It was difficult finding suitable keepers for them because of the low pay rate for tending these kinds of lights. Sassafras Point Lighthouse's first keeper, Joseph Pollard, was paid $160 a year. While the keeper at nearby Pomham Rock lighthouse was paid $500 a year. The Lighthouse Board wanted to build a keeper's dwelling near the lights, as an offset to the low pay. In 1874, Congress appropriated $5,000 for it, but it was never built. The land near the lights was being improved for business purposes. The property owners didn't want to sell it to the government, as they feared it would reduce the surrounding land value.
Sassafras Point Lighthouse was an unmanned light. The keeper had to row to it and Fuller Rock to light them. During one of these trips the keeper, Jack Mullen, almost drowned. His boat capsized, throwing him into the freezing Providence River. He grabbed hold of the overturned boat and cried for help. Edward Grogan was chopping wood nearby and heard Jack's cries for help. He rowed out and saved Jack.
|Sassfras Point Light Closed|
|Fall River Daily Evening News (Fall River) July 23, 1912|
In December 1876 captains of passenger steamboats and other ships traveling up and down the Providence River complained that Sassafras Point light was frequently out of service. It's keeper Samuel Heard stated in a December 12, 1876 Providence Journal article that lard oil was being used. In very cold weather lard oil will congeal and clog the lamps in the lantern. He said he had applied to the Lighthouse Board to use sperm oil but they didn't answer him. Sperm oil will remain liquid in freezing temperatures.
On July 23, 1912 Sassafras Point Lighthouse was discontinued and removed after the shoal it marked was dredged when the channel was widen. With just one light left to maintain, Keeper Mullen was demoted from lighthouse keeper to to a laborer and his pay was cut in half.
|Sassfras Point Lighthouse in 1900|
|Courtesy of N.L. Stebbins|
See more of Sassafras Point Lighthouse in Rhode Island Lighthouses: A Pictorial History by R Holmes.