Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2023

Bowling Keepers Honored with Memorial Marker


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Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse as it appeared when ...

By Greg Krawczyk

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The gravestone of lighthouse keepers James and ...
Photo by: Greg Krawczyk

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Descendants of lighthouse keepers James Bowling ...
Photo by: Greg Krawczyk

James and Margaret Bowling were one of a number of married couples who officially served together as lighthouse keepers, in their case at the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse near the entrance to the Patapsco River near Baltimore, Maryland.

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In October of 1988, the Seven Foot Knoll ...

Before joining the Lighthouse Service, James Bowling served as an ensign in the Union Navy during the Civil War. His first lighthouse assignment was as the head keeper of the Lower Craighill Channel Front Range Lighthouse from 1873 to 1874, which is located only a few miles away from Seven Foot Knoll Light, where he transferred to in 1874. He was able to convince the government to appoint his wife as the 2nd assistant keeper, which was an additional source of income for the family.

The Bowlings raised four of their five children at the lighthouse where they also kept a variety of animals in a fenced area off the lower-storage platform level. One of the Bowlings daughters, Eva Marie, who was born at the lighthouse on June 23, 1875 was nicknamed ‘Knolie’ after the lighthouse, a name that stuck with her for the rest of her life.

It is not known why the Bowlings both resigned from the Lighthouse Service in 1879. Perhaps life at a lighthouse surrounded by water became too difficult to handle. The 1880 census shows James as being a feather renovator, which is someone who cleans feathers for reuse in pillows, mattresses, and other bedding. While in her early 40s, Margaret Bowling died in 1892. The 1900 census shows James Bowling working as a letter carrier, which appears to be his job until his retirement. He died on April 5, 1911 at the age of 71.

James and Margaret Bowling are the 38th and 39th keepers honored by the Chesapeake Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society since Timothy Harrison of Lighthouse Digest started promoting the grave marker program in 2011. They are the third husband-and-wife team of official lighthouse keepers who have been honored by the Chapter. The installation of the U.S. Lighthouse Service Memorial Marker for the couple had been requested by their great-great-grandson, Chris Bowling, who resides in Baltimore.

The ceremony was held at the couple’s graveside at noon on Sunday, June 18th at the Mount Height Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. Family and friends attended, which made for a very memorable Father’s Day. In the 1980s, two of the Bowling family members, who were in attendance at the ceremony, had been given a tour out to the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse by the Coast Guard before the structure was moved to land. They recalled the poor condition of the lighthouse, but said that they were not allowed to take any photos, which is unfortunate, because those images would have provided historical documentation of the structure at that time.

Also in attendance at the ceremony was Steve Bountress, the Director of the Historic Ships in Baltimore, the museum which is the custodian of the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse that is now located on the end of Pier 5 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The lighthouse is open for touring with a paid admission to the museum.

Additionally, at that time, the Chesapeake Chapter also installed a United States Lighthouse Service Memorial Marker at the grave of lightship sailor Sven Olsen, with a formal ceremony to be held at a later date, when out-of-state family members can attend.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 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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