J. Candace Clifford

We are sad to announce that our dear friend J. Candace Clifford died this morning at her home in Alexandria, Virginia, after a battle with brain cancer.  Our heartfelt condolences go out to her mother, Mary Louise Clifford, and all her family and friends.

AlcatrazLH Candy on lantern top (1)
Candace Clifford on top of the Alcatraz Island Lighthouse in 2016 while working
as the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s Historian.

Ask anyone deeply involved in lighthouse preservation to name the nation’s top lighthouse researcher and you’ll hear one name – Candace Clifford.  With unparalleled knowledge of the National Archives lighthouse section, she was a critically important consultant to the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program from 1988 to 2001, and was primarily responsible for its databases, resource surveys, and inventories, ultimately producing the first Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook.

A publisher and author of lighthouse history books, often with her mother Mary Louise Clifford, Candace documented the role of women in the lighthouse service, among other topics.  Honored as well for other types of maritime history services, she was an officer of the American Lighthouse Council and a recipient of the lifetime Ross Holland Award for distinguished service in lighthouse preservation.

Most recently Candace worked closely with the U.S. Lighthouse Society as its historian assisting with the creation of, among other things, the largest lighthouse related research archive in the nation, to be named in her honor.

Executive Director Jeff Gales of the U.S. Lighthouse Society said, “We have lost a dear friend and colleague . . . she will truly be missed.”


Lighthouse Cruise on Sept. 23, 2018, to Benefit Friends of Flying Santa

Friends of Flying Santa, Inc., was formed in 1997 to help ensure the future of the annual Christmastime flights to New England’s U.S. Coast Guard units and lighthouses. The aerial visits of Flying Santa to lighthouses and lifesaving stations have been a New England tradition since 1929. The annual helicopter flights are a gesture of gratitude to the men, women, and families of the Coast Guard who keep watch over our coastal waters.

Courtesy of Friends of Flying Santa

On Sunday, September 23, a seven-hour lighthouse cruise from Gloucester, Massachusetts, benefiting Friends of Flying Santa will pass close by 13 lighthouses: Annisquam, Straitsmouth, the Thacher Island Twin Lights, Eastern Point, Bakers Island, Hospital Point, Fort Pickering, Derby Wharf, Marblehead, Graves, Boston, and Ten Pound Island. The narrator will be lighthouse author/historian Jeremy D’Entremont.

All proceeds go to support Friends of Flying Santa. The Flying Santa flights have expanded to include all Coast Guard families from Maine to Long Island, New York, and are expected to deliver gifts to 1300+ children this year. Your financial support of the flights is needed and appreciated. Seating is limited, so make your reservations today.

10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.   $79 per person.

Click here for more information and to make your reservation.


Appreciation day to honor Ira Lewis

Harkers Island, North Carolina, July 5, 2018

It’s not every day that a man turns 100, and not every community has a man like Ira Lewis.

On Saturday, Aug. 18, Harkers Island will honor its oldest resident, Chief Ira Lewis, who turns 100 Thursday, Aug. 2, with a celebration of his 100th birthday as part of a U.S. Coast Guard Appreciation Day, with a parade and recognition ceremony.

Ira Lewis, photo by Dylan Ray
Ira Lewis, photo by Dylan Ray

“Our goal is for this event to not only honor Ira’s life, but the U.S. Coast Guard that he loves so much and the important place the Coast Guard holds in our community history,” Core Sound Waterfowl Museum Executive Director Karen Amspacher said. “We want everyone who has served, or has a family member that has served, to know this day is for them too.”

The day will start when the museum partners with local community members and officials honor Chief Lewis with a parade at 11 a.m., ending at the museum with lunch and a 2 p.m. ceremony. Admiral Dean Lee will provide the keynote address with local, state and congressional representatives in attendance.

The gathering will also feature displays of Coast Guard history and space for pictures (one per veteran) to be displayed. Those who have pictures or memorabilia they would like to display should contact Pam Morris at 252-728-1500. All men and women who have served in the U.S. Coast Guard are invited to participate in this gathering.

Chief Lewis, still active and often seen at special events in his U.S. Coast Guard uniform, served his entire career on Long Island, including his role as officer-in-charge at Montauk Point Lighthouse from February 17, 1957, until he retired in August 1959.

He returned home to Harkers Island after his 20-plus years of service, and he has remained an active and much-loved member of the community.

He has been a community leader his entire life. In 2003, he initiated the Harkers Island Veterans Memorial, now located at the Harkers Island Elementary School, and he served as advisor to the N.C. Maritime Museum on the construction of a Life Saving Service rowing boat.

When the time came to launch that boat, he organized the crew of retired USCG men and they rowed this traditional craft up and down Taylor’s Creek with Chief Lewis at the helm.

He received a USCG medallion and a letter of recognition of his service on his 95th birthday in 2013, and was recognized as the oldest U.S. Coast Guard retiree at a commemorative ceremony in 2017, honoring local Life Saving surfmen who received the USCG Gold Medal for their rescue of the crew of the Sarah D. J. Rawson off Cape Lookout in 1905.

