Smith Point, 1821-1897
Smith Point Station in Virginia served several purposes. It marked the south side of the entrance to the Potomac River on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay. Almost 100 miles up the Potomac are the busy ports of Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington D.C. In 1881, a total of 1,889 ships visited these ports carrying lumber, oyster, watermelon, and ice from Maine. The Smith Point Station also guarded the shoal off Smith Point and served as a reference mark for the southern approach to the Potomac River.
From 1821 to 1861, lightship “B” served at this station, a 120-ton wood vessel. In 1838, Lt. William D. Porter of the United States Navy arrived at the lightship to inspect the vessel and found the captain and crew had been gone for almost one week. The vessel had been left in charge of a 14-year old boy that was not even strong enough to raise the lantern to its full position at night. In 1861, the vessel was captured and removed by Confederate forces.
In March 1862, LV-23 was placed at the station. Historical records show that a “competent” military guard was detailed onboard during 1862. This 94-foot wood schooner was converted for use as a lightship in 1862 at a cost of $7,500. The two masts were fitted with lanterns with eight oil lamps and a hand operated bell. In January 1867, the vessel was caught in moving ice and drifted for two days. LV-23 remained at the station until the Smith Point Lighthouse went into service on September 9, 1868 and was later placed at the Willoughby Spit Station.
On February 14, 1895, the Smith Point Lighthouse was carried away by ice and LV-46 was placed at the station until the replacement lighthouse was completed in 1897. This 124-foot wood schooner was built in 1887 at a price of $60,000. The two masts were fitted with lanterns with eight oil lamps and a hand operated fog bell and steam whistle. The vessel remained at the station until the new caisson style lighthouse was completed in August 1897. The vessel was retired from lightship duty in 1923.
Crew Members: Travers B. Deveraux (1843 – 1845), Cyrus Sutton (1845 – 1849), Richard C. Toulson ( 1849 – 1853), James Treakle (1853 – 1855), Samuel Hayden (1855 – 1861), James Pascal (1862 – 1863), Joel McDonald (1863 – 1870)
- Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
- Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997
- Lightships-Floating Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic, Wayne Kirklin, 2007
- Smith Point Lightship Station History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2020, from http://www.uscglightshipsailors.org/smith_point_lightship_station_history.htm