Grace Colley, the woman who lived on Duck Island

The Jessie Donahue Collection in the Vaughn Cottage archives closet has some real gems hidden in its boxes and folders.  One of those gems is Grace Colley.  Click on any of the images or pages to make them larger.


First meetinghouse at Isles of Shoals was 45 years before Star Island’s chapel

I started this blog as a way to share interesting reference questions and their answers.  I responded to one today that may surprise some of you.  Many folks may not know that there was a brick meetinghouse on Smuttynose Island in 1640, 45 years before we had our first meetinghouse built on Star Island in 1685.  Lots of folks know about Rev. John Tucke and all of his contributions, but there was many clergy who predate him, about 100 years of various visitors to Shoals pulpits before Tucke.  So to get to the question I received:

According to the book, “The Hull Family in America”, Rev
Joseph Hull was minister of Accomenticus in 1643. The Isle of Shoals was under his jurisdiction.  He served there until 1653 when he left for England.  He again returned to the Isle of Shoals and died there in 1665.

Another source from the Internet states that Rev Hull built a church on the Isle of Shoals.  Unfortunately, we do not know which island.  If you possibly know what island was settled as early as 1643 we would appreciate it.  Most of the  references say he was in Oyster River (York, Maine). Continue reading

Louis Wagner added to list of American Psycho Killers- Innocent or Guilty?

Louis Wagner was recently featured in the Huffington Post article here titled 10 Killers That America Forgot.  

We on Star Island have not forgotten the Smuttynose Murders, and there is also evidence that Louis Wagner may have been innocent!  I have compiled some of the resources on the Vaughn Website under

One of the other rumored suspects was Karl Thaxter, Celia Thaxter’s oldest son.  She would have been especially motivated to become involved to make sure her son was safe.  She wrote a letter about the murder available here, and also wrote A Memorable Murder on Smuttynose about the tragic event.

Just last night Ann Beattie presented Murder on Smuttynose Island at the Historic Star conference on island this week- the theme this year is Mystery & Mayhem! She presented a good case for Louis’ guilt, so perhaps it was him after all.

At the Discover Center there is currently on display the murder ax, shown above, on loan from the collection with a note that says there is definitive proof that Louis was indeed the murderer.  There is more information available at Anatomy of an Ax Murder and other books and resources at so you can decide for yourself!

Last chance for Under the Isles of Shoals exhibit at Discover Center in Portsmouth!

If you have not yet made it to the Discover Center in Portsmouth, I highly recommend going for the Under the Isles of Shoals exhibit!  I believe it is up until the end of August. It is a truly wonderful exhibit highlighting the exciting artifacts and discoveries they have uncovered at Smuttynose Island over the past five years, directed by Nathan Hamilton. Continue reading