Kenton’s Holland 32 BAD INFLUENCE, built in 2003 and powered with a 350-hp Yanmar.
BEALS ISLAND – We all know that Beals Island is well noted for its lobster boatbuilders and fishermen. However, there is more to their history than this. Several years ago I was talking with Kenton Feeney about the island’s history, also encompassing Jonesport across Moosabec Reach, and he started discussing his ties to the Sawyer family, which were well-known shipbuilders and ship owners in Jonesport. Over the years we tried catching up and record this history and finally this summer we did.
Kenton grew up in Jonesport and began describing his family history, by saying, “The Kelleys began right there on Kelley’s Point. That would have been my mom’s family and then you have got the Looks out of South Addison and that would be Dad’s mom. Then you have Uncle Milt Beal mixed in there. He married into the Kelley family. We had Faulkingham’s, Grammie Kelley was a Faulkingham. Great Grammie Look over in South Addison, her uncle was Charles Stinson, the original Charles Stinson of Stinson’s cannery. 1932 this Carver Industries Pound, Deep Cove Pound that is where the money came from, that was Charles Stinson. Uncle Cliff was born in 1905, and his father, Delbert, was kind of the backer, but old man Stinson was the big backer and they built that pound. Later when the Look’s needed one over in South Addison they got their own pound going. and that’s how it came back to the Carver family or Charles Beal family.”
“In the 1850s,” continued Kenton, “Peter Feeney, which would be a great great grandfather arrived in Jonesboro to work in the quarries. All of the Feeneys came from Jonesboro, Feeney’s like Kevin Feeney would be Patrick’s and Derek’s father. Kevin is two years younger than I am, and his grandfather and my grandfather were brothers. My grandfather died when he was 52 years old.”
When asked about the Sawyer family and their shipping interests, Kenton said, “That was a pretty good size fleet in its time, in the 1880s. They sailed out of Sawyer’s Cove. You know the Sawyers, it really goes beyond D. J. Sawyer. Someone who he was in business with who you don’t hear much about, but he grew up with right here on Head Harbor Island with absolutely nothing and his name was Reuben Lamson. He is buried by the big white church in West Jonesport. He died at 48 and she died at 52 of the plague. There was a Thomas Sawyer and Thomas Sawyer, Jr. that owned sawmills in Jonesboro. Reuben’s mother, she was a Mitchell I think and was a house maid. When Reuben got of age, he thrived. He had all these sons, one of those boys built a schooner on Browney Island which is like how the hell could anyone do that? It is an old pile of rocks out there with some trees on it, but his boys they’d build these schooners and then they’d be a captain for a 1/16th or an 1/8th share. They did very well and they owned property up in West Jonesport right there at the church. That homestead they just tore down last year, which was right across the street from where Charlie Smith has his property and his wharf. All those bigger houses, they were all built real well. It wasn’t just people throwing a couple boards together. His sons were not only shipbuilders but house carpenters. The house right on the corner by the church at one time that was considered the best built house in Eastern Maine. That belonging to a daughter of Reuben Lamson. D. J. Sawyer ended up being right in with Reuben on a lot stuff so I am thinking they probably had an affiliation from Reuben growing up on Head Harbor.”
At one time Head Harbor, also known as Sealand, had about 250 people living on it, but today there are no permanent residents. Kenton added, “D. J. and Reuben owned Cross Island where the Coast Guard Station is to take timber off from and they did that and then they sold it back to the Government to put the lighthouse up for more than they paid for it. They owned one of the islands over here, Little Spruce, for taking timber off but then when you get up around to Pond Point, Browney Island, they cleaned them all off.