During the upcoming event, members of the Coast Guard will be invited to walk in the parade. To participate in the parade, each veteran needs to register with the museum. Veterans will meet at Harkers Island Elementary School at 10 a.m. for name tags and parade assignments. The museum will also need to know before the parade who can walk and who will need to ride. They will also need contact information. Participants can also walk or ride in memory of a family member or friend.

Once the entire parade procession has arrived at the museum, there will be a lunch with all USCG veterans receiving a complimentary meal. Tickets for families and visitors are $10 and can be purchased by calling the museum.

Registration forms can be found on the museum’s website, They will also be distributed throughout the island’s churches and post office, as well as at Chadwick Tire Company in Otway. The museum will also be able to fax the forms.

Mail forms to P.O. Box 556, Harkers Island, NC 28531 or register online.

For more information on how to be a part of this historic event, contact the museum at 252-728-1500 or email

Details for the event will be posted at


The Kaptain’s Kolumn #7

Captain Joshua Card here. Been busy lately, scraping and painting the tower and showing the summer people around my station. Been meaning to check in with you folks for a while. I thought I’d tell you about a colorful old acquaintance, a contemporary of mine from down Connecticut way.

Stratford native Theodore Judson became keeper at Stratford Point Lighthouse in 1880. “Theed” Judson remained keeper at Stratford Point for over 40 years, and the Judsons were mostly well respected. But there were the occasional odd stories from Stratford Point that earned the keeper the nickname “Crazy” Judson. It was a name not given lightly.

Theed “Crazy” Judson

A headline in the Bridgeport Union in late July 1886 read, “A Big Sea Serpent.” The paper went on to report the following:

A sea serpent with pea green whiskers passed down Long Island Sound in a big hurry Wednesday morning. He was plowing through the water at a 25 knot clip when he passed the Stratford lighthouse and left a wake of foam behind him a mile in length. He was easily 200 feet in length, and his head was reared 20 feet above the brine. That afforded a good look at his whiskers, which were the rich deep green color of bog hay.

The big reptile was plainly seen from the lighthouse by Keeper Theodore Judson, his wife, his son Henry and his daughter Agnes, and by H. W. Curtis of Stratford, as well as by a number of people at Captain John Bond’s place up the river. These latter saw only the loftily reared head, which at a distance looked like the tail funnel of a sound flier. Keeper Judson seriously declared to a reporter that he could not be mistaken.

“I saw it plainly,” he said, “and so did my wife and children and Mr. Curtis. All of us are familiar with the appearance of a school of porpoises, and this sight was entirely different. . . . It could be plainly seen without a glass.”

The other witnesses all corroborate Keeper Judson’s statement, which bears the imprint of truth. Incumbency in the lighthouse service is prima facie evidence of sobriety, an element not always closely connected with stories of sea monsters.

Still the pea green whiskers are inexplicable.

National Archives photo of first lighthouse at Stratford Point, CT, circa 1870s.

There were other reported sea serpent sightings in Long Island Sound around that time, some possibly sparked by P. T. Barnum’s offer in 1873 of $50,000 to anyone who could produce a sea serpent carcass.

But it was a July 1915 interview that earned Judson the “crazy” label for eternity. Barnum had also once offered $20,000 for a captured mermaid, but that was many years earlier and doesn’t appear to have had any bearing on Judson’s next strange sighting. Here’s what Judson told a reporter in 1915:

Three days ago, I saw a shoal of mermaids off Lighthouse point. I’ve seen them again and again, but it’s only once I laid hands on one. She scratched me well, but I got her brush away from her and I’ve got it yet. It’s generally in the early morning or late afternoon that they gather around the rocks off the point. Sometimes I’ve counted as many as 12 or 15 of them, their yellow hair glistening and their scaly tails flashing. They’re a grand sight.

It was late afternoon when I happened to be out there alone. The sky was thickening for a storm and a fog was creeping up and I had just set the foghorn going. It seems to have an attraction for mermaids, just as the light has for moths. But all of a sudden I noticed this one sitting here all by herself, combing her long golden hair. I took a long look at her before I crept up to her and it’s just as well I did, else I wouldn’t be able to give you much of a description, everything happened so quick once I touched her. . . . She had lovely gazelle eyes and a fair skin. She was just like a woman to her waist and below that all silver-spangled scales. I should say her tail was about three feet long. The upper part of her body was a little smaller than the average woman. I should say she weighed, all told, about 75 pounds. . . . To tell you the truth, I was hesitating in my own mind when I went out for her whether I would keep her for myself and let the $20,000 go—she was so beautiful!

The mermaid didn’t scream or squeak but she had a tongue and beautiful white teeth. The only sound she made was a hissing noise and it matched well to her temper.

The mermaid regrettably escaped when the keeper tried to grab her. Asked if he had ever tried to lasso a mermaid, Judson answered, “Might as well try to lasso an eel.” But for anyone who was interested, the keeper was happy to produce the mermaid’s hairbrush. He explained that mermaids took brushes and combs from the staterooms of wrecked steamers, accounting for the ordinary, cheap look of the brush. The entire fishy tale was supported by his wife, Kate, and Assistant Keeper Will Petzolt.

