Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2013

Recalling the Lighthouse Tender Lily


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Recently two rare photographs showing the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment’s Lighthouse Tender Lily came into our possession as a donation from Lighthouse Digest subscriber Judi Kearney. Most people tend to think of the lighthouse tenders in coastal areas of the oceans or on the Great Lakes, but lighthouse tenders were also needed to serve the aids to navigation on inland rivers such as the Mississippi and Missouri.

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This darker historic photo of the vessel was taken in the early 1900s near Guttenberg, Iowa, a town that in 2009 was named one of America’s 20 Prettiest Towns by www.ForbesTraveler.com.

The other, and lighter, image photo was taken on November 16, 1908. The person who took this photo, who is only known as Elsie, wrote, “We took this picture at our last picnic about eight miles down the river at “Linwood” near Dutchers.” Interestingly, this image also shows the words ‘Light House Tender,” under the letter U.S., which is not shown on the other photo.

Sadly, all that remains of this one-of-a-kind side-wheel lighthouse tender are in rare and hard to find photographs such as these.

The United States Lighthouse Tender Lily was built in Jeffersonville, Indiana and was the first lighthouse tender built specifically for river service. She entered commissioned service in 1875 and served in the 14th Lighthouse District on the upper Mississippi River. She was gutted by fire while tied up at Cincinnati, Ohio in September of 1884 and was completely rebuilt by the Madison Marine Railway for a cost of $10,850. She returned to service in January of 1885.

The Lily was transferred to the 15th Lighthouse District in 1888 to replace the USLHT Ivy that had been wrecked. If you look closely at this photo, you will see painted on the half circle on the side wheel the words “15th Light House District.” In the early years, the word lighthouse was almost always used as two words.

In 1909 the Lily was sent to be home-ported in Rock Island, Illinois on the Missouri River. She sank on the 17th of October 1911, near Washington, Missouri. She was refloated but sank again after hitting a snag near St. Albans, Missouri on November 23, 1911; she was declared a total loss. Apparently her wreck silted up to the point that it formed an island and is now known as Lily Island.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 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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