Keeper Bio: Hurst, James Beauregard

Date of Service: 1888-1919

1862:  Born July 24 in Mathews County, VA to parents John P. & Margaret E.  (Thurston) Hurst.

1886:  Marries Narcissus Phillips Hudgins on February 22 in Mathews County, VA.  The couple raises two daughter, Pearl Lorraine and Gladys Leone, and one son, Warner Arnold.    

1888-1891:  Serves as First Assistant Keeper at York Spit Lighthouse (VA).  His annual salary – $440.

1890:  In a severe storm on March 16, a schooner runs aground near York Spit Lighthouse.  Tragically, five men perish in the violent sea in spite of a hero rescue effort by First Assistant Keeper Hurst.  Adrift in the small lighthouse boat which is  no match for the northwestern wind and heavy chop, First Assistant Keeper   Hurst is rescued by the steamer, Defiance.

1891: Serves as Keeper at Newport News Middle Ground Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $600.

1891: Serves as Keeper at Deep Water Shoals Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $575.

1891-1899:  Serves as Keeper at Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $575.

1899-1901: Serves as Keeper at New Point Comfort Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $560.

1901:  On June 5, the Naval Secretary writes a letter to Keeper Hurst commending him for his “faithful and dedicated service” and for keeping his station “in excellent condition.”          

1901-1908:  Serves as Keeper at Tue Marshes Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $575.

1908-at least 1920:  Serves as Keeper at Wolf Trap Lighthouse (VA).  Annual salary$1080. On August 27, 1919, during a severe storm, Keeper Hurst and Assistant Keeper Virgil J. Montague perform a daring sea rescue following the sinking of the schooner, Sidonia Curley.  They bring a man, woman and four children to the safety of Wolf Trap LighthouseKeeper Hurst retires with 31+ years of service with the USLHS.        

1940:  Passes away on March 28 at age 77 and is buried at Saint Paul United Methodist Church Cemetery, Mathews County, VA.  Keeper Hurst is remembered as a life long member of Saint Paul United Methodist Church and a member of the Noamen Tribe of Red Men.

Keeper James Beauregard Hurst Anecdotes:

Keeper Hurst served at seven light stations during his long career with the US Lighthouse Service. Of those lighthouses, New Point Comfort, Newport News Middle Ground and Wolf Trap are still standing today. The screwpile lighthouses at York Spit, Tue Marshes and Deep Water Shoals were all demolished in the 1960’s.  And in 1921, the Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse was moved from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to Maryland and served as the second Choptank River Lighthouse until it was demolished in 1964.  A replica of this lighthouse dedicated in 2012, stands on on the waterfront in Cambridge, MD. 

When visiting his father at one of the above mentioned lighthouses, the late Arnold Hurst shared with the family a story of him accidentally discarding some of the lighthouse eating utensils when throwing out the trash. (Oops! We’re certain that Keeper Hurst was very patient with his young son.)

In 1919, Keeper Hurst and Assistant Virgil J. Montague were commended for their roles in the daring sea rescue that took place on August 27. During a severe storm, the schooner Sidonia Curley sank four miles off of Wolf Trap Lighthouse.  A man and woman with four children launched a motorboat in an attempt to land at the lighthouse.  And the following account was recorded in the USLHS Bulletin: “In endeavoring to  land the occupants of the boat on the east landing of the station, the keeper was twice washed from the steps, but each time managed to retain a hold on the steps with one hand.  He then got the boat to the leeward of the station, and with the assistance of the assistant keeper, took the occupants out, one at a time, by means of a line, the smallest child, two years old, being hoisted up in a bag.  The party were also furnished lodging at the station for the night.”

Sources –; Chesapeake Chapter Database;; The News        (Frederick, Maryland), March 17, 1890; The Free Lance (Fredericksburg, Virginia), March 21, 1890; Gladys Tankersley; Mary Godsey; New Point Comfort Lighthouse: It’s History and Preservation by Mary Louise and J. Candance Clifford, The Dietz Press, 2013; Screwpiles: The Forgotten Lighthouses, Larry Saint, Karla Smith, John H. Sheally ll, Phyllis Speidell, The Donning Company Publishers, 2018



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