Rhode Island Lighthouses

Hog Island Shoal Lightship and
Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse History

In 1869 the Lighthouse Board wanted to build a lighthouse on Hog Island Shoal to replace a small lightship placed on the shoal by the Old Colony Steamboat Company in 1866. The lightship had a weak light that made it hard to see in anything but the best weather. The Board asked Congress for $45,000 to build a lightship. The appropriation was turned down.

In newspaper reports on the Old Colony Steamboat Company lightship it was called a pinkstern ship. The term pinkstern was used to describe any small ship with a narrow stern and a flat bottom. The ship's keeper was Captain Dennis Shay. He was paid $80.00 a month. An article in the February 1, 1883 edition of the Fall River Daily Evening News stated the ship was named the Dove

In 1885 the Lighthouse Board decided that a lighthouse shouldn't be built on Hog Island Shoal because it could cause damage to the channel. They now felt that a lightship would better serve the site. This change in thinking was due to money. The Board wanted to replace the Old Colony lightship but knew Congress wasn't going to appropriate money for a lighthouse anytime in the foreseeable future. Light Vessel 12 had recently been taken off of Eel Grass Shoal and was not being used. It could be moved to Hog Island Shoal without an appropriation.

On July 28, 1886, Congress authorized the move of the LV-12 to Hog Island Shoal. It was put on station on August 14. LV-12 was originally an unnumbered relief ship. It was renumbered LV-12 in 1871, when it was moved to Eel Grass Shoal in Connecticut to replace the first LV-12

Captain Augustus Hall, Hog Island Shoal Lightship's first keeper, died on February 8th, 1887. He committed suicide by jumping off the lightship. A short article in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania newspaper The Times suggested that no one on the ship tried to save him. The article stated "a boat was sent from the shore to rescue him, but failed." It doesn't mention why the lightship's boat wasn't launched or someone in the crew didn't jump in after him.

Hog Island Shoal Lightship was an old ship; it was built in 1846. It needed frequent repairs to stay on station. During an 1891 inspection the ship was found to be " structurally weak from general decay" and " beyond economical repair." The Lighthouse Board wanted to replace the worn out LV 12 with a new lightship of at least double her size and strength. It was estimated it would cost $70,000 to build the new ship. Congress didn't appropriate the money. The Board repeated the request in 1892 and 1893. They were turned down.

In 1896 the Lighthouse Board decided to build a lighthouse instead of a lightship for Hog Island Shoal. From 1895 to 1898 the Board made a yearly request to Congress for $35,000 to build it. It was denied every year. In 1897 the Lighthouse Board stated the ship was "old and worn" and "only by great care that she is kept on station." The Board wanted to replace her but there were no spare lightships in the district. She had to be taken off station in both 1897 and 1898 for at least two weeks for repairs. Congress finally appropriated the money in 1899.

During an inspection of the lightship in July 1901, an inspector discovered that the keeper, William Walin, was drunk on duty. He denied he was drunk, he said he had only been drinking tea. The lightship's crew said he was frequently drunk on duty.

In a letter to the inspector of the third lighthouse district, George Goddard, the master of the lighthouse tender Cactus, found Walin to be "unmistakably drunk." As Walin and his belongings were removed from the lightship, a quart of liquor was found. The lightship's assistant keeper was placed in command until a permanent replacement was found.

Construction started on Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse in September 1900. In November a storm damaged the plates in the base. Work stopped on it. The base of the lighthouse had to be redesigned. The base was expanded from 25 feet to 33 feet. Work was restarted in December. The damaged plates were removed and new plates were installed. LV-12 remained on station until the lighthouse was lighted on November 14, 1901. It was sold in 1903 for $360.

In 1960 the Hog Island Lighthouse was manned by three Coast Guardsmen, Electrician's Mate Thomas Dunwoodie, Electrician's Mate J. C. Yates and Boatswain's Mate Arthur H. Gilbert, officer in Charge. They were on duty at the lighthouse for seven days and had two days off. They rotated their days off so there were always two men at the lighthouse. If a hurricane or a bad storm was coming liberty was canceled and the light was prepared.

Life at the lighthouse was the same as duty on a ship. They had to stand watch, which included checking with other stations and checking that the light was burning. Every half hour they had to make a tour of the outside of the lighthouse to check for fire or damage on the outside of the lighthouse and for boaters in distress.

Hog Island shoal lighthouse was lighted with electricity from racks of batteries. There were two 5 kilowatt generators located inside the base of the lighthouse that charged the batteries during the day. There were two generators, so one could charge the batteries and the other could power the fog signal. Fuel oil, water and other supplies were brought to the station by a 64-foot Coast Guard Tug.

There was a backup lamp to use if the electric power failed. It was powered with kerosene and was kept in a room beneath the lantern room. It was inserted in the Fresnel lens and lighted.

Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse was automated in June 1964. James D. Rielly, a local resident, had a parade of boats from the Bristol Coast Guard Depot to the lighthouse. Once they got to the lighthouse the boaters toured the lighthouse for the last time.

In 2000 the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act was passed. It provided a framework for disposal of federally-owned historic lighthouse. They can be transferred to federal agencies, state and local governments and nonprofit corporations. If none of these parties want the lighthouse it can be sold to the public.

In 2004 the Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse was declared excessed and was made available through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. There were no local governments or preservation groups interested in the lighthouse.

In 2006 the Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse was put up for sale by the General Service Administration. They used an online auction to sell it. There was a twenty-seven page information package included with it. The lighthouse was sold in November 2006 to Jon and Juli Chytka of South Dakota for $165,000.

Updated 5/11/2021