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Scituate Light Station

 
  

Lighthouse Data

Established: Sep 19, 1811; 
Deactivated Nov 14, 1860 - July 1994 (2)
Light List: Aid No. 12275
Position: N 42° 12' 18", W 70° 42' 54"
Nautical Chart
Cedar Point, Scituate Harbor,
Scituate, Massachusetts
Characteristic: Fl W 15s
[Flashing White every 15 seconds]
Original Optics: Pan Lamp -1811
Present optic: FA-250 mm Marine Lantern -1991 (2)
Elevation: 70-feet high Focal Plane
Range: 4-miles visible reach at sea
Structure:
(Daymark)
50-feet high White Octagonal Granite /
brick Tower with Green Lantern
Fog signal: none
First Keeper: Simeon Bates
Automated: 1994
Current Use: Private aid to navigation, managed
by Scituate Historical Society,
Owned by the Town of Scituate


Notes:
(1) Scituate Lighthouse was the 22nd* Light built in Massachusetts to aid navigation entering Scituate Harbor and to mark the dangerous ledges offshore.

      Scituate’s sheltered harbor was another ideal location for a principal seaport. Commercial fishing began in 1700 and Scituate Harbor principally exported Mackerel packed in barrels of brine to the Southern and West Indian Plantations where the fish was economical protein for the slaves. The fishing industry supported the fishermen and shipbuilding along the North River.  By the late 1700s, Scituate became a successful fishing seaport.

      In 1810, Congress appropriated funds to build a Lighthouse after being convinced by local marine interests.  The original octagonal Tower was built 25-feet high (Lantern’s height was excluded) and the Lighthouse was Fist Lit on Sep 19, 1811 exhibiting a Fixed White light 35-feet above sea level.  A 1.5 story 24-foot square wood Keeper’s House was also constructed.

      In 1812, the Boston Marine Society recommended changing the Fixed Light to a Flashing Light by installing a rotating Eclipser (or moving screen) in order to differentiate Scituate Light from other Lighthouses in the vicinity.  The plan also included obscuring the range of the light over land in order to save $100 in oil annually.  The federal government never approved the plan.

      In 1827, the Tower height was increased by 15-feet in order to increase the visible range of the Light.  A new Lantern was installed on top of the brick extension and the Light’s Characteristic was changed to Fixed White in the new Lantern Room and Fixed Red below the extension.  The White-over-Red Characteristic was implemented to distinguish Scituate Light from Boston Light yet the two Lights appeared to merge at a distance causing confusion and shipwrecks continued to occur on the hazardous ledges offshore.

      In 1842, I.W.P. Lewis, Civil Engineer to the U.S. Light-house Survey, noted the severe deterioration of the Tower which leaked rotting all the woodwork.  Keeper Ebenezer Osborne also complained that the Keeper’s dwelling was “miserable, leaky, smoky, and uncomfortable.”  The federal government approved of some minor improvements since they planned to construct a new Lighthouse offshore at Minots Ledge instead of Cedar Point.

      In 1850, Scituate Light was replaced by Minots Ledge Light which was built to improve marking the obscure ledges near both Boston Harbor and Scituate Harbor. Scituate Light was reactivated after a severe storm destroyed Minots Ledge Light and Scituate Light’s Characteristic was changed to a Red Light above a Red Light in 1852.

      In 1855, Scituate Light was refitted with a Fresnel Lens replacing the Red Lights.

      On Nov 14, 1860, Scituate Light was replaced by a new Minots Ledge Light.  For years, local fishermen urged the Lighthouse Board to reactivate the Lighthouse.  In response, the government built a 630-feet long breakwater extending from Cedar Point in 1890 and a skeleton Light Tower was placed at the end of the sea wall in 1891.  The Breakwater Light exhibited a Fixed Red Light 31-feet above sea level, illuminated by Kerosene.  Light Keepers tending the Light lived in the Keeper’s house of Old Scituate Light.  In 1924, the Keeper was replaced by a new acetylene automated Light.  The Breakwater Beacon was converted to an automated electric Light in 1958.

      In 1916, Congress approved the sale of Scituate Light.  The town of Scituate purchased the Lighthouse property due to the efforts of Jessie Turner, wife of Selectman Jamie Turner.  William Bates, grand nephew of Abigail and Rebecca Bates (see Note 4), contributed to the Lighthouse purchase.  Over the years, the town made some improvements to the Lighthouse and Keeper’s house.  In 1967, extensive repairs were approved for the dwelling and the Scituate Historical Society received the administration of the Lighthouse in 1968.  Currently, contributions and the rental of the Keeper’s house pays for the maintenance of the Light Station.  After 134 years of deterioration and minor repairs, Scituate Lighthouse was renovated and reactivated (see Note 2).

*Seven earlier Lighthouses built in Massachusetts were ceded to Maine on March 15, 1820.

(2) Scituate Light was restored and:
     In July 1991, Relit with a light visible from land only.
     In 1994, Scituate Light was reactivated as a private aid to navigation in August with a light visible for four miles.

(3) The existing Keeper’s House is a Private residence.

(4) The legend of Scituate’s “Lighthouse Army of Two,” claims that Light Keeper Simeon Bates two teenage daughters, Rebecca and Abigail, extinguished the Light and played “Yankee Doodle” on their fife and drum upon seeing a British landing party rowing towards the shore in September of 1814.  The British allegedly assumed the the town’s militia was approaching upon hearing the military marching tune and retreated from entering the unprotected town.

