Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2020

Marker Will Remember Enslaved Men Rescued from Lighthouse


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The Stingray Point Lighthouse near Deltaville, ...

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has announced that a historical marker will be placed in Deltaville, Virginia to honor the memory of six men who sought refuge in the Stingray Point Lighthouse during the Civil War. The group hoped to secure rescue by a Union ship that would enable them to escape from slavery and join the Union forces to fight against the Confederacy.

The historical marker will be placed in Deltaville alongside General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller Highway (Route 33), about 1.8 miles from where the lighthouse originally stood.

The marker will state:

Alexander Franklin, David Harris, and John, Miles, Peter, and Samuel Hunter, fearing impressment into Confederate service, sought refuge in the Stingray Point Lighthouse near here on 15 July 1861 and hailed the (Union ship) USS Mount Vernon. Similar escapes followed. The U.S. Secretary of the Navy, following the contraband theory established at Fort Monroe, authorized the employment of self-emancipated men and, in Sept. 1861, approved their enlistment in the U.S. Navy, nearly a year before black men could enlist in the U.S. Army. After serving in the Navy, Harris is the only one of the six men known to have returned to this community, where he had been enslaved.

It is not clear if Samuel Cole, who, in 1858, became the first keeper of the Stingray Point Lighthouse, was still there when the first slaves sought refuge, or if he had already evacuated the structure when the war broke out in April of 1861. A keeper was not assigned back to the lighthouse until 1865 when the war was over.

In 1965, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to replace the dilapidated lighthouse with a pole light, mounted to the screwpile foundation of the original structure. The contractor hired to dismantle the lighthouse barged it to the Broad Creek area of Norfolk, Virginia and offered it to a local marina. Unfortunately, the marina had no space for the lighthouse, and it was dismantled and its lumber was sold off.

In March of 2003, a replica of the Stingray Point Lighthouse was completed at the Stingray Point Marina in Deltaville, Virginia.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 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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