Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ocracoke Lighthouse Trivia

Following are several little-known facts about the Ocracoke Lighthouse.

Photo by Eakin Howard

  •  1794...Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, proposes "erecting a light-house on Occracock island, or elsewhere, near the entrance of Occracock inlet...."
  • 1798...A wooden lighthouse is built on nearby Shell Castle Island (it is destroyed by lightning in 1818)
  • 1822...Jacob Gaskill sells, for $50, two acres of land to the United States for the purpose of building a lighthouse
  • 1823...The present brick Ocracoke Lighthouse is built by Noah Porter for $11,359.35 (Congress had budgeted $20,000)
  • 1854...A new fourth-order Fresnel Lens replaces the old reflecting illuminating apparatus (In 1853 Thornton Jenkins, Secretary of the Lighthouse Board, also reports that "[a]t the same time the present revolving light at Ocracoke...will be changed to a Fixed White Light...." This is the only reference I have ever found indicating that the Ocracoke Light was at one time a revolving light.)
  • 1860...New lantern is installed
  • 1862...Confederate troops remove the lamp and lens, to prevent use by Federal forces
  • 1863...Union forces re-fit and re-exhibit the Ocracoke Light 
  • 1867...Lard oil replaces whale oil as lamp fuel
  • 1878...Kerosene replaces lard oil
  • 1899...Fourth-order Franklin lamp replaces old valve lamp
  • 1929...Light is electrified
  • 1950...Metal staircase replaces old wooden staircase
  • 1955...The Ocracoke light is automated

Below are the Keepers of the Ocracoke Light, all highly skilled and dedicated public servants:
  • Joshua Taylor (or Tayloe), 1823-1829 (his title was Collector [of Customs] & Superintendent of Lighthouse) 
  • Anson Harker, 1829-1846 (first person of record listed as Keeper; Joshua Taylor is listed as Superintendent) 
  • John Harker, 1847-1853 (probably Anson Harker's son) 
  • Thomas Styron, 1853-1860 
  • William J. Gaskill, 1860-1862 
  •  Enoch Ellis Howard 1862-1897 (the longest serving Keeper; he died in office) 
  •  J. Wilson Gillikin 1897-1898 
  • Tillman F. Smith 1898-1910 
  • A.B. Hooper 1910-1912 
  • Leon Wesley Austin 1912-1929 
  • Joseph Merritt Burrus 1929-1946  (the last keeper to serve under the US Lighthouse Service)
  • Clyde Farrow 1946-1954 (Ocracoke's last lighthouse keeper, after the Lighthouse Service was merged with the US Coast Guard)
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Ocracoke Orgy. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news032115.htm

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