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The History of the Hanging of the Buoys at The Church on the Cape

By: Shelley Wigglesworth, Lead writer, The Kennebunk Village

The late Rev. Sherwood Treadwell, who served as the minister of the Church on the Cape from 1993 -1999 is credited with spearheading the symbolic “Hanging of the Buoys,” a permanent display in the church installed in 1995 to honor the commercial fishing heritage of Cape Porpoise, and the substantial role fishermen and their families have held in the community for hundreds of years.

Treadwell’s idea was simple: to place one symbolic buoy for each fisherman, with each buoy painted the color(s) that each individual fisherman used. The idea was quickly embraced by parishioners, and the congregation soon pooled together to make it happen.

Multi-generational lifelong lobsterman Gary Ridlon and his late wife, Marge collected and prepared the buoys for hanging. Anne

and Ed Thompson mapped a layout area for the buoys to be displayed and created plaques to identify the owners of the buoys. Carl Bartlett made Shaker peg hangers for the buoys. Prudence Willis provided the paint needed. Carl Bartlett, Joe Fairfield, and Frank Kember spruced up the foyer area with a fresh coat of paint in preparation for the display.


On the Sunday of September 24, 1995, a special sermon and ceremony was held, and the hanging of 39 buoys took place, one for each lobsterman in Cape porpoise. A month later, 4 more symbolic buoys were hung in the entryway, for a total of 43. The additional buoys were installed by the great granddaughters of the late lobsterman Ed Bilderback, Lindsey, and Kelsey Shields, and the grandsons of the late lobsterman Lyman Matthews, Mitch and Kyle Matthews. Each of the fishermen’s descendants climbed a ladder to proudly hang their grandfathers’ tools of the trade high on the wall.


A Church on the Cape newsletter from 1995 describes the hanging of the buoys as “a tribute to the vital role played by our fishermen of the past, present, and into the future. They perpetuate a commitment to the sea which has been at the heart of this community’s life for generations. Church on the Cape is proud to serve as a beacon for seafarers and as a place of spiritual nurture for pilgrims of all walks of life.”


When entering the church today, the colorful and cheerful buoys are the first thing one notices. A warm and cheery welcome, and nod to the heritage of the people of the fishing village of Cape Porpoise, Maine. 

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