Timeline: Deep Water Shoal Lighthouse

1837: A request is made by Beverly Kennon, Captain of the United States Navy, to construct a lighthouse at three locations along the James River in Virginia; Day’s Point, Point of Shoals and Deep Water & Lyon’s Creek Shoals.

1850: The U. S. Lighthouse Board authorizes $3,500 for preliminary work in the engineering & design for four lighthouses on the James River.

1852: On August 31, Congress appropriates $5,000 for the construction of a screwpile lighthouse at Deep Water Shoal.

1854: Construction begins on a 20-foot square, screwpile lighthouse.

1855: Construction of the lighthouse is completed and first exhibited on February 6, 1855.

1856: Head keeper James Ransom reports that he must leave the station in fear of his life, due to ice floes.

1857: Temporary repairs are made to the lighthouse due to considerable damage from the ice and storms of the past winter.

1862: On June 28, lighthouse engineer G. Caster Smith, reports that the lighthouse is damaged and all coal, lamp oil & lenses from all James River Lighthouses are gone. On July 11, G. Caster Smith returns to the lighthouse with an oil stand, lens lantern, fuel, and supplies. The new lantern is installed, and he explains lighting procedures to the keepers at the station. After the withdrawal of the Army from the peninsula, the light is no longer necessary, and the apparatus is taken down and stored at Fort Monroe.

1865: The lighthouse is slightly damaged during the Civil War and is provided with a new lighting apparatus and fog bell and temporarily put back in service.

1867: The lighthouse is destroyed by ice floes on January 20. On March 2, Congress appropriates $16,000 for construction of a new screwpile lighthouse on March 2. Until a new lighthouse can be rebuilt, Lightship No. 25, a 61-foot schooner with a single lantern, is placed at the station on November 9.

1868: Construction of a new hexagonal shaped screwpile lighthouse with a sixth-order Fresnel lens is completed and first exhibited on January 15.

1869: Repairs are made to the roof and a new boat is supplied to the station.

1870: On August 13, Lighthouse Inspector Commodore Dornin of the fifth district notes “the dwelling was in confusion and not very clean”. He also noted that Keeper R. D. Mitchell “is neat and tidy in his dress and cleanly in his person”.

1872: The lighthouse is painted throughout, and other minor repairs are made. The piles of the old lighthouse that was destroyed in 1867 were removed and sent to Lazaretto Depot where they could be used for other projects in the area.

1878: The fog bell is fitted with a Stevens striking mechanism which struck every 15 seconds.

1881: Minor repairs are made, and the structure is painted inside and out.

1882:  The second assistant keeper position isi abolished for all James River lights on August 19.

1883: New boat hoisters are installed in October.

1892: On March 3, Lighthouse Inspector Charles J. Train of the fifth district requests that all James River Lighthouses use Funck-Heap lamps.

1905: In the January logbook, an entry notes, “ice piling up within 5-feet of deck”.

1912: Ice continues to be a problem. In an entry from the logbook in February, it notes “ice running all day shaking house very bad”.

1918: Assistant Keeper R. H. Mathews rescues 4 soldiers adrift in a sailboat during a storm on August 7.

1918:  Keeper Alexander P. Hurst is awarded the inspector’s efficiency star.

1927: A red sector is added to the light.

1936: The lighthouse is deactivated.

1947: An incandescent oil vapor lamp is installed.

1957:  Buoys replace the lighthouse.

1966: The lighthouse is torn down and replaced by a daymark on a skeleton tower mounted on the screwpile foundation.

1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of Finances, various years.
3. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
4. Screwpiles, The Forgotten Lighthouses, Larry Saint, Karla Smith, John H. Sheally II, Phyllis Speidell, 2018

Updated 5/27/2020

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