Keeper Bio: Selden, George Henry

Date of Service: 1870 – 1886

1837:   George Henry Selden is born in March, in Virginia.

1839:  Judith Hale is born in April, in Virginia.

1858+/-:  George Henry Selden marries Judith Hale in Westmoreland, VA.

1864-1866:  George H. Selden enlists in the U.S. Navy in September 1864, where he served as Petty Officer on the USS Banshee. He was discharged in September 1866.

1870:   George Selden serves as Master on the vessel LV-24, stationed at York Spit Station, VA. His salary is $650.

1870-1872:  George Selden is appointed the first Principal Keeper at York Spit Lighthouse, VA. His beginning salary is $700, and his ending salary is $650/year. (His wife Judy Selden serves as Second Assistant)

1873-1881:  George Selden is appointed Principal Keeper at York Spit Lighthouse, VA. His salary is $660/year.

1881-1886:  George Selden is appointed Principal Keeper at Smith Point Lighthouse, VA.

1900:   In the U.S. Census, George (63), and his wife Judy (61), live in Westmoreland, VA., with their children. His occupation is listed as farmer.

Keeper George H. Selden Anecdotes:

George H. Selden, an African American man, served a total of 16 years in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Prior to entering the Lighthouse Service, he served on the USS Banshee as a Petty Officer for the U.S. Navy from 1864 – 1866 during the Civil War.

The Banshee was a 533-ton side-wheel steamship built in 1862 in England. It was originally used as a federal blockade runner for the Confederates starting in 1863. The ship made seven round-trip trips between Bermuda or the Bahamas and North Carolina until she was captured in November 1863.

The ship was then purchased by the U.S. Navy in March 1863 and converted into a gunboat where the ship was placed in commission as the USS Banshee in 1864. The steamer served with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron until December 1864, when the ship took part in the abortive attempt to capture Fort Fisher, NC. The ship was then reassigned to the Potomac Flotilla in January 1865, where it spent the rest of the war sailing the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries.

Sources: Chesapeake Chapter Keeper’s Database;;; (retrieved 2/8/2023); The Norfolk Virginian, June 8, 1886


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