Lighthouses of Bygone Days

Fireworks

I’m still in the 4th of July frame of mind!  So, Happy Late Independence Day!

In 2007, our grown daughters and their families rented a house on Bolivar peninsula a short ferry ride from Texas’s Galveston IsBolivar Lighthouseland.  Not only did we have a wonderful time by discovering that the rustic island is as wild and free as Galveston is tame and settled; but,  I fell in love with one of the peninsula’s landmarks … the Bolivar Lighthouse.  Once vital to shipping it now stands forlorn and rusted.  Built in 1860 of brick and clad in iron, the old structure not only guided countless ships to safe harbor but has itself been a lifesaver during hurricanes.

Of course the writer in me took over.  Once I found out that for hundreds of years the lighthouse keepers lived most if not all of their lives either inside of the lighthouse or a dwelling or house (thus the name lighthouse) not far away, the idea for a historical romance came to me about a lighthouse keeper.  So far unwritten, I’ve got plenty of  ideas in my head and notes in a binder.

Before the era of automation, responsibility for operating and maintaining a light station was placed in the hands of a keeper, sometimes aided by one or more assistants.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, keepers were appointed by the Treasury Department or even the president himself in return for military service or political favor. Although the work was hard and the pay minimal, these appointments were coveted since they offered a steady income, free housing, and no specific background or training required. It may surprise you that many where women.

Now can you see a romance coming together?

Here are some interesting facts I found during my research.

Each lighthouse beacon has one or more identifying features.  To help mariners distinguish one beacon from another, maritime officialMinots Lighthouses assigned each light in a given region a distinct color or pattern of flashes.  Among the most famous lighthouse characteristics is that of the offshore Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse near Scituate, Massachusetts, which displays a single flash, followed by four quick flashes, then three more.  This one-four-three flashing sequence reminds some romantic observers of I-LOVE-YOU!  Great fodder for a historical romance writer’s mind, huh?

We’ve all heard of foghorns.  The distinctive sound that warn vessels about prominent headlands or navigational obstacles during fog or periods of low visibility is truly called a foghorn or a fog signal.

Have you ever heard of breakwater light?  I hadn’t until I began researching.  Often harbors are protected from high waves by a lengthy barrier of stone known as breakwaters.  Because they rise only a few feet above the surface, breakwaters are hard to see, especially at night, and may threaten vessels entering or existing the harbor.  Breakwater beacons are meant to make mariners aware of this hazard and allow them to safely navigate the harbor entrance.   For obvious reasons the light tower usually is placed near the end of the breakwater.

The last thing I’d like to share is about the Fresnel lenses.  Have you ever wondered if the concentrated light of the powerful beam that can be seen so far out into the ocean, gulf, or seas was a new invention?  Surprisingly, it isn’t.  Invented in 1822 by Augustin Fresnel, a noted French physicist, the light consist of individual hand-polished glass prisms arrayed in a bronze frame.  They now come in many sizes or “orders”.  A massive first-order lens may be more than six feet in diameter and twelve feet tall, while a diminutive sixth-order lens is only about a foot wide and not much larger than an ordinary gallon jug.

I love lighthouses, especially since they are part of our history,  but I’ve seen many restored ones that are breathtaking.  I’m glad to share with you one of my favorite lighthouses and there are many more I’ve personally visited that I hope to share their history with you in later blogs.

Please share with us your favorite lighthouse, if you have one.

Ferry GalvestonLive in the Sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air… Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Bolvar Boys

The Troubled Texan Good

To one lucky winner who leaves a comment, I will give away an eBook copy of my newest Kasota Springs contemporary romance The Troubled Texan.

 

Phyliss
A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com
Updated: July 5, 2015 — 5:17 pm

25 Comments

  1. This is really interesting. We took the ferry to Bolivar peninsula on one of our trips to Galveston one time. I have always loved lighthouses and hope you get to write that book soon.

    1. Hi Janine, good to hear from you. When you went to Bolivar did you get to explore the island any? It’s so rustic. As you can see by my two youngest grandson’s in the picture, they loved the watch the birds. The beach part was a fair ways from our house, so we did the beach thing in Galveston, which was wonderful. I hope to write this book sooner than later. Have a great day. Hugs, Phyliss

  2. Very interesting Phyliss. I did not realize that all lighthouses had their own unique signal. Love that I am still learning!Thanks for doing the research for us! 🙂

    1. Hi Rosie, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I didn’t know about the signals either until it came up in research. That’s the part of research I love, learning things I didn’t know before. We’re never too old to learn and never know when we’ll need that knowledge! Big hugs, Phyliss

  3. Phyliss, I didn’t know that some lighthouse keepers were women (Be still my heart)! Now my creative juices are flowing. Thank you for a terrific post.

    1. Margaret, it’s so good to see you leave a comment today. I’ve tried five times to leave a reply but every time I get kicked off. I’m sure it’s my fault because I’m not comfortable with this new program. My daughter told me to lock “Num Lock” and it’ll help by not allowing me to go up or down, etc. on the page. It works. When I began this blog our family visit to Bolivar was suppose to be the lead-in but before I knew it I got carried away. I planned, and still do, to blog about some of the lighthouses in California where my kids live (Lompoc/Santa Barbara). One of the sources I used for women tending lighthouses was the Santa Cruz lighthouse where Laura Heacox (not misspelled LOL) tended it for nearly half a century. It was deactivated,I believe, after WWII. Let your creative juices flow, fellow filly, because every one of us could write a book about with a lighthouse setting and everyone would be different. It’ll be a while before I do mine. Thanks again for taking time and stopping by. Please take care of yourself. Big Texas hugs to you and yours, Phyliss

