Point of Shoals Lighthouse had two lighthouses. The first was built in 1855 in Burwell’s Bay on the shallow southern shoreline of the James River. It was a small, twenty-foot square, four-room white dwelling with a red tin roof and black lantern supported by five wrought-iron piles. It was equipped with a large-sized pressed glass masthead or steamship lens hung in the lantern room, exhibiting a fixed white light. The lighthouse was also equipped with a hand-operated fog bell.
During the Civil War, the lighthouse was attacked and damaged by Confederates in 1862. The lens lantern, along with numerous supplies were gone. After installing a new lantern later that year, the light was deemed no longer necessary, and the lighting apparatus was taken down and stored at Fort Monroe. After the war, the station was fitted with a new lighting apparatus and fog bell and put back into service.
In 1869, the mast-head light was replaced with a sixth-order lens fitted with a Funck’s lamp. The U.S. Lighthouse Board also recommended replacing the current structure with an improved design, as the current structure showed damage from ice floes in previous winters and is worried that it could be washed away in the upcoming winter.
In 1871, construction began on the new lighthouse. It was a hexagonal shaped, white screwpile lighthouse with three rooms and supported on eight wooden piles fitted with cast iron sleeves. It was equipped with a sixth-order Fresnel lens exhibiting a fixed white light and machine operated fog bell.
In 1932 the structure was demolished, and a new illuminating apparatus was installed on top of a pipe tower. This light was discontinued in 1933.
Head Keepers: Thomas L. Kendall (1855 – 1868), William M. Dickens (1868 – 1870), H. K.W. Ayres (1870), James Minson (1870), William F. Hatsell (1870 – 1872), Patrick Murphy (1872), Patrick Ryan (1872), William F. Hatsell (1872), Cornelius Merton (1872 – 1873), William Washington (1873 – 1881), Peter F. Blount (1881 – 1885), Thomas H. Curtis (1885 – at least 1925), Thomas R. Williams ( – 1930)
Assistant: John K. Floyd (1855 – 1856), Robert F. Deek (1856), William W. Walker (1856 – 1857), Robert F. Deek (1857 – 1858), John T. Holland (1858 – 1861), J.W. Wrenn (1861 – ), Susan Kendall (1865 – 1867), William M. Dickens (1867 – 1868), John Stacey (1868), William M. Moody (1868 – 1871), Rebecca Hatsell (1871 – 1872), Samuel T. Jones (1873 – 1876), Thomas Hunt (1876 – 1882), John R. Edwards (1905 – 1930), Edward B. Austin (1928 – 1930)
1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
3. Screwpiles, The Forgotten Lighthouses, Larry Saint, Karla Smith, John H. Sheally II, Phyllis Speidell, 2018