Keeper Bio: Farley, James McHenry

Date of Service: 1871-1873

1831: Born in Virginia.

1871-1873: Served as Principal Keeper at New Point Comfort Lighthouse, VA. His salary was $560/year.

1880: In the U.S. Census, James Farley lives in Petersburg, VA. with his wife and daughter. His occupation is listed as a minister.

1882: James Farley was chosen to be publisher and editor of Star of Zion, a church publication that was originally started in 1877.

James McHenry Farley Anecdote:

James McHenry Farley, born approximately 1831 in Virginia, was officially appointed keeper at New Point Comfort Lighthouse, Virginia, in April 1871, and remained until 1873, where he made $560/year. Since the location of the lighthouse was so isolated, it was much more difficult to procure supplies.

In a letter to the U.S. Lighthouse Board, Keeper Farley wrote: “Dear sirs this is an isolated island, and only about 3 or 4 months in the year, is there any one on the island at all, while the fishery is being carried on, after which during the remainder part of the year; this is a lonely and dreary place.” He continues, “Many nights had I to remain in the lantern tower for hours to keep the frost from the glass. Therefore gentlemen would it be too much for me as Keeper of this station to ask the favor of your body to grant to this place an assistant keeper, for many reasons…if I cannot succeed in getting an assistant keeper—would it be too much to ask to have this station placed for the coming year in the list of stations for ration, as everything is so high & hard to be gotten on this island; and especially wood for I suffered here last winter on account of the creeks & river being frozen for weeks so that I could not get any wood.”

Unfortunately for Keeper Farley, no assistant was ever appointed at New Point Comfort. Farley resigned his position as keeper in 1873 and moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where he lived with his wife Delia, daughter Patsy, and mother. He would spend many years afterward as a Minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1882, he was chosen to be publisher and editor of Star of Zion, a church publication that was originally started in 1877. He also had close ties to Livingstone College, a school to train black Methodist ministers.

 Sources:, Chesapeake Chapter Database, New Point Comfort Lighthouse: Its History and Preservation, Mary Louise Clifford & J. Candace Clifford, Mathews County Historical Society, 2013


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