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Old Reedy Island, DE  Lighthouse destroyed.   

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Old Reedy Island Lighthouse

1837 – Appropriated by act of Congress on March 3, 1837, $10,000 for a light-house on the lower or southern end of Reedy island, in the Delaware bay.

1837 – The site at Reedy island belongs to the State of Delaware, and as the Legislature of the State is not to be in session until the winter of 1839, no title can be obtained previously. The work must necessarily be deferred.

1851 – REEDY ISLAND LIGHT June 26, 1851—11 a. m.
River and harbor light; Ephraim L. Lockerman, keeper—middle-aged— farmer; keeper makes the gas and attends to the light-house himself. Took charge January 27,1850.
Had no instruction, except one night by a man from Philadelphia; makes rosin gas once a week; has not been inspected since last June.
Brick house; granite steps; roof of house leaks badly; ventilators circular, and rude in construction.
Nine 15-inch reflectors and burners; reflectors of different patterns—part spherical and part parabolic, bruised and scratched—thin plating; glass in lantern 10 1/2 by 13 1/2.
Dome inside black, and wants painting badly; chimneys or tube-glasses bad; sashes and astragals painted white inside; sea-wall, done by Middleton two years ago, wants looking after.
Painted three weeks since; previous to that, very dirty, and had not been painted for a long time; water-tank, holding 800 or 900 gallons; arch supporting lantern, and just below it, very damp and discolored—not white-washed for two years; iron framed windows do not fit, and leak. Oil on hand, 65 gallons. Water gets into the gas-pipe, and required to use oil for four nights; commenced burning gas February 15, 1850. Two new retorts every fifteen months, cost about $180. Consumed, from May 2, 1850, to August 2, 1850, 35 bushels of rosin, 81 bushels coke, 1 cord of wood; clav, one bushel per quarter.
Nine lamps consume ordinarily about 300 gallons of oil; gas costs about $350 per annum. Received, May 19, 1851, twelve new 14-inch spherical reflectors and brass lamps and burners; plating thin; frame for putting up, to burn oil; use 12 lamps when oil is burnt. Reports all necessary repairs. No apparent necessity for the new lamps and reflectors.

1853 - Extracts from a communication of the Philadelphia Board of Trade to the Collector of Customs at Philadelphia. PHILADELPHIA, October 15, 1853.
SIR: The committee of the Board of Trade on the lights, buoys, harbors, and the navigation of the Delaware, to whom your letter was referred, beg leave to state that the necessity existing for the erection of additional lights and buoys, in order to improve the navigation of the Delaware, has been for some time past under their consideration, and from a careful examination of the subject, and consultation with some of our most experienced pilots and navigators, the committee earnestly recommend as follows:
2d. A light on the lower pier of the new harbor, eastern side of Reedy island, to show a red light to distinguish it from those of passing vessels, and to be placed on the extreme outer pier, which is situated near the channel, a distance of 800 feet from the shore, and is very dangerous at night. This light would also be of great service in navigating this part of the river.
3d. A light on Reedy point, in order to point out the fair way when approaching the Pea-patch shoal. This light to be of moderate height, and to show two lights, one above the other; the lower light to be bright red, which will prevent the upper light from being mistaken for those on board of vessels.

1853 – OFFICE OF FOURTH AND FIFTH LIGHT HOUSE DISTRICTS, (exclusive of Albemarle and Pamlico sounds,) Philadelphia, November 1, 1853.
SIRS: I beg leave to suggest, at the request of the board, communicated in the circular of the 1st of September, the following described aids to the navigation of Delaware bay.
5. To bank in Reedy island, in part or entire. And
6. To place a fog-bell at the Reedy Island light house.
5.) The object of banking in Reedy island is to get rid of the growth of reeds, which, when dry and fired, endanger, on the prevalence of certain winds, the keeper's house and out-houses of the light-house station on the lower end of the island. To bank the ten acres understood to be owned by the United States will cost as follows: (6.) The absence of any means to point out in thick and foggy weather the position of the lower end of Reedy island, is a source of much annoyance and some hazard to vessels ascending the bay, particularly to the steamers which ply regularly between the city and ports below the island, and which would be obviated by the use of a fog-bell at that point. This fog-bell, as well as the one for the harbor of the Delaware breakwater, and those for the establishment of the proposed light stations at Cross ledge and Ship John shoals, should all, as a matter of course, be struck by clock machinery, and in such manner as to make them easily distinguished one from another.
In the foregoing suggestions I have omitted to notice the new ice harbor on the east side of Reedy island, as I presume the officer in charge of that important auxiliary to the navigation of the Delaware during the winter will call attention to the subject of lighting it.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HARTMAN BACHE, Major Topographical Engineers, Brevet Major in charge.
Brevet Capt. EDMOND L. F. HARDCASTLE, U. S. A.,
Secretaries Light-house Board, Washington, D. C.

