Happy 30th Anniversary Chesapeake Chapter!
by Lauren and Paula Liebrecht
The United States Lighthouse Society (USLHS) was started in 1983 by ex-Coast Guardsman Wayne Wheeler. The society encouraged lighthouse enthusiasts to form local chapters under the USLHS. A meeting was scheduled to take place in Louisa, Virginia on February 18, 1989 to discuss the formation of the Virginia Chapter of the USLHS. While the meeting was officially canceled due to bad weather a limited number of people did meet to discuss the formation of a USLHS chapter. The meeting was rescheduled for March 18, 1989 where over 30 people met in Louisa, Virginia at the home of Gris Boxley-Carpenter. This first meeting resulted in the establishment of the Virginia Chapter of the USLHS where Herb Entwistle became the founding president of the Chapter, Mike Voss was elected as Treasurer, and Gris Boxley-Carpenter volunteered to do the newsletter. Membership dues were set at $5 per year.
In 1993, the Chapter’s name changed. It was felt that the Chapter name should reflect the wider membership and region rather than just the commonwealth of Virginia. It was therefore proposed that the Chapter be re-named the Chesapeake Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society. The proposal was adopted and a new logo was designed. The original design displayed the two Cape Henry lights. The new logo featured a lighthouse style that, while not unique to the Chesapeake Bay, was less prevalent in other areas. The Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, the last operational cottage-style screwpile lighthouse in its original location, became the logo for the Chapter.
In the following paragraphs, we will summarize key activities that have made up the 30-year history of the Chapter. We hope you enjoy reading it.
When the Chapter first started, it offered a newsletter and unique trips around the bay and access to lighthouses not normally opened to the public. Since then, the Chapter has established the preservation and preservation grant programs, a Speakers Program, an Education Program, a Scout Patch Program, the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge, publicity events, Historian, 40+3 Club, Keeper’s Mascot, Lighthouse Keeper Grave Marker Program, and Offshore Lighthouse Historical Placard Program, among other things.
The first issue of the Chapter newsletter was Volume 1 No. 1 Spring 1989 titled THE LIGHT FLASHES. The newsletter is now titled CHESAPEAKE LIGHTS and is published quarterly. It includes articles on the Chapter activities listed above as well as other lighthouse activities, membership numbers, member-submitted articles, The Channel Marker (which features more in-depth historical articles), and Statzer’s Stumpers (the successor to Pasek’s Puzzlers).
The Chapter’s first trip took place on June 3, 1989 with a visit to the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse and the Coast Guard Aids to Navigation facility in Yorktown, Virginia. In June 1990, the Chapter had its first bus trip where it visited the Fort Washington bell tower light, along with lighthouses in southern Maryland. In December 1995, the Chapter did its first tour outside of the immediate Chesapeake Bay area by going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to see the Currituck Beach, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, and Ocracoke lighthouses, as well as the relocated Roanoke River lighthouse. Since then the Chapter has done many local and out of state trips. In 2013 the Chapter hosted a lower bay trip from Virginia Beach and saw the New and Old Cape Henry lights, the Cape Charles light, and the Chesapeake Light Tower by boat. In 2014, the Chapter did an upper bay lighthouse boat trip on August 2 cruising from Baltimore to Pooles Island, Maryland and including the Craighill Channel Range Lights.
At the Chapter’s 1996 fall Board meeting, our Volunteer Preservation Program was established with co-chairs Dwight McMakin and Anne Puppa. At that time, a fund was created to support this preservation effort. In early 1997, after his passing, the fund was named the Herb Entwistle Lighthouse Preservation (HELP) Fund in honor of the Chapter’s founding president. Since then a hard-working core of volunteers has spent countless hours over the years working on the Fort Washington bell tower, Drum Point, Cove Point, Hooper Strait, Seven Foot Knoll, Thomas Point Shoal, Point Lookout, Concord Point, and Hooper Island lighthouses as well as the Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station on Assateague Island and the Lightship Chesapeake. A team trained by the Coast Guard in lens preservation/restoration has worked on the lenses from Sandy Hook, Cape Henry, Drum Point, Hooper Strait, Jones Point, and Coney Island to name a few. A hard working group of volunteers also worked on the restoration of two Jones Point Fresnel lenses that belong to the Mount Vernon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). They also built three display cabinets for the two lenses and a Jones Point Lighthouse replica. All are currently on exhibit at the Lyceum Museum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. HELP volunteers have also assisted the Coast Guard Historian’s office in organizing their lighthouse files and have written short histories on various lighthouses that were then posted on the Coast Guard web site.
