‘Grandpa Moses’ painting commemorates Phippsburg’s past

Bill and Kathy Perkins at Green Point. Kathy Perkins helped lead the push for the memorial sign, according to Dan Dowd. Contributed / Dan Dowd

It only takes a few minutes to hike the winding, wooded trail to the top of Cox’s Head in Phippsburg. The effort rewards visitors with spectacular views of the Kennebec Estuary, Fort Popham, and the occasional seal floating in the water below.

Now, thanks to the efforts of the Phippsburg Land Trust, local benefactors and a Massachusetts cop turned prolific artist, Wilbur Preserve in Cox’s Head has another gift to offer: a history lesson.

Last fall, the land trust put up a sign in Green Point featuring a reproduction of a painting by Everett Perkins, a Cox’s Head resident who spent the last years of his life producing artwork based on his memories of the region at the beginning of the 20th century. . The painting depicts Green Point as it looked in 1910, when fleets of steam tugs and tall ships helped make Bath one of the busiest ports in North America.

“There are a lot of places where you hike and wonder about its history, aren’t there?” said Dan Dowd of the Phippsburg Land Trust. “The sign gives people the opportunity to learn about the history of the plot they are walking on.”


Everett Perkins was born in 1900 in Malden, Massachusetts, but every summer he ran away to his family home in Cox’s Head, according to his son, Bill Perkins.


A lookout on Cox’s Head was part of a communications system that helped ships reach Bath safely. John Terhune / Time Record

“He spent his whole youth here,” said Bill Perkins, retired soccer coach and athletic director. “He watched the tall ships come and go and the tugs and of course the big steamers that sailed here from Boston.”

Phippsburg was a different place then. Tourists from Boston and New York rode steamers up the coast to stay in the grand hotels of Popham—hotels that, like the houses in Cox’s Head, lacked indoor plumbing.

The region’s biggest export was ice cream, a luxury in the days before refrigerators, said Merry Chapin of the Phippsburg Historical Society.

“A lot of places in Phippsburg were cutting ice in the winter,” Chapin said. “These ships were going around the world with ice. It was a big deal. »

“If one of your ancestors’ girlfriends went to the Kentucky Derby,” Bill Perkins thought, “she probably sipped a mint julep with an ice cube of Kennebec.”


Far from Kentucky and too young for mint juleps, Everett Perkins only got to watch the sport in Phippsburg when the men from Cox’s Head and Parker Head gathered in the hay fields to face off in a game baseball.

Above all, the boy looked at the water and the ships which never failed to capture his imagination.


When Everett Perkins retired from a career as a police lieutenant in Massachusetts, he couldn’t let go of his childhood memories, his son said. He set up an easel in his basement and began painting the steamships, sailboats, and schools he had seen half a century earlier as a child in Phippsburg.

It was an unlikely outlet, according to Bill Perkins, who said his father taught himself by watching an art show on public television.

Several Everett Perkins paintings hang on the walls of Bill and Kathy Perkins’ home, the same building where the artist spent his childhood summers. John Terhune / Time Record


“No class,” he said. “No adviser. He has just started painting.

Today, more than two decades after the artist’s death in 2000, dozens of paintings by Everett Perkins hang on the walls of Bill Perkins’ home, the Phippsburg Historical Society and other locations around town. where Everett moved after his retirement. No one is sure how many paintings he actually produced, said Bill Perkins, because the artist was quick to distribute them to friends and neighbors – along with a story of the town’s past.

“He could tell you everything that happened here,” said Jim Murphy, a neighbor who helped fund the Green Point sign. “Everett, he was a local historian.

Eventually, he earned a new nickname.

“There’s a relatively well-known American folk painter who has quite the reputation,” Dowd said. “Her name is Grandmother Moses. We all jokingly call Bill’s dad “Grandpa Moses.”



The Green Point sign, paid for by Murphy, Phippsburg resident Mary Clarity, Bill Perkins and his wife Kathy, includes a description of the location’s vital role in Bath’s shipping industry.

Bill Perkins explains how Phippsburg has changed since his father’s childhood in the early 20th century. John Terhune / Time Record

The Knickerbocker Steam Towage Company sent steam tugs to pull the sailboats onto the Kennebec. Using a signaling system involving a lookout atop Cox’s Head and Phippsburg’s first telephone line, the sailors coordinated their mooring plans with Bath shipyards.

Other than a few remnants of dusty coal on the rocks at the point and the piers of the wharf in the water below, there are few traces of Cox Head’s bustling past. The sign is an attempt to ensure that images from Everett Perkins’ childhood don’t fade from memory, Murphy said.

“For posterity,” he said, explaining why he helped fund the sign. “For the story. A foreigner comes here, they don’t really have any inking about what happened there and how important it was at that time.

The Phippsburg Land Trust worked with a Colorado company to produce the Green Point sign, which includes a reproduction of an Everett Perkins painting along with a description. John Terhune / Time Record


Bill Perkins, too, values ​​history. He, like his father before him, became a local storyteller, just as quick to discuss Phippsburg’s role in the War of 1812 as he was to tell the story of the steamboat crew who got drunk in town. and hid from their angry captain.

Yet for him and his wife, the sign is about more than preserving the past or marking his beloved home. It’s about honoring grandfather Moses from the mouth of the Kennebec.

“More than anything else,” he said, “it’s a memorial to the old man.”

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