The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Green’s Ledge Lighthouse, Connecticut, from Jeremy D’Entremont’s new book Lighthouses of Connecticut, available in June. This excerpt is published with the permission of the publisher, Commonwealth Editions, and the book is featured on page 63.
Green’s Ledge Light, at the western end of a treacherous shoal extending westward from Sheffield Island on the approach to Norwalk Harbor, was always a “stag” station with only male keepers and no families. The first keeper was William DeLuce, who stayed until 1908.
His assistant until 1904 was Henry M. Bevedret. Few keepers or assistants lasted longer than a couple of years at the offshore lighthouse, which definitely was not considered a plum assignment.
John Kiarskon, a native of Sweden, arrived as assistant keeper in 1909 and was soon promoted to principal keeper. Kiarskon was to be a central figure in one of the most bizarre sequences of events in New England lighthouse history.
On March 2, 1910, Keeper Kiarskon left the lighthouse on the station’s only boat, telling Assistant Keeper Leroy C. Loughborough that he was going to Norwalk to pick up provisions and both men’s paychecks. He never returned. Eleven days later, the lighthouse tender Pansy landed at Green’s Ledge and found Loughborough “half-starved, exhausted and almost crazy,” according to an article in the Washington Post. Loughborough told authorities that during the time he was abandoned, he lived on potatoes and dog biscuits, with only boiled salt water to drink.
Through the whole nightmarish ordeal, Loughborough struggled to keep the light going along with the two engines for the fog signal. For three days, he neither ate nor slept. During one 72-hour stretch, there was continuous fog, and one of the engines failed. He struggled vainly to repair the engine, and meanwhile the light burned itself out. When the tender crew arrived to investigate the extinguished light, the assistant keeper was found, almost unconscious and with his dog at his side, on the floor by the engine. Loughborough later said that he would have shared his last biscuit with the dog.
It turned out that Kiarskon had gone
to a local hotel, where he cashed Loughborough’s paycheck for $44.69 and went on a drinking binge. He eventually gave himself up to Bridgeport police and was taken to South Norwalk. Kiarskon was immediately discharged as keeper and was expected to serve time in prison for forgery, but his ultimate fate is unclear.
“I feel ten years older and my hair has grown gray,” said Loughborough after being taken ashore. He continued:
I would not go through that experience again for the United States mint. Several times I inverted the flag on the mast, intending to attract the attention of some passing boat and thereby escaping to the mainland, but the greater part of the time, it was so stormy or foggy the signal could not be seen. Each time I would take it down, determined to stick it out to the end. I was almost out of my head from the strain. It would not have been so bad save for the awful fog, which made me keep at the engines night and day. It is well that the Pansy came when she did. I don’t think I would ever have moved from that rug.
Assistant Superintendent John S. Hayward was on the Pansy when Loughborough was found. On examining the lighthouse log, Hayward saw that Kiarskon had made
no entries for 11 days, supporting Loughborough’s story. The assistant keeper received high praise for his heroism in the face of abandonment and possible starvation.
Loughborough never recovered from the ordeal. A little less than a year later, in February 1911, he died of tuberculosis at the home of his father in Point Judith, Rhode Island. He was just 27 years old. Incredibly, this was merely the close of the first act in this particular drama.
William T. Locke was the next headkeeper at Green’s Ledge, and Leroy Loughborough’s brother George became his assistant. One day in March of 1912, George Loughborough went ashore to South Norwalk. It was reported that while there, he learned of an aunt’s illness and went to visit her in Wakefield, Rhode Island. After 16 days, Keeper Locke was found alone at the lighthouse, weak and exhausted. He told the authorities that he had gotten little sleep since the assistant left, and had reduced his daily rations to a minimum out of fear of starvation.
Locke was luckier than Leroy Loughborough, as he apparently recovered from the episode. It isn’t clear what happened to George Loughborough, but his lighthouse-keeping career was no doubt over. This story begs for more details, but few can be found. One can’t help wondering whether George Loughborough truly abandoned his duties out of concern for a sick aunt, or if Keeper Locke was an innocent victim of brotherly revenge against the government. The missing parts
of this story may well be stranger than what
we actually know.
This story appeared in the
June 2005 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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