  4. Interesting to know that some woman were lighthouse keepers. Nice post.

    1. Hi Kim, glad you stopped by. I thought that was very interesting, especially since the work was so hard. I’ve got your name in the Stetson, along with everyone else who left a comment, for tonight’s drawing. Have a great evening. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. Fascinating

    1. Thanks, 1001 for stopping by and reading my blog. Hope you have a great evening. Hugs, Phyliss

  6. I have a friend that collects little lighthouses… no need to enter me in the drawing.

    1. What a fabulous post, Phyllis. I love lighthouses and have had the extreme pleasure of climbing to the top of the smokestack one at Point Arena, CA. However, the height got to me at St. Simon’s Island in GA and I was about 18 steps short…I did not know each light had its own signal sequence. Now you need to write about a cowboy in a lighthouse! Hugs, my friend. xox

    2. Thanks, Colleen. Glad you stopped by and read my post for today. I think collecting lighthouses would be really neat. Have a great one. Hugs, Phyliss

  7. Hi Phyliss! I love lighthouses too! As a matter of face, my very first story was set at the lighthouse on Pt. Loma in San Diego. I grew up visiting it often on Sunday afternoons with my folks and siblings. Back then we were allowed to climb the tower and walk out on the catwalk. Not so anymore. The house was combined with the light in a very New England style lighthouse. And it was (if I remember right) the first Fresnell lens used in the U. S.) After visiting there, my family would head down to the tidepools below and search for crabs and sea anenomes and creatures. Great fun and great memories! So…I guess by this you can tell where my favorite lighthouse is 🙂

    1. Kathryn, sounds so California! The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was established in 1855 with a 46 ft. tower. Also had a 3rd order Fresnel lens and was deactivated in 1891. It’s supposed to be the oldest standing lighthouse in the West. Unless you are at least a century older than I thought you were, I bet your memories are of the new one established in 1891. It looks beautiful and I think it’s great that you had so many good times there. And, thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your memories. Makes me want to go there, although my kids are on the middle coast of California and I typically don’t get much more south than LA. Have a great evening, my friend. Hugs Phyliss

  8. Hi Phyliss! A wonderful blog! When I think of lighthouses, I think of weary sailors on a storm-tossed sea. They’re exhausted from trying to keep their ship from sinking. I can only their joy to see the light shining through the fog. I’ve never been to a lighthouse but I think they’re really neat. I’d love to visit one and I will if I ever get a chance. I’d love to see the Bolivar lighthouse and that’s the closest one for me.

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs!

    1. Thanks, my friend, for commenting. We’ll have to schedule a booksigning down in Houston or a writer’s retreat in Galveston. I’ve never been in a lighthouse like Kathryn described, but would love to. I’m envious, Kathryn! I’m with you on the thoughts of tired, weary, sailors fighting the Gulf of Mexico to get to Bolivar Island and seeing the lighthouse, knowing their voyage was nearly over … and then see a beautiful woman lighthouse keeper!!!! WOW! There goes those images again. Thanks my precious friend for stopping by. Big hugs, P

  9. What an enjoyable read. I love lighthouses!

    1. Thanks, Connie. I’m glad you enjoyed it; and happy you enjoy lighthouses, too. Although we all love the cowboys and the West here at the Junction, we love history more in all form and fashion. Have a great evening and a big hug, Phyiss

  10. Interesting post, I love reading about light houses, I think they are awesome. Thanks for sharing with us today

  11. Phyliss, I love that old lighthouse on Bolivar. It has quite a history! The structure actually was pulled down during the Civil War to keep the Yankees from capturing it as a navigational beacon while they were blockading the port at Galveston. If I remember correctly, the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1870. Folks have reported ghosts there — most famously Patty Duke, who was part of a movie shot at the location in 1970.

    Sorry. Got off on a tangent. **looking sheepish**

    This post just brims with info I didn’t know. Thank you so much for sharing your research! 🙂

  12. Phyliss, I just love lighthouses. I don’t know why–I was born and raised in Oklahoma! LOL But there’s just something about them that calls to me and makes me curious. And it’s also a romantic thing, as well, though in real life–living in a lighthouse would most likely make me claustrophobic. Loved this piece–so interesting!
    Cheryl

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. I think you hit it right on the head, lighthouses are about the romance and mystic part of their history. I don’t know why I’d like lighthouses because I’m scared to death of water. I wasn’t even sure how well I’d do on a cruise, but never looked back once we left NYC. A cruise ship is more like a small town I kept telling myself. Appreciate your stopping by. Big hugs from Texas, Phyliss

  13. We have seen many lighthouses, but only been able to go up in one. We did visit lighthouses on Cape Cod Island, MA. There is an active lighthouse and the 3 Sisters nearby. They are relatively small and were moved inland and clustered in a park near the active Nauset Light. You can go inside where they have displays and you can climb to the top of one. Here is the link to see them: http://www.capecodlighthouses.info/threesisters.html
    We have visited the Tybee Island House, GA. and I think it was the one we went up. It was a special weekend and there was a craft fair. Here is the link for some nice pictures and information on the house:
    http://www.tybeelighthouse.org/tybee-lighthouse-tour.php
    We have enjoyed seeing the lighthouses up and down the East Coast, and have seen some nice ones on the West Coast. Where I grew up in New York on Lake Champlain, there is a lighthouse, now occasionally open for tours, on an island which is just off the New York side of the lake.
    We have seen breakwater lights on the breakwaters near the ferry slips in Lake Champlain, on the James River in VA and other areas.
    Congratulations on the release of THE TROUBLED TEXAN. I hope to see some lighthouse historicals in the near future. Maybe you could get together with the GIVE ME A TEXAS…….. anthology authors and do one on Texas lighthouses.

  14. Odd, I have never seen a post here awaiting moderation as my previous one is.

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