Lighthouses – a Brief History by Annee Jones

Greetings!  I’m excited to be your guest author today on the Petticoats & Pistols blog!  I write inspirational romance, both historical and contemporary.  It is my hope that my books will encourage you and warm your heart!

I live in the Pacific Northwest, on the coast of western Washington.  My upcoming book, A Child’s Faith in the Keepers of the Light series is loosely based on the Browns Point Light Station that marks the hazardous north entrance to Commencement Bay, located outside of Tacoma.  In writing this story, I became curious about the history of lighthouses and their development in America, particularly along the Pacific coastline.

Before the development of clearly defined ports, mariners were guided by fires built on hilltops.  They realized that by raising the fires up high, they would be more visible to sailors out at sea and began lifting the fires onto platforms.  In antiquity, the lighthouse functioned more as an entrance marker to ports than as a warning signal for dangerous promontories and reefs.  The first lighthouse, a stone column with a fire beacon regularly maintained to guide mariners, was built in Athens sometime during the 5th century BC.

The first lighthouse in America was the Boston Light, built in 1716 at Boston Harbor.  In 1851, the U.S. Congress passed “An Act Making Appropriations for Light House, Light Boats, Buoys, &c.”, leading to the creation of the United States Lighthouse Board to replace the Department of Treasury’s Lighthouse Establishment as the governmental agency responsible for the construction and maintenance of all lighthouses and navigation aids in the United States.

The intermittent flashing mechanism was developed in 1870 and used clockwork to time the gas supply.  A Swedish engineer, Gustaf Dalen, helped commercialize gas as an illuminant and his equipment was used as the predominant light source in lighthouses from the early 1900s to the 1960s when electricity became dominant.

The Northern Pacific Railroad reached western Washington in 1873 and the Lighthouse Board recommended that Point Brown be marked with a light; however, it wasn’t until 1887 that Browns Point Light Station was marked with a post lantern.  The light at a height of 12 feet was built on tideflats, about 50 yards offshore and at high tide could only be reached by rowboat.  A contract lightkeeper was hired to row from Tacoma once per week to clean the glass, replenish the fuel tank, and trim the wick.

Unfortunately the channel from Commencement Bay to Elliott Bay was treacherous, renowned for its thick fog blankets.  Mariners complained that the light at Browns Point couldn’t be seen.

A wooden tower finally replaced the post in 1903 to house a brighter light as well as a fog signal.  The beacon and fog signal are still in use as navigational aids today, and both the lighthouse and keeper’s cottage are on the Washington State Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

Have you ever visited a lighthouse before?  Where?

Let’s talk about lighthouses, and I’ll give away an ebook from my backlist to one lucky winner!

My book, A Child’s Faith, is set in 1892 in Tacoma, WA.  Elin Kristiansen has her hands full as a single mother following the tragic death of her husband in a shipwreck off the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, the U.S. government has recognized the need for a lighthouse at Brown’s Point, and Elin couldn’t be more pleased when her father accepts the position of Keeper. However, she just can’t seem to bring herself to accompany him on his weekly rowboat trips to the station to tend the lamp – and what’s more, the mere thought of Finn, her son, setting foot on board sets her insides churning.

Elin knows her father keeps hoping she’ll get over the terror that washes over her every time she considers braving the waters, but she’s starting to have doubts. When she gets into an argument with Finn over his adamant wish to learn how to swim, she can’t possibly trust the handsome captain who offers to instruct him and vows to keep him safe – or can she?


PreOrder/Buy link to the book on Amazon:

Amazon Author page:

My website:


Annee Jones is an inspirational romance novelist who enjoys sharing her heart and imagination with others.  She is passionate about writing stories that offer hope and encouragement and likes to think of her books as “romance filled with faith and a sprinkle of fairy dust!”

Annee is also a professional book reviewer for Publishers Weekly in the genre of faith-based fiction (fun tidbit: she drafts many of the editorial reviews you see on Amazon).

Professionally, Annee works as a disability counselor where she helps her clients navigate through complex medical and legal systems while rediscovering their wholeness in Spirit.

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28 thoughts on “Lighthouses – a Brief History by Annee Jones”

  1. I LOVE LIGHTHOUSES! Anytime I get the chance a visit one. I have to several along the pacific and around Michigan. They are such an inspiration!

    • Hi Kellie! I’m so excited to hear you love lighthouses too! Which ones along the Pacific coast have you been to? I’ll bet we’ve visited some of the same ones!! 🙂

  2. Hi Annee. It’s so good to have you join us. I live in North Carolina, and we have lighthouses all up the coast and those infamous Outer Banks — about seven of them now. Of course, Hatteras Lighthouse with its spiraling black on white stripes is the best known and the tallest at 210 feet. I’ve been to them all as well as some others up the East coast, on the West coast, in Canada, and in Europe.

