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

It takes only a few minutes to hike the winding, wooded trail to the summit of Cox’s Head in Phippsburg. The effort rewards visitors with spectacular views of the Kennebec Estuary, Fort Popham and, occasionally, seals bobbing 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 at Cox’s Head has another gift to offer: a lesson in history.

Last fall, the land trust installed a sign at 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 art based on his memories of the region from the turn of the 20th century. The painting depicts Green Point as it was in 1910, when fleets of steam tugboats and great sailing ships helped make Bath one of the busiest ports in North America.

“There’s a lot of places you hike, and you wonder about the history of it, right?” said Dan Dowd of the Phippsburg Land Trust. “The sign gives people the opportunity to learn about the history of the parcel they’re walking on.”


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


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

“He spent his entire youth here,” said Bill Perkins, a retired high school football coach and athletics director. “He watched the great sailing ships come and go and the tugboats and, of course, the big steamboats that were running here from Boston.”

Phippsburg was a different place then. Tourists from Boston and New York would take steamships up the coast to stay at major hotels in Popham – hotels that, like the homes on Cox’s Head, lacked indoor plumbing.

The area’s biggest export was ice, a luxury in the era 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 all over the world with ice. It was a huge business.”

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

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


Mostly, the boy watched the water and the ships that never failed to capture his imagination.


When Everett Perkins retired after a career as a police lieutenant in Massachusetts, he couldn’t shake his childhood memories, his son said. He set up an easel in his cellar and began painting the steamships, sailboats and schoolhouses he had seen a half century earlier as a boy 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 / Times Record

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

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


“He could tell you everything that went on 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. “She goes by the name Grandma Moses. We all sort of jokingly call Bill’s father, ‘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 / Times Record

The Knickerbocker Steam Towage Company would dispatch steam tugboats to pull sailing ships up the Kennebec. Through a signaling system involving a lookout on the top of Cox’s Head and Phippsburg’s first telephone line, sailors coordinated their docking plans with the shipyards in Bath.


Besides some dusty coal remnants on the rocks of the point and the dock pilings in the water below, little trace remains of Cox Head’s bustling past. The sign is an attempt to ensure the sights of Everett Perkins’ childhood don’t slip from memory, Murphy said.

“For posterity,” he said, explaining why he helped fund the sign. “For history. Some stranger comes here, they don’t really have any inking really of what went on down there and how important it was in those days.”

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 / Times Record

Bill Perkins, too, values history. He, like his father before him, has become a local storyteller, just as quick to discuss Phippsburg’s role in the War of 1812 as he is to recount the tale of the steamboat crew that got drunk in town and hid from their angry captain.

Yet for he and his wife, the sign is about more than preserving the past or marking his beloved home. It’s about honoring the Grandpa Moses of the Mouth of the Kennebec.

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

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