Watts Island

Watts Island Lighthouse was built in 1833 on Little Watts Island, a seven-acre island, just south of Watts Island between the Eastern Shore peninsula and Tangier Island.

John Donohoo of Havre De Grace, Maryland built the original brick 48-foot tower in 1833 which was equipped with a fifth-order Fresnel lens at a cost of $4,775. The nearby keeper’s house was a two-story, 20-feet by 34-feet dwelling, constructed of brick and painted white with red shingles. It had four rooms in addition to a kitchen and attic. There was also a smokehouse nearby.

Over the years, a porch was added to the front of the dwelling, brick walkways were installed, as well as an extensive amount of picket fencing. By 1915, the kerosene oil illuminant was changed to acetylene gas. The keeper at that time, Edward A. Dibley, paid $560/year, was transferred to New Point Comfort Lighthouse. Charles Hardenberg was appointed laborer in charge and paid only $120/year.

The lighthouse was automated in 1923 and erosion had claimed almost four acres of the island. The lighthouse continued to stand until a severe storm in the winter of 1944 threated the stability. Just a few weeks later, the lighthouse collapsed. Today, the island has completely eroded and only a shoal remains where the lighthouse once stood on Watts Island.

Sources:
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.

Head Keepers:  James W. Twiford (at least 1835 – at least 1839), John T. Leatherberry (1841 – 1844), James M. Oliver (1844 – 1845), James W. Twiford (1845 – 1848), Lavinia Twiford (1848 – 1849), Severn F. Mister (1849 – 1853), Thomas Underhill (1853 – 1855), James D. Underhill (1855 – 1856), George K. Turner (1856 – 1861), Richard Pruitt (1861), George Pruitt (1861 – 1865), W.A. Sears (1865 – at least 1867), J.J. Sterling (1868 – 1872), Thomas Tyler (1873 – 1883), L.D. Marchant (1883 – 1889), Edward A. Sibley (1889 – 1915), Charles Hardenberg (1916 – at least 1917)

Assistant:  Nat G. Burriss (1867 – 1868), Severn J. Evans (1868 – 1869), William R. Byrd (1869), Thomas Tyler (1869 – 1873), Lorenzo T. Nelson (1874 – 1883), Nathaniel J.W. Le Cato (1883 – 1884), Francis E. Wilkins (1884 – 1890), George G. Ailsworth (1890), John W. Evans (1890 – 1899), John S. Dunlavy (1899 – 1901), H.J. Evans (1901), Arthur L. Small (1901 – 1903), George S. Holland (1903 – 1907), Charles C. Tyler (1907 – 1912), Edward R. Somers (1912 – 1914), Frank M. Gould (1914), George S. Holland (1914 – at least 1915)

Updated January 4, 2020


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Permanent link to this article: https://cheslights.org/watts-island/