1855 – Since July 1,1854, lenses have been introduced into this district, as follows: At Reedy island, a fourth-order of 300°, in place of twelve lamps.

1855 – Fog-bells have been placed at Delaware breakwater and at Reedy Island light-houses.

1855 – Banking in Reedy island and preserving the site of the light-house.— Examinations were made with a view to these measures; but as there was a doubt as to the quantity of land on the island ceded to the United States by the State of Delaware, no steps were taken to carry out the objects of the law.

1855 – Fog-signals at the Delaware Breakwater light-house, at the Reedy Island light-house, and at the Little Gull Island light-house.—Of these fog-signals, the one for Reedy island was finished and put up in position. The two others were in course of construction.

1855 – Light-house on Reedy island.—The site of this light, at the south side of Reedy island, has been undergoing a change for years past from the abrasion of the waves of storms and the ice of winter. Having been directed to inspect it, a special report was submitted, in which it was recommended to bank in the immediate site with an embankment raised above storm-tides with a sluiceway for drainage, and to repair the keeper's dwelling and tower by renewing the timber work under the brick walls, where it had decayed from exposure consequent on the overflow of the tides—the new work being thereafter protected by the proposed embankment. The law appropriating for this work says, "for banking in and preserving the site of Reedy Island light-house." This may bear the construction that the whole site or government property of twenty-five acres is to be banked in; but if so, the amount appropriated, $1,800, is totally inadequate for the purpose, as will be seen by reference to the special report above alluded to. For the embankment therein proposed, it is not deemed necessary to ask for more funds.

1856 – The work at Ready island, for preserving the site, will be prosecuted with all practicable despatch, and will probably be completed this season. The small light authorized to be placed on the pier at Port Penn awaits the erection of the proposed pier upon which it was designed to be placed.

1860 – Small repairs have been made at Fort Mifflin ; a new lantern has been placed in the tower at Reedy island.

1867 – Reedy island.—Extensive repairs to the bank enclosing the buildings, rendered necessary by the storm and high tides in March, are now being made, and will be finished in a few days. A new brick water cistern has been built, the lantern and tower windows painted, the plank platform and the plastering repaired, and the windows and doors of the dwelling painted outside.

1868 – Reedy island,—The extensive repairs to the bank around the buildings, referred to in the last annual report, were completed in October, 1867. During the past year the pathway to boat-house and the plank platform around the house have been repaired; a new pump with check valve has been placed in the water cistern, and two sets of lantern curtains have been supplied.

1869 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay.—The repairs this year have been the brick pavement in the base of the tower taken up and replaced upon properly packed earth; new steps made from the platform to the ground; the boat-house removed to a safer position. The lens apparatus has been overhauled and put in proper order.

1871 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay.—Extensive repairs have been made to the bank inclosing the buildings, as follows: The earth bank has been thoroughly repaired and raised fifteen inches along the eastern side for a distance of four hundred feet, the outer slope protected with quarry stone imbedded in fresh mud, the top of the bank roughly paved with stone, a new sluice for draining, and the ditches cleaned out. A new roof has been put on the dwelling, and the plank platform repaired.

1872 – Proposed light-house, Reedy Point, Delaware Bay.—An appropriation of $3,000 for a beacon-light on this point was approved on the 3d August, 1854. The price asked by the owners for the necessary site, with the right of way, was $3,000, being the whole amount appropriated, which was allowed to revert to the Treasury, as the demands of the owners were considered unreasonable. During the last year petitions for this light have been received; but it is believed that a sixth-order lens light placed on the south end of Pea Patch Island (Fort Delaware) would serve the purpose of navigation as well. To construct a suitable structure, including the lens, will cost about $8,000, and an estimate therefor is presented.

1874 – Reedy Island light-station.—A special appropriation of $20,000 was made during the last session of Congress for rebuilding the structure at this station. The work will be commenced at an early day.

