Digest>Archives> April 2009

Keeper’s Korner

Tid Bits from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Information Sought on Lighthouse Builder

James A. Miller has written to us seeking information on Maj. Cornelius Augustus Ogden of the Army Corp of Engineers who died in Brandon, Vermont in 1855 and is buried in the Malone family plot at the Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile Alabama. His wife, Emily W. Malone Ogden was the widow of Lt. Stephen Tuttle. Ogden helped to build Fort Morgan in Mobile, Alabama. Maj. Ogden died in Vermont while overseeing the construction of a lighthouse. Mr. Miller has also piqued our interest and we’d also like to know more biographical information about him. We’d especially like to know what lighthouse he was building when he died; are there any photographs of him available; and did he build any other lighthouses? If anyone can help please write to James A. Miller, 4970 N. Hampton Dr., Southport, NC 28461-7420 and please be sure to send a copy to us or e-mail us at Editor@LighthouseDigest.com.

Armed for Security

The United States Guard, the overseer of our nation’s aids to navigation, which still includes many lighthouses, will now have M240 machine guns on many of its helicopters as part of its Homeland Security duties. This brings back to mind that during other times of world conflict, the Lighthouse Service played an active role that started with the Spanish American War when gun emplacements were installed at some lighthouses and again during both World Wars. Lighthouse tenders, that serviced lighthouses, were also pressed into service during those wars. For example at the outbreak of World War I, twenty-one lighthouses were transferred to the War Department for coastal defense purposes as well as thirty lighthouse tenders and four lightships that were transferred to the U.S. Navy for such things as laying submarine nets, placing mines, marking wrecks and patrol duty.

Bureau of Lighthouses

Although, generally referred to as the Lighthouse Establishment or Lighthouse Service, since 1789, the lighthouses in the United States have operated under a number of different names. On June 17, 1910, Lighthouse Board, which had been in charge of United States lighthouses since 1852, was disbanded and its duties were taken over by the newly created Bureau of Lighthouses. George R. Putnam was appointed by the president as the first Commissioner and is well known to lighthouse historians. However, very little is known about the other men appointed under him and we’d like to locate photographs of these men and some biographical information about them. If you can help us please e-mail Editor@LighthouseDigest.com or write to us. The men were: John S. Conway, Deputy Commissioner; H.B. Bowerman, Chief Constructing Engineer and E.C. Gillette, Superintendent of Naval Construction.

Lighthouse Merger Proposed

In order to save costs, some officials have proposed that the three biggest lighthouse organizations in the world should merge into one. The proposal would merge Trinity House, which is responsible for all navigational aids in English and Welsh waters; the Northern Lighthouse Board which manages Scotland’s lighthouses, and the Commissioners for Irish Lights. However, it seems most officials at the Trinity House and the Northern Lighthouse Board claim no meaningful cost savings would be made and others claim the merger could be so complicated and take so long that it would take years to recoup any savings that might be reflected, if any at all. The debate will go and in the end it will be the politicians that make the final decision. We wonder how much history and historical artifacts could be lost should a merger of such magnitude take place; as well as the regional maritime pride associated with the organizations. Stay tuned.

Lahaina Goes Solar

The United States Coast Guard has installed solar power to Hawaii’s Lahaina Lighthouse. Although it no longer stands, this is the site of the first lighthouse built in Hawaii when King Kamehameha ordered the building of a lighthouse in 1840. The current nondescript tower dates from the early 1900s.

Heceta Turned Off

Although Oregon’s Heceta Head Lighthouse has been turned off, because of mechanical problem, the lighthouse has remained open for tours. The mechanism that rotates the light needs to be overhauled.

Rotary to Help Swallowtail

The Grand Manan Rotary has chosen the restoration of the Swallowtail Lighthouse Keeper’s house on Grand Manan, New Brunswick to be their international Rotarian project for 2009. They will be assisting the Friends of Swallowtail Light, which just recently received their charitable status number.

History in Danger

Lighthouses, whether they are restored or neglected are always in danger. We’ve all seen how massive brush fires can be in destroying anything in their path, sometimes giving the occupants only minutes to get out. This was obvious by the recent fires in places like California, Australia and Greece and others. A recent brush fire on in the island where Florida’s Anclote Key Lighthouse is located came within 100 yards of the lighthouse keeper’s house. Park and Forestry officials had to call in the help of a helicopter water drop to save the structure.

This story appeared in the April 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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