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Tangier Sound, VA  Lighthouse destroyed.   

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Tangier Sound Lighthouse

1887 – Tangier Island Shoal, at the entrance to Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.—This shoal extends from the southern end of Tangier Island across the entrance of the sound in such way that in the absence of a light, vessels cannot at night enter or leave the sound in safety. There has of late been a great increase of the commerce of this section. The Board is of opinion that the time has come when the interests of commerce and navigation require that action should be taken in this matter, and it is therefore recommended that an appropriation of $25,000 be made for the establishment of a screw-pile light-house on this shoal.

1999 – Appropriated for a lighthouse and fog signal to mark the lower entrance to Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, October 2, 1888, $25,000.

1888 — Tangier Island Shoal, entrance to Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.—An appropriation of $25,000 having been made at the current session of Congress for this purpose, a screw-pile lighthouse will be established on this shoal as soon as practicable. This will enable vessels to enter and leave Tangier Sound at night in safety.

1889 – Tangier Sound, entrance to Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.—Plans and specifications were prepared, and, after due public notice, proposals were opened on March 16,1889, for furnishing and delivering the metal-work of this light-house in conjunction with that for the new structure to be built at Cob Point Bar, Maryland, the houses being identical in construction. The lowest bid received was in the amount of $9,576 for the metal-work of both houses, which was accepted, delivery to be made at the Lazaretto Depot, Baltimore, Md., within four months after approval of contract. The framing of the superstructure was commenced at the depot in May, and will be completed by the time the metal-work is delivered.

1890 – Tangier Sound, entrance to Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.—The framing of the superstructure at the Lazaretto depot, Baltimore, was completed in September, 1889, but the erection at the site was delayed by other and more pressing work until May. On the 9th the trestles of the working platform were placed. Rough weather prevented further operations until the 13th, after which the work progressed rapidly. By the end of May it was sufficiently advanced to admit of a large reduction of the working force and the departure of the tender. With the small party left the light-house was, on June 9, completed except as to painting. The light was first exhibited on the night of June 30, 1890. It is shown from a lantern resting on a square framed building supported by iron piles, and is a fixed white light of the fourth order with a red sector covering the shoals making out to the southward and eastward from Tangier Island. The station is provided with a fog-bell, struck once by machinery at alternate intervals of five and thirty seconds during thick and foggy weather.

1901 – Tangier Sound, entrance to Tangier Sound, Virginia.—Soundings were made around the light-house to ascertain the extent of scour. Various repairs were made.

1905 – The first report of the anticipated damage to lighthouses by the breaking up of ice reached the city yesterday. The hull of the wrecked and sunken pungy schooner Mary L. Colburn collided with the lighthouse at Tangier Sound, Virginia, doing much damage and causing danger to the inmates. The vessel had been lost on the bar marked by the lighthouse, and her collision with the light was very peculiar. When, on February 13, the ice broke, the wrecked schooner was lifted up bodily and hurled against the staunch lighthouse. The crash was terrific, and the ship, as though tossed by some giant hand, fetched up broadside to the lighthouse on the southeastern face of the station.
The impact was terrific, and both masts were plucked out of the vessel to the deck. The top of one of the smokestacks on the lighthouse was carried away by the fouling with some of the gear of the schooner as it went by the board. One corner of the roof over the bell suffered a like fate, the head of three posts around the dome of the light were also wrecked and general damage done.
The situation at the light is not perilous in the extreme, and the lighthouse tender Maple has been sent to relieve the men and to pull away the battered hull of the schooner. Mr. John T. Jarvis, keeper of the light, in a letter to the office of the Fifth lighthouse district, declares that the hull of the vessel is a serious menace of the lighthouse and that it may be difficult to keep the light burning.
Should there come a southeast by south or southwest wind the sea would use the vessel’s hull as a battering ram to batter down the southeast or southwest piling that protects and on which stands the lighthouse. The sea now raises and throws the wreck against the piling with terrific force, and the occupants have hourly expected the station to yield to the pounding. The wind had changed from the southward when Mr. Jarvis wrote, and the situation as being relieved, as nothing but clear ice was in sight. The experience is the most peculiar in the history of the Fifth lighthouse district.