“The Sawyer family was really big,” continued Kenton. “The author of those books, Doyle family history, the Faulkingham family and the Lamson family history, a nice big volume, was Byron Lamson. His father was the maintenance man for Stinson’s factory and Byron’s wife was my aunt Frances and again we are tying right back in with the Look’s. Uncle Alan, her husband, would have been one of the brothers. There was my Uncle Cliff that did the Deep Cove Pound when he was just young and was kind of a patriarch of that family and you had my Uncle Oscar who was in the Bataan Death March. Grampy Delbert at the time, 1948, had a fish/lobster buying business over on Cape Breton Island. Their kids would have been a little bit younger than dad, because Uncle Cliff was five years younger than Grammie. Dad graduated high school ’49, so remember Ralph Look, alright that would be his son and Dwayne Look another son. Aunt Charlotte wanted to go back to teaching school and was looking for a babysitter, so they brought Laura over here to Addison and she boarded with Grammie Feeney right in the middle of Jonesport. Buddy Brown, his father and mother lived right down the street so that is how Laura and Buddy ended up together.”
In searching through the Passamaquoddy custom house records there are references to several of the vessels owned by the Sawyers. One still floating is EMMA C. BERRY, which is at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT. Kenton added, “She was actually built in Noank, Connecticut. If you look on the Mystic Seaport website you’ll see the story. They went down to the mud hole where she was pulled up on the bank. They took her over to Jonesport patched her up, sailed her to Connecticut. She was a fishermen and Uncle Milt used her when he was in his 20s. Uncle Milt was born in 1898 so we are talking 1920s and he would go to Rockland, Portland to pick up stuff because there used to be a store right here on French House Island on that western end and his father owned it. They moved from Sand Cove to French House Island in 1906 and George Beal got his whole thing going there. From there Henry Edwin thought with the wrong head and ended up in a camp down here by the shore. He was kind of black balled by the rest of the family.”
We switched topics and I asked about the boatbuilder George Brown of Beals Island. “Early boatbuilder,” began Kenton, “a grandfather to Raynard Alley. His father’s boat was the BETTER HALF and Raynard’s is the OTHER HALF, it’s that red Novi. I am going back to Jerome being able to run up under the bow of his grandfather’s (JP) boat and Jerome told me he is almost positive that that was the last boat that George Brown built. That’s putting it…say 1924. George Beal had a boat shop just under the hill where if you were driving down to Benny’s wharf and maybe there is a timber or two left. I used to go down and crank those winches, wonder I wasn’t killed doing that. He built…Alton Rogers built boats and then after Alton got done, Uncle Milt started building boats there and Freddy Lenfesty was his apprentice. Jerome’s grandfather’s boat was damn near 50-feet long. They used it like a lobster smack and the name of her was the FDR.”
Kenton was born in 1955 and spent the first five or six years of his life right across from Jenny’s restaurant in Mason’s Bay. He added, “Grammie Feeney had a beauty shop and a jewelry store there and I grew up in that apartment. When I was seven or eight they had a carpenter finish up the house there inside so we went from a camp to a house.”
Kenton was the oldest and he has two sisters (Pam and Wanda) and a brother Peter, who is 11 years younger. When asked when he got interested in boats, Richard Alley stated, “We was all born with web feet.” Kenton continued saying, “I used to sail right through here (Pig Gut), every chance my ass had the ability to get aboard the old SEA HORSE. Unc had, it was a 31-footer, little 6 cylinder truck engine in it and he seined out of it. Uncle Milt built her, and he built boats for Calvin Beal, Sr., George Driscoll. He had a camp right down on Ram Ledge. My first boat would have probably been the Freddy boat, an outboard boat. I played around with outboard boats and stuff like that. I didn’t fish until later on, not until after high school.”
Kenton joined the Coast Guard and that would be a defining point in his life and found his true love marine engineering (working on real big diesel engines). He did not go to an Academy saying that the service pays for your education and everything is right there are your finger tips. His sister Wanda added, “Kenton is too humble, but I call him the self-made man. He started digging clams and worms and all of that and then he went into the Coast Guard. He took all of the tests and he paved his way to chief engineer. That is not the easy way.”
