Monday, December 15, 2008

Mysteries of Lighthouses part 2

The romancing of lighthouse is continuing as promised. I'm am truly enjoying this series because when I photograph these lighthouses, sometimes I just stare at them and fantasize about living there years and years ago.

My next lighthouse is Nobska Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse is located in Falmouth Mass. I was absolutely shocked when I looked up this lighthouse address as I have passed by this street for the last 20 years of my life never knowing there was a lighthouse off the street.


Woods Hole, with its deep harbor, developed a substantial whaling fleet in the early years of the nineteenth century. Besides the local maritime traffic, Nobska Point was passed by a stream of vessels crossing through Vineyard Sound, bordered by Falmouth and the Elizabeth Islands to the north, and Martha's Vineyard to the south. In 1829, the year the lighthouse was established, it was reported that more than 10,000 vessels passed through the area.

Through much of the nineteenth century, the keepers had to count the vessels that passed the light. On one day alone in 1864, Keeper Frederick Ray counted 188 vessels -- including 175 schooners -- passing the point.

Oliver A. Nickerson had the longest stay of any keeper in the station's history, from 1874 to 1911. A 1908 article described the duties of the keeper's daughter, Florence Nickerson. For the previous seven years, she had been the official "observer" at Nobska, keeping track of all the vessels passing by in daylight hours. "She is shrewd and kindly," said the article, "one of those Yankee girls who fear nothing and take life cheerfully." Besides her observational duties, Florence kept house at the station and tended a flock of chickens.

In August 1935, Keeper John M. Scharff and Assistant Keeper Waldo Leighton rescued a man who had fallen overboard from his sailboat in a squall.

The Coast Guard took over the management of lighthouses in 1939, but civilian keepers remained at Nobska Point Light until November 1973.

Osborne Hallett was in charge from 1955 to 1968, and Joseph Hindley was his assistant. Hindley took over as keeper in 1968. When he retired in 1973, Hindley was believed to be the last civilian lighthouse keeper in New England. His career in the Lighthouse Service dated back to 1927, when he was an assistant at Whale Rock Light in Rhode Island.

The light was automated and the Coast Guard keepers were removed in 1985. The last officer in charge was Charles Tebo, who lived at the lighthouse with his wife, Gina, and their two young children. After automation, the station became the home for the commander of U.S. Coast Guard Group Woods Hole, which was renamed in 2006 as Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England.

The lighthouse has been "adopted" by the members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-02, and there are occasional public open houses in season.

Keepers: Peter Daggett (?-1849); William Davis (1849-1853); William Ferguson Jr. (1853-1861); Frederick Ray (1861-1874); Oliver A. Nickerson (1874-1911); George I. Cameron (assistant 1910-1911, principal keeper 1911-?); John M. Scharff (1925-1955); Waldo Leighton, assistant (c. 1935); George T. Gustavus (assistant 1911-?, prinicpal keeper1939-1941); Joseph G. Hindley, Jr. (assistant, c. 1956-1968, keeper 1968-1972); Osborne E. Hallett (1955-1968)

Thanks to New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide where I got all this information.
Lots more information is available in Jeremy D'Entremont book, "The Lighthouses of Massachusetts."