1913 – E.L. Thomas and William A. Crockett assistant brought to the light station a gasoline boat that had become disabled about 2 1/2 miles from the station, and kept the owner overnight. Happened on October 6, 1913

1914 – E.L. Thomas, keeper, made brave but futile attempt to save the life of assistant keeper William A. Crockett.

1915 – E.L. Thomas, keeper, rescued 3 men from boat sunk off station. Motor boat Bernice L. Happened on April 27, 1915.

1917 – On July 31, 1917, Malachi D. Swain, keeper, and George M. Wible, assistant keeper, of Tangier Sound Light Station, Va., towed a disabled motor boat to the light station, and made repairs to the engine.

1918 – On July 11, G.M. Wible, keeper of Tangier Sound Light Station, Va., rendered assistance to a barge which had grounded in the vicinity of the light station.

1919 – G.M. Wible, keeper, rendered assistance to barge grounded near the light station.

1919 – G.M. Wible, keeper, William S. Holland, assistant, assistant rendered grounded yacht with three persons on board. Happened on July 20, 1919.

1919 – The solid wrought-iron piles supporting the Tangier Sound lighthouse were severely bent below the water line by ice floes during the winter of 1917 - 1918. The superstructure, however, remained level, due to the system of heavy horizontal and diagonal bracing that extends from the water line to the floor beams.
For the purpose of strengthening the weakened pile foundation and to protect the station from further damaged by moving ice, a concrete caisson was constructed beneath the structured in such a manner that the damaged piles were entirely encased in solid concrete. The outside of the caisson is square in plan with sides 39 feet in length. The inside is in the form of an octagon, 31 feet across the flats, thus forming a hollow square with side walls 4 feet thick with heavy masses of concrete at the corners.

To construct the caisson, heavy interlocking timber sheet piling was driven, conforming to the exterior dimensions. The sand bottom was removed from the inside of the cofferdam, thus formed, for a depth of 3 feet and bearing piles, to be embedded in the concrete, were jetted to a depth of about 15 feet and cut off at low-water line. These piles were placed on 4-foot centers, 2 feet from the inside face of the sheet piling. Substantial interior forms for the caisson walls were then placed and the concrete poured. The hollow interior of the caisson was filled in with suitable material and riprap placed about the new foundation to protect it from scour and floating ice.
Considerable difficult was encountered in placing the sheet piling, duet to the heavy tides occurring at the time of construction. These tides caused such rapid scouring of the bottom that the lower ends of many of the sheet piles, having an original penetration of over 8 feet, became exposed, resulting in the partial destruction of the cofferdam by heavy seas. A scheme of placing bags of sand against the piling as it was drive was finally resorted to with success, and the work was completed in a satisfactory manner. In addition to the sandbags, riprap was also placed about the site at a distance sufficient to cause not interference with the construction work, and as the piles were drive in place, additional riprap was placed on the sandbags and against the piling.
The contract price for the concrete caisson was $23,630. The entire expense of the repairs, including 1,000 tons of riprap, temporary repairs to the station, and superintendence was $34,466.

1920 – Repairing and rebuilding aids to navigation, Atlantic coast.—The act of March 28, 1918, appropriated $150,000 for rebuilding, repairing, and reestablishing aids damaged by storm and ice, from which $100,000 was allotted to the fifth district. The act of November 16,1918, appropriated $300,000 additional for the same purpose, from which $284,000 was allotted the fifth district. The restoration of light stations in the fifth district damaged by ice floes during the winter of 1917-18 was continued during the past fiscal year by depositing riprap at nine light stations, building up existing protective works near or around these stations, or constructing new barriers or ice breakers, and by constructing new foundations and inserting bracing under several screw pile lighthouses, as follows: At Tangier Sound Light Station, Chesapeake Bay, Va., a new concrete foundation on wood piles in the form of a hollow square encasing the existing screw piles, was constructed. The station was further protected from scour and ice action by the deposit of 1,000 tons of riprap stone. At Windmill Point Light Station, Chesapeake Bay, Va., 800 tons of riprap stone were placed on the north side of the station in the form of an ice breaker to protect the weakened structure from ice floes coming down on it on the ebb tide. At Thomas Point Light Station, Chesapeake Bay, Md., the existing ice breakers on the north and south sides of the station were built up by the addition of 600 tons of riprap stone to withstand the impact of drifting ice fields.

