This past February 14th, the United States Coast Guard hired Tuskegee Contracting LLC of Hampton, Virginia and agreed to pay them a whopping $310,000 to demolish Maryland’s Hambrooks Bar Light no later than June 16, 2020. At that time, there was no apparent effort made to find a suitable land-based site, such as a museum, where at least the top part of the structure could be saved and later restored for historical purposes.
However, Chad Dean, of the Caroline County Historical Society, started contacting various officials about the possibility of stopping the demolition and possibly saving the beacon. The day before the light was scheduled for demolition, Congressman Andy Harris said “The Hambrook Bar Light will not be demolished tomorrow.” Apparently, the Coast Guard did not do a historical protocol review before they scheduled the demolition. Perhaps the light or parts of it may yet be saved for historical purposes. Time will tell.
The history of the Hambrooks Bar Light is somewhat sketchy, as is information about the men who serviced the beacon. Although some sources indicated that these men were lighthouse keepers, they were not: instead, they were classified by the government as laborers, but they were more commonly referred to as lamp-lighters.
In 1902, Levi B. Leonard became the first lamp-lighter to maintain the Hambrooks Bar Light and he did so until his death on March 20, 1911. Levi Leonard’s son, John Thomas Leonard, temporarily took over the position for a few weeks until he was officially replaced on April 12, 1911 by Milbourne Cannon. He was one of the brothers from the Oyster Pirate Wars Cannon family in the 1880s and 1890s who fought against the dredgers who were destroying the oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay.
Milbourne Cannon held the Hambrooks Bar lamp-lighter position until he resigned in September of 1915 and was replaced almost immediately by Samuel Eugene Andrews, who was also put in charge of the Cambridge Harbor Range Lights.
According to an Andrews family history document, when Samuel Eugene Andrews died in 1919, his son, Guy Andrews, took over the tending of the Hambrooks Bar Light, but the son’s name does not appear on government records, and he would have been only 12-years old at the time. Since there were no other people’s names associated with the Hambrooks Bar Light after 1919, it is assumed from that point forward, that the beacon was maintained by the crew of a lighthouse buoy tender that serviced the area.
In 1991, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Red Cedar refurbished and restored the Hambrooks Bar Light, but nothing had been done since.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2020 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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