Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2023

Lost Lighthouses


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(Lighthouse Digest archives)

Part of a Series of Lights
Shown here is what we believe to be the Range Rear Lighthouse of the Horseshoe West Group of lighthouses that were once on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This photo appears to show the lighthouse when it was being raised to its completed height and before the lower part was enclosed. Established in 1881, the lighthouse stood until 1920 when it was demolished in favor of a skeleton tower, known as the Eagle Point Range. (Lighthouse Digest archives)

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Lots of Twins
This may not look like your typical lighthouse, but indeed it was a lighthouse. This is Michigan’s Copper Harbor Front Range Light that was established 1869. If you look very closely, behind the lighthouse, barely visible, to the left, is the Copper Harbor Rear Range Lighthouse. These range lights were nearly identical twins to the Baileys Harbor Range Lights in Wisconsin and the Eagle Harbor Range Lights, the Grand Island Harbor Range Lights, and the Presque Isle Range Lights, all of which are in Michigan. The Copper Harbor Rear Range Light is still standing and is cared for by personnel from Fort Wilkins State Park. The Copper Harbor Front Range Light, shown here, was demolished in 1927 when it was replaced by a square, metal structure with a short, stubby tower on top of it, that still stands today.

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One-Legged Keeper Walked the Long Pier
In 1885, Civil War veteran Barney Evers, a native of Rome, New York, became the keeper of the Pentwater South Pierhead Lighthouse in Pentwater, Michigan. He was the third keeper since Francis McGuire became the first keeper in 1873. When Francis McGuire died unexpectedly in 1877, the government appointed his wife, Annie McGuire, as the new keeper, a position she held until 1855 when Barney Evers took over. Even though it was a quite a long walk over the pier to reach the lighthouse, as shown on the old post card image, Evers was given the job because he had lost a leg while serving with the 16th Infantry during the Civil War. He must have been able to convince the government that he could do the job because for the next 26 years he faithfully executed his duty. However, unlike most lighthouses, the government did not provide housing for keeper Evers, his wife Edith, and daughter. The Pentwater Lighthouse was automated in 1915 and stood until 1937 when it was reported that the lantern, or perhaps the entire structure, was moved to land to be mounted on top of the Pentwater Yacht Club.

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(Photo courtesy Maryland Historical Society)

Maryland’s First Light
By the time the State of Maryland got its first lighthouse in 1822, over 50 lighthouses had been built along the East Coast of the United States. This is surprising in itself since Baltimore is such a major seaport city. Construction began on the Bodkin Island Lighthouse in June of 1821 and the lighthouse was completed in January of 1822. Located in the Chesapeake Bay on the approach to Baltimore, the location was not the best. Almost immediately after its completion, the lighthouse was endangered from erosion and a seawall had to be built to protect it. By the mid-1850s, it was decided that the Bodkin Island Lighthouse, also known as the Bodkin Point Lighthouse, was ineffective and it was replaced by the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse that was built on legs out in the waters of Chesapeake Bay. In 1856, the lantern was removed off Bodkin Point and the light station was abandoned and left to the elements. In 1914, what was left of the Bodkin Point Lighthouse Station was either demolished or collapsed, depending on which version of its history you read. Eventually, the island itself eroded into the bay.

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Eagle Harbor Lighthouse keeper Peter C. Bird is ...

Left for Dead on Battlefield
If it were not for his brother, Peter Carroll Bird would not have lived to become the 6th lighthouse keeper to serve at Eagle Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior in Eagle Harbor, Michigan. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Peter Bird was shot and left for dead on the battlefield. However, over three days later, he was found by his brother Robert, who had been searching for him. Barely alive, Robert carried his brother off the battlefield to an army hospital where doctors, who doubted that Peter would survive, performed surgery on him. The rescue of Peter Bird by his brother is featured in a famous painting at the Gettysburg National Museum called “Gettysburg Cyclorama” by Paul Philippoteaux. The massive painting took over a year to complete and is 377 feet long, 42 feet high, and weighs 12.5 tons. During the time that Peter C. Bird served as the keeper of the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse from 1865 to 1874, he lived in the original light station until it was replaced by a new structure in 1871 that still stands today. When he retired from lightkeeping, he moved to Romulus, Michigan where, among other things, he took up farming. The home that he built there is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Peter’s brother, George M. Bird, took over as the lighthouse keeper and served at Eagle Harbor Light until 1877.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2023 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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