1875 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The characteristic of this light was changed during the past year from fixed red to fixed white, varied by red flashes; a fixed white light being shown for sixty seconds, followed by five red flashes at intervals of twelve seconds. By act approved March 3, 1875, the appropriation made by previous act of Congress for rebuilding the keeper's dwelling at this station is made applicable to the construction of Liston's Tree ranges, and provides that when the Liston's Tree ranges are established, the light at Reedy Island shall be discontinued.

1876 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—Under the law providing for the erection of Liston's Tree Range light, this light is to be discontinued when Liston's Tree Range lights are exhibited.

1877 – Reedy Island fog-signal, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The almost unprecedented storm-tide of September last destroyed a large part of the bank surrounding and protecting this site, permitting the tide to flow freely over it. This bank is being rebuilt and the site will soon be dry. The keeper's dwelling has long been dilapidated and unfit for use. By act approved June 23, 1874, an appropriation was made for rebuilding it. But by act approved March 3, 1875, the appropriation of June 23,1874, was transferred and made applicable to the erection of Liston's Tree range-lights, and it was further provided that when the Liston's Tree range-lights were established, "Reedy Island light should be discontinued." Liston's Tree range-lights were exhibited for the first time on the night of April 2, 1877, and Reedy Island light was discontinued. The fog-signal at this station has been maintained.

1878 – Reedy Island fog-signal, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The keeper's dwelling has been rebuilt, and is now occupied. The injury to the bank around the site has been repaired. The station is now in good order. The light at this station was discontinued by act approved March 3,1875, when the Liston's Tree ranges were lighted.

1879 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The keeper's dwelling was repaired and a tower erected on it. The station was relighted July 1, 1879. The embankment protecting the site was repaired.

1880 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The roof, where damaged by the storm of October, 1878, was repaired. The top and inside slopes of the earth-bank surrounding the station were paved with banking-stone to protect them from the wash of the sea. A new fog-bell striking-machine was erected on the old light-house tower. The old tower was partly taken down, the remainder was roofed over, and the base was arranged for an oil-room.

1883 – Reedy Island, on lower end of Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The fog-bell and striking-machinery were removed from the top of the old brick tower and placed on the bank. A masonry house, with concrete-and-cement floor, for the storage of mineral oil, was built under the fog-bell machine-house. The boundaries of the site were marked with stone monuments, and various minor repairs were made.

1885 – Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—A red cut covering about 50° of arc was introduced into this light October 1,1884.

1885 – Reedy Island, on lower end of Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—Red panels were placed in the lantern, which, on October 1, 1884, were used for the first time. An attempt was made to supply the station with water by a driven well. A 4-inch iron pipe was sunk 118 feet, but as the water then obtained was salt, with the pipe still going through soft mud, the attempt was abandoned, as the cost was $3 a foot. Since then a cedar tank for holding rain-water has been put in and connected with the cistern already in place.

1886 – Reedy Island, Delaware River, Delaware.—The red cut was extended to cover a larger angle May 7, 1886.

1887 – Reedy Island, on the lower end of Reedy Island, Delaware Bay, Delaware.—The wharf was rebuilt and extended into deep water to facilitate the lauding of the tender, a new boat-house was built, and various minor repairs were

1890 – Reedy Island, Delaware River, Delaware.—A white sector of about 17 degrees, between the bearings, from seaward, N. by E. ? E. and N. ? E., was inserted in the red sector to cover the dike extending to the southward from the island, February 21, 1890.

1890 – Reedy Island, Delaware River, Delaware.—A narrow white sector was placed within the red sector to mark the dike running from the south end of the island, and various repairs were made.

1892 — Reedy Island Range Light, near Fort Penn wharf, Delaware River, Delaware.—Urgent representations were made to the Board by the various interests concerned in the navigation of Delaware bay and river as to the need of a rear light to form a range with Reedy Island light to mark the turning point of Bakers Shoal. It was claimed that a light placed near Port Penn wharf would effect this purpose. The Board caused careful examination of the matter to be made by the officers of the Fourth Light-House District. The conclusion reached and the report made was to the effect that the proposed light is much needed. This is emphasized by the fact that a fine steamer recently grounded on Bakers Shoal under circumstances which lead to the belief that, had the proposed light been in use then, this disaster would have been prevented. It is estimated that it would cost not to exceed $10,000 to establish a rear light to range with Reedy Island light as proposed, and it is recommended that an appropriation of this amount be made therefor. NOTE.—The appropriation recommended in the foregoing paragraph was made in the sundry civil appropriation act, approved on August 5, 1892. The Board has taken the proper measures to have the Reedy Island Range Light established as soon as practicable.

