Classic Star Island Sunset


STAR Softball field

    Thomas Laighton fathered three children, Celia, Oscar and Cedric. This family is responsible for the "Hotel Era" on the Isles of Shoals and for bringing the 19th century literary celebrities to the Isles. Here is a timeline that describes the important events of the Laighton family. (Within this time, the famous Smuttynose Murders occur. The latest "revival" of the story is represented in the novel by Anita Shreve, "The Weight of Water" which is rumored to be in the process of being made into a movie by Oliver Stone, starring Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley.)

    On the LOAS II conference this year (1999), Peter Phipps presented a workshop named "350 Years of the Isles of Shoals". It was well thought-out, well presented and very well attended. Accolades to Peter for a fun, informative and often controversial workshop!
    There are few places except Star Island where you can be in a "History Class" and have one of the "students" exclaim, "Yeah, I was there - I knew Oscar. I rode in his boat, the Twilight and he and I talked of astronomy on a number of occasions." This was Richard Case who spent much of his youth on Star Island. History does live.


1805: Thomas Laighton is born.
1830's: Thomas organizes working man's reading club. Organized Portsmouth Whaling Company with $25,000 capital.
1831: Thomas marries Eliza Rymes.
6/29/1835: Celia is born.
1836: Thomas is made co-editor of New Hampshire Gazette.
1837: Thomas is elected to the state Senate.
1838: Thomas buys 4 islands; Hog, Smuttynose, Cedar and Malaga.
1839: Oscar is born.
9/1839: Thomas moves the family to White Island to take job as the light-house keeper.
1840: Cedric is born.
1843: Thomas moves the whole family to Smuttynose Island.
1843 and on: Thomas develops a hotel on Smuttynose Island called the Mid-Ocean House.
7/1846: Levi Thaxter, with 2 degrees from Harvard and a year with an English actor in NY, arrives at the Mid-Ocean House. He is hired as tutor for the children. He is described as a failed actor who came out to the Islands for treatment of nervous depression.
6/1848: Thomas and Levi create a partnership and open a new hotel, The Appledore House.
9 or 10/1848: Levi asks Thomas for Celia's hand in marriage. She is 13. Thomas flies into a rage and they dissolve their partnership. Levi promises to live alone in a hut.
1849: Celia is sent away to a school in Boston for one term.
1850: Longfellow makes his first visit to the Isles.
1850: Levi marries Celia. She is 15.
1852: Celia, 17 years old, gives birth to Karl.
early 1850's: Hawthorne and Pierce, college roommates, visit Appledore House. Hawthorne calls Celia the "Miranda" of the Isles - making reference to Shakespeare's "The Tempest".
1853: Levi accepts missionary post as minister of Gosport. After a year, Levi "retires from the world of action".
1855: Levi and Oscar are caught in a storm, their boat capsizing. Distraught, Levi leaves the islands and does not return until 1879 - 24 years later!
between 1856 & 1860: Levi's father buys him a house in Newtonville, MA. Celia lives in the mansion with no servants and no friends. She is very unhappy and writes "Land-Locked".
1861: Land-Locked appears in The Atlantic.
1863: Whittier meets Celia.
1866: Thomas Laighton dies.
1870: Levi leaves Celia and Karl for his first trip to Florida (for scientific cataloging). Horace Greeley calls "The Isles of Shoals" the best prose writing that I've seen for a long time".
1872: Celia gets $500 for her first volume of poetry.
3/1873: Murders at Smuttynose.
1875: The Laightons take on $100,000 of debt to build second Oceanic. Oscar and Cedric are sole partners.
1877: Eliza Laighton, Celia's mother dies.
1880: Celia goes to Europe and meets Browning, who thanks her husband (Levi) for popularizing his work in the US.
1884: Levi Thaxter dies.
1894: "Island Garden" published. Celia dies.

For more on the history of The Isles of Shoals, check out's history pages

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