Keeper Judson retired in 1921. At the time, he claimed that he hadn’t had a vacation in thirty-nine years. When he died at eighty-seven in 1935, the New York Times called Judson a “picturesque character” and, in an understatement, “a raconteur of salty tales.” It was said that friends never got him to retract his mermaid story.

Early 1900s postcard of Stratford Point Light (collection of Jeremy D’Entremont)


Submitted by Jeremy D’Entremont, August 7, 2018.

News · Preservation · Tours

St. Marks Light Station Has A Lot to Celebrate

Above photos showing the newly restored interior at St. Marks Light Station, Florida, are courtesy of Craig Kittendorf.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge will celebrate National Lighthouse Day with a Homecoming Celebration at the St. Marks Lighthouse! On Monday, August 7, 2018, the Refuge staff will host the descendants of lighthouse keepers and their families, including members of the U.S. Coast Guard who also kept the light. The Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge recently finished funding Phase II of the restoration, which included stabilizing and restoring the tower and the keeper’s dwelling.They received over $500,000 in grants from the Florida Division of Historical Resources, and the results of the restoration are breath-taking! The Florida Lighthouse Association will tour the tower during their June meeting. The Refuge plans to begin public access to the keeper’s dwelling in September.

St Marks FL by Jeff Gales 2018
The U.S. Lighthouse Society Gulf Coast tour visited the newly restored St. Marks Light Station in April 2018. The light station became part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the north coast of Florida in 1931. Photo by Jeff Gales

Submitted June 3, 2018, by Craig Kittendorf, ranger with the St. Marks NWR who worked closely with the restoration architect and contractors.

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to


USCG Drawings for the West Coast

Society member George Collins recently shared a spreadsheet of USCG_drawings of West Coast lighthouses that have had work done on them by the Coast Guard. These drawings are now in the Record Group 26 collection at the National Archives in San Bruno, California. Collins hired a freelance researcher to photograph the drawings relating to Yaquina Head Light Station, Oregon.

Yaquina Bay (02) Details of Crown, Pinnacle NA RG 26 OR copy
Drawing of the crown of Yaquina Bay’s first order lantern (National Archives, College Park, Maryland). The U.S. Lighthouse Society has scanned the finding aid for the main collection of lighthouse plans located at College Park.

Many architectural drawings for West Coast lighthouses have been loaded onto our website by Society volunteer Gary Riemenschneider.  Members can request a limited number of drawings from the Society Archives free of charge.

Submitted May 27, 2018

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to

Education · Kate's Corner · News


Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef on the edge of New York Harbor.

Every morsel of food we ate had to be brought by boat from Staten Island. The perfect lighthouse would have a vegetable garden, some fruit trees, a flock of chickens, a cow to supply milk, maybe even a horse to get around on. These would provide much of the food a keeper’s family ate, but would also add many tasks to the keeper family’s daily life: planting, tending, and harvesting the vegetables and fruit; collecting eggs every day; milking the cow every morning and in the evening; feeding the animals.

Fannie Salter had the perfect lighthouse at Turkey Point at the head of Chesapeake Bay. In December 1861 the District Engineer built “250 yards of new fencing at Turkey Point light station” to keep cattle from invading the lighthouse garden. This protected about four acres of ground.

Turkey Point MD Fannie Salter and son USCGHO
Fannie Salter and her son feed turkeys on the lawn of Turkey Point Light Station at the head of Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

How big was Fannie Salter’s four acres? As big as a football field? Or a soccer field? Or a baseball field? Or an average city block?

Black Rock CT NA 26-LG-11-3 (1)
Black Rock Harbor Light Station off Bridgeport, Connecticut, around 1880. Kate Moore assisted her father there from 1817 to 1871, then acted as official keeper from 1871 until 1878. The 1823 tower still stands. Courtesy of the National Archives, #26-LG-11-3

Black Rock Harbor Light Station on the north shore of Long Island Sound was on Fayerweather Island, shrunk by erosion to three scraggly acres of tall grasses and ailanthus trees, planted by Kathleen A. Moore. Kate assisted her invalid father in keeping the light. She said, “I never had time to get lonely. I had a lot of poultry and two cows to care for, and each year raised 20 sheep, doing the shearing myself—and the killing when necessary. You see, in the winter you couldn’t get to land on account of the ice being too thin, or the water too rough. Then in the summer I had my garden to make and keep. I raised all my own stuff, and as we had to depend on rain for water, quite a bit of time was consumed looking after that. We tried a number of times to dig for water, but always struck salt.”

Kate carved duck decoys, selling them to visitors as souvenirs or to sportsmen who hunted. She also planted, gathered, and seeded oyster beds in Long Island Sound. She tended the Black Rock Harbor Light until she was 83 years old, then bought a retirement home with her savings and lived to age 105.

Was hers a perfect lighthouse?

21 Dec 1902 - Times Picayune - Kate Walker copyInformation from National Archives Record Group 26 Entry 3 (NC-63), Volume 354; and from the New York Sunday World in 1889 and the Bridgeport Standard, March 28, 1878.

Submitted May 29, 2018

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to