1893 – Reedy Island, Delaware River, Delaware.—Changed from a flashing light of the fifth order to a fixed light of the fourth order, illuminating 270 degrees of the horizon, extending from SSE. through northward, eastward, and southward to ENE., November 30, 1892. The light shows white from SSE. through northward and eastward to N. by E. ? E., except in the narrow sector between N. by W. and N. ? E., in which the light shows red. From N., by E. ? E. to ENE. the light shows red. The easterly red sector and the easterly edge of the westerly red sector remain as they were.

1893 – Reedy Island, Delaware River, Delaware.—The characteristic of this light was changed November 30, 1892, from a flashing light to a fixed light of the fifth order. This change is temporary, provision having been made by Congress to make this light the front one of a range. The rear light-house of the range is to be placed in or near the town of Port Penn, Del. The color of the dwelling at this station was changed from drab to white, with lead-color trimmings and green shutters.

1894 – Reedy Island, on lower end of Reedy Island, Delaware River Delaware.—The piers of the dwelling and the banks were rebuilt and enlarged and various repairs were made.

1894 – Port Penn range (Reedy Island), at Port Penn, Delaware River, Delaware. – Preliminary steps have been taken to determine the proper range and location.

1895 – Port Penn wharf, Delaware River, Delaware. – A site for this new range light was selected, purchased, and surveyed. Plans and specifications for the keeper’s dwelling and tower were prepared, and contracts for their erection and for furnishing the meal work were awarded on bids called for by public advertisement.

1896 – Reedy Island (rear) (Port Penn Wharf), Delaware River, Delaware.—The erection of the tower and dwelling was completed in February, 1896, and the light was first exhibited March 14,1896. A detached brick oil house was erected in June, 1896.

1897 – Reedy Island (front), Delaware River, Delaware.—The dike on the west and south sides, where cut down by storm tides, was strengthened by about 300 yards of stone riprap. The light was changed on July 26, 1896, to a twinkling light similar to the other front range lights of this river, and the red cut was moved to cover the island jetty. Extensive repairs were made.

1897 - Reedy Island (rear), Delaware River, Delaware.—An open brick-lined well was sunk, the light house site inclosed with a substantial wire fence, brick walks were laid, and the grounds were graded.

1898 - Reedy Island (front), Delaware River, Delaware.—About 1,000 cubic yards of heavy stone riprap was placed on the outer slope of the east and south banks. The characteristic of the light was changed.

1899 – Reedy Island (front), Delaware River, Delaware.—Designs and specifications were prepared, contracts made, and the work of rebuilding the boathouse, of erecting the new oil house, and of constructing elevated board walks begun.

1900 – Reedy Island range (front), Delaware River, Delaware.—The boathouse, shop, oil house, and elevated board walks were completed. The boathouse is a frame structure, having a pile and iron-column foundation, an apparatus for hoisting boats, a bin for the storage of coal, a workbench, and a tool cupboard. The oil house is of galvanized iron, having a concrete-filled cast-iron column foundation and a concrete floor.

1900 – Reedy Island range (rear), Delaware River, Delaware.—Extra downhaul and counterbalance ropes were furnished. Designs were prepared and 20 bands or clamps were placed upon the cracked cast-iron sockets and columns of the tower. Various minor repairs were made.

1901 – Reedy Island range, Delaware River, Delaware.—Both ends of the range were surveyed. Various repairs were made. Congress, by the act approved June 6, 1900, authorized the reestablishment of this and the Port Penn and Finns Point ranges, at a cost not exceeding $90,000, and by the act approved March 3, 1901, appropriated $60,000 for this purpose. The Board now recommends that an appropriation of $30,000 be made for completing the reestablishment of these ranges.

1902 -508. Reedy Island Front, Delaware River, Delaware.—The act approved on June 28, 1902, appropriated $30,000, in addition to that appropriated by the act approved on March 3,1901, for reestablishing this and Port Penn and Finns Point ranges on new sites. After prolonged negotiation a site was purchased on the proposed new range. A topographical survey of the new site was made, and maps were plotted. A test boring was sunk, and the preparation of plans for the new light-house, oil house, barn, etc., was begun. Various repairs were made.

