Keeper’s Dog Smut Became Local Hero as the Canine Saved Schooner at Two Bush Island Light
Many keepers kept canine companions with them as not only company, but also as another set of eyes and ears to help with sensing danger. This is just one of many stories where dogs had helped in the rescue of individuals caught in New England’s fast approaching and relentless storms.
Two Bush Island was named for two lone bushes or trees, now gone, that served as day beacons before the building of the lighthouse. Two Bush Island Lighthouse was one of the last beacons to be built on the Maine Coast in 1897. The first keeper of Two Bush Island Light, Altiverd Norton, had a famous dog named Smut, who became a hero when, during a March storm in 1902, when a fishing schooner, the Clara Bella, started taking in water. Keeper Norton and his family were asleep and could not hear anything, as any sounds were deafened by the fierce winds from the storm. The dog heard the wreck crash on the rocks and the men’s cries for help. Sensing the danger, he started barking to awaken Keeper Norton, and started frantically scratching the door to be let out. Keeper Norton believed something had happened to create this unusual behavior in the dog. He let Smut outside, grabbed a line or rope for a possible rescue, and followed the canine down to the rocks. From a distance the keeper could see a small dory with two men aboard. The men were desperately trying to find a way to land on the island when they heard Smut’s frantic barking guiding them to the shoreline.
The keeper and Smut kept yelling at the men to keep coming towards them, when all of a sudden, a huge wave came over the dory and overturned the small craft spilling the frightened men into the turbulent waters a short distance from the shore. Norton was prepared in case of such an incident and was able to get a line to the men, hauling both ashore to safety. The two survivors were brought into the lighthouse and cared for. Keeper Norton told the men how Smut heard their cries, and the grateful survivors continued to hug the animal, thanking it and patting it in gratitude. They offered to purchase the dog at any cost, but the keeper could not let go of his favorite four-legged companion. He told them that Smut was priceless and could never give him up.
Visiting Two Bush Island
Two Bush Island lighthouse is located outside Tenants Harbor in Penobscot Bay in mid coast Maine on route to Rockland. Public access is not allowed on the island as it is a protected seabird wildlife refuge. The Maine Coastal Islands Wildlife Refuge contains more than 60 offshore islands. Most of these islands don’t allow visitors to explore, but you’ll find some boats will take you out to view the islands.
The Monhegan Boat Line ferry leaves out of Port Clyde to Monhegan Island, and sometimes provides other lighthouse tours also that pass by Two Bush Island Lighthouse. It also passes by the lighthouse as one of seven beacons on its annual Midcoast Lighthouse Challenge at the end of June.
It’s a great trip and a lot of fun!
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore. These include whale watching excursions, lighthouse tours, windjammer sailing tours and adventures, special parks and museums, and lighthouses you can stay overnight. You’ll also find plenty of stories of haunted lighthouses. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for all you weekly and weekend explorers.