Tangier Sound Lighthouse was built in 1890 in the Chesapeake Bay at the end of a long shoal just southeast of Tangier Island to accommodate the increasing oyster business in the area. The island was originally settled by Englishman John Crockett and his family in 1686.
Built at a price of $25,000, the lighthouse was a square, screwpile structure supported by 5 wrought iron screwpiles. A square tower supported an octagonal lantern which housed a fourth-order lens exhibiting a fixed white light with a red sector. It was first exhibited on June 30, 1890.
The lighthouse suffered considerable damage in 1905 after the schooner, Mary L. Colburn, collided with the lighthouse. The schooner originally ran aground on the bar next to the lighthouse, but after the ice started to break, the ice moved with such force that it propelled the schooner into the structure. The masts from the schooner became tangled with the roof and lantern of the house. The lighthouse tender, Maple, was sent to rescue Keeper John T. Jarvis and pull the schooner away from the house.
On February 11, 1914, Assistant Keeper Captain William Asbury Crockett left home after visiting his family and set sail back to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the weather turned quickly, and a bad northwester storm moved in. Keeper Edward L. Thomas watched through the lighthouse window as Crockett made progress across the sound and could see the winds were getting worse. Crockett was within a half-mile of the lighthouse when the boat started to get tossed from side to side from the waves. Unable to bow down in time, Crockett was hit in the head by the wooden boom and knocked overboard. Keeper Thomas lowered the second lighthouse boat into the water and tried to get to Crockett in time. Unfortunately, by the time that Keeper Thomas got there, it was too late—Captain Crockett was already dead. Keeper Thomas was cited for his bravery a year later.
During the winters from 1917-1918, ice floes caused damage to the wrought-iron piles supporting the lighthouse below the waterline. The structure itself was not damaged and remained level due to the horizontal and diagonal bracing from the water line to the floor beams. In order to protect the screwpile foundation from further damage, a concrete caisson was constructed beneath the structure in such a way that the damaged piles were completely encased in concrete.
The lighthouse was automated prior to being dismantled in 1961. The current steel tower was erected on the original screwpile foundation.
- Timeline: Tangier Sound Lighthouse
- Keeper Bio: Thomas Jefferson Steinhise
- Keeper Bio: Barney Crockett Thomas
Head Keepers: Francis E. Wilkins (1890 – 1904), John F. Jarvis (1904 – 1906), George P. Hudgins (1906 – 1908), Charles A. Sterling (1908 – 1911), Edward L. Thomas (1911 – at least 1915), Joseph M. Burrus (1916 – 1917), Malachi D. Swain (1917), George M. Wible (1917 – at least 1925), William W. Thomas (at least 1925 – at least 1932), Barney C. Thomas (at least 1936 – at least 1942)
First Assistant: William A. Crockett (1890 – 1892), John Spence (1892 – 1901), Thomas H. Baum (1901), George G. Johnson (1901), E.T. Bradshaw (1901), Eugene S. Riley (1901), George W. Miles (1902), E.L. Thomas (1902), James O. Casey (1902), T.L. Crockett (1902), Walter C. Cox (1902 – 1903), Sheldon R. Van Houter (1903 – 1904), Warren Wright Jones (1904 – 1905), Robert H. Sterling (1905 – 1907), Edward L. Thomas (1907 – 1911), John M. Marchant (1911 – 1913), William A. Crockett (1913 – 1914), W. Walter Thomas (1914), Robert H. Sterling (1914 – at least 1915), George M. Wible (1917), Edward M. Haymen (1917), Robert Bradshaw (1918), Elton C. Marsh (1918), Edward J. Adams (1918 – ), Thomas J. Steinhise (1918-1919), William H. Holland (at least 1919 – at least 1932), Earl B. King (at least 1939 – at least 1942)
Second Assistant: T. J. Cropper (at least 1927), Earl B. King (at least 1930 – at least 1932), Joseph B. Farrow (1936), Oliver C. Lupton (1936 – 1938), Gatha F. Cattee (at least 1939 – at least 1942)
1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years
2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997
3. Lighting the Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses, Pat Vojtech, 1996