Gus Wilson, light keeper
Gus Wilson carved during his spare time. Wilson arrived at Spring Point Ledge Light in 1917, bringing his hobby with him. During his twenty years as a keeper, he whittled thousands of birds – duck decoys, shorebirds, seagulls and songbirds. He also carved a variety of animals. His decoys were especially known for their detail and their unique head and wing positions, making them distinctively different from those created by other decoy carvers.
While serving at Spring Point Ledge Light, Wilson sold many of his decoys for 75 cents apiece to the Walker & Evans sporting goods store in Portland. In addition, he gave quite a few to his friends.
Around 1940, Wilson’s decoys gained popularity and became collectors’ items. Some became museum pieces while others were sold at auction.
Gus Wilson died in 1950, so he didn’t live to see how high the value of his works appreciated. In July 2005, one of his decoys found in a Cape Cod barn was sold for $195,000. In April 2006, two Gus Wilson decoys were discovered in a fish shack and sold for $148,000 and $150,000, respectively. In 2008, another of his special decoys sold at auction for $125,000. Pieces of his work are now on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Gus Wilson’s hobby brought him satisfaction, yet he never expected it to bring great wealth. Wouldn’t he be surprised to know the value others placed on his handiwork?
“From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.” Proverbs 12:14
*In 1951, a 900-foot breakwater was constructed of 50,000 tons of granite blocks, connecting the lighthouse to the shore.