      The Lighthouse “Army of Two” Sisters may have been an embellished story to inspire local patriotism after the burning of Washington.  Regardless, several accounts contain conflicting “facts”:

      [A] According to The Society of the War of 1812, two redcoat-filled barges from the frigate, H.M.S. Bulwark, approached Scituate Light yet the 74-gun flagship was blockading Boston Harbor and capturing American privateers and merchant ships.  In addition, the H.M.S. Bulwark was a 3rd rate warship not a frigate.

      [B] According to The Scituate Historical Society*, the British were approaching the Lighthouse from the frigate, La Hogue, yet the Ships Of The Old Royal Navy does not list this ship.  Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that a French place name, La Hogue (lä ôg), would be used as the name of a British ship especially when Great Britain was also at war with France.

      [C] Another account* claims the British were raiding coastal towns yet a British warship anchored off Cedar Point near the Lighthouse blockading the entrance to Scituate Harbor was most likely either capturing or destroying any daring American fishing schooners, merchant ships, or privateers en route to the harbor.  The only other eyewitness account was Ensign Otis, Jr’s* who upon rising early saw a English ship anchoring off the harbor and warned the inhabitants of the little village.  No doubt, the Scituate residents and the teenage girls at the Lighthouse were alarmed by the presence of a British warship so late in the war.  For almost two years (June 18, 1812 to May 30, 1814) of the war, the British Navy did not blockade New England ports.

      [D] Another source claims the British intended to destroy the Lighthouse which does not make sense since Lighthouses also protected British ships while the Royal Naval was actively blockading the New England harbors.  The British Navy only destroyed Lighthouses when forced to evacuate a port (ie, Boston Harbor Light during the Revolutionary War).  The American militia would darkened Lighthouses to hinder the British Navy yet Scituate Light remained active throughout the war.

      [E] Some of these accounts state that both girls hid behind cedar trees when they repulsed a British landing party yet well-trained soldiers including the British would first visually determine the size of the opposing forces before deciding to engage or retreat.

      [F] Perhaps the most bizarre part of their story was Rebecca selling affidavits for ten cents, asserting her story was true despite her many doubters.  Signing an affidavit may be credible but selling those affidavits would only increase the suspicion of her story.  At the time, many Americans would have greatly doubted her story since The War of 1812 was a very unpopular war in Massachusetts and New England since the Embargo Act (1807 to 1814) banned American ships from foreign trade and devastated New England shipping and maritime commerce.  As a result, Caleb Strong, Governor of Massachusetts, refused sending the local volunteer militia to the national war effort.  Massachusetts militia finally responded to the British occupation of eastern Maine near the end of the War, July to September 1814.  With idle ships and skilled sailors, hundreds of privateers sailed from New England capturing British prizes even after the British extended their Naval Blockade to New England ports late in the War, April 25 to May 30, 1814.  Contraband trade and privateering continued after the Blockade.

      Furthermore, the Massachusetts Governor attempted secret negotiations with Britain for a separate peace and a Federalist proposal for New England to secede from the Union was discussed and rejected during Hartford Convention, Dec 15, 1814.

It was not the intent of this research to prove or disprove their story but to uncover the historical facts of this event.  The contradictory accounts only obscure what may have happened.  Nonetheless, Old Scituate Lighthouse became famous in the history of American Lighthouses due to the story of the heroic patriotic actions of the Lighthouse “Army of Two” Sisters.  In 1874, Rebecca Bates story was published in the St. Nicholas, a children’s magazine, when she was 79-years old.  Since than, her story has been published in numerous storybooks and textbooks, and a historical memorial marker, located in front of the Lighthouse, commemorates the alleged event.

*Since publishing these conflicting historical accounts, the source links have been removed by the external authors!

(5) Directions from Route 3, south of Boston:
      Take exit 13 onto Route 53 North.  At the intersection with Route 123, turn Right onto Route 123 North.Travel Route 123 for approx. 6-miles to the intersection with Route 3A.  Cross over Route 3A onto Old Country Way, turn Right onto Stockbridge Road, turn Right onto First Parish Road and travel to the end.  Turn Left onto Front Street, turn Right onto Jericho Road, and turn Right onto Lighthouse Road.

      Drive to the parking lot at the end of Lighthouse Road where the grounds around Old Scituate Lighthouse are open.  Occasionally, the Tower is open for tours and the Keeper’s house is a private residence closed to the public. For information on open houses, call (781) 545-1083 or visit the Scituate Historical Society web site.

      Old Scituate Lighthouse at the entrance to a picturesque sheltered harbor is best viewed from the water by either private boat or Lighthouse cruises:
Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands
(781) 740-4290
The Friends generally schedule Southern Lights Cruises that pass Scituate Light
yet the cruise is entitled the Plymouth Expedition this year.

Boston Harbor Cruises
One Long Wharf
Boston, MA
(617) 227-432
May schedule occasional Lighthouse Cruises that pass Scituate Light.

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Public Access

Grounds only,
the Scituate Historical
Society has tours of the
Tower during occasional
Open Houses. (5)


Scituate Harbor

- Google Map 

Directions
For Directions, See Note 5.


Travel Links






Lighthouse Cruises

- Friends of the Boston
 Harbor Islands

The Friends generally
schedule Southern Lights
Cruises that pass Scituate
Light yet the cruise is now
entitled the Plymouth
Expedition
.

- Boston Harbor 
 Cruises 

May schedule occasional
Lighthouse Cruises that
pass Scituate Light.


Scituate Light

 

Existing 1811 Keeper’s House
(1.5-story Cape Cod -3) and
storage building

National Register of Historic
Places - 19870615
Lighthouses of Massachusetts
TR 87001490




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Document Updated: Thu 16 Sep 2010, 5:30:00pm EDT (GMT-4)

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