Keeper Bio: Respess, Charles Edwin

Charles Edwin Respess

Date of Service: 1888 – 1915

1862: Born on July 24 – Barn Creek, Gwynn’s Island, VA.
1888 – 1890: Assistant on Cape Charles Light Vessel #46.
1891 – 1893: Captain of newly christened Cape Charles LV #49.
1892: Married Annie “Lovie” Grimstead on July 13.
1893 – 1894: Service at Cherrystone Bar as Assistant ($435/year) and Old Plantation Flats Lighthouse as First Assistant.
1894: Daughter – Sarah “Sallie” Respess Hudgins born.
1894 – 1897: Served as Keeper at Deep Water Shoals Lighthouse, where he made $575 per year.
1896: Second daughter – Elsie Respess Edwards born.
1897 – 1899: Served as First Assistant at Smith Point Lighthouse where he made $550/year.
1899 – 1903: Served as Keeper at York Spit Lighthouse.
1903 – 1907: Second duty at Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse as Keeper, where he made $575/year.
1907 -1915: Served as Keeper at Windmill Point Lighthouse where he made $600/year.
1915: Tragedy strikes when he drowns on March 5 while on a USLHS yawl boat heading home from lighthouse during a storm. Respess was 52 years old and logged 25 years of exemplary service. Buried at Gwynn’s Island Cemetery, Mathews County, VA.

Charles Edwin Respess Anecdotes:

Charles Respess served on two lightships and six lighthouses. This included two tours at Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse.

Windmill Point was a unique screwpile lighthouse, like the York Spit Lighthouse in design and had an extended wing-like deck on two sides to better support heavy fog machinery and additional storage. Old timers say the lighthouse was so close to the mainland that they could hear the keepers talking.

In an unexplained event of the time, it was said that on the night that Respess lost his life, the family dog “Jack” howled continuously throughout the night in the direction of the bay where Respess “crossed the bar”.

Source: The National Archives, the National Personnel Records Center and the United States
Lighthouse Society. Lighthouse Directory web site:

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