This is the story of a number of black lighthouse keepers starting with Mingo in England and a number of African-American keepers in America.
The coincidents that occur as lighthouse history is reviewed continually amaze me. This story is the result of several accidental findings that gradually came together over a period of years. I will try to give you not only the story itself, but the series of events that allowed the creation of the story. When we are finished we will truly have the anatomy of a lighthouse story.
As you probably all know Ida Lewis and Grace Darling were not the only lighthouse heroes who saved lives and rescued stricken seamen. Many lighthouse keepers were involved in rescues and saved countless lives. While doing research at the National Archives, I was reading one of the Keeper’s log books from the White River Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. These log books are usually formatted with two pages per month, with each day a single line on the two pages. Generally the left-hand page is a weather report and the right-hand page contains entries for what is happening at the lighthouse.
The islanders still tell of the burning of Green Island Lighthouse on the night of December 31, 1863, and of the rescue of the lightkeeper and his family. A winter gale swept over Lake Erie on New Year’s Eve, following heavy rains and mild weather. The thermometer made a record drop from 60º above to 25º below zero in a single hour, so polar was the front that moved down on the lake. The Green Island Lighthouse was tended by Colonel Drake.
In 1705 following the destruction of the first Eddystone lighthouse built by Henry Winstanley in England, Captain Lovett acquired the lease of the Eddystone rock for 99 years, and by an Act of Parliament he was allowed to charge all ships passing a toll of 1 penny per ton, both inward and outward. His designer was a man named John Rudyerd, who was a silk mercer on Ludgate Hill; the trade of scientist or engineer did not really exist then and problems relating to those fields were approached by people as hobbies rather than professions.