Keeper Bio: Dow, Henry Luther

Henry Luther Dow

Date of Service: 1919 – 1954

1884: Born on April 2 at New Point, Mathews County, VA.  Keeper Dow was part of the 8th generation of Dows originally immigrating from England.

1909: Marries Hattie May Brooks on December 25.  The couple raises two children, Walter Carroll, and Elizabeth Snow.

1910:  Works as a sailor on a buoy tender. 

1919: Begins work for the U.S. Lighthouse Service on October 1 as a part-time, off-site Keeper at the New Point Comfort Lighthouse, while living in Shadow.  Annual salary – $120.  New Point Comfort Lighthouse was automated at this time, having been converted from kerosene to acetylene.

1920: Keeper Dow experiences change at the New Point Comfort Light Station with the demolition of the keeper’s house.  The dwelling was purchased from the government by G. E. Hunt,  Port Haywood, VA, and E.H. Jarvis, Tabernacle, VA, and were sold for scrap, beginning on May 24.

1930: Lives on a farm and works at crabbing and pound net fishing while continuing part-time service at the New Point Comfort Lighthouse.             

1933: Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane opens an inlet completely separating the New Point Comfort Lighthouse from the mainland.  Keeper Dow must now use a rowboat to access the lighthouse.

1940: Serves as manager of ice plant in Bavon, VA while now working for the U.S.Coast Guard as the last Lamplighter at the New Point Comfort Lighthouse.

1950: New Point Comfort Lighthouse converted to electricity.

1954: Retires as Lamplighter at New Point Comfort Lighthouse on April 30 with more than 34 combined years of honorable service working for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard.  Receives a letter of congratulations from Coast Guard Commander M. O’Neill, regarding his long and efficient service.

1955: Passes away on June 7 at age 71 and is buried with Masonic rites at St. Paul United Methodist Church Cemetery, Susan, VA.  He is remembered as an active church parishioner who also belonged to many civic and fraternal organizations and took his duties seriously at the lighthouse.  At the time of his passing, Keeper Dow has 3 grandchildren and is survived by daughter Elizabeth and wife Hattie who passes away in 1971.

Keeper Henry Luther Dow Anecdote

Keeper Dow serviced the New Point Comfort Lighthouse for more than 34 years during his long employment with the U.S. Lighthouse Service and U.S. Coast Guard.  The New Point Lighthouse is still standing today on a small island at the convergence of the Mobjack Bay with the Chesapeake Bay, off of the southern tip of Mathews County.  When first working at the lighthouse, Keeper Dow rode to the lighthouse using a pony cart.  At that time, the lighthouse was on a point connected to the mainland by a wide peninsula.  It was a favorite community recreational destination.  Keeper Dow said, “It was a beautiful spot. Large and a fine place for beach picnics.”  

In August of 1933, the Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane swept away much of the land connecting the lighthouse to the mainland, reducing the size of the point on which the lighthouse stood.  After the hurricane, a boat was needed in order to service the lighthouse. Keeper Dow would row or scull a small boat a distance of two miles, tie up to a point where he could then go ashore, and walk to the lighthouse.  There were several occasions when service was required at the lighthouse, and Keeper Dow made this trip with a storm raging. During a 1954 newspaper interview upon his retirement as a lamplighter for the  Coast Guard, Dow remembered his years of lighthouse service with fondness.

Sources:  Christopher Dow Byrns; Walter R. Brooks; Mary C. Godsey; Mathews Journal – May 13, 1920; Daily Press –    June 9, 1955; Richmond Times-Dispatch – April 18, 1954; Chapter data base; and Chapter Historian, Jennifer Jones                                                                           


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