Mission’s 1905 ‘Morning Star’ Boat Restoration in Minnesota

Mission’s 1905 ‘Morning Star’ Boat Restoration in Minnesota

BAR HARBOR, ME — Last year we were contacted by the present owner of the Sunbeam V’s predecessor, the Sunbeam IV which was operating as a fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska.

This year, about two weeks after the Sunbeam V started its refitting process, we received an email from Rebecca Peterson with St. Paul Shipwrights, St. Paul, MN. That entity has, and is restoring for a private owner, Maine Seacoast Mission’s 1905 predecessor boat to the first Sunbeam.

Ms. Peterson is trying to answer still pending questions about the Morning Star‘s history. We include an edited version of her email, including the missing pieces of history. Perhaps someone reading this will be able to fill in the blanks.


Hello –

I am contacting you in hopes of gaining further information about a boat we are restoring in our shop in St. Paul, Minnesota. This launch, named Virginia, was the second boat used by the Maine Seacoast Missionary Society, donated to the mission in 1905 by Alexander Mackay Smith. The boat was named after his wife, Virginia Stuart Mackay Smith.

The boat’s name was changed to Morning Star. There is a photo of it on your website on the occasion of your 110th Anniversary. The Morning Star was replaced in 1912 by the first of the Sunbeam ships. I made contact with descendants of the Mackay Smith family who told me more about their family’s ownership of the boat. It is truly a fascinating life she has had, first having ferried the likes of the Vanderbilts, and then used to serve the needs of the poor on the Maine seacoast.

It is a 1898 (or so) 45’ Launch built by the Gas Engine & Power Co, of Morris Heights, New York. This is a beautiful gilded age launch whose cabin still retains finely detailed mahogany woodwork, once powered by a naphtha engine. Here is a link to our website if you have an interest in seeing the progress in our restoration.

I would like to find out what happened to the boat subsequent to its use by the Missionary Society. Who bought it and what was done with it? Eventually she ended up on Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine, was renamed Virginia, and was used for passenger and mail service. More recently, the boat was attached to Sandbar Island in Moosehead Lake, and passed from owner to owner of the island.

I would be grateful for any old archives that shed further light on the “staunch little launch,” as she was called by the Rev. MacDonald, your organization’s founder.

My sincerest thanks.

Rebecca Peterson, Office Manager
St Paul Shipwrights
643 Ohio Street
St Paul, MN 55107
[email protected]

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