In October 1997, we began our very first preservation project as a cooperative agreement with the Coast Guard at the Fort Washington bell tower lighthouse. In 1998, we added projects at the Coast Guard archives, the Baltimore Maritime Museum (now called Historic Ships in Baltimore) and its Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and the Lightship Chesapeake, and Fresnel lens cleaning and repair at the Coast Guard Exhibit Center. In 2000, we added the Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse to our preservation list. Calvert Marine Museum was added to the list of continuing preservation projects in 2001. This was also the year that lighthouse inspection reports, copied from the National Archives by Chapter volunteers, were entered into a database designed by another volunteer. In 2003, preservation volunteers were able to work at the Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station on Assateague Island. In 2007, we started preservation work on the Jones Point Fresnel lenses. In 2009, we started to do preservation work at the Hooper Island Lighthouse. Further information on the preservation program can be found on the Chapter web site at www.cheslights.org/preservation/.
On May 1, 2004, the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior to a partnership consisting of the City of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and the United States Lighthouse Society and its Chesapeake Chapter. In March 2009, the Hooper Island Lighthouse was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior to the United States Lighthouse Society and its Chesapeake Chapter.
The Chapter established a Preservation Grant program in 2010 that has awarded grants to the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society, Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation, Historical Place Preservation, Inc., and Concord Point Lighthouse. Application information for the grant can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/preservation/preservation-grants/.
The Chapter also has various activities that support its function to educate and inform the general population about the lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay region. They include a “Cheslights Kids” web site, Scout Patch Program, and Speakers Program. The Chapter’s web page “Cheslights Kids” is aimed at the future generation of lighthouse preservationists and can be found at cheslights.org/education/cheslights-kids/. This web site is a good location for kids of all ages to visit. The Chapter’s “Keeping the Lights Shining” Scout Patch Program is available to girl and boy scouts. The purpose of the program is to educate scouts on the role of lighthouses in the Chesapeake Bay area, their history, and the importance of preserving them for the future. As of December 2018 over 15 organizations have participated in the scout patch program and received their patches. Some scouts even earned their patches while participating in the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge. The next Maryland Lighthouse Challenge will be held in September 2019. Information regarding the scout patch program can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/education/scout-patch-program/. The Chapter’s Speaker Program provides organizations such as schools, libraries, senior centers, independent living communities, and service organizations with the opportunity to listen to a Chapter volunteer talk about a variety of topics as they relate to the lighthouses of the Chesapeake region. If you are a teacher looking for an educational presentation to inspire your students in the importance of preserving the history and the lighthouses we all cherish, please contact us. Information regarding the speaker program can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/education/speakers-program/.
The Chapter sponsored the first Maryland Lighthouse Challenge, modeled after the successful New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge, in 2003. The 2003 Challenge attracted record numbers of visitors to the lighthouses just a week before tropical storm Isabel inflicted so much damage to the region. The first Maryland Lighthouse Challenge included nine lights and one lightship – Turkey Point, Concord Point, Seven Foot Knoll, Hooper Strait, Ft. Washington, Point Lookout, Piney Point, Cove Point, and Drum Point lights and Lightship Chesapeake. Over the years we have added bonus lights to the Challenge including the Sandy Point, Blackistone replica, and Jones Point lighthouses. The Jones Point Lighthouse was added as a bonus light in 2013 becoming the first and only Virginia lighthouse to participate in our Maryland Lighthouse Challenge. The lighthouse is located just across the Potomac River from Maryland so it was a short drive across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to visit that light. In 2013, we added the Choptank River Lighthouse replica to the Challenge. As we get ready to celebrate our 12th Maryland Lighthouse Challenge on September 21 and 22, 2019 we look back to the many people we met during the previous Challenge events and the wonderful memories we have. Further information on the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge can be found at cheslights.org/Maryland-lighthouse-challenge/.
Over the years, the Chapter has participated in many lighthouse promotional events. Chapter volunteers have staffed tables and promoted Chapter activities at events such as Winter Lights at the Calvert Marine Museum, Piney Point Lighthouse Waterfront Festival, Patuxent River Appreciation Day at the Calvert Marine Museum, Point Lookout Lighthouse Open Houses, River Arts Festival, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival, and Good Neighbor Day at Fort Washington Park. Chapter volunteers will be participating in the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland Community Event scheduled for March 9, 2019. These events give members the opportunity to promote the Chapter and meet fellow lighthouse enthusiasts.
In 1999, the Chapter created a historian position. The Chapter historian responds to inquires about the Chesapeake Bay area lighthouses and keepers. The historian writes an article for the newsletter to educate Chapter members on lighthouses, keepers, and other related lighthouse activities. In 2003, then-Historian Sandy Clunies compiled a keeper’s database with over 2,500 entries for the lights in the Chesapeake. If you have some questions for our current historian, please feel free to contact Jennifer Jones at email@example.com.
