Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2019

East Rigolets – Pleasonton’s Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison


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Vintage image the East Rigolets Lighthouse, ...

The East Rigolets Lighthouse was built on what has always been known as Rabbit Island near Slidell, Louisiana. However, it was often referred to in government records as Pleasonton’s Lighthouse, reportedly after Stephen Pleasonton, the man who was in charge of our nation’s lighthouses from 1820 to 1852. Folklore has it that it was named after him because of his penny-pinching ways, which also described the reason for the shoddy construction of the lighthouse.

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After the East Rigolets Lighthouse was ...

Although government records stated that the lighthouse was completed in 1833, the contactor did not arrive to build the lighthouse until two weeks after December 15th of that year, the date that the tower was supposed to have been lighted. The tower was not well built, and to make matters worse, during most of its time in service, it was poorly maintained.

Its first keeper, Isaac H. Smith, served for seven years. His successor, E.M. Chester, lasted less than a year – he was fired for drunkenness. The third keeper to serve at the lighthouse, Littleton J. Waters, didn’t last long either. An inspector reported that the keeper was totally negligent. The door to the tower had disappeared and windows were broken out of the tower. The fourth keeper, James J. White, who must have more responsible, arrived in 1844 and stayed until 1849.

An 1870 report stated that the keeper’s house was in bad shape and not worth repairing; however, the report stated that the house was suitable for living in the region’s climate. This must not have sat well with the keeper. Interestingly, this statement was also given again in a similar report in the following year, although money was later requested for a new keeper’s house.

Eventually the lighthouse was deemed no longer necessary, and on May 25, 1874 the East Rigolets Lighthouse was officially discontinued. The property then sat vacant for many years until 1883 when the State of Louisiana asked to use it as a quarantine station.

In 1923, the government sold the lighthouse to a company named Jahncke Service, Inc.

Just when or how the East Rigolets Lighthouse met its demise is unclear, but today it is gone, only to remain in a few old photographs from the pages of time.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2019 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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