by the woman herself— slight and comely, in her early thirties, and looking more like a girl “than most women of twenty,” according to one journalist. When questioned about Mrs. Patterson, Victoria’s Marine Agent, Captain James Gaudin, described her as “one of the best and grittiest little women ever I met.”

A formal portrait of the Pattersons, from Alberni Valley Museum

The Toronto Globe presented her with a silver plate. The women of the nearby cities of Victoria and Vancouver collected $315.15 as a reward for Minnie and also gave her a gold locket. A lifesaving metal, gold plate, and prize of $50 were sent by the Canadian Government. The officers and crew of the steamer Queen City gave her a silver tea set and new slippers for Tom Patterson. The pair Minnie had worn on December 6 were nearly without soles.

A copy of an award given to Minnie Patterson, in the Alberni Valley Museum.

Minnie Patterson was dubbed “The Grace Darling of Canada,” after a girl of similar mettle who had rescued shipwreck survivors off Longstone Lighthouse in England in 1838. Sadly, like her English namesake, Minnie suffered a malady common to lightkeepers. The damp conditions of Cape Beale, and the exertions required that stormy day in 1906, weakened her constitution. She contracted tuberculosis and died five years later.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

December at Lighthouses



December has many interesting tales and connections to lighthouses. I thought it might be fun to print some pages from the December section of my out-of-print, 2000 book, The Lighthouse Almanac. At some point, I hope to have it updated and reprinted--the modern way. Alas! My desk is rather full at the moment, so don't hold your breath waiting. In the meantime, enjoy these excerpt pages. They were created using the old method--paste-up pages converted to bluelines  and printed and bound on antiquated printing and binding machines. This was back when the number of pages had to be a multiple of 16, in order to bind properly. I've also added the front and back covers, designed by graphic artist Trish LaPointe of Mystic, Connecticut. The interior design was done by Aline Matthews, one of my multiple personalities, a.k.a. pseudonyms. Authors truly need MPs; how else would they invent characters and do secret things? 😼





Monday, November 27, 2017

Lighthouse Kid Turned Poet

On cold days like this one, I am reminded of living in an offshore lighthouse where the word "cold" gains new meaning! Isles of Shoals Lighthouse, some ten or so miles off New Hampshire, was a cold place in winter and little  better in spring and autumn. In summer, I suspect you'd need a sweater--the cold ocean moderates the temperature, and the breeze cools everything. The wind blows relentlessly here, and the rock ledges hold on to their icy temperatures for a long time. Storms are the worst, throwing waves over parts of the light station, including the covered way that once connected the dwelling to the lighthouse. It was surely thunderous to walk through the covered way when a big wave washed over it! That feature is gone now, as no keepers are needed at the lighthouse these days. It is kept by seabirds that land on its gallery and spiders that crochet webs in the windows. Perhaps there's a ghost or two as well.



What follows is an excerpt from my e-book, Itty Bitty Kitty Guide to the Lighthouses of New Hampshire. If you have an e-reader device, it's a fun book with lots of information and photos, as well as a few unexpected lighthouses on lakes and other places in New Hampshire. Click on the title to find it on Amazon. Included in the book is a detailed profile of the legendary Isles of Shoals Lighthouse on White Island, and also the sidebar that follows about writer Celia Thaxter. Her father was a keeper at the lighthouse. She spent some of her youth there and grew up to be a famous poet. Lighthouses do inspire!



Growing up at a lighthouse often encouraged quiet and solitary pursuits and nurtured an introverted personality. Children of lighthouse keepers spent long hours indoors during winter or in bad weather, reading or doing crafts, playing board games, and writing letters. Such was the childhood of poet Celia Thaxter.
Celia’s father, Thomas Laighton, became keeper of the White Island Lighthouse in 1839 when Celia was four years old. She had been born in Portsmouth, and moving to the lighthouse must have been an abrupt change. It’s likely at first she sorely missed the sights and sounds and smells of the lively city, but she soon grew to love the seclusion and peace of the island and its raw displays of nature. On White Island, her parents constantly worried about the dangers of the ocean—so close to their door and often tempestuous—and kept their children indoors for much of the time. Celia and her brother, Oscar, played games in the house most of the time and did quiet activities.
Celia recalled in winter how the cold keeper’s dwelling formed frost on the inside of the windows. She and her brother “climbed into the deep window-seats” and held pennies in their hands until they were warm and then pressed them onto the frozen windows to make little portholes through which they could look out on the sea, the ships, and the other islands. Dreamy days, the fabled sea forming an apron around her home, the haunting seabirds and fickle weather, and the multitude of books in her ken, soon pointed Celia toward a love of literature.
Her first winter on White Island, she witnessed the wreck of the ship Pocahontas on a bar near the lighthouse. Everyone aboard died. People talked about the gruesome event for months. Celia was deeply affected by this tragedy and later recorded it in her poem “The Wreck of the Pocahontas.” Part of the poem details the lighthouse:
"I lit the lamps in the lighthouse tower,
For the sun dropped down and the day was dead.
They shone like a glorious clustered flower, -
Ten golden and five red."
When she was twelve, her father built a hotel on nearby Appledore Island and resigned from his lightkeeping job. The hotel became a destination for many of New England’s artists, writers, and thinkers. Celia rubbed shoulders with these intellectuals, whose influence certainly helped direct her future. As a hostess in the hotel, she met many famous people.
At age sixteen she married her father’s business partner and her academic tutor, Levi Thaxter, himself a noted intellectual. For a time, she resided with him and their three sons on the mainland, but Isles of Shoals drew her back. She returned to care for her aging, sick mother and raise her sons, while Levi Thaxter remained ashore, too sick himself to thrive on Appledore Island.
By this time Celia had earned success as a poet. Her writings had drawn people to the Isles of Shoals and put this scattering of islands on the map. She began writing for the Atlantic Monthly in the 1860s, and in 1870 collected her essays for the magazine in a best-selling book called Among the Isles of Shoals. The remainder of her life was spent writing and gardening at her island home.

Celia’s Victorian garden became the subject of her last book, An Island Garden, written in 1894. It was one of her most popular books and a wonderful epitaph to herself, though she probably didn’t know it at the time. She died the following year and was buried on Appledore Island. In 1914, her house on Appledore and her father’s famous hotel burned. But the garden endures today. It was reconstructed by the University of New Hampshire’s Shoals Marine Laboratory in 1977 according to Celia’s plans. It is a popular site for summer tourists. 

This image from the National Archives shows what the light station probably looked like in Celia Thaxter's time there. The postcard below shows it later, after the light tower was rebuilt.