1902 – Reedy Island Rear, Delaware River, Delaware.—The act approved on June 28, 1902, appropriated $30,000 in addition to that appropriated by the act approved on March 3,1901, for reestablishing this and the Port Penn and Finns Point ranges on new sites. After prolonged negotiations a site, with right of way, etc., was purchased. A topographical survey of the new site was made and maps were plotted. A test boring was sunk, a plan for the new foundation was made, and the preparation of specifications for the removal of the tower to the new site was begun. A heavy adjustable wrought-iron band was furnished for use on one of the cracked cast-iron columns of the tower.

1903 – Reedy Island range front, Delaware River, Delaware.—This light was changed from an occulting to a fixed light on May 25, 1903. Various repairs were made.

1904 – Old Reedy Island, rear, Delaware River, Delaware.—This light was discontinued on May 19, 1904. A wrought-iron band was placed about one of the cracked cast-iron columns of the tower.

1906 — Old Reedy Island rear, Delaware River, Delaware.—The lighthouse site, with the buildings upon it, was sold on August 10, 1905, at public auction.

1913 - Edward W. Long, keeper Old Reedy Island Light, rescued 3 young ladies adrift in rowboat about 3 miles from station and towed them to Augustine Pier. Happened on August 23, 1913.

1923 – Scipio Tessardi, keeper of Old Reedy Island Light Station, Del., on September 9 rendered assistance to the yacht Colleen and occupants, after the vessel struck the south jetty off Old Reedy Island, Delaware River.

1927 – Freddie C. Hill, keeper of Old Reedy Island Light Station, Del., rendered assistance to motor boat No. L452, which had been adrift and disabled for 18 hours in a northeast gale and snowstorm.

1927 – F. C. Hill, keeper of Old Reedy Island Light Station, Del., on June 26 rendered assistance to three boats in distress in the vicinity of his station. In the last instance he rescued two soldiers who were clinging to their capsized canoe about three-quarters of a mile from the station.

1929 – F. C. Hill, keeper, Old Reedy Island Light Station, Delaware, on July 25, 1929, during a north west squall and electric storm, rescued a boy in a canoe, and picked up two men in a rowboat going to the rescue of the boy, who had become disabled owing to the rowboat sockets pulling out of the 10-foot bateau. The three persons, rowboat, and canoe, were safely landed on Delaware Beach.

1930 – F. C. Hill, keeper, of Old Reedy Island Light Station, Del., on April 26, assisted Capt. William Bell by towing his disabled speed boat to the lee side of Reed Island Dike, supplying him with gasoline, and assembling the distributor of his engine. The speed boat had been adrift for several hours.

1930 – F. C. Hill, keeper, Old Reedy Island Light Station, went to the rescue of a sinking cabin cruiser, which had struck the Reedy Island Dike, on July 17. The three occupants of this boat succeeded in reaching the light station during the night, and asked for assistance, as their boat had struck the dike. When the keeper located the boat it was awash. He towed it to the nearest shoal, where it sank in 9 feet of water. The following morning, with some assistance, he floated it and towed it to the light station where a temporary patch was put on the damaged bow.

1930 – F. C. Hill, keeper, Old Reedy Island Light Station, Del., assisted a motor boat which had become disabled, on September 22, while having two other disabled motor boats in tow.

Keepers (front):

  • Head: John Cooper (1839 – 1849), John M. Hamilton (1849 – 1850), Ephraim L. Lockerman (1850 – 1853), Matthew Durham (1853 – 1854), James R. Towns (1854 – 1861), William C. Webb (1861), Ephraim L. Lockerman (1861 – 1866), Abraham G. Wolf (1866 – 1873), Joseph H. Holmes (1873 – 1875), E.A. Howell (1875 – 1876), Jacob W. Wallace (1876 – 1877), William S. Wolfe (1879), George W. Jones (1879 – 1909), Ida Jones (1909), Irvin S. Lynch (1909 – 1912), David F. Marts (1912 – 1913), Edward W. Long (1913 – 1918), Scipio Tessadri (1918 – at least 1923), Freddie C. Hill (1925 – 1941), Fleix H. Mitchell (1941 – 1949).
  • Assistant: John Bonar (1870 – 1873), James T. Bostick (1872 – 1873), William M. Sharper (1873 – 1874), William Coward (1874 – 1879).
Keeper (Rear): Williard H. Hall (1896 – 1904).

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