The Hesper and Luther Little
The four-masted schooners Hesper and Luther Little were laid up at Wiscasset in 1932. Here they remained, rotting and becoming tourist attractions, until their hulks had deteriorated into eyesores. In 1998 they were demolished.
Luther Little was built in 1917 at by Read Brothers Co., Somerset, MA. She worked both in a coastal and deep-water trades early in her career. In 1920 she grounded in Haiti, remained stuck for two weeks, and nearly became a loss. In the end she was gotten off without serious damage. By the mid-1920's the 1234 ton (GRT) schooner was laid up. In June of 1932 she was auctioned to a Mr. Frank Winter, who had her towed to Wiscasset and laid up alongside the railroad wharf. She never moved again.
Hesper was built by Crowninshild Shipbuilding, South Somerset, MA. Her career started poorly, as the launching ways collapsed beneath her on launching day, 4 July 1918. New ways were built and she finally reached the water on 23 August. The 1348 ton (GRT) schooner made several lengthy voyages, including runs to Spain and Venezuela. In 1925 she grounded while entering Boston and required nine tugs to free her. Sometime in the following years she was laid up at Rockport, Maine. In January of 1928 she got loose in a storm, demolished a wharf, and landed on the beach. She was hauled off and eventually ended up in Portland, still laid up. In June of 1932 she was sold to Frank Winter for $600. She was towed to Wiscasset, arriving 1 September 1932 to join Luther Little.
Mr. Winter had purchased the schooners, and the insolvent Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad, to operate a Boston-to-Wiscasset coal and lumber business. The schooners would bring coal north to Wiscasset and return south with lumber, while the railroad shuttled coal and timber between Wiscasset and interior points in Maine. Sadly, this plan never became a reality, due to Mr. Winter's untimely death. Both the railroad and the schooners were abandoned where they lay.
Time soon began to tell on the old schooners, and Hesper's masts were cut down around 1940. Her aft deckhouse was burned to celebrate the end of WWII; her forward deckhouse met a similar fate in 1978. Fire was a continual threat to these ships, and they both suffered numerous fires. Firefighting was nearly impossible due to the ships' inaccessibility, but the Wiscasset Fire Department made a valiant effort each time. To the delight of tourists, the ships retained their shape for many years. Each year the hulks were a bit more run down, but through the 1980's they were still recognizable as ships.
In the early 1990's the elements finally took control over the hulks. One winter saw Hesper's hulk disintegrate into an unrecognizable mound of debris. A storm in 1995 took Luther Little's remaining masts, and the rest of her hull began to collapse. Around this time talk of "preservation", a constant issue for many years, came to the forefront. Before anything could be down, however, Luther Little's hull finally gave up and collapsed into a heap of debris. With the ships reduced to unsightly piles of rubble, there was little choice but to demolish the wrecks. This work took place in the spring and early summer of 1998. Certain items from the ships - masts, hardware, and identifiable wooden items - were saved, but the rest was dredged out of the river and hauled away to be dumped. Maine's most famous schooners had ceased to exist.