Purpose.—Tangier Sound Light Station, a screw pile lighthouse on five wrought iron piles, was badly twisted and racked by ice during the winter of 1917-18, making it necessary to renew or rebuild the foundation under the structure.
Site.—The station is located on the west side of the south entrance of Tangier Sound and marks a dangerous shoal. The structure is on a submarine site, the depth of water being 4 feet at mean low water, and the rise and fall of tide 2 feet 6 inches. The bottom is hard sand, but when subject to strong currents easily scours.
Structure.—Repairs to the structure consisted of building a mass concrete foundation in the form of a hollow square founded on and encasing timber piles. The wrought-iron piles of the lighthouse were likewise encased in the concrete foundation. The central portion of the foundation was filled with sand and covered with small riprap stone. Considerable difficulty was encountered by the contractor in the preliminary operations of driving and maintaining the sheet piles and wales which made the forms for the concrete foundation on account of storms and erosion incident thereto. The bottom was finally sealed with concrete placed under water and the forms pumped out and the remainder of the concrete for the foundation was deposited in the dry. Riprap stone was deposited around the station simultaneously with the construction of the foundation and together with the use of sand bags placed as the sheet piles were driven, prevented further erosion and enabled the work to proceed.
Cost.—The foundation and placing of riprap stone was carried out under two separate contracts, both under the act of November 16, 1918. The work was commenced in April, 1919, and completed in October, 1919, at a total cost of $32,573.

1922 – Repairing and rebuilding aids to navigation, Atlantic coast.— At Tangier Sound Light Station, Va., 262 tons of protection riprap were deposited.

1922 – George M. Wible, keeper, rendered assistance to a motor boat by towing same to light station and making repairs to the engine. Happened on November 19, 1922.

1923 – During the past fiscal year 277 tons of riprap were placed at Old Plantation Flats Light Station, Va., and 356 tons of riprap were placed at Tangier Sound Light Station, Va.

1923 – George M. Wible, keeper, heroically rescued six men from drowning, who were adrift in a small boat during a terrific gale and heavy snowstorm. Happened on March 19, 1923.

1926 – Walter W. Thomas, keeper of Tangier Sound Lighthouse, Va., on December 24 and 25, 1925, rendered assistance to the crew of the schooner Minnie and Emma, which went ashore in the vicinity of the station.

1927 – W. W. Thomas, keeper of Tangier Sounds Light Station, Va., on December 17 rendered assistance to the captain of the Lucy R. Ruak when that vessel ran ashore near the station.

1927 – W. W. Thomas, keeper of Tangier Sound Light Station, Va., T. J. Cropper, second assistant keeper, and Eric Wilstrup, boat builder at Lazaretto Lighthouse Depot, Md., on November 6 rendered assistance in connection with the rescue of three passengers from the disabled power boat Pearl Davenport.

1961 – Tangier Sound Lighthouse was dismantled and an automated light displayed from a skeletal tower mounted on the screwpile foundation took its place.


  • Head: Francis E. Wilkins (1890 – 1904), John F. Jarvis (1904 – 1906), George P. Hudgins (1906 – 1907), Charles A. Sterling (1907 – 1911), Edward L. Thomas (1911 – at least 1915), Joseph M. Burrus (1916 – 1917), Malachi D. Swain (1917), George M. Wible (1917 – at least 1923), Walter W. Thomas (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 (1919 – at least 1932), Earl B. King (at least 1939 – at least 1942).
  • Second Assistant: Thomas 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).

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