    • Thank you so much Janice, I’m excited to be here! Aren’t lighthouses fascinating? I’ve been to some in Canada as well as the West coast, but I’d love to visit them in Europe & on the East coast too. I love studying architectural history. I lived in Spain during college and took classes in the art & cultural history of cathedrals, palaces, and castles. It was fascinating!

  3. I LOVE lighthouses!! I have lighthouse pictures, statues, coffee mugs, shirts, books, you name it! I’ve been to the St. Augustine lighthouse, didn’t get to go up in it, but I’ve been close to it!

  4. I visited one in Hawaii. I think it was supposed to be the largest clam shell light, but it was 48 years ago so l’m not sure I remember correctly. I do remember driving to it – a narrow curvy road going up a mountain 1 car width wide in places. If you met a car, one of you had to back up to a wider place in the road. We met one car going up and none coming down.

    • I wonder if we have taken that same road? When I was visiting Maui, we drove along a 1-lane road known as the “Drive to Hana.” It was definitely twisty and curvy! I don’t think I visited the lighthouse there but will remember to look it up for next time! Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. I’ve visited and climbed to the top of Concord Point lighthouse in Havre de Grace, MD many times. It’s historical and is located at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a traditional style. Maryland also has the in-water style. Several have been decommissioned and sold as surplus, but they usually have strings attached.

    I’ve also been to the Cape May lighthouse in New Jersey several times.

    I’ve seen some from a distance in the coastal waters of the Atlantic.

    I’ve even seen one along a dam lake in Virginia.

    • How wonderful that you’ve been able to visit so many!! Aren’t they fascinating? I recall climbing to the top of one, but can’t remember which it was. I think I finally lost count of how many steps it took to reach the top, lol!

  6. I live in Michigan so lighthouses are abundant here. I’ve seen quite a few and been in many of them also. We camp near a couple every year so we visit them every time. They are so neat to learn about and find out when they were built and who tended them. Great article!

    • Hi Susan! I couldn’t agree more – the history is fascinating! I was amazed at all the interesting facts I learned about the particular lighthouse here in WA that was the inspiration & basis for my book. I’m so happy you enjoyed the article I shared today!

  7. I love lighthouses too! I’ve been to Mackinac Lighthouse in Traverse City and one or two others over the years. It’s so fun to see where the livhtkeepers lived and learn about all the responsibilities they had.

  8. Hi Annie, I have never visited a lighthouse, but we did get to the the Sea Lion one in Santa Cruz , I loved it. Lighthouses to me a very magical . Thank you so much for sharing about them. (not entering this e book giveaway as I am not tech savvy at all ) Have a great weekend and stay safe. God Bless you and your family.

    • Hi Alicia! I couldn’t agree more – lighthouses are very special places indeed, with so much history surrounding each one, making each unique. It is lovely to see you here today! I’m so happy you enjoyed this article. God bless you and your family too my dear, and have a safe & blessed weekend!

  9. I loved your article, it was very enlightening. I’ve never been to a lighthouse, but I would love to go sometime.

    • Thank you so much Connie! I’m so happy you enjoyed my blog article today! Please let me know if you do get a chance to visit a lighthouse – in the meantime, reading books about them is a wonderful way to learn more and imagine what it would be like!

  10. Hi Annee! Welcome to P&P. We’re so happy to have you. I think one of the coolest lighthouses I’ve seen is on Boliver Peninsula off the coast of Texas. You get to it by ferry from Galveston. They’ve had horrible hurricanes there and I’m sure the lighthouse saved lots of lives. It’s closed now but still stands like a sentinel. Enjoy your visit.

    • Thank you so much Linda, I’m thrilled to be here! I’m actually from Texas (raised there since the age of 4 & spent over 20 yrs throughout the state) but unfortunately never had an opportunity to visit the lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula. Lighthouses have certainly saved thousands of lives all over the world, praise God!

  11. Yes, I have. I went to one in Key West. We also have one here in Pensacola, FL. I really enjoy learning their history.

    • Wonderful, Cherie! Do you have a favorite? I love learning about their history as well, and that of the lightkeepers who tended them! Thank you for being here today. 🙂

  12. Yes. I live near Lake Erie. There are a lot of lighthouses along the coast. They are beautiful to see and explore. There is so much history in them Thank you so much. God bless you. It is great to be with you again.

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