Keeper Bio: Foster, Isaac


Date of Service: 1846 – 1854

1789: Born in Mathews, Virginia.
1812: Serves as a Private and Sergeant in the 61st Regiment, Virginia Militia during the War of 1812.
1814: Marries Mary “Polly” F. Miller. The couple raises seven children: Baldwin, John, Elizabeth, Seth, Isaac, William Shepard, and Julia Ann. Sons – John, Seth, and William Shepard were masters of sailing ships; son Baldwin was a mariner.
1817 to 1830: Serves as Mathews County Surveyor.
1827: Commissioned the first three-masted Schooner in America – the Ferrata; built in Mathews County.
1830: Marries second wife, Elizabeth Smith. The couple raises seven children: Gustavus L., Rufus, Robert, Sidney Marshall, Larkin, Charles, and Thomas. Sons – Gustavus L., Robert, Sidney Marshall, Larkin, and Charles were mariners.
1846: Foster is appointed Keeper of New Point Comfort Lighthouse on November 5. Salary – $400 per year.
1854: Foster passes away on September 26 at the age of 65 while in service at New Point Comfort Lighthouse. He is buried in Pear Tree Cemetery, Onemo, VA.

Keeper Isaac Foster Anecdotes:

Captain Isaac Foster served as a private and a sergeant in the Virginia militia during the War of 1812. In 1827, he commissioned the first three-masted schooner in America – the Ferrata – which was built here in Mathews County. Foster was married twice and raised 14 children. Nine of these children became either master of sailing ships or mariners.

Keeper Foster was remembered for the exemplary records he kept while serving at New Point Comfort Lighthouse – where he served from1846 to 1854. A December 1848, a letter found in the National Archives said: “Keeper Foster reports that repairs to the ‘kitchen top’ and a window are needed as well as repairs to other windows at the light station. Keeper Foster reports that Mr. John Thomas will do the work for $60.00.”

Sadly, Keeper Foster passed away while in service at New Point Comfort Lighthouse in 1854 at age 65.

Captain Foster’s epitaph reads:
“Whilst in this grave our father lies
His spirit rests above;
In realms of bliss it never dies
But knows a Saviour’s love.
With us his name shall live
Through long succeeding years;
Embalmed with all our hearts can give
Our praises and our tears.”

Sources: Becky Barnhardt; Bay Beacons by Linda Turbyville ; Lighting the Bay- Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses by Pat Vojtech; New Point Comfort Lighthouse and NPCPTF web site:; Chesapeake Chapter Keeper database; New Point Comfort Lighthouse – Its History and Preservation by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford.

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