Gus Wilson

Gus Wilson

August Aaron “Gus” Wilson

The best known keeper at Spring Point was Augustus Aaron Wilson, known as Gus, born in Tremont on Mount Desert Island on September 8, 1864. At age fifty he entered the lighthouse service and was assigned to Goose Rocks Lighthouse in Penobscot Bay in March 1915. In 1917 he was assigned to Two Lights Station in Cape Elizabeth, but a few months later he was re-assigned to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. He retired in the Fall of 1934 after twenty years of service and died in Gray, Maine, in 1950.

For fifty years, Gus Wilson was a prolific carver of decoys and his decoys were renowned for their detail and for the highly varied head and wing positions, a sharp contrast to decoys carved by his contemporaries. Wilson frequently sold his decoys for 75 cents apiece to the Walker & Evans sporting goods store in Portland or gave them away to friends. Many of his decoys were carved while wiling away the hours on watch at Spring Point.

Gus Wilson mallard

Mallard by Gus Wilson.

Wilson’s carvings were not limited to decoys, but spanned a range from African animals to smaller species of marsh birds frequently seen on the Maine coast. Beginning around 1940, Wilson’s pieces became collectors items. Although some decoys found their way into museum collections, many of them were highly sought after and demand sent prices soaring.

Many of Gus Wilson’s carvings began to be sold at auction. Most fetched prices in the hundreds or low thousands of dollars. Some of his best creations, however, brought eye-popping prices. In July 2005, a decoy found in a Cape Cod barn

Preener by Gus Wilson

Preener by Gus Wilson

sold for $195,000. In April 2006, two of Wilson’s decoys discovered in a Cape Porpoise, Maine, fish shack fetched $148,000 and $150,000 respectively. In 2008, a rare Gus Wilson decoy was sold to an unidentified buyer at Christies auction house for $125,000.

Photos used with the gracious permission of Gene Kangas of Creekside Art Gallery, Concord, OH.

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