In 1997, the Chapter started the 40+3 Club. Back in 1997, the Board of Directors decided to designate all the lighthouses and lightships in Maryland and Virginia along with the ones in the lower portion of Delaware as our Chapter’s primary interest. At that time, there were 40 lighthouses and 3 lightships in the area. In 2014, the Board added four lighthouse replicas to the list and modified the rules to earn the patch. To become a member of the 40+3 Club, you need to visit all of the mandatory lights and any three of the optional lights, along with the three lightships. When you complete the 40+3, advise the Membership Chair and he will send you a special patch that says “I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHTS”. Information regarding the 40+3 Club can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/about-page/membership/403-club/.
In the summer of 2010 the Chapter started the “Keeper’s Mascot” club. This exclusive club allowed Chapter members to enroll their “furry, finny, feathered, and faithful” companion in this special Chapter club for pets. It is a one-time fee ($2.50) to sign up your pet and you will receive a “Keeper’s Mascot” certificate, signed by a Chapter officer. Mascots are featured in the newsletter according to the order of their enrollment. The club currently has the following types of pets – dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, goldfish, turtle, guinea pig, alligator, and thoroughbred horse. As of September 2018 we have 117 mascots. Information regarding the Keepers Mascot program can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/about-page/membership/keepers-mascot/.
In 2016, the Chapter introduced the Lighthouse Keeper Grave Marker Program to honor keepers for their service to our country. On November 20, 2016 the Chapter conducted its first Lighthouse Keeper Grave Marker Ceremony at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Glen Burnie, Maryland. The ceremony honored United States Lighthouse Service Keeper Thomas Jefferson Steinhise who was a lighthouse keeper from 1918 to 1941. He served at the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse from 1930 to 1941. On August 6, 2017 the Chapter conducted a ceremony in Havre de Grace, Maryland for Concord Point Lighthouse keeper John O’Neill. On April 7, 2018, the Chapter conducted ceremonies for six lighthouse keepers (including Clarence and Fannie May Salter) in Mathews County, Virginia. On August 18, 2018 Keeper Barney Thomas was honored at a grave site ceremony in Onancock, Virginia. The Chapter currently has ceremonies planned for two dates in 2019 – March 9 in Dames Quarter, Maryland and April 13 in Mathews County, Virginia. Information regarding the Lighthouse Keeper Grave Marker Program can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/programs/program-lighthouse-keeper-grave-marker/.
In 2016, the Chapter Board of Directors approved an Offshore Lighthouse Historical Placard Program. The planning and implementation of this new educational program started in 2017. The goal of the program is to educate the public about the history of the lighthouses offshore within the Chesapeake Bay, both existing and those no longer standing. The method used is to place historical placards on government land or property (federal, state, or county) outdoors near the shore, ideally facing the lighthouses or where they were located. During the planning in 2017, it was decided to expand the original program to include onshore lighthouses as well as placing historical placards indoors at government facilities near where the lighthouses are or where they once stood. As of December, 2018 the placards for Love Point (December, 2017), Sandy Point (May and June 2018), Janes Island (August, 2018), and Fort Washington lighthouses (September 2018) have been completed and installed. Information regarding the Lighthouse Historical Placard Program can be found on the Chapter web site at cheslights.org/programs/program-historical-placard/.
The Chapter is currently working towards the issuance of a set of United States Postal Service postage stamps that would feature five lighthouses from the Chesapeake Bay. If you would like to support the Chapter’s effort to get these stamps issued please send a letter to the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee. The Chapter web site contains a letter that you can print and mail to the committee. The letter is located on the Chapter web site cheslights.org/lighthouse-stamps/.
Herb Entwistle, our founding president, passed away on February 12, 1997. Herb had not only been there from the beginning, but he had also been the rock of the Chapter. Herb performed so many functions for the Chapter, that we wonder how he had the time to do anything else in his life. His wife Barbara passed away August 2, 2013. Barbara served as a Chapter Advisory board member for several years and was always enjoyable to be around. We will always remember Herb and Barbara for all they did for the Chapter. They established a strong foundation that continues today.
Besides the Chapter newsletter, you can find additional information on the Chapter online at cheslights.org; like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cheslights, and on Twitter
This year is also a special anniversary for our parent organization – the United States Lighthouse Society. Happy 35th anniversary! Further information on the society is available on their web site uslhs.org.
Sources: THE LIGHT FLASHES, Volume 1 No. 1, Virginia Chapter, USLHS and numerous issues of the CHESAPEAKE LIGHTS newsletters, Chesapeake Chapter, USLHS
Various web sites reached from the Chesapeake Chapter, United States Lighthouse Society cheslights.org
We are so appreciative of our members, if you are not a member of our Chapter, please join us to make the next 30 years great! Become a member here.