Keeper Bio: Freeman, Josephine McWilliams

Josephine McWilliams Freeman

Date of Service: 1876 – 1912

1843:   Born on January 14 to parents Dr. Joseph & Eliza McWilliams in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

1850:   Dr. Joseph L. McWilliams, the father of Josephine, sells 2.75 acres on the southwest corner of Blackistone Lighthouse at a price of $300 to the U.S. government as a site for a lighthouse to be constructed.

1851:   Blackistone Island Lighthouse is established.

1859-1868:   Jerome McWilliams, brother of Josephine, is Keeper of the Blackistone Lighthouse.

1868-1875:   Dr. Joseph L. McWilliams is Keeper of Blackistone Lighthouse.

1871: Married William Mitchell Freeman and raised four children, Bernard, William, Jr., Emily & Edna, who were all born and grew up in the lighthouse.

1876: Josephine McWilliams Freeman is appointed Keeper at Blackistone Lighthouse. Her beginning annual salary was $520/year and her ending salary was $560/year.

1912: Passed away on February 14 at age 69. She was buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in St. Mary’s County, MD. Her son, William Freeman, Jr. succeeded her as Keeper until March of the same year.

Keeper Josephine McWilliams Freeman Anecdotes:

Josephine Freeman served a total of 36 years at Blackistone Lighthouse. During her years as Keeper, Josephine Freeman kept a journal, where she would record the day’s events, names of visitors, and her personal feelings. All her four children were born and raised at the lighthouse—some of the children living there until the early l900s. They also had a live-in housekeeper who would help with cooking and cleaning. Her children would tend to the lamp and help with routine maintenance around the lighthouse. In all her entries, there is only one time that she mentions lighting the lamp herself.

She had no paid assistant like other lighthouses, so her annual salary was all the family had to depend on. Her husband, William, would hunt and fish for their meals. He also maintained a garden and raised cows, hogs, chickens, and turkeys. Josephine, her daughters and housekeeper made their own clothes, sheets, curtains, as well as other various items.

Sources: Women Who Kept the Lights, Mary Louise Clifford & J. Candace Clifford, “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : 7 August 2019), Josephine Freeman, 1912; Burial, Bushwood, St. Mary’s, Maryland, United States of America, Sacred Heart Cemetery; citing record ID 182959437, Find a Grave,, Chesapeake Chapter Keeper database, The J. Candace Clifford Lighthouse Research Catalog,

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