Keeper Bio: Bowling, James Thomas


Date of Service: 1873 – 1879

1839: Born June 9 in Baltimore, Maryland to parents Thomas & Susana Bowling.

1860s: Marries his wife, Margaret. They raise 4 children.

18631868: Served as Ensign for the Union Navy, where he was stationed on the USS Allegheny, a receiving ship.

18731874: Served as Principal Keeper for Craighill Channel Lower Front Range Lighthouse. His annual salary was $540/year.

1874-1879: Served as Principal Keeper at Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, MD. His annual salary was $540. His wife, Margaret served as Assistant Keeper with an annual salary of $400.

1875: Daughter Knolie (named after the lighthouse) is born on June 23 at the lighthouse.

1880: In the U.S. Census, James T. Bowling, age 40, lives with his wife and 4 children. His occupation is listed as a feather renovator.

1892: His wife Margaret died.

1900: In the U.S. Census, James T. Bowling, age 61, lives with his daughter and her family. His occupation is listed as a postal carrier.

1911:  Died April 5 at age 71 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery Baltimore, MD.

Keeper James T. Bowling Anecdotes:

The Bowling’s were one of the more self-sufficient families that lived on a screwpile lighthouse.  On the iron walkway surrounding the home were numerous pots and boxes filled with flowers and vegetables, making it feel like an oasis.  The large rooms were decorated with all the comforts of home– inside the living room was a piano and large bookcase with an abundance of books, which would keep the family occupied during the long winters.  The closest shore was six miles away, so the children were homeschooled by their mother, who was a schoolteacher prior to living at the lighthouse. 

Approximately 8-feet below the dwelling was the storage platform, which was used to store provisions, wood, and coal.  In addition, James Bowling fenced in the platform to keep goats, hogs, and chickens so that he could feed his family.  Occasionally in bad weather, the animals would be swept away into the bay until they were rescued by the family.  When tides were higher than normal, they would bring the animals into their living quarters.  In addition to the livestock, James Bowling would cast nets and lines where he caught an abundance of fish.  To supplement his slight vegetable source, he rowed the long six miles to shore to barter fish that he had caught from the bay for vegetables from various farmers. 

Sources: Chesapeake Chapter Keeper database, J. Candace Clifford Research Catalog;;; Lighting The Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses, Pat Vojtech, 1996

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