Newspaper Article from the Past
Wood Island Lighthouse in Maine was once home to a famous dog named Sailor. According to lighthouse author and historian, Jeremy D’Entremont, “Keeper Thomas Orcutt’s dog, Sailor, a mostly-black mongrel (described as a Scotch Collie in one article), was taken to the island as a two-month-old puppy and went on to achieve wide fame.”
Keeper Orcutt served as keeper of Wood Island Light Station from 1886 until his death in 1905. The keeper referred to Sailor and him as “old comrades” and noted that the island would have been a lonely place without the dog.
Though Sailor was a loyal friend to Keeper Orcutt, the dog’s fame was gained from its ability to salute passing vessels by ringing the station’s fog bell. Jeremy D’Entremont explains, “The self-trained Sailor developed the habit of vigorously ringing the bell for every passing vessel. Over the next few years, many passengers aboard local excursion steamers were startled to see the dog’s amazing performances.”
D’Entremont went on to note, “(Keeper) Orcutt died after a brief illness in 1905 at the age of 73. His beloved Sailor had died in his arms just a few months earlier.”
Neither Keeper Thomas Henry Orcutt or Sailor are mentioned by name in the newspaper story that appears below, but they are the dedicated duo that was alluded to by the writer. No doubt similar stories like this were told time and again about Sailor – the fog bell ringing dog whose place in Maine lighthouse history will forever endure!
Newspaper Article from: Daily Northwestern, October 16, 1895
“The Dog Knew his Business…The steamer Forest Queen recently had an excursion party from Biddeford on board, and at the request of some of the excursionists, Captain Oliver ran out by Wood Island. As he passed the light he saluted it with the customary three whistles.
Scarcely had the echoes died away when a dog dashed out of the lighthouse and ran at full speed toward the fog bell. He was followed by a man. It is needless to say that the dog arrived at the bell first, and he immediately began to jump into the air as though trying to reach something.
When the man arrived on the spot, it was readily seen what the trouble was. The bell rope was hung upon a nail, and the dog could not reach it. However, as soon as the man removed the rope from the nail the dog seized it in his teeth, and with a great deal of apparent satisfaction, answered the steamer’s salute. The dog knows his business and never fails to return a steamer’s salute.”