Digest>Archives> September 2006

A History Mystery


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Could Professor Joseph Henry perhaps have had ...

In 1871, Dexter Stetson, the Construction Supervisor of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, was given a plaque to install on the newly completed tallest lighthouse in America.

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Rear Admiral William Shubrick, the first Chairman ...

The plaque boldly stated the names of those serving on the Light-House Board and those directly involved with the lighthouse, the tallest and proudest symbol of America’s lighthouse heritage.

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What happened to the plaque from Cape Hatteras ...


The plaque reads . . .



George S. Boutwell, Secretary of the Treasury

Rear Admiral W. B. Shubrick, U.S. Navy, Chairman

Professor Joseph Henry, Secretary Smithsonian Institution

Brevet Major General A.A. Humphreys, Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army

Brevet Major General J.C. Barnard, Colonel of Engineers, U.S. Army

Rear Admiral C.K. Stribling, U.S. NavyProfessor N. Pierce,

Superintendent, Coast Survey Rear Admiral Thornton A. Jenkins,

U.S. Navy Secretary

Major George H. Elliott, Corps of Engineers U.S. Army Eng’r Secretary


Major Peter C. Haines, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army

Eng’r 5th LHDist. & Constructer

Commodore Fabius Stanley, U.S. Navy, Inspector 5th LHDist


However, it seems that lighthouse protocol at that time evidently would not allow specific names to be attached to the building of the tallest lighthouse ever built, and its removal was ordered. Perhaps Dexter Stetson himself, whose name was not included on the plaque, brought the matter to the attention of Board Chairman Shubrick.

Does the plaque still exist?

Was the plaque destroyed or was it packed away somewhere?

Could it be in some storage container in the archives of some

government agency?

If so, could it be in the same container that contains the lost photographs of the first Cape Hatteras Lighthouse?

The mysteries of Cape Hatteras, America’s tallest lighthouse continue to intrigue historians and treasure hunters alike.

We would like to thank Cheryl Shelton Roberts of the

Outer Banks Lighthouse Society for being the first to

report the facts behind this history mystery.

This story appeared in the September 2006 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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