On Christmas Eve in 1886, the Annie C. Maguire ran aground on the rocky shoreline of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, just below the iconic Portland Head ELight. If you’ve visited the famous beacon, you’ve likely seen for yourself the simple but ever present tribute on those very rocks that’s been painted and repainted for over a century, the original letters inscribed there by the son of the lighthouse keeper whose family helped rescue the ship’s passengers and crew.
The waters of Casco Bay and Maine’s coast are drenched with tales of shipwrecks and tragedy and lives lost at sea, but among all the true stories and the legends that endure, the story of the Annie C. Maguire is among the most intriguing.
Was the Christmas Eve shipwreck at Portland Head Light an accident? Or was it a crime?
Lighthouses and their keepers have protected the coastline of Maine for over 200 years, standing proud on our shores and waving mariners into port. They’ve withstood brutal storms, unceasing salt water spray, millions of tourists, fire, catastrophe, tragedy… Through it all, 57 lighthouses remain active in Vacationland, some of them private. A handful are inactive but still standing, and three were destroyed and lost with time.
Digging through the history of Maine’s light stations brought up the name of one man again and again. Jeremy D’Entremont is a historian, an author, a speaker, and the leading expert on New England’s historic lighthouses. I’ve invited him here to help me tell this story.
Press play on this episode to hear the full story on this special edition episode of Dark Downeast.
Learn More about New England’s Historic Lighthouses
Listen to ‘Light Hearted’ — The U.S. Lighthouse Society Podcast hosted by Jeremy D’Entremont
Episode Source Material
- Christmas Eve at Portland Head Light by Jeremy D’Entremont, NELights Blog
- The Weather, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 24 Dec 1886
- A Bark Condemned, Evening Gazette, 28 Dec 1886
- Reports from the Interior of One of the worst storms ever known, The Boston Globe, 29 Dec 1887
- Bark A.C. Maguire Breaks Up, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 03 Jan 1887
- Shipwrecks and Other Maritime Disasters of the Maine Coast by Taryn Plumb
- The ship that crashed into Portland Head Light on Christmas Eve by Troy R. Bennett, 24 Dec 2017
- Portland Head Lighthouse, lighthousefriends.com
- Portland Head Light: A Strout Tradition by John Strout, Lighthouse Digest
- Recalling a Maine shipwreck that time nearly forgot by Gillian Graham, Portland Press Herald, 18 Feb 2014