There are hundreds of lighthouse structures that are no longer standing, but it is vital that we save and tell the history of as many of them as possible. Starting with this issue, every edition of Lighthouse Digest will highlight some of these forgotten light stations.
Jordan Point Lighthouse, Virginia
The Jordan Point Lighthouse was located on the James River in Prince George County near Hopewell, Virginia, near the south end of the present-day Benjamin Harrison Bridge.
Interestingly, from 1880 to 1885, Jordan Point Lighthouse was one of a few lighthouses to have had black keepers: Edward David Bland and William H. Moody. Their time as keepers at the lighthouse was rotated between these years, likely because of Bland’s political duties. Bland served three stints as keeper and Moody served two stints.
Capt. William I. Dabney, a veteran of the Civil War, who served in Dabney’s Battery, was appointed keeper of the Jordan Point Lighthouse in 1885. He served until he died from pneumonia in September of 1867.
The last keeper of Jordan Point Lighthouse was Thomas Eppes Fenner, who arrived there in 1887. It is believed that he served there until the station closed.
Life at Jordan Point Lighthouse must have been fairly routine, as very little has been written about it. Although the setting was pretty, not many tourists visited the lighthouse. Reportedly it was discontinued in 1927 and eventually replaced by a skeletal tower.
Five Finger Islands Lighthouse, Alaska
Alaska’s first two American-built lighthouses, Five Finger Islands and Sentinel Island, were both activated on March 1, 1902; however, Five Finger Islands Lighthouse is generally credited as being Alaska’s first lighthouse since its structures were completed before those on Sentinel Island. The station was staffed by a head keeper and two assistants.
On January 6, 1903, less than a year after the lighthouse was established, the steamer Amur was hailed with a distress signal from the lighthouse. The steamer halted its journey as the head keeper and his assistant rowed out to them. They reported that one of the assistant lighthouse keepers had left a month earlier for supplies and had never returned. Other than a few fish that they had been able to catch, the keepers were on the verge of starvation. The captain of the Amur supplied the men with 20 pounds of meat and a sack of potatoes. Some of passengers pitched in with some tobacco for the keepers.
In late 1933, cold weather froze the water pipes at the lighthouse. The two keepers on duty attempted to thaw the pipes with a blowtorch. In doing so, a wall caught on fire and the blaze quickly started to spread. Coincidently, right at that moment, the lighthouse tender Cedar had arrived with supplies and sent crewmen ashore to help fight the fire. But it was too late. The lighthouse was engulfed in flames. However, the boathouse and carpenter shop were saved. It took two years before a replacement lighthouse, made of concrete, could be completed to replace the original lighthouse that had been destroyed.
This story appeared in the
Mar/Apr 2022 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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