Keeper Bio: Sadler, Charles Franklin

Charles Franklin Sadler

Date of Service: 1925 – 1954

1892: Born on July 3 in Mathews County, VA.

1914: Marries Emma Lewis on October 10.  The couple has two children – Eileen and Weldon Lewis.

1917: Works as a fisherman – Gwynn’s Island, VA.

1925: Works for the United States Lighthouse Service as a foreman for the Shipping Board.

1931: Serves on the United States Lighthouse Service tender Speedwell (WAGL-245), Portsmouth, VA.  (The Speedwell, formally the John V. White, was converted and commissioned on April 23, 1923, and was decommissioned in 1947.)

1939: Transfers to the United States Coast Guard which absorbs the United States Lighthouse Service on July 1.

1940: Serves as quartermaster on the United States Coast Guard tender Orchid  (WAGL-240), Norfolk, VA.  Annual salary – $940. (The Orchid served mostly in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and was commissioned August 5, 1908, and was decommissioned on December 1, 1945.)

1942 – 1954    Serves as a United States Coast Guard Lighthouse Keeper at several Virginia  Lighthouses.  Begins service at Wolf Trap Lighthouse and then Stingray Point. Also serves at Cape Charles, Pages Rock, and concludes the tenure of lighthouse service at Tue Marshes.

1954: Retires having served a combined total of 29 years with the United States Lighthouse Service and the United States Coast Guard.                                          

1965: Passed away at age 72 on April 8 and buried at Smither Cemetery, Hudgins, VA. Survived by son Weldon Lewis and wife Emma who passed away in 1989. At the time of his passing, Keeper Sadler had 3 grandchildren.

Keeper Charles Franklin Sadler Anecdote

Keeper C. F. Sadler served at five different lighthouses during his career with the US Coast Guard.  Two of these lighthouses, Wolf Trap and Cape Charles are still standing today.  When Keeper Sadler served at Wolf Trap in 1942, the lighthouse broadcast a three-part radio beam like an airport beacon.  And Stingray Point Lighthouse, a one-man station when Sadler served there, had a hand-powered fog signal and a fixed lamp containing one red section used to guide vessels into the Piankatank and Rappahannock Rivers.  Today an authentic replica of the Stingray Point Lighthouse (built in 2003) can be viewed in Deltaville, VA at the Stingray Point Marina.

During Sadler’s service on the tender Speedwell, he recalled a freeze off Cape Henry, VA in 1935.  He remembered waiting for the buoys to pop up through the ice after the tender Speedwell was used to break up the frozen bay.  Sadler explained in a 1959 interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch that tenders maintained the aids to navigation in their assigned area, as well as supplied water, coal, food, and other items to the lighthouses and lightships.  Once in the waters off Chincoteague Island, VA, C. F.  Sadler was sent out in the bitter cold at 2 a.m., to repair a buoy signal.  Due to the rough waters, he had to board the buoy and in spite of not having the right tools for the job, Sadler was able to correct the problem.

Sources – Weldon Lewis Sadler II; Chapter Historian, Jennifer Jones; Richmond Times-Dispatch – November 1959;

The following poem was written by Charles Franklin Sadler’s grandson, Lew Sadler.


It must have been lonely out on the Light, keeping your vigil all through the night.

Your family and friends at home and asleep; you tending the beacon out in the deep.

No one to talk to; you go through your day, just keeping your watch out on the Bay.

Stingray Point and Tue Marshes and Page’s Rock; All just a memory, let us turn back the clock.

It must have been lonely out on the sea; No internet, smartphone, or cable TV.

A visit sometimes from family or friend or call from a seaman or others that tend.  

A radio call you’re awakened from rest a boater needs aid; you’ll give it your best.

Did you think of your family or folks back at home while eating your supper or reading a tome?

It must have been lonely out on the Bay, Pondering family far, far away.

Did you think of dear Emma alone on Queens Creek? during a storm, it must have been bleak.

Or thoughts of Eileen your daughter that died of what might have been as you checked on the tide.

Or maybe of Weldon off in the War Was he doing OK? as you glanced at the shore.

It must have been lonely out on the Light; you’re on your way home what a glorious sight!

Grandma there waiting for your return home; she sees your skiff coming through the seafoam.

She smiles with great joy as you draw near; it’s been a whole week since you were last here!

She gives you a hug and then a big kiss; these are the things you must surely miss.

It must have been lonely out in the deep, tending your watch and manning your keep.

Now you’ve gone home you’re no longer bored; now you’re with family and Jesus, your Lord.

So, today as we gather to honor your service, we remember you fondly and also know this.

Out in the shallows and even much deeper, it must have been lonely being the Keeper.

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