She is right for many try, but more fail than make it. When Kenton retired in 2012 there were 16 chief engineers in the company he worked for and he was the only one that came up through the hawse pipe. He spent four years in the Coast Guard, he added, “I was a year and half up in Alaska on the aids to navigation team, those automated light stations from ’74 until ’76. Then I went to Boston and I was on the WHITE HEATH, the buoy tender from ’76 to ’78 and then I went to Cutler for a year. When I went in the Coast Guard Charles Stevens was with me, we ended up going in on the buddy/buddy plan. Robert Delpopa (USCG recruiter) met us up at the Federal Building in Bangor and we got through all that and Randy Blackwood was in the Coast Guard, Charlie’s cousin. Charlie goes give Randy three days vacation, because that was the deal if you signed someone up you got three free days. That sounds like a pretty good deal, I said give Donald Beal three days for me because he was getting married. He was down in Southwest Harbor, he never had a clue that I was going into the Coast Guard. I figured he’s a good friend and who is going to argue with getting three days free vacation. When I said, Donald Beal, this Robert Delpopa said ‘Oh you know Donald Beal? and he had all these Donald Beal stories, because they had been in Vietnam together on one of the cutters.”
When on a motorcycle ride one fine summer day a few years ago Kenton ended up in Eastport. He explained, “I got down to the Waco Diner went in and there were two bikers who said, ‘You need a bloody Mary?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds pretty good,’ they said, ‘The woman who makes the best Bloody Marys in this part is right in there.’ So I am sitting there at this bar and I look up on the wall and there is a t-shirt that said, “Free Delpopa” and I am thinking, Delpopa ain’t a name you come across everyday so when that woman came back in I says, “I was in the Coast Guard one time and my recruiter’s name was Robert Delpopa is that anything to do with that t-shirt? She goes, ‘Oh my God, you wait just a minute and she went out into the front and brought back old Robert Delpopa and he and I sat there and had one hell of a good time. Where that t-shirt came from he decided to put on his own fireworks display in Eastport one New Year’s Eve. They were having issues with having that down there, giving permits. Delpopa ended up putting on a big display and they arrested him. I forget how many people the waitress told me that went to the Court House in Calais and every one of them was wearing a free Delpopa t-shirt. The judge told him he didn’t want to see him back there and don’t do it again.”
Kenton got out of the Coast Guard in 1978. He came right back to Jonesport and dug clams and worms. Just about this time they needed a mechanic at the Navy base in Cutler. “I went down,” said Kenton. “Eddie Murray was off submarines and he was in charge of the power plant. I met him right there at the cafeteria and they are putting the questions right to me. He’s asking me if I thought I had the abilities to deal with those engines and everything. You don’t know until you try it. Just about the time things were going a little south I said, “You see that ’79 pickup? She is brand spanking new, you give me two weeks and I will do everything I can to make this work. If you won’t like the looks of me, you tell me and I’ll put my ass right aboard of that and I am headed right back to Jonesport.”
Kenton was hired and went to work there in the fall of 1979 and through the summer. He then said, “I knew I had a chance to go down to the Gulf and work on boats. I went with Offshore Logistics for three months and worked on the supply boats. Then they were trying to get people to go to Alaska so bad, I had been up there for two years so I just jumped right on that bandwagon and there was better money to boot. I worked on the Western Geophysical and was there from ’80 to ’85. That was oil exploration, seismic oil exploration. Then in December ’85 my next stop was with Arco Marine on the super tankers and I stayed with them till I retired.”
Since his retirement he has enjoyed tuna fishing in the summers, competed in a few lobster boat races and during the winter he has been heading south on his motorcycle. His house on Beals Island overlooks Pig Gut so you see all the comings and goings there as well as in Moosabec Reach, which on a nice summer day is extremely relaxing. Do not fear, he is still dabbling with engines, albeit slightly smaller ones, and that is just as relaxing to him. Retirement has been good to Kenton.