The southernmost of the Cranberry Islands, about four miles from Mount Desert Island, Baker was settled in the early 1800s by William and Hannah Gilley and their three children. Eventually, the Gilleys would raise twelve, six boys and six girls, and the nine who married produced 58 grandchildren.
In 1828, when the Baker Island light was built, William Gilley served as the first keeper. The current 43-foot brick tower, dating from 1855, raises its light higher (105 feet above sea level) than any other in the area, but — obscured by trees — it can barely be seen from the water.
Today Baker Island, except for a few private summer homes, is part of Acadia National Park. A popular, ranger-led boat tour in season allows visitors to explore the island, and picnic on the massive rock slabs that line Baker’s southern shore.
Fun Fact: We know a great deal about 19th-century life on Baker Island because Charles W. Eliot, then still president of Harvard University, wrote a long magazine article in 1899 about John, the Gilley’s tenth child and youngest son. In print since 1904 as the biography John Gilley, over the years this book has had at least three subtitles: “Maine Farmer and Fisherman,” “One of the Forgotten Millions,” and “of Baker’s Island.” One historian has called it “the most remarkable delineation of the pioneer life on the Coast of Maine that has ever been published.”