Keeper Bio: Hudgins, Oliver R. “Ollie”


Date of Service: 1885 – 1903

1861:   Born on October 21, in Mathews County, VA to parents Warner & Laura Hudgins.

1862:   Kate Billups is born on October 22, in Mathews County, VA to parents Robert & Mary Billups.

1885:   Oliver Hudgins marries Kate Billups on March 12 in Mathews County, VA.

1885-1886:  Serves as Second Assistant Keeper at Wolf Trap Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $400.   

1886:  On February 22 Narcissus Phillips Hudgins, sister of Oliver Hudgins, marries James Beauregard Hurst.  Both men would become lighthouse keepers.                                            

1886-1887: Serves as First Assistant Keeper at Wolf Trap Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $440.

1887-1888:  Serves as Keeper at Wolf Trap Lighthouse (VA). His beginning annual salary – $660, and his ending annual salary – $600.

1888-1899:  Serves as Keeper at New Point Comfort Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $560.

1899:  He is replaced at New Point Comfort Lighthouse (VA) by his brother-in-law, Keeper James Beauregard Hurst who transfers from Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse (VA). This exchange of lighthouse duties is requested by both  keepers.   

1899-1903:  Serves as Keeper at Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse (VA). His annual salary – $575. Keeper Temple Ripley of Mathews serves as his Assistant  Keeper in 1900. 

1903: Sadly, while in service at Cherrystone Bar Lighthouse, he passes away on  September 5 at age 41 due to complications from a crab bite on his hand.  Keeper Hudgins serves for a total of 18 years with the U.S. Lighthouse Service.  He is buried at St. Paul United Methodist Church Cemetery, Susan, VA.  Wife  Kate Billups Hudgins passes away on April 22, 1910 at age 47 and is buried  beside him.

Keeper Oliver R. “Ollie” Hudgins Anecdotes:

Keeper Hudgins served at three light stations during his career with the US Lighthouse Service. Only one of the actual lighthouses that he served at (New Point Comfort) is still standing today. The recently restored New Point Comfort Lighthouse is on an island marking the conjunction of the Mobjack Bay with the Chesapeake Bay.  It can be viewed from the New Point Comfort Observatory Platform located at Bavon, Mathews County, VA.  On January 22, 1893, the screwpile lighthouse at Wolf Trap was destroyed by ice floes. A caisson light was then constructed on that site and still stands today. It can be viewed from Bethel Beach, about three miles out in the Chesapeake Bay. 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 the waterfront in Cambridge, MD.

When serving at the New Point Comfort Light Station, Keeper Hudgins was responsible for maintaining the lighthouse, the keeper’s house and other structures without the help of an assistant keeper.  (Assistant keepers were never assigned to this light station, although they were greatly needed.)  Soil erosion was a problem at New Point Comfort, and in 1839 the keeper was provided with a boat.  At that time it was no longer possible to walk to the mainland at low tide.

When Keeper Hudgins served at the screwpile Wolf Trap Light, it was believed by some to be haunted.  Shortly before his arrival there, Assistant A. F. Hudgins resigned due to ghostly appearances that were said to continue after his departure.  The Baltimore Sun reported that the spirit was “evidently a merry ghost, as he whistles when called on, and when requested to dance gives a regular ‘double-shuffle’ or Virginia ‘hoe-down’ in the very room occupied by his would-be investigators.”

Sources:; Chesapeake Chapter Database; Family Search; Gladys Tankersley; Mary Godsey; New Point Comfort Lighthouse: Its History and Preservation, Mary Louise and J. Candace Clifford, The Dietz Press, 2013; Screwpiles: The Forgotten Lighthouses, Larry Saint, Karla Smith, John H. Sheally II, Phyllis Speidell, The Donning